Stonecrop Wines, a small New Zealand vineyard owned by Sally Richardson and Andrew Harris of Montauk, recently released its first pinot noir rosé. The vineyard also produces sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, both of which can be found in restaurants and wine stores around the East End.
Mr. Harris and Ms. Richardson began the venture in 2002, when they purchased 20 acres in Martinborough, New Zealand, a small town known for it’s pinot noir production. The couple hand-planted pinot noir and sauvignon blanc vines in 2003 and released their first vintage in 2006. Each April, they make the trip from Montauk to New Zealand to help handpick the grapes, often bringing friends along to help. Alexis Moore is the winemaker, and a viticulturist oversees the vineyard on a day-to-day basis.
The vineyard takes its name from the dry river valley in which it is located. The vines grow in soil filled with a type of glacial stone called grey wacke. According to Mr. Harris, this soil is ideal.
“You want the vines growing in fairly non-fertile soils,” he said, “You want them to put all their effort into growing the fruit and not a lot of leaves.”
The couple began planning for the 2014 rosé about a year ago. They wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to make and release a rosé in the same year that the grapes were picked. “You can do that with rosé because it’s not a complex wine. It’s light, it’s fresh, and it doesn’t need to spend a lot of time in the winery,” Mr. Harris said.
Of the three pinot noir clones grown on the vineyard, they chose clone 777 for their rosé, which is originally from the Dijon region in France and contains floral characteristics without being overly sweet.
“We wanted a really blush rosé, something very light and crisp and dry. We wanted to avoid the sweet rosé style,” Ms. Richardson said. The rosé is described as containing “aromas of rose petals and mandarin peel” and having a “crisp, refreshing finish.”
The grapes for the rosé were handpicked on April 3. It was bottled on June 6. Of the 250 cases produced, 240 were shipped to New York and arrived in early August. Stonecrop’s rosé is served at Meeting House in Amagansett and the Coast and Backyard at Solé East in Montauk. It can be purchased for $16 to $18 at a number of local wine stores, including Atlantic Wines and Liquors in Amagansett and Montauk Liquors and Wine.
The rosé is likely the last addition to the Stonecrop family of wines. Mr. Harris and Ms. Richardson like being a small vineyard. “We have no intention to expand on the production that we have. We are very happy with the style and quality of wine that we are able to produce off those 20 acres,” Mr. Harris said.
The other vineyards in Martinborough are similar in scale and production to Stonecrop. There are about 35 of them, and most use the bottling plant in the town square. The couple has gotten to know many of the other local winemakers, and there are few secrets and little competition due to the fact that there are no commercial producers in the area.
Stonecrop is accredited as a Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand vineyard, meaning it is committed to conserving natural resources and using natural farming practices. Mr. Harris is the pioneer of a unique sustainable practice, one that takes advantage of New Zealand’s 30 million sheep.
“We bring the neighbors’ sheep into the vineyard when the grapes are still very hard and green, and they eat all the leaves around the bunches of grapes,” he said. “This ensures that we get the right sunlight exposure to the grapes. . . . It’s a very sustainable practice that doesn’t require any mechanization.”
It is a relationship that is ideal for all parties involved. Mr. Harris said, “The sheep are happy because they’re eating leaves which are quite delicious, the farmer is happy because his sheep are being fed for free, and there’s also a bit of natural fertilization that takes place.”
It is, however, important to choose the right sheep. “Not lambs, not big sheep,” Mr. Harris said, “They have to be the right size so that they eat just above the fruiting line.”