Grasshopper Rock 2010 vintage twice as nice

Grasshopper Rock vineyard manager and viticulturalist Mike Moffitt celebrates the vineyard's...
Grasshopper Rock vineyard manager and viticulturalist Mike Moffitt celebrates the vineyard's success. Photo by Sarah Marquet
Almost 10 years after the first vines were planted at their Central Otago vineyard, owners and employees at Grasshopper Rock are again tasting success.

Each vintage since the first in 2006 has won multiple awards and gold medals and now the 2010 has won a top prize - the Air New Zealand Champion of the Show trophy, considered by many in the wine industry to be the top national award.

At the same awards dinner in Wellington at the weekend, the wine also won the JF Hillebrand New Zealand Ltd Champion Pinot Noir Trophy and a gold medal.

Grasshopper Rock managing director Phil Handford, of Hamilton, said the 2010 vintage had won other awards, but this was "icing on the cake".

What made the win "really pretty special" was the double award because "that really doesn't happen often".

It was also the first supreme award win for an Alexandra basin vineyard and only the third for Cental Otago. Bannockburn vineyard Akarua's 2002 pinot noir won in 2003 and in 2010 Gibbston vineyard Peregrine's 2009 vintage won the supreme award, the champion pinot noir and champion open red wine trophies.

Chief judge MichaelBrajkovich said the Grasshopper Rock pinot noir stood out for its depth, richness and complexity.

The owners had specifically chosen the Alexandra basin for this reason.

Mr Handford said he and his business partners knew that to make "really elegant, silky and perfumed" pinot noir, the right climate was needed.

They all had an interest in wine and in Central Otago but they did "a lot of homework" before settling on the 8ha Earnscleugh site, one of the southern-most pinot noir growing regions in the world, Mr Handford said.

And their secret? - a full-time vineyard manager.

"A full-time manager makes the difference between average and great wine."

That manager is Mike Moffitt who, along with viticulturalist brother Steve, have a combined total of about 40 years in the game.

Mr Moffitt said he was "stoked" with the win, which was the culmination of much hard work and knowledge.

The wine is made by contract winemaker Pete Bartle, of VinPro, in Cromwell.

It was the 26th year of the Air New Zealand wine awards, which attracted more than 1300 entries over 17 classes. Nineteen trophies, 97 gold medals, 183 silvers and 364 bronze were awarded.

Other Central Otago wines to win at the weekend were. -Champion Reisling and Pure Elite Gold: Aspiring Flats 2012 reisling.

Champion Open Red Wine:Rockburn 2011 pinot noir.

Pure Elite Gold medals: Charcoal Gully Sallys Pinch 2011 pinot noir; Domain Road 2011 pinot noir; Gibbston Valley School House 2011 pinot noir; Akarua 2012 Alchemy Ice; Mt Maude East Block 2012 reisling; Rockburn Tigermoth 2011 reisling; Judge Rock 2010 pinot noir, Two Paddocks Last Chance 2010 pinot noir.


Grasshopper Rock vineyard

• Vines planted in 2003, first vintage in 2006.

• About 3500 cases (42,000 bottles) produced a year.

• Five family shareholders: Angus and Ro Bradshaw, of Dunedin; John Carmody and Sue Clarke, of Dunedin; Phil and Max Handford, of Hamilton; Adrian and Ann Irving, of Waimatua, and Jan and Stu Moir, of Culverden.

Winemaker: Pete Bartle.

Vineyard manager: Mike Moffitt.

Viticulturist: Steve Moffitt.

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