Weekly wine talk is published every Friday on this site
Misha Wilkinson founded and owns Misha’s Vineyard with her husband, Andy, who she describes as the perfect partner, even if he didn’t initially meet with her mother’s approval. Their brand is relatively new on the Central Otago scene. Their first vintage was 2008, a tricky year for them and the region in general, despite the high quality raw material they produce from their vineyard, which is situated on steep slopes at Bendigo, overlooking Lake Dunstan. The couple has since forged a reputation for making some of Central’s top Pinot Noirs and whites. It’s their two exceptional Rieslings that resonate most, for purists, in terms of white wine quality from this deep southern region. They also make small volumes of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.
When asked about her biggest extravagance is, Misha says she likes a little extravagance in almost everything; “Really, what’s wrong with opening a bottle of Champagne, just because it’s a Tuesday?”
Wine, for her, is about the experience and not just what’s in the bottle.
Meet Misha Wilkinson, the subject of this week’s wine chat
This is the ninth interview on this website based on the famous Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886 – find out more here.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being happily married to my perfect partner. The decision to marry was against my mother’s wishes and the first time I had really gone against her. I think now of the life I have led since meeting Andy over 30 years ago and I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible . The establishment of Misha’s Vineyard has been one of the most significant achievements and that’s an outcome of achieving a perfect partnership.
What is your current state of mind?
I’m reflective and appreciative. The current pandemic and general chaos across the globe has reinforced how fortunate I feel to have travelled to so many places around the world and how fortunate I am to live in New Zealand now. By the way, that doesn’t mean I’m not keen to continue travelling, but I am content to wait until the time is right.
What is your favourite part of winemaking?
Technically I don’t do the actual winemaking, Olly, our winemaker, along with able assistants, manages that. But we all know that getting the liquid component into a bottle is only part of the overall winemaking process. As an owner of Misha’s Vineyard with my husband, we get to be across every aspect of making wine. It started with our selection of a site that we were confident would produce amazing fruit and subsequently excellent wines. From there, our planting decisions, our ongoing viticultural management, our winemaking direction and then how we have chosen to package and present those wines are all aspects of making Misha’s Vineyard wines. And that’s what I love. A view across the whole gamut of producing wine from the initial inspiration to opening a bottle.
Do you have a most treasured wine?
It’s always hard to pick one but there are a couple of treasures in the cellar. A few years back, we were in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and met a somewhat difficult Frenchman who we managed to win over after a lengthy period of tasting and talking. He opened several older vintage wines, meticulously removing the wax seals and carefully coaxing cork from dusty bottles from the top reaches of the cellar. There was definitely a sense of occasion with his meticulous pouring of the contents of old bottles in front of a candle flame as he checked for sediment. The experience was incredible and the wines were sublime. Needless to say, we bought a couple of very expensive bottles for our cellar where they still sit. I only have to glance at those bottles in the cellar to instantly reminisce about that time in France and that incredible day in Châteauneuf-du Pape.
Where is your favourite wine region?
Owning a vineyard in Central Otago speaks volumes, but outside New Zealand, it would be Piedmont. This spectacular north-east region of Italy shares some visual similarities with Central Otago, although their hero variety is Nebbiolo. This is the home of Barolo and produces some of our favourite wines.
When and where are you at your happiest?
Good food and good wine make me the happiest. Over the past 18 months, we’ve made the most of being locked down in New Zealand and visited some incredible lodges in New Zealand – places where I’ve been supremely happy with degustation menus cooked by talented chefs, matched with incredible wines in sublime surroundings. Is there anything better?
What do you most dislike in wine?
I hate wine snobbery. I’m probably guilty of it at some level as I’d rather drink water than wine, if offered a mass produced, made-for-a-budget, no-integrity wine. But I hate the snobbery around wines where elitism and pretension dictate what’s listed, what’s collected or what’s drunk. There are a lot of great wines made from varieties, regions, and producers that shouldn’t be discounted because of preconceptions. In fact, I’m off to a whole evening of tasting Vermentino.
What is your greatest fear?
That one day I won’t be fit enough or sharp enough to do what I do now.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I like a little extravagance in almost everything. Really, what’s wrong with opening a bottle of Champagne, just because it’s a Tuesday.
What is your greatest regret?
I regret that my mother never saw our vineyard planted and never tasted the wine that was named in her honour, The High Note Pinot Noir. She was an opera singer and died the year we planted the vineyard. I’m sure if she had the chance to experience all that we’ve created, she would definitely would have no misgivings about her daughter’s choice of partner.
What talent would you most like to have?
I wish I’d persevered with piano lessons and been more diligent with practice. I always look at pianos and wish I could play something fabulous.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing someone close is the worst sense of loss and misery for me.
What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?
Jealousy. I tend to covet things. I have no reason for it as I feel I have all I want but it doesn’t stop the feeling sometimes.
What do you most value in your friends?
Acceptance. We may not be perfect all of the time, but real friends accept the good with the bad and they like you for all that you are.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Fabulous! My most used phrases are,“Here’s the thing…” – where most people roll their eyes expecting to hear a long and convoluted explanation; and “I’m a genius!” – definitely an overstated claim but it’s done loudly in the office when I’ve managed to do something significant such as answer all my emails. Don’t worry. I know self praise is no recommendation at all.
What is your favourite meal?
The last one my husband cooked for me. It could be a gourmet meal or just lamb chops on the BBQ.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?
I don’t want to be anyone else but perhaps have the opportunity to come back and be a better me.