Located in one of the leading new world wine producing countries
This month’s selection comes from one of the most spectacular wine growing sites in the world the dramatic lakefront terraces of Bendigo Station in the high country of New Zealand’s Central Otago region. Here, Misha’s Vineyard, even in its relatively short life span, has built a solid reputation as one of New Zealand’s top wine producers.
Misha’s Vineyard was founded by Misha and Andy Wilkinson in 2004 out of a desire to work together and create a new lifestyle doing what they’re most passionate about - wine!Misha and Andy had lived in Singapore for 16 years prior, both incredibly successful in their own right with high flying corporate careers. Misha was an international marketing specialist for a variety of companies including Intel and Dell Computer, while Andy held a remarkable 30+ year career in Information Technology. Although very successful, they found that the corporate world didn’t have a lot of return in terms of long term satisfaction, and they both yearned to get something more out of life.
In 2001, Misha and Andy followed their hearts, returned to Andy’s homeland in Central Otago, New Zealand, and began the foundation of creating Misha’s Vineyard. After nearly two years of visiting potential vineyard sites, the couple finally found what they had been looking for in Central Otago’s Bendigo Station. This land was steeped in history, officially named back in the late 1800s by Chinese immigrants who joined the Gold Rush in Central Otago, as many had in California, Australia, and elsewhere.
The neatly stacked gold tailings in the gullies are the remnants of their alluvial mining and the crumbling remains of stone miners’ cottages are evidence of a tough existence. This rugged land, although part of an extreme environment, also showed great potential for growing world-class fruit. Misha and Andy hoped it would once again produce riches - the ‘new gold’ - in the form of Pinot Noir. Finding this perfect location on which to establish Misha’s Vineyard was the first milestone in their journey since the selection of a site is the single most important decision for any vineyard.
On November 8th, 2004, the Wilkinsons planted the first 25 acres of Misha’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. The following year, they planted an additional 30 acres (Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc), and in 2007 another 10 acres - and they haven’t finished yet!
To make exceptional wines from Misha’s Vineyard’s new plantings, they needed an exceptional winemaker. Internationally renowned Oliver “Olly” Masters, after just one visit to the vineyard, joined the Misha’s Vineyard team with great enthusiasm. He crafted the first commercial Misha’s Vineyard vintage in 2008 - a Pinot Noir named ‘The High Note.’
Misha had grown up in Australia with a theatrical family and spent many years watching her mother sing opera. This influence, along with her own experience working in marketing roles for the Sydney Opera House and then later London’s Royal Opera House, prompted the theatrical names for each of Misha’s Vineyard’s wines. ‘The High Note’ Pinot Noir is a direct dedication to Misha’s mother, and a symbol of the winery’s high point - their best effort, and ultimately what the winery is all about. Other wine names in the portfolio include ‘Limelight,’ ‘The Starlet,’ and ‘Lyric.’
It’s also interesting to note how Misha and Andy have embraced the Chinese history of their Central Otago-Bendigo Station region. In Chinese culture, the number “8” is considered the luckiest of numbers, representing prosperity and good fortune, and Misha’s Vineyard continues to find the number 8 cropping up with uncanny regularity. The vineyard is located on State Highway 8, just 8 kilometers from the nearest town of Cromwell. On the vineyard, 8 clones of Pinot Noir have been planted in two row directions - 288° on the slopes and lakefront terrace, and 341° (adding up to 8) on the higher terraces. The first commercial vintage from Misha’s Vineyard was 2008 and there are 8 wines in the portfolio.
To celebrate this phenomenon and culture, the team placed a Chinese coin beneath their first 8 planted vines to symbolically return the ‘old gold’ to the ground and bring luck for the ‘new gold’ - Misha’s Pinot Noir.
Since Misha’s Vineyard’s initial release, the response from New Zealand and the world has been simply incredible. UK Decanter magazine has named Misha’s Vineyard One of New Zealand’s Top 20 Producers, and most of Misha’s Vineyard’s wines have garnered 90+ scores from international wine critics. To say this new family winery has been a success is a great understatement.
It is already a world-class winery that many internationally hope to emulate.
Central Otago Region, New Zealand
Misha’s Vineyard is located in the Central Otago wine growing region, the world’s most southerly growing area and also New Zealand’s highest growing locale. Most descriptions of Central Otago would leave you wondering why on earth people would plant grapes here.
While home to over 15% of New Zealand’s wineries, the region only produces around 3.3% of the total grape harvest. The Central Otago experiences a semi-continental climate as opposed to the rest of New Zealand’s maritime environment. Soils are of low to medium fertility and include heavy clays, free-draining silts and stony schist-dominant and glacial soils. This is a place of extraordinary contrasts with craggy bare mountains, massive schist rock torrs, and gorges carved by raging rivers, but also spectacular glassy lakes, rolling green farmlands and deep valleys of orchards producing some of the country’s best stone fruits.
All this adds up to extremely low yields that make for excellent quality wines. The area has seen vines planted since 1864, but commercial wines were not produced in Central Otago until 1987. What has happened there since that time is one of the truly great successes in the wine business.
It is also home to some of New Zealand’s finest Merino wool production. Although a challenging environment, Central Otago has become New Zealand’s fastest growing wine region with leading international wine critics raving about its wines.
Misha’s Vineyard is one of the warmest sites in the region, stretching from 680 to 1,200 feet above sea level on gently sloping terraces, with various soils and meso-climates, and poised just above Lake Dunstan. It is 100% certified sustainably farmed and has produced award-winning fruit since the inaugural harvest.
Olly Masters - Winemaker
Internationally renowned winemaker Olly Masters is the winemaker for Misha's Vineyard. Forging some of New Zealand's most consistently fine Pinot Noir over the past decade, Olly has built a reputation as one of New Zealand's leading winemakers and wine judges.
Olly began his winemaking career in Martinborough in 1989 and also spent time in Hawkes Bay and Burgundy before joining Ata Rangi Vineyard (Martinborough) in 1994 as a winemaker/viticulturist. During his time there, Ata Rangi was awarded the Champion Pinot Noir on three occasions at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. In addition to winemaking, Olly serves as a senior wine judge at New Zealand's major national competitions and is also a regular panelist for Cuisine magazine.
Working at Misha's Vineyard, Olly makes his Central Otago ‘debut' and has already proven his undeniable winemaking talent, industry knowledge, and personal affinity for Pinot Noir. His goal at Misha's Vineyard is to create a repertoire of elegant cool climate wines that match some of the more subtle and exotic food flavors of the world. He also strives to make wines that are authentic - speaking clearly about their origin.