A Trip Through New Zealand Harvest
We’re heading to the Southern Hemisphere on the blog this month. We love to take you to one side of the world for a glass of deliciousness and then bring you back to California from time to time
As you likely know, the seasons are flipped, so while we just entered Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Fall for our winemaking team in New Zealand. Harvesting grapes, or picking the fruit, is the first and most important step of the winemaking process. Whether you’re hand picking or machine harvesting, it takes time, patience and a little bit of intuition. Knowing when to pick the fruit isn’t an exact science — it requires measuring the level of sugar in the grapes (this is called brix) and some degree of gut feeling to know when the grapes are ready, which is usually based on taste.
Our Assistant Winemaker Diana Hawkins is based in New Zealand (you may remember her from our Women’s History Month feature - read it here). We are going to get to see harvest through her eyes. It’s not too often that you get the chance to go behind the scenes with the women at work in the vineyards and winery. But that’s just what we do. Break the rules. Drink the wine.
Winemaking in New Zealand is an art that spans across 10 main wine regions. Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago are areas which all attract a significant amount of wine tourism due to their international reputation for producing excellent wines, and they are where we make our wines at McBride Sisters.
Map Source: Wine Traveler
The McBride Sisters Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc comes from the top of the South Island in Marlborough and the McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé (available in store only) comes from the Hawke's Bay region in the North Island.
Now let’s catch up with Diana as she heads to Hawke’s Bay for harvest of our McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé this year.
Located on the North Island, Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region, with the first plantings of vineyards dating back to the 1850s. It is also the second-largest wine region, with production reaching approximately 41,000 tonnes of fruit in 2018 which is approximately 41 million bottles of wine, according to New Zealand Winegrower’s Annual Report. The temperate climate and excess sunshine, which is moderated by the region's proximity to the sea, make it the perfect area for fruit-growing.
Source: Audley Travel
The Drive Down
Diana: “The drive down to Hawke’s Bay was stunning, with winding mountain roads and breath-taking views. It’s tucked between the Kaweka and Ruahine ranges and the Pacific Ocean. Like most of New Zealand, the region is geologically active. It borders a geothermal power plant and isn’t far from Lake Taupō, which is, technically speaking, atop a dormant volcano.
When you come down the mountains, the coast finally comes into view. Then, in the blink of an eye, you’re out of the hills and surrounded by vineyards and orchards. Hawke’s Bay is known as the fruit basket of New Zealand. With ample sunshine and warm summer days, fruits and veggies grow abundantly here, including grapevines. Between the farm-fresh produce and award-winning wines, it’s a foodie’s paradise.
After settling in, I checked out the towns of Hastings and Napier. In 1931, Napier and parts of Hastings were razed to the ground after a 7.8 earthquake. The quake also changed the entire layout of the area, raising some coastal areas by almost 6 feet and turning them into dry land. When the towns rebuilt, they did so in an Art Deco style. To this day, Napier embraces that era with 1920s themed shops and attractions.”
We’re Off To The Races
Diana: “The next morning, I joined the team at the winery to get to know some of the vintage (another word for harvest) crew. The first fruit was Pinot Noir from the Twin Rivers vineyard in Te Awanga. The fruit was picked in the vineyard and delivered to us in the winery. We’re working with Pinot Noir grapes first to make our Sparkling Brut Rose. These grapes are picked earlier than other varietals because sparkling wine grapes are picked for flavor and acidity.”
Pinot Noir Vineyards in Hawke's Bay are in blue & pink shown via Google Maps
The earlier grapes are picked during harvest, the higher the acidity they will generally have. Acid in sparkling wine gives these crowd pleasers life and vibrancy.
“The vines themselves were planted on sandy loam soils at a vineyard between the Tukituki and Ngaruroro rivers. The vines were trellised using the Sylvos method, which is pretty unique and something I hadn’t come across before. It’s utilized here because it allows for better airflow and higher quality fruit for sparkling wine.”
From Grapes to Wine
Diana: “When the grapes came in, they are immediately pressed. We press them more gently because we want to get the juice out of the grapes, but not any of the bitter flavors that are present in the seeds. Grape skins are what give red wine its color. Without them, you end up with a pale pink rosé, which is exactly what we’re looking for.
Once the juice was pressed, it was sent to tanks for fermentation. Fermentation occurs when yeast gobble up sugars and produce alcohol and CO2. Because they’re living breathing organisms and essential to the winemaking process, as a winemaker it’s really important to ensure they’ve got everything they need to get the job done. That could mean giving them a bit of nutrition or a cheerleading session by yours truly to keep their spirits up.
Once fermentation starts, the color of the juice gets paler, the sugar level goes way down, and the key flavors you usually find in the wine start to take shape. It is no longer Pinot Noir juice; it’s officially baby Pinot Noir rosé with an electrifying acid backbone and hints of strawberry and raspberry. A wine that will eventually make our delicious McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé!”
The harvest in New Zealand is something very special. The country is unlike any other region in terms of natural beauty and a pureness of place, the climate is simply perfect for the wine styles we produce. Harvest takes a village and we have Diana leading the charge to make sure we craft the most delicious glass of bubbles you will ever taste.
We can’t wait for you to pick up a few bottles of our next release of McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé that’s being made right now. We hope this look into the winemaking process gives you more of an idea of the work and LOVE that goes into every bottle.
Raising A Glass To Rachel & Paige
As we close out March, we’re mixing it up a bit for this #WomenCrushingIt interview (you know we like to break the rules, right?) This time, we’ve got an amazing pairing — actress Rachel Brosnahan and her production partner Paige Simpson.
Rachel Brosnahan is an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards), as well as a producer and founder of Scrap Paper Pictures. She’s also a passionate advocate for young people experiencing homelessness and currently sits on the board of Covenant House International.
Paige Simpson is the Head of Development for Scrap Paper Pictures. Her previous projects have included the Affair, Billions, Black Monday and Masters of Sex, as well as programs for OWN and BET+. Rachel & Paige are actively producing diverse content and providing a platform for artists to tell their stories, their way.
We’ll admit to being a little obsessed with Rachel’s turn as the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (her character was blazing trails for women back in the 1950s, after all), and it looks like these two are going to give us a lot to look forward to. We toast to this talented team of women crushing it in their industry… and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
Meet Rachel Brosnahan & Paige Simpson
Andréa: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why?
Rachel: “My pod! The four of us have been together through the thick and thin of all of this and I wouldn’t have made it through the last year in one piece without them. Cheers to the end & to new beginnings (and hopefully being able to travel again!)”
Paige: “I will be raising multiple glasses to my college friends who I haven’t seen since Spelman College’s Homecoming 2019. A few of my friends have had babies, and I can’t wait to meet them for the first time, catch up and make great memories.”
Andréa: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Paige: “This year has been a continuation of last year’s challenges. The theme to me means that we are all choosing to challenge all things that don’t make sense, are immoral and all injustices. Change is a challenge, so we must continue to fight for the changes we want to see in our world.”
Rachel: “#ChooseToChallenge feels like it’s been my unofficial mantra since I began working in our industry and certainly represents the mission of Scrap Paper Pictures. The goal has always been to challenge myself as well as society’s ideas of how women should move through the world, hold positions of leadership, make art, use our bodies and voices...but it’s not always easy. I, like every other woman I know, have been made to feel small, to question my talent, passion and ambition, to feel the need to apologize for advocating for myself and others. But those challenges make me even more grateful for women who have led by example and courageously carved pathways for us to follow and continue to grow.”
Andréa: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industry?
Rachel: “My first manager Carole Dibo who empowered me to say “No” to people, situations and even opportunities that didn’t feel right from a young age when so many women feel pressure to say yes all the time. But the list is long...Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, Shonda Rimes, Laverne Cox, Greta Thunberg, Amy Sherman Palladino, Michelle Obama, Madge Thomas, AOC, Shakina Nayfack, Carson McCullers, my close girlfriends & so many more.”
Paige: “My mother. She raised me with the belief that I could be and do anything I wanted to. It was very freeing. My mom worked very hard to provide me with experiences and knowledge.”
Andréa: How would you define your sisterhood that has supported you during your path?
Paige: “They are my everything … my sounding board, my laugh factory and my heartbeat. They uplift me when I’m down and never drop me.”
Rachel: “Lifeblood. I admire, learn from, grow alongside, love deeply and am ceaselessly grateful for my sisterhood every day. Would not be here without them.”
Andréa: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions?
Paige: “Know that you will hear ‘No’ a lot. You might even say no to yourself. But the moment that you truly believe in yourself and your abilities, you can’t be stopped. No weapon formed against you can prosper, and God has your back.”
Andréa: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?
Rachel: While it’s been undeniably challenging, it has forced folks to get even more creative and given the space to reflect and re-examine our priorities. I’m excited to see the kind of work that results from this period of introspection (and one thousand zooms).
Andréa: What are you most excited about in your work right now?
Rachel: To have any! I’m immensely grateful to be juggling a handful of projects I’m passionate about and to be collaborating with other artists who are inspiring creative powerhouses.
Andréa: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it?
Rachel: We don’t discriminate when it comes to wine...but we do love a high low moment. One of our favorite pairings lately has been the McBride Sisters Brut Rosé with a good old fashioned New York slice.
And we’ll leave you with one of our favorite “rants” from Mrs. Maisel herself -
“Why do women have to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why do we have to pretend to be stupid when we’re not stupid? Why do we have to pretend to be helpless when we’re not helpless? Why do we have to pretend to be sorry when we have nothing to be sorry about? Why do we have to pretend we’re not hungry when we’re hungry?” – Midge Maisel