In 1996 we planted a further 4,000 riesling vines on grafted rootstocks to give a total planting of 8,500 vines for this variety. In the same year we started the first stage of construction of a Mediterranean style building on the property. This was intended to give us future living accommodation, a cellar door for public tastings and sales, and warehousing for wine stocks and dry goods. We turned to well known Christchurch architect Philip Kennedy to design the building. The plans were put out to tender and a builder selected. The exterior walls were of tilt slab concrete, the roof was a charcoal coloured corrugated bitumous product from France branded under the name of Onduline, complimented by copper spouting and downpipes. The window joinery was timber with stylish French designed wooden shutters on the exterior to close the building in at times of extreme weather. It was considered to be a building of simple design and understated elegance.
These were truly enjoyable years for us – getting the vines established and making our mark on the land we had carefully chosen. In May, 1997 we harvested our first crop of fruit. With the help of local people, farmers wives and others, we hand-picked a crop of fully ripened riesling grapes, of excellent quality, for delivery to a contracted winery in the area. In October of that year we released our 1997 Fiddler’s Green Riesling to general acclaim and a first up award in a well-established and highly regarded wine show. Things could hardly have been better for us. I was still fully involved as a lawyer and my income was at a level where we could keep our borrowings tightly controlled. The vineyard development was ongoing – a stylish building was underway and our reputation as wine producers was gaining traction within the industry and with consumers alike.
The final building work was undertaken in the early part of 1998. This involved construction of the cellar door facilities, an office, and warehousing and storage areas. The design and materials were in keeping with the initial building work. We retained the same builders as for the first stage. Set amongst established trees, with a paved terrace to the north, the completed building exuded quiet confidence and a sense of place.
Other events in 1998 included, inter alia:
In March we registered a change of company name with the Companies Office: Spencer Estate Wines Ltd (incorporated on 27 November, 1992 ) was re-registered under the name of Fiddler’s Green Wines Ltd. The new name was considered more appropriate: having regard to the name of the vineyard, our wine label, and trade-marked brand.
The planting of 2 further blocks of grape varieties; 2ha of chardonnay and 4ha of pinot noir, all on grafted rootstocks. The chardonnay scion wood was predominately the French clones 15 and 95 and for the point noir clones 113, 114, 115, and 777 . Again, we chose to enhance the appearance of the enlarged vineyard by planting a David Austin old English yellow rose ‘Graham Thomas’ at the ends of selected rows of chardonnay, and a new red rose ‘ Dublin Bay ‘ for selected rows of the pinot noir.
By the end of harvest in 1998, we had 2 wine varieties in production to work with, riesling and sauvignon blanc. We needed to grow our sales. Part of the strategy to achieve this involved obtaining an Off- Licence from the local Council for the Cellar Door to be able to offer wine tastings and sales direct to the public.
BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )