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"A small valley with a big history"
Esk Valley is one of New Zealands oldest wineries and was established in 1933 just north of Hawke's Bay. In 1987 receivership was looming over Esk Valley due to a price war raging in the New Zealand wine industry and so in comes Sir George Fistonich. He purchases the operation in an effort to help Esk Valley maintain its commitment to simple artisan winemaking.
Nowadays Gordon Russell is the senior winemaker and Esk Valley operate from a new site in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels region. They continue to use traditional methods such as hand plunging the red wines in large concrete fermenters to gently extract the colour and tannin from the grapes.
Born in New Plymouth, Gordon headed to England and Europe for three years after university. A life long interest in different flavours and trying new food saw him naturally develop an appreciation for fine wine.
In 1986 Gordon returned to New Zealand, just when the wine styles for which New Zealand has become highly regarded were beginning to emerge. Gordon was appointed as Esk Valley winemaker in 1993, after working for Villa Maria in Auckland as a cellar hand from 1987 and then as assistant winemaker to Grant Edmonds at Esk Valley from 1990.
Nowadays Gordon is one of New Zealand's most recognised winemakers with his passion for telling the story of the vineyard naturally leading to success in the industry. His experience has taught him that with attention to detail in vineyard, the winemaking process becomes simple and a hands off affair.
And this ties into Esk Valley's ethos of producing a natural style of wine utilising wild yeast and long term lees ageing.
"These are modern styles of wine made in a hand crafted manner."
Photos & information: Esk Valley