In 2001 we harvested our first crops of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. The yields for a first pick were low, as could be expected for young vines. The fruit quality and ripeness was stunning. Both wines were fermented and aged in French oak barriques. The wines were bottled and released to the market in late 2002. The Fiddler’s Green 2001 Chardonnay went on to be awarded a silver medal and the Fiddler’s Green 2001 Pinot Noir a Gold medal and Trophy in New Zealand’s oldest wine show in 2003. On the day of the Awards Dinner in Auckland, we were fully involved in bottling our Fiddler’s Green 2002 Chardonnay at a contracted winery in Waipara. We had been notified earlier that our 2001 Pinot Noir had been awarded a Gold medal and was therefore in the running for the Trophy for the top pinot noir wine in the Show. Recognising this possibility, we had arranged for our then Auckland based distributor Burleigh Trading Co Ltd to represent us at the Awards Dinner. Later that night we received a telephone call from Dru Mackie, the sales director for the company, to say that he was holding a cast bronze Trophy as presented to him only minutes earlier. We had a bottle of champagne on ice ready for such eventuality . This was soon being consumed amid much excitement. This success was seen as a huge result for our small wine brand and also for the Waipara region. Needless to say, this particular wine was fully allocated within weeks of the Trophy result. Our Fiddler’s Green 2001 Riesling was also awarded a Gold medal in the San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2003.
In a subsequent review of our Fiddler’s Green 2001 Pinot Noir, Keith Stewart, writing in the Listener, described the wine as being “The epitome of what will make Waipara world famous one day soon – fragrant, charming, sexy and expensive. It smells deliciously feral and alive with appealing fruit that reminds us of those little, red-fleshed Christmas plums, and it tastes like it, too. It is the feel of this wine that gets you really going, however, suave, seductively soft and lingering on like a gentle pinot breeze. Completely indulgent, with some serious construction to keep red wine technocrats appeased “.
In December of 2002 we experienced cold and wet weather. This impacted on flowering and fruit set to the extent that the harvest in 2003 was much reduced from that of the 2 preceding seasons. The spring that followed the 2003 vintage was benign and without frosts. The weather conditions for flowering and fruit set in December were ideal – light winds and warm temperatures. There followed an abundance of fruit to be harvested in April and May, 2004. We experienced our biggest harvest ever with around 120 tonnes of fully ripened grapes picked. We were able to process the majority of the grapes for our own label and have surplus crop to sell to other local wineries. This particular vintage put us in a confident mood looking to the future of our business.
BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )