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May 10, 2016
te Pā - our place, our home
The Wairau Bar has a unique place in the heart of New Zealanders; it’s very likely the country’s earliest settlement. Arriving in waves of canoes around 1350, the settlers from eastern Polynesia were to become the Maori people over centuries of isolation. It is said that all tribes of New Zealand have links back to these first arrivals. 500 years later, the MacDonald family arrived at Wairau Bar—their mother’s side from the lower North Island and father’s side from Scotland—and generation after generation has been farming the land since. In 2003, Haysley MacDonald had a vision for the property, and planted vines to create te Pā winery. He gave it a Maori name meaning “our place, our home,” and the winery indeed is an homage to the family’s deep love of their ancestral land.
On the coast of Marlborough, Wairau Bar is a long gravel bank where the Wairau River meets the Pacific Ocean. The te Pā property, rich in alluvial gravel soils, is in fact an island, cut off from the mainland by the river and a flood canal. It’s also idyllic: few frosts, few winds, mild weather. Though the estate is not registered organic, the MacDonalds farm their land using those principles, with a core philosophy of respect. According to the New Zealand Herald: “The previously swampy fields had been drained via hand-dug ditches by Haysley’s grandfather years ago, leaving behind land boasting a mixture of soil types ideal for growing good Sauvignon Blanc. So good in fact, that their debut 2011 vintage was given five stars and named New Zealand’s Top Sauvignon Blanc by Cuisine magazine - and it was named in the Top 100 at the Sydney International Wine Competition. The 2013 scooped gold medals at the latest Air New Zealand and the Easter Wine Shows.” (2014)
They now have 250 hectares in vines and grow Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in addition to Sauvignon Blanc. All of their wines are from single vineyards rather than multiple sites, so they are truly micro-portraits of terroir. The 2014 Pinot Noir is sourced from the Creighton estate, showing a silky juicy texture with alluring notes of plum and spice. The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from MacDonald Family Home Vineyard is classic NZ SB: crisp gooseberry, passionfruit, and elderflower. Their second label is called Koha, an ode to the laid-back Kiwi lifestyle. It is perfect for pounding a bottle (or two) on your porch on a summer Sunday afternoon.
Over the years, the MacDonald family has been many things: fishermen, farmers, horticulturists - and now, winemakers. Through everything, they have always remained bonded to their roots and to their land.