Mahana Vineyard & Winery

Experience what makes us unique.

“Creativity is a practice.  It’s not an inspiration, it’s not an accident. You can’t get somewhere without risking failure.  As far as winemaking, I suppose I have fallen victim to idealism, but natural winemaking celebrates the earth, and it attracts similar idealists.” Glenn Schaeffer, Mahana Owner/Director

Michael Glover, Winemaker

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Mahana Winemaker, Michael Glover, is certainly one of those idealists.

“Michael is a deep thinker, one of the most perceptive, intelligent, considered yet rebellious winemakers. After 20-plus years making wine, he no longer accepts anything as given. He doesn’t simply question the status quo, he challenges it,” Jane Faulkner, James Halliday Wine Companion Magazine April/May 2015.

Michael Glover left his family’s small vineyard which is just a few kilometres away from Mahana back in 1993 in order to complete a Wine Science degree at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia. The intention was always to return but having met his wife Catherine whilst studying, his return was delayed by about 22 years.

Whilst in Australia he worked as a winemaker in the Hunter Valley at The Rothbury Estate when it was still in the hands of the legendary Len Evans, as well as at Oakvale.  After 5 years in the Hunter he went to the cooler climates of Tasmania where he worked as winemaker for Moorilla Estate.  After 5 years in Hobart, Michael felt the need to move on and was approached by the iconic Bannockburn Vineyards in Geelong to make wine for them after the departure of Gary Farr. Throughout this time he vintaged at wineries in Campania, Puglia, Sardinia, Tuscany, Mosel, Provence and Burgundy.

Michael believes the best wines are “not forced or pushed and they are definitely not manipulated.  The winemaker guides the fruit in a direction that he or she thinks will best ‘capture’ or ‘reflect’ the place in which they are grown.  It can be beautiful, artistic, expressive, philosophical and VERY personal. The very best wines are sincere wines and display integrity and commitment right through the process.  These are wines that have a soul!”

Having worked with many great producers with strong philosophies in Europe, Michael says he has no doubt that great wine comes from great vineyards producing great grapes.  “The limiting factor of any wine is the site. You could be the greatest winemaker on the planet but you’re only as good as your site,” he submits.

“Mahana gives me the opportunity to make wine from dry-grown and organically managed vineyards that produce fruit requiring no ‘extraneous’ additions.  The winemaking takes place in a winery that is purpose-built to use gravity rather than pumps.  For me…it is as authentic and as pure as it can be.”

Julian Coakley, Viticulturist & GM

Julian

“We’ve chosen to convert to organics because, philosophically, we think it’s the right thing to do.” Julian Coakley, Mahana Viticulturist

Julian, originally from Christchurch, worked in the vineyards of Canterbury to pay his way through university, where he earned a degree in Classics.   After graduating, he moved to Nelson where he ended up working with vines for the next six years.  During this time Julian says he often contemplated the rolling hills of what was then a sprawling apple orchard in Mahana, day dreaming about developing vineyards on this land, which he reckoned would be one of the best sites in the country for producing premium Pinot Noir. 

Later he took a position in Gisborne, managing the vineyards for New Zealand’s second-largest wine company.  Here he learned a great deal, but more importantly he was introduced to the pioneer of organic grape growing in New Zealand.

In 2001, Julian received some interesting news – that apple orchard in Mahana which he knew so well was being turned into a vineyard.  There was no doubt in his mind that now was the time to return to Nelson and take up what he described as, “the ultimate gig”.

At Mahana, Julian helped establish and develop the three vineyards, Mahana, Burke’s Bank and Red Shed. He found that he was given essentially a free hand to explore, experiment and learn.  After 9 years of grape growing he came to realise that the conventional method was not the only way to grow grapes and certainly not the best.  Under his guidance, the company was the first New Zealand vineyard to certify three vineyards at the same time as fully organic under BioGro.

Julian says he didn’t think he was doing anything unusual.  “Over the years of growing under the conventional system we had grown more relaxed and more confident in the vines ability to cope with seasonal influences. The main thing I’ve found with organics is that we have to be so much more proactive about vineyard management and more involved with the land, vineyards and vines. With a conventional system there is always a silver bullet for adverse climatic or disease events. With organics, we have to know what’s here, know what’s coming, and deal with it immediately. You can’t just wait till it arrives and then deal with it.”.

If great wine can only come from great fruit, then Mahana is indeed very lucky to have Viticulturist Julian Coakley.

About the Vineyard

The Mahana vineyard is planted on the clay-bound gravels, which formed the rolling hills of Upper Moutere as ice-age glaciers melted. Mahana means “warm” in Maori and at 100 metres above sea level its gently rolling slopes make good use of the spring sunshine, while catching the cooling afternoon sea breeze in midsummer.  The largest of the vineyards, Mahana is planted predominantly in Pinot Noir, with some Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay. The Mahana vineyard is complemented by a second vineyard just fifteen kilometres away on the Waimea Plains. The Burke’s Bank and Red Shed vineyards are planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris. The stony, free-draining alluvial soils over deep, compacted gravel add ripe melon and tropical fruit notes to our Sauvignon Blanc and floral aromas and intense fruit flavours to the Riesling and Pinot Gris.

The unique four-level gravity-fed winery was designed by Oregon winery architect Larry Ferar. Built entirely of concrete, it is set into the Mahana hillside where the ‘living roof’ of native tussock and shrubs allows it to blend gently with the surrounding landscape. The winery and vineyard teams work closely together to produce fruit of the highest quality in the vineyard, then to vinify it with the minimum of intervention to achieve full, concentrated flavours.

Our winery combines the best of traditional winemaking practices with state-of the-art modern equipment, allowing us to craft distinctive wines that reflect the place in which they were grown and the care with which they were made.

Hand-sorting and gentle de-stemming start the process and gravity moves the wine through the four floors of the 18m high winery, eliminating as much as possible the use of pumps. This reduces electricity use and more importantly, allows gentle handling of the wine to retain fruit aromas and maximise flavour concentration. Power is also saved in the temperature control of our insulated wine tanks through a precisely managed computer system and by the passive cooling of the winery itself, which is partly buried in a south-facing hillside and insulated by its ‘living roof’. As well as reducing our energy footprint this minimises temperature fluctuations in our cellars, benefitting the wine ageing in barrels and bottles.

The winery is a vibrant place, the dramatic architecture complementing the magic of the creative process. This is particularly so during vintage, when the air is full of the primary fruit aromas of fermenting grapes, and afterwards when the barrel cellars are redolent with the complex aromas of young Pinot Noir in French oak barrels.

Stony soil

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The gravity-fed winery

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Mahana Clays

VC020 Moutere clay-bound gravels

Contributing photographers on this page: Veronique Cornille, Jake Thomas and Chocolate Dog.