Monday morning wine with Ed Donaldson

Getting to know the people behind the wines and learning about their journeys can be as interesting as New Zealand’s best wines taste, which was the inspiration for this interview. It’s the third in a new series on this website, delving into the people behind the scenes.
The following is a refreshing take on wine from the multi talented Ed Donaldson, whose taste in music and food is as legendary as his palate.
Ed is the marketing manager and third eldest of four sons of the Donaldson family, which own Pegasus Bay winery in North Canterbury. Ed is also a trained chef with a degree in cooking from Christchurch Polytechnic, which saw him employed as both chef and marketing manager in the early days of the family winery. He still loves cooking to unwind, finding the ritual of it to be relaxing but these days his job is marketing and sales manager for the winery.
This tends to involve travel, which has been curtailed due to Covid restrictions, so what better time to talk about his life in wine?
First up, a wine for the first half of the week in high alert level lockdown in New Zealand and a significant portion of the world.

The interview follows below, so feel free to skip down for a great read.

2020 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Riesling RRP $39.99

I’ve always thought of Pegasus Bay’s dry Riesling as a concentrated version of orange zest on speed, thanks to its incredible depth of flavour and impressively lingering finish, which lures you in for another sip or three. It’s a little drier than in recent years in this new 2020 edition, which has about 4 grams of residual sugar compared to about one gram higher, but numbers aside, it’s the wine which impresses. Consistently a stellar Riesling with such purity, complexity, delicacy and power. It’s a wine for the long haul but like all Bel Cantos, it’s a stunner now.
Best enjoyed in a large glass, lightly chilled, with great music and people. 

The 2020 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Riesling will be released in the next month.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Special connections, which has resulted in meaningful relationships with a wide range of people, family included. These friendships are one of the most important things in life for me. I also feel a sense of accomplishment for how our brand has evolved into over the years. I’m proud to be part of it.

What is your current state of mind?

Quite changeable at the moment but mostly fairly upbeat and appreciative for what I have.

What is your favourite part of being a winemaker?

Not being a winemaker, it’s tough to answer. My least favourite part is the cleaning. I find it fascinating to work on blends and really enjoy the process.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

I’ve built up a pretty decent cellar over the years but I’m not attached to any particular bottle. I have a set of the three Guigal La La’s from 2010 which I do find my mind wandering to.

Where is your favourite wine region?

Probably Piedmont but Burgundy and the Mosel are close contenders, as is Tuscany. Did I mention the Rhone?

When and where are you at your happiest?

Often when lost in music, either having a boogie to quality tunes with friends or discovering new music in my own company.

On the flip side nature brings me a lot of joy. I love being outdoors with good company, fishing rod optional, cold beer essential.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Fads. I find it strange when people buy into a certain trend in wine because they think it’s cool or fashionable while at the same time largely overlooking the wine itself.

Then again, what anyone else enjoys drinking is cool by me, so what do I care? Like so many things, it’s totally personal.

What is your greatest fear?

Failure. This holds me back from giving it a go sometimes. I’m working to get over this.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Hmmm, there are a few, self confessed lush ‘n all. Probably eating out. In my profession it’s important to do this for many reasons but it still feels extravagant, at times. Especially when I think about how many people struggle to put a basic meal on the table.

What is your greatest regret?

Starting smoking cigarettes as a teenager and not buying more 2016 Barolos.

What talent would you most like to have?

To be more mechanically minded.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I thankfully don’t find myself miserable too often,  but when  I think too much about the state of the world and what the future might mean for my children I find my mind going to a dark place that’s probably not very useful or constructive. So then I think of my wine cellar.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

Second guessing myself at times, which is probably closely linked to the earlier question about my greatest fear.

What do you most value in your friends?

Open mindedness and depth of character. I am drawn to people who see the world through a wide lens.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

We got it in before the rain.

What is your favourite meal?

So many but if I had to choose one it’d be yum cha.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

Definitely one of my cats. They roam as far and wide as they feel like, sleep/chill whenever they want, get feed on cue, endless rubs. Nothing to stress about.

Friday morning wine with Duncan Forsyth

Lifelong friends, a bloody Mary and a slushy machine all rate highly for Duncan Forsyth, of Mount Edward Winery in Central Otago. He was the first in New Zealand to sell high quality Pinot Noir on tap to restaurants. He rates southern Spain as his favourite wine region, among a couple of other regions, and finds working from home to be a bit of a distraction but life and work go on, as he shares this Friday morning in this website’s new wine take on the famous Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886 and of which you can find out more  here.

Duncan makes one of Central Otago’s best Chardonnays, in my view. It is made in a classic style from organically certified vineyards with wild yeast fermentation, full malolactic, lees aging and no filtration. A typically quality driven approach from a producer who makes finished wines he actually wants to drink. Now that’s refreshing.

Wine of the morning

2019 Mount Edward Chardonnay RRP $29.99

Fabulously classic old school Chardonnay from a new world wine region. Mount Edward Chardonnay is certified organic, full bodied, dry, creamy and tastes like ripe grapefruit with a lemon zest-curd like acidity, adding edginess and depth of flavour that lingers in the memory. It was fermented with native yeasts in old oak and left on decomposing yeast cells for 10 months followed by full malolactic fermentation and bottling with no filtration.

The interview… 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Having lifelong friends, children who are decent human beings and, most importantly, refraining from being a dickhead enough that my wife is still with me.

What is your current state of mind?

Different from when I first read this question. No doubt, it constantly changes, generally super positive which is what I try and maintain. I mean, it has to be, doesn’t it?

If you aren’t trying to be happy and making others happy, then what is the point?

What is your favourite part of winemaking?

Harvest for sure. I can briefly abdicate from nearly all my other responsibilities for a short time and enjoy everything from driving the forklift, cooking lunch fixing challenges, mechanical and intellectual, getting all wines on ferments, using experimental grapes; during harvest, it’s the only focus. It’s like a busy holiday with a happy sort of pressure for me.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

Not really, although I did once have sex in the La Tache vineyard, so if ever I have one of those wines it brings back quite happy memories.

Where is your favourite wine region?

On the basis of the previous question, I should say Burgundy but I guess the Jura as it has better cheese, jamon and pastries. I like the simple pleasures of that region as well as the people I was lucky enough to meet, especially being a non French speaker.

If not there, then Jerez. Its Moorish architecture is out of this world and the tapas and the Spanish are way cooler.

When and where are you at your happiest?

Likely with my wife and it could be anywhere, although at a festival dancing wouldn’t hurt.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Wineries being lauded when they have no real intent from an environmental or social perspective

I pay attention to very few ‘experts’ for this very reason. It’s more than just about the wine or brand but most are too afraid to have an opinion on something objective or are too middle of the road. When was the last time you heard an expert say “You know, these wines are pretty good but the way they look after their land is poor, so it’s a no from me.”

Irrelevant reference is that I loved being part of bringing wine on tap to this country, if only for the fact that it came in a tumbler… “Err, but the glass matters?” said some, who missed the point. These were the very same commentators I refer to above.

What is your greatest fear?

Not enough time for the next project.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Spending money on frivolous things. I did just buy an old golf cart to turn into an art car for LUMA, an arts festival I help run. The money should probably have been spent in a better fashion and we do own part of a slushy machine, which is equally useless but in the scheme of things, it does bring a smile to our friends’ faces. So maybe it’s money well spent afterall.

What is your greatest regret?

See first question. Any time I’ve been a dickhead in the past.

What talent would you most like to have?

To be more mechanically practical enough to fix said golf cart, without having to ask my friends for their help with a project that I started but they now have to help finish.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Given my frame of reference, which doesn’t really include all of the real world suffering out there, my answer is a first world response of seeing people who are racked with self doubt, anxiety, depression or poor mental health of any description, which incapacitates their lives in any way.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

That I honestly have no problem spending an afternoon on the couch. Laziness.

What do you most value in your friends?

Silliness and seeing the absurd in so much, both real and imaginary.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

And another thing.

What is your favourite meal?

Choose one? All things considered, a bloody Mary comes closest.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

Well, selfishly, a killer whale would be pretty cool but if karma has anything to do with it, most likely a goat.

Rapaura Springs puts Sauvignon’s best foot forward  

Rapaura Springs is a winery owned by Ian and Rosemary Wiffin, Margaret and Brendan Neylon and John Neylon. The Neylon family have been instrumental pioneers in Marlborough’s green lip mussel industry and also now own substantial vineyard land in Rapaura and Dillons Point in Marlborough. They describe their vineyard land as prime and their top wines support this assertion with consistently high quality, dry styles and  medium to full bodied styles.
This week I tasted their four new Sauvignon Blanc releases, all from 2021, and a sweet Riesling from 2018.
The Sauvignon Blancs are outstanding representations of Marlborough’s most planted grape.

If you have yet to be seduced by Sauvignon, try these succulent sensational whites, which put the grape’s best foot forward from the world’s leading Sauvignon Blanc region.

  • Rapaura Springs is a member of Appellation Marlborough Wines, which means 100% of its wines are made entirely with grapes grown in the Marlborough region.

19/20
2021 Rapaura Springs Rohe Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
Dry, full bodied, smooth and refreshing, this Sauvignon Blanc has a creamy mouthfeel enhanced by savoury lees flavours of oatmeal, almonds and fresh grainy sourdough. It is fully dry with 3.6 grams residual sugar and expresses notes of tropical fruit which are kept in delicious succulent balance by the refreshing crisp flavoursome bite of a Granny Smith apple and lime zest. This is an exceptional take on Sauvignon Blanc, made from grapes grown at the confluence of the Wairau and Opawa rivers in Marlborough.

19/20
2021 Rapaura Springs Bull Paddock Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
This is the most impressive 2021 Sauvignon Blanc to touch the sides of my glass so far this year. It’s early days but this wine continues to live up to its XXX-factor of sensational concentration of flavour which is balanced by a fresh, full body and great dry taste.
The Bull Paddock Vineyard is in the Dillons Point sub region of Marlborough’s Lower Wairau Valley and, as its name suggests, was once used for raising bulls prior to being converted to a vineyard. Soils here are stony and provide vines with extremely favourable ripening conditions to  produce grapes with power and density; flavours of lush tropical fruit, rich fresh lemon zest and cream all leap out of each sip of this pure, long and deliciously rewarding Sauvignon. One of Marlborough’s best whites, every year.

18.5/20
2021 Rapaura Springs Rohe Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
Here is a stunner from Marlborough, a dry medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc that puts this famous grape’s best foot forward with weight and textural qualities as much as it does with fruit appeal. This is a Sauvignon Blanc with great mouthfeel and deliciously fragrant perfumed aromas of intense freshly picked herbs, such as oregano and sage. I love the dry taste and long, rewarding flavoursome style.

17.5/20
2021 Rapaura Springs Rohe Blind River Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27.90
Blind River is the driest, coolest and most wind swept of all wine regions in Marlborough and this provides a freshness and ironic softness in this wine, which is a lively, smooth, crisp youthful expression of Sauvignon Blanc.
Flavours of fresh lemon thyme and Granny Smith apples combine with notes of passionfruit and guava, all combining in a medium bodied, dry Sauvignon. This is a very good wine from New Zealand’s biggest wine region.

17.5/20
2018 Rapaura Springs Gravel Lane Vineyard Botrytised Riesling RRP $34.90
This is a full on, full bodied, deliciously ripe Riesling made with grapes grown in Marlborough’s Omaka Valley. The late harvest flavours of the grapes shine in this wine which tastes of orange blossom, ripe tangelos and lime zest with juicy acidity adding succulence to every flavoursome sip. It lingers thanks to the bright acidity which balances the sweetness. The alcohol is 10.5% ABV and only 1998 bottles were produced.