This week I was lucky to take part in grape picking for a morning at Heron’s Flight vineyard in Matakana. Heron’s Flight is a small, family-owned vineyard, with grapes first planted by David Hoskins and Mary Evans in 1987. They specialise in Italian varietals and only grow Sangiovese and Dolcetto, I’d been there before for one of their pizza afternoons – see the review here. I arrived at the vineyard ready to go with gardening gloves, water bottle and sunblock.
Everyone met at the house we were all introduced to David who would be overseeing us for the morning, then we walked down to the winery where our secateurs were inspected (I didn’t have any). Most were of the typical gardening variety so we were given some very sharp blue secateurs that were more like snips.
Then, into the vineyard where David gave us the briefing and went through how we were to pick. We were told to pick everything and not cut our fingers or the additional black plastic supports in between the wires on the panels. The vines were trained in a ‘U’ and we were to be in between. We set off picking bunches in pairs, and set our bins at the end of each panel as they were full. We had eight rows of Dolcetto to pick.
David said given the hot, dry weather he had the luxury of choosing when to pick, however as the weather we’d been having was so dry, some of the grapes were getting dehydrated. Dolcetto is known to ‘raisin’ and we did come across bunches which had grapes which had done just that. The Dolcetto grapes he uses for the Rosé are picked early to keep sugar levels down. Would 2013 be a good vintage? David said it should be.
There were 20 of us altogether, a mix of friends and strangers. It didn’t take long, only around 2 hours, the bins were being picked up by tractor as we left the rows. One thing that struck me was how nice everyone was, no pretentiousness, no snobbery, just a group of people getting stuck in. I tasted a few grapes as we went along and found them small, sweet and flavourful. It was relaxing work, my partner and I got on well and had a good chat as we were picking (and ended up going for a swim together afterwards).
We headed back to the house for an excellent spread of sandwiches, some pizza and a plum cake with sparkling Merlot grape juice and their Dolcetto Rosé to wash it all down. David talked to us about how he makes the Rose which is Italian in style, dry with a light effervescence, and delicious – read more on Heron’s Flight wines in our vineyard visit here. We were all invited to head down to the winery after to see what they were doing.
One of the lovely ladies picking in our row was Pam Wills of the Whangapiro Buffalo Cheese Co (and friend of Mary’s). After lunch we had a nibble on their Fresca fresh cheese mixed with fresh herbs and St Marlo, which is a Pecorino style cheese made with Buffalo milk. Total yum. I realised I’d seen her before at the Matakana Markets and bought her Haloumi, their cheese is amazing. Totally recommend!
After wine, cheese and lunch we headed down to see what was happening at the winery. They were de-stemming the grapes. David was trying something new with what we picked. He said they’d be fermented separately in an Italian style, and probably blended with some Sangiovese given it was not a large quantity.
So how was the experience? Amazing. David and Mary don’t run a corporate winery. Heron’s Flight is more like a community. They made us feel like part of the family and welcomed us into their home, their vineyard and winery. They also make some spectacular wines! I’d recommend anyone give it a go. I found out about the day from their email newsletter, sign up.
Visit www.heronsflight.co.nz, and more photos from the day are below…