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A passion for grapes
We expect to see
vineyards in Hawke's
Bay, Wairarapa and
Central Otago, but in
Jill Galloway visits the
owners of the Pheasant
Creek vineyard on the
Porewa Stream near
Harvesting: Pheasant Creek
Vineyard, Rangitikei. Vineyard
owner Shane Parlato with Pinot
Noir grape vine at harvest time.
Local drop: Marton New World is one
of the few retailers to stock Pheasant
Creek wines. The majority is sold
Shane and Tessa Parlato are
enthusiastic about grape-
growing and wine-making,
and that rubs off.
They love the grapes and the
The vineyard is a family and
We have three acres of grapes,
and 20 acres as part of the farm.
Most of the area is in native bush,''
Mr Parlato says.
There is a swing bridge to get over
to the vineyard. It is not rickety but
it does move up and down in a dis-
concerting manner. Going to har-
vest is a bit of an adventure.
The vineyard is right down on the
lowest river terrace, near the
Rangitikei River, and has its own
While initially attracted to the
property as a chance to own our own
piece of private rural New Zealand,
we quickly became excited about the
grapes and vines and the quality of
the wine produced from this block,''
Mr Parlato says.
It is warm, while the surrounding
areas are not. It is raining in
Foxton, the morning of the pick. But
at the vineyard, the sun is shining
and it is already hot at 10am.
The soil is light and stony, and
like many vineyards in France the
stones are lined up beneath the
A while ago, there were some
people who came in flash, shiny
cars. They said this would be perfect
for growing riesling,'' Mr Parlato
Another area saw a farmer try
various types of vines, to see which
grapes grew best.
There used to be five vineyards in
the area, he says, so it is something
of a grape-growing region.
Mrs Parlato says they have three
children and they all get stuck in
and help on the vineyard''.
She says her husband does all the
tractor work, but the kids can help
with things like the pruning.
The Parlatos' vineyard used to be
Silverhope and it was owned by two
couples. Mr and Mrs Parlato bought
it as a going concern and have
renamed and rebranded it --
The 2500 vines -- chardonnay,
pinot noir and riesling -- are all on
good rootstock, Mr Parlato says.
The Parlatos have a pruning
method different to that used by the
former owners. Two primary canes
are kept and laid down on each vine
and shoots come off them.
It means fewer grapes, but the
sun gets in and ripens them,'' Mr
I would rather have a lower yield
and the quality of the grapes be
better. It means better wine.''
On the banks of the Porewa
Stream, there is usually a breeze,
which wafts through the vines.
We're not organic, but we do use
half the sprays most orchards do on
their grapes because we get that
airflow and it means less disease.''
Mrs Parlato says that when they
are busy Mr Parlato is there at least
once a week.
We stay as a family about once a
month. And the kids love it. They
play in the creek and go eeling and
we have campfires.''
The grapes they grow are taken to
Hawke's Bay winemaker Dan Bar-
They have been at the Rangitikei
vineyard for just over two years, so
this is their second pick.
It is rudimentary staying at the
There is no power, no phones.
People might think we're poncy if
we say we've got a vineyard. We call
it the farm'.''
There is an outdoor shower and
there is a flushing loo. If the door is
open, it has a great view down the
Porewa Stream and into native
bush, Mr Parlato says. There is a
stove in the cabin and the floor is
wooden.The grape yield this year is
higher than Mr Parlato expected.
You can tell when the grapes are
ready; they go sticky in your fingers,
but I rely on the brix test. The level
should be 22 or above before we
If the sugars are less, the
winemaker doesn't want them.''
The Parlatos launched their 2011
season's wine on Anzac Day. Most
will be sold online and at New
World in Marton and Foxton.
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