Against the tide of the glinting, stainless steel, wind-up wine-making machinery of modern wineries, there is a small band of boutique winemakers who want to feel their grapes like new born babes in their hands.
Tim Turvey of Clearview Estate is one such winemaker. Way back when, he was studying town planning at varsity and known for, as he says, “fermenting anything in his cupboard.” Finishing his degree, Tim worked for exactly one day at a town planning firm. That was enough to launch him down the path of being a grower. On to Australia to grow pineapple and, eventually, back to Te Awanga.
In 1986 he started developing a delightful 8 acre property near the beach at Te Awanga. Together Helma van den Berg, they planted 2,500 trees over the years, grafting all the vines by themselves. They dug the holes, cut the posts, poured the concrete, and even made the tables: a true hand made winery. Sure, it’s taken seven days a week of effort, but as Tim says “It is all about fun!”
Growing grapes is a pretty easy thing to do, in as much as if you do nothing they’ll still grow. Making great wine is another story. Tim’s maxim: Minimize disaster! He consults each and every morning with his winemaker Barry Riwai and vineyard manager Russell Mayne, the brain trust if you will, that analyzes the long range weather forecasts and figures out what to do. They will crush 120 tonnes of grapes from Clearview’s 8 acres and use juice from another 30 acres to make 23 varieties of wine. Tim, with Charles Gear, will devise the marketing plans that will whisk him to as many as 8 cities around the world in two weeks. And he’ll be on hand at many of the small promotions for the local community, and tastings for staff at various restaurants across the country. This is part of what separates Tim from a lot of his peers. He is tireless in the perfection of his own wine and its journey.
“You grow the grapes, you crush the grapes, you ferment the grapes, you bottle the wine,” says Tim. But really hard work from the whole vineyard team is the secret. He has assembled a great grew, uniting them all with the passion of a man driven to extract every last drop of flavour and body from each and every grape. Tim says the blending of the gapes begins in the vineyard, and what he means is that they sacrifice bunches from the vines so the remaining crop will flourish and ripen better. Then comes the picking which is a dangerous game. Tim will wait for the absolute last stages of ripeness, often well into the autumn, to get optimum results of sugars and berry flavour. The grapes are then all hand picked by local, loyal supporters who have, in the main, picked every vintage since inception. Such is Tim’s way: everyone is included in the cycle and few leave.
Grapes are crushed and then the winemaking begins. The wine is watched and constantly tasted. The tannins will fall and integrate so that a holistic product will emerge, a wine without gaps; and one that will mature in its casks to be the wonderful, award winning wines that Clearview is so proud of.
Looking at the results of the last 9 vintages, there must be a great locational advantage at play: the sea breezes bring in cool winds in the hot afternoons and carry salt traces which settle on the vines, strengthening their flavours. The frosts are mitigated by the warm water temperatures and the recent investment of a large windmill. Perhaps the foothills behind the winery and 2,500 trees help as well. Whatever it is, the last 9 vintages have been fantastic.
Much of the wine will be sold in the vineyard restaurant. A fore runner of the oh-so popular winery restaurants these days, it has been operating in its low key, relaxed way for 20 years. Helma and Tim make it sing. You will see Tim talking happily about his wine, educating the diner on the range of his cellar. This is the human face of a business that is becoming increasingly mechanized, increasingly impersonal. Neither Helma nor Tim would every dream of not being on site.
It’s a labour of love, tinged with humour, kindness and optimism as well as careful management and an eye for success. And a great drink. Salut Tim!