2016 Hawke’s Bay Wine Auction – Boom!

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This years event was an amazing success, with $180,000 raised for our beloved Cranford Hospice. As Chairman of the event, it was a huge build up, but well worth it with so many highlights on the day! Meeting and introducing the Prime Minister John Key to officially open the 25th Hawke’s Bay Wine Auction was a buzz. But the bidding was the real highlight! Sacred Hill’s Shotgun Chardonnay half barrique went for a whopping $8400, which is stunning. I blended this wine with the team at Sacred Hill from the oldest Mendoza Chardonnay vines, and it is indeed a stunning wine, very intense and powerful. Love Richard Brimer’s photo for this wine the catalogue. That’s my great grandfathers Winchester wound antique shotgun you’re looking down the barrel of. Piece of history indeed.

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My own Lot 15, the Arts Collective named “All things beautiful” was made up of 3 dozen Golden Egg Chardonnay, a framed Richard Brimer photo (see below), and a hand made diamond, white gold and platinum pendant by Napier Jeweller Gerard Smith of Glisten Jewellery. So very beautiful! This lot was the highest value of the day, and fetched a whopping $15400!! Big thanks to Gerard and Richard -awesome!

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So a fantastic day, make sure you come next year!

Cheers Tony

Skeetfield Vineyard Chardonnay Release

We are very happy to announce the long awaited release of the 2015 Skeetfield Vineyard Chardonnay. Hand harvested from old friend Denis Gunn’s vineyard, this is Hawke’s Bay Old Vine Dry Farmed Mendoza, and it just doesn’t get any better than that!

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Gently pressed to barrel, this has been fermented in Taransaud oak, one of the finest French cooperages, with 60% new barrels and the balance seasoned Taransaud oak. These beautiful barrels impart complex flavours and aromas, and fantastic length to the palate. Powerful yet supple, this is a finely tuned Chardonnay.

Last month we released the 2015 Golden Egg Chardonnay, made in our NZ made concrete egg fermenters. This was such stand out success, we were sold out in two weeks! So sorry to all those that have missed out, but check our website as we held back a few precious cases.

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The reviews for both these wines have been superb. Here’s some comments on the new release Skeetfield Vineyard Chardonnay;

Bob Campbell, M.W.; Rich and fleshy chardonnay, with intense peach and tree fruits seasoned with nutty yeast lees and spicy oak. Smooth-textured, creamy and weighty wine showing impressive power and a lingering finish. 95/100 Five Stars

Raymond Chan:The fruit depth and extract lends a very fine-textured grip and line, which is balanced by the creamy barrel-ferment. The fruit vitality and fresh, piquant acidity provide a lively and energetic mouthfeel. The wine carries with plenty of drive and tension to a very long, concentrated and taut finish of stonefruits, mealy and nutty oak. This is a rich, concentrated and complex layered and detailed Chardonnay with vibrant, mealy, stonefruit flavours, nutty and creamy oak and a vibrant, fresh palate. 19.5/20 Five Stars

Big thanks to Max Parks and Zoe Chisholm of Unit Design for their incredible design work. Labels as beautiful as the wines they clothe.

Fat n Sassy and Summertime Chardonnay continue to rock, these are such great value everyday drinking Chardonnays. Gracing the wine lists of such great restaurants as Ostro, Moo Chow Chow, Little Miss Moonshine, Avida, the Sugar Club Sky City, and many many more.

Enjoy all, Chardonnay is King.

Hawkes Bay Wine Auction 2015

The 24th HB Wine Auction was held on the weekend, and 450 peeps were treated to some amazing and unique wines. This is a benefit auction for Cranford Hospice, so a great cause. Amazing sponsorship and support by the community along with extraordinarily generous wine donations make this a very special event.

The Tony Bish Arts Collective was amazing! Twelve magnums of my first Chardonnay made in a concrete egg, a framed Richard Brimer photograph taken at Te Awanga (time lapse evening, beautiful), and Jeff Thompson sculpture. Check this out;

This Collective went for $4700, which was incredible.

So get to Hawke’s Bay next November and be involved in NZ’s oldest and best wine auction. There are some great value lots, and many totally unique wines.

Ka kite ano.

New Releases, the new season, and news of the last.

Spring has sprung, the new growth is rapidly accelerating towards the sun, reaching up with youthful vigour. The tightly knurled bunches are visible, hard little green balls of promise within. Soon, the little flowers will open, the cap will hopefully fly off under a good warm Nor’wester, and the stamen will spring forth and dust their pollen back onto the awaiting loins within. Yes, these are hermaphrodite flowers, self pollinating miracles. No bees are required for grapes to flower and set, just warm dry conditions so the cap that constrains the stamen detaches freely.

Back at the winery, other miracles are occurring. The yeast that have performed their intoxicating magic of converting sugar to ethanol (God bless them Little Creatures) are now slowly relaxing, gently withering, and releasing the complex nutrients and organic wonders of the cell wall. These very un-sexily named organic goodies are the difference between the ordinary and the sublime. They bring texture, weight, complexity, and a distinct aroma of freshly baked bread (or Brioche to be specific!). Hence “lees” (yeast) aged Chardonnays are richer, more soft and rounded, and reminiscent of Sunday morning at the bakery. Yum!!

This enriching natural process is happening from now until autumn in my barrels and concrete eggs. Just before next harvest, we will “rack” the wines off the yeast lees, and clarify in preparation for bottling. But already now I can assess each wines character and personality, and can get genuinely excited about the wines that will soon become bottled wine. And I am more than a little excited, these wines are looking spectacular!!

In the meantime, the 2014 Fat n Sassy release has been fantastic! Two 5 Star reviews straight off the bat from Raymond Chan and Sam Kim – wow! This release is richer and fatter than the 2013, as this is what you my customers asked for. Its truly beautiful, and extraordinary value.

The new baby is the Gisborne 2015 Summertime Chardonnay from the legendary Judd Estate vineyard in Patutahi. These boys have forgotten more than most growers know about growing great Chardonnay. Its a soft tropical fruity wine with lovely smoky oak complexity. Totally more-ish. Perfect for summer beach barbeques and long lazy lunches. A smile, a kiss, a sip of wine, it’s Summertime!

Enjoy

Tony

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Skeetfield Old Vine Dry Farmed Mendoza Chardonnay vines. This amazing vineyard provides the grapes for my super premium barrel fermented Chardonnay. First release about August next year. Thanks to my mate and grower, Denis Gunn.

Spring Forward

Hi Chardonnay-o philes!!

Shit I am slack it’s true, long overdue. No excuses but its been a busy time, making wine seems to soak up the hours, and that’s only the half of it. The part that’s really time hungry is branding and packaging, but no way am I complaining, it’s kind of like looking but not looking to get it right. There’s rabbit holes that are fun, but then after a nights no sleep, not right. Introspection, retrospection, projection, reality checks, and basically it boils down to, does it feel right?

I have been working with Max Parks of Unit Design. Good guy btw. The journey has been good, and the blind alleys a necessary part of the process. The end result is perfect, a crystallisation of what resonates and feel right.

So whats up? The very relaxed 2015 Summertime Gisborne Chardonnay is what’s next. From the legendary Judd Estate vineyards of Patutahi, a beautiful old vineyard that has made history for many years. This wine is just what it promises. Lazy days, surfs up, feeling good, good times and good friends. That is the memory of my formative years in Gisborne, and I am sure a common memory or feeling for many. Gisborne has the most beautiful beaches, cruisey laid back attitude, and a sense of timeless summer. Where the experiences of life and the relationships matter more than the material gains we all seem to strive for.

Summertime Chardonnay is bold and yet soft, rich and yielding, sensual and generous. Bringing back summer and all that’s good with that. Bar-b-ques, kai moana, salt drying on the skin. Friends, beaches, family, telling kids stories in the dusk, the most memorable times of summer.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved making it. its affordable, delectable, and available from October 1st in very limited quantities. Direct to you at $17.95 incl.  Talk to me.

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Vintage 2015 – unfurling innovative Chardonnays

This is a watershed vintage for Tony Bish Wines, as we launch into some funky new vineyards and winemaking tools to create some awesome new styles of Chardonnay. Fat n Sassy has just gained some new family, and the musics getting louder.

In my last post I introduced our Gisborne project, tentatively named “Nirvana Chardonnay”. But sadly, this name has been registered by a holding company, so its sits locked in cyberspace, unused, unloved and unavailable. Richard and I are not concerned, its early days. The wine is moving gracefully through its metamorphosis at present, and when we have it closer to completion, we will indulge a few glasses together, play some vinyl on Richards trusty AR turntable, and inspiration will flow. Watch this space…

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The beautiful FermEgg concrete fermentor has been pure bliss to work with. Hand harvested Mendoza chardonnay from coastal Te Awanga was whole bunch pressed to fill the egg for ferment. The movement rhythm & melody of the ocean waves that these grapes were born grown & harvested under the spell of are retained in the organic belly of the egg. The natural swirl of the earths rotation continue unimpeded in its gentle curves, producing a passive constant motion that builds texture and richness in the wine. The ferment dynamics were perfect, & the birth of NZ’s very first 100% egg fermented Chardonnay has been truly a pleasure. The wine is now passing through its secondary malo-lactic ferment, softening & assuming the shape of the mother egg, rounding & filling out in a rather rubanesque & seductive way. Allocation only wine, released early next year. Thanks to Simon Daley for the rocket art, nice work.

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For my lovely new Taransaud barrels, I begged a favour from old friend & colleague of many vintages, Denis Gunn. Together over the years we have made some awesome Chardonnays from his family block, Skeetfield Vineyard. The Skeetfield Vineyard now also supplies another winemaker colleague, Rod Easthope of Easthope Family Winegrowers. We each take a few rows of these awesome old man Mendoza vines to craft in our own ways. Friends & family were called to the harvest, & in bacchanalian tradition, women music men & wine (along with some very hard working kids!) were intertwined with a beautiful autumn day. The reward lunch was exceptional & very memorable thanks Karryn Bish & Sally Gunn. Hand harvesting like this is such meaningful event. The appreciation of a years work by the grower, grapes coming off in perfect condition after many sleepless nights & devoted attention. And there is the powerful sense of a new beginning, the start of a new journey, bunches full of sweet juice & whispered promises.

Whole bunch pressed to barrel with no additions, no settling, no intervention. Indigenous ferment, allowing the native yeasts born of the vineyard to carry on the work required to transform the vines sweetness harvested from sunlight to chardonnay sublime. In the embrace of 150 year old oak staves from the centre of France (this is the average age of oak harvested for barrels), shaped by skilled hands of the Taransaud coopers, the ferment absorbs & knits the oak into the fabric of the wine, providing the bones and structure to the flesh of the wine. Rhythm & base. Destined for mid-year release 2016, this will be something for special friends.

In the meantime, enjoy the Fat n Sassy with music and friends.

Ka kite ano

Tony Bish

Tonights beverage:  Woodford Reserve on ice.

Tonights Music: Portishead ‘Dummy’

Gisborne is Nirvana-Nirvana is Gisborne

I am very excited to reveal my next new wine style release will be a juicy Gizzy Chardonnay! Only a week or so off harvesting some beautiful Clone 15 grapes from the legendary Judd Estate vineyard in Patutahi.

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My first ever vintage was in Gizzy, waaaay back in 1981, after spending an idyllic summer camping on Makorori Beach. Halcyon days those were, but the party had to run out of steam eventually, and work was a necessary evil. But fortune smiled on me, and I lucked into a job in the lab, working alongside the winemaking team. Well, the rest is history, I fell in love with wine and the winegrowing, a passion that still burns bright today.

So returning to Gizzy with the purpose of making a wine under my Indie label has been a delight, more so because I coerced Richard Brimer to come with me on the roadie and catch some iconic Gisborne images. we had such a great day, the weather gods smiled, and so it was a perfect cloudless windless day, much as preserved in my memories of former camping life.

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Mid-February, Sunday, Wainui Beach under perfect conditions…not exactly crowded. Beautiful does not say adequately describe this place. around the corner to Tatapouri and there on the boat ramp, met this fellow fishing with a rod and bait, old school style, just flinging the line into the water of the end of the ramp. Tally after half an hour was two kahawai, a tarakihi and a crayfish! Brilliant. No flash boat in sight.

A bit further around, we came across some fairly “settled in” campers on a gorgeous point with million dollar views in all directions. We chatted away, and learnt a bit about the lovely Ropahi family, who had been camping in this same spot for well over 20 years, enjoying several months a year in paradise. Kai moana at their doorstep, the soothing melody of waves on the beach, and whanau. Simplicity of living, and a spiritual connection with land and sea. The parents worked as alcohol and drug counsellors, giving back to the community and caring for those in need. It is humbling to meet such beautiful people, who give without taking, care without needing, accept without judgement. It was a privilege for Richard and I to spend some time with these people, our thanks for the welcome.

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The Tony Bish “Nirvana” Gisborne Chardonnay 2015 will be released next spring. Its easy to see where the inspiration for this wine comes from. Drink responsibly, with kai moana and friends.

Ka kite ano

Tony

Music Machinations

Sometimes life gets so busy, and we forget or delay what we know we should do. Take time to exercise, find time to relax, go to the beach more, appreciate your partner more, listen to more music, read another book. We all know those feelings, and we all fall short of our own ideals sometimes. Then along comes a catalyst. Unplanned, unsolicited, random, yet irrevocable. So I won’t waste time apologising for lack of Blogs, possible no-one cares anyways. But yesterday a catalyst arrived, so here I am. Through Facebook, a message arrived from a friend of friend connection, asking if I would make a pledge to buy a CD for the benefit of Ralph Bennett’s family, as he is terminally ill with cancer. Ralph is a kiwi musician journeyman, legendary blues guitarist, song writer, and general good bastard. He made an album many years ago called Fat n Sassy, so there’s the connection. I saw the poster for a promo tour he was making in a Saloon Bar (that’s right folks, a Saloon Bar, and we’re not talking hair dressers!) in Wairoa, next to one of the best Cafe’s in the country (yes, really!), the East End Cafe. See the doorstep below;

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The owner of these two utterly unique establishments is an old friend of Ralph’s. When I got back to Napier, I mentioned this poster and Ralph Bennett to Garry, a very dear friend and musical encyclopaedia, and bugger me he had a Ralph Bennett vinyl album in a box he had just unearthed from the bowels of his cellar!

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Then to top of a rather bizarre week, one of my fellow South America trip companions names his 3rd born son Ralph! Does make you think huh? Anyways, the pledge was done, two CD’s heading my way, one for Garry. But the musical fuse was lit, and I spent a couple of hours wandering the net. Fast forwarded my way through some of the Grammy’s, and hauled up when I saw Beck win Best new Rock Album. LEGEND! So tonight whilst I write, its Morning Phase on the headphones. One word. Wicked! The track Heart is a Drum beautiful. A glass (ok, a bottle) of Sacred Hill HALO Syrah 2013 is liquid velvet.

So here’s another reminder from the East Coast, Mahia style;

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Not just a road safety message from a small rural community, but a potent message to us all. Slow down. Take time for the real pleasures of life. Wine, food, friends, music, laughter, kindness.

Ka kite ano

Tony

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Latest News

Well lots happening on the Fat n Sassy project! We are about to feature in a Chardonnay promotion by Glengarry, and will be in all 18 stores by the end of this week. Awesome! Great review in Viva a couple of weeks ago by Jo Burzynska, with this Chardonnay beauty making her top 12 winter wine recommendations. Rocking out in Wellington too, with loads of restaurant listings happening. Back at the winery, we are well through the malo-lactic ferment process for the 2014. This is when malic acid is converted to the less acidic lactic acid by clever bacteria. This softens and enriches the wine, adding that important element of Fatness! The barrels look brilliant, and the 2014 will be as good or better maybe than the 2013 your enjoying now.

Looking back, my last blog was about the beginning of the South America trip with my winemaker friends. Following an epic night or two in Buenos Aires, we headed over to Mendoza by plane, across 1200km of desert. Mendoza is a high altitude wine region at the foot of the Andes, and is totally spectacular. There are no foothills, so the mountains soar majestically straight off the desert planes. The vineyards are well spread out, but there are heaps! Argentina is the 4th largest wine producer in the world, so its a BIG industry. Lots of history, amazing vineyards and some totally mind blowing wineries, some with significant European investment. Malbec dominates of course, but there are other great reds with the Bordeaux varieties at play, and a few good whites too. about 92% of wine consumed is red in this latin american country though, which is perfect with their big steak cuisine. A few more of Richard Brimers great photos attached.

Cheers all, Tony

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South America and Fat n Sassy Project

There is nothing like a trip to a distant country and culture to get the mind really working, and last years trip to Argentina and Chile was a great opportunity for creative thinking. I gathered a group of close friends, three other winemakers, a wine retailer and Richard Brimer, legend photographer. We kicked off with the All Blacks playing Argentina at Le Plata, just out of Buenos Aires. Awesome atmosphere, especially where we were in the general admission area, mixing it up with the locals. From here we went back to the city for a late degustation dinner at Aramburu, a stunning restaurant in the seedy part of town called Constitution. Amazing food, wine and service, we had a very long evening enjoying the ten courses matched to South American wines. Sheer brilliance. The small independent winemakers featured strongly here, getting the thought process cranking. Here’s a few pics Richard took.L1070670L1070672L1070584L1070603