The New Zealand Wine Fair will be coming to Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto from May 9 to 12, after making stops in Vancouver and Calgary.
The fair will give trade and consumers the opportunity to sample wines from more than 100 New Zealand producers.
One of those producers is Jackson Estate, whose 2009 Stich Sauvignon Blanc was named Category Champion at last year’s Wine Access International Value Wine Awards. Jackson Estate winemaker Mike Paterson was in Calgary for the fair and was kind enough to stop by the Wine Access offices to chat with me.
Jackson Estate is a 100-percent family-owned winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. The family has farmed the main property since 1855, but it was only the current owner and fifth generation, John Stichbury, who planted grapes, after moving onto the land in the 1980s. At the time, Cloudy Bay had just released a sauvignon blanc that indicated the promise of the varietal for Marlborough, so it became the cornerstone of the new plantings.
The Jackson Estate philosophy focuses on finding the right varietals for a particular site and nurturing the vines. Their oldest vines, on their Homestead Block are now about 20 years old and Paterson says they are beginning to produce very balanced grapes that require less manipulation.
“It’s just wonderful to work with fruit like that,” he says.
Paterson also strives to produce wines that are food-friendly and drinkable.
“We focus hugely on how wine feels in the mouth,” he says.
They maintain a small portfolio, which Paterson describes as “quite conservative for Marlborough”: two sauvignon blancs, a pinot noir and a chardonnay. Of those, two are available in Canada: the Stich Sauvignon Blanc and the Vintage Widow Pinot Noir.
Although they are available in 30 markets around the world, Jackson Estate is being “very careful on the sustainable growth,” Paterson says. Production volume has not changed significantly since he joined the winery in 2003, he says, and they add wines to their portfolio only when they have meaning and can maintain a level of quality. As such, Paterson says, finding good people to represent them on the ground is key.
“It’s important for a small company like ours to work with like-minded people,” he says.
Jackson Estate Wines Available in Canada
The Stich Sauvignon Blanc — Jackson Estate’s original wine — had its 20th anniversary vintage in 2010. The Stich is a blend of grapes off four vineyard sites, although most comes from the winery’s Homestead Block. As a blend, the Stich is designed for consistency, and to be immediately drinkable, while still able to evolve over time.
The Stich Sauvignon Blanc is available for $20 at BCLDB stores, in Ontario for $22 through Profile Wine Group and at select Alberta wine stores.
The Vintage Widow Pinot Noir takes its name from the large gum tree planted on the homestead property in 1867 by Alice Jackson, wife of original owner Adam Jackson. That tree is also featured on the Jackson Estate labels. In the past, gum trees were used by farmhands to take shelter from the sun during afternoon naps. The trees, however, are built to be hardy to extreme conditions, and will shed limbs in times of drought.
“Pinot noir is what we’re really excited about in Marlborough at the moment,” Paterson says. The grapes for Vintage Widow are grown on unirrigated clay soils in the southern part of the Marlborough region, which Paterson says produce a more savoury character. It is available for $30/bottle through Profile Wine Group in Ontario, at the SAQ for $26 and was just released in Alberta.
“I think…pouring people glasses of Vintage Widow is teaching people that Marlborough is more than just sauvignon blanc,” Paterson says.
Photo courtesy of Jackson Estate.