Yesterday I took the kids with me for a 20 min drive to visit my good friend Sarah and her family at their farm in the Waikakaho Valley. The depths of the Waikakaho are not suitable for grape growing and despite there being more than 11000 ha of grapes in the Marlborough region now, this is a place relatively close that you can go for a change in scenery.
My parents planted grapes in the 70s as one of the first group of growers who contracted their fruit to Montana. Following this, vineyards slowly began to appear right across the Wairau plains and have now also entered many of the surrounding valleys. Take a look at this map showing vineyards in the Marlborough region. There are plantings in some areas that could be described as marginal grape growing sites. Fortunately, our family’s vines grow in an ideal location, so our fruit benefits from the good terroir and we don’t have to worry about windmills and choppers to fight frost.
So aside from the one vineyard in the pic above, we had a vine free vista heading into the Waikakaho valley. It was sad to see a lot of real estate signs though, traditional sheep farmers are facing an uphill battle. We enjoyed seeing a young and wild deer that had come down from the hillside, the kids checked out a pig hanging in the garage from the morning’s hunt, we watched as hardy workers began planting pines on the recently burnt off hillside and best of all, got muddy…
The other noticeable difference was the number of bees around. I tend to notice such things as my son is very allergic. There were bees everywhere. I’ve heard that bees are on the decrease in Marlborough and that grapes may well play a significant part in this because they are self pollinated and have replaced a lot of the fruit trees that woud have previously brought in the bees. Amazing the impact that the wine industry has in so many areas.