I have been enjoying Brookfields wines for nearly three decades - and during this time, honoured to have Peter Robertson (owner / winemaker) as a close friend. Whom I have worked with behind the scenes at Brookfields on many local and international wine projects. With the recent release of two varietal wines from the 2017 vintage, one can now proudly announce - Brookfields Winery is celebrating 80 years of winemaking. Plus Peter can raise a glass to his 40th vintage release, as owner of the estate.
Brookfields is Hawkes Bay's oldest boutique winery, founded as a winery back in 1937 - when it was established by the Ellis family. Built during the Art Deco period - and just a few years after the devastating Napier earthquake of 1931.

 
 

Peter purchased the Brookfields winery in 1977 - after being encouraged to do so by the now late and renowned winemaker Tom McDonald. Peter at the time was a 26-year-old chemist whom was working at the then McWilliams winery. 40 years on - Brookfields is now one of Hawke's Bay's most visited destinations and a leading light for New Zealand premium wine. Brookfields winery is located near to the glistening waters of the Tutaekuri River, that runs across the region between Napier and Hastings. Peter has developed the winery over time with modern technology but has retained traditional winemaking philosophy’s and methods. Peter crafts classic wines from grapes grown in specific locations across the region and to his strict growing policy - (expressing their terroir - essence of place).
When you visit Brookfields, its history is revealed in the handmade 25mm concrete blocks used to build the winery and cellar in the late 1930’s. These handmade blocks create a perfect environment for aging great wines and keeping the cellar cool during Hawke’s Bay’s hot summers. Brookfields produces between 10,000 and 15,000 cases of wine each year. In an ideal or vintage quality growing season that number won’t change a great deal. There is no desire to push up the volumes and chase expansion when there is always the ongoing challenge of creating an even more dramatic and expressive wine.

 
 

Most of the grapes are harvested from the wineries’ own Ohiti Estate vineyards - situated in the Ohiti Valley - which as the crow-flies, is about 25kms inland from the coast. The vineyards sit on the opposite, northly-side of the Ngaruroro River to the Gimblett Gravels. The Ohiti Valley is sheltered by surrounding hills and together with the river stones, it is one of the hottest vineyard locations in the wine region.
Virtually every time you visit the vineyards, there is a high probability that Peter will be working on his tractor or amongst the vines, trimming the grass, or pruning the vines, every role required, right up to harvest time and even loading the picked grapes onto a truck to send off to the winery for vinification.
Brookfields has grown with the times in how it manages the day-to-day operations. Over the four decades, Peter has installed systems and efficiencies to manage the annual harvest of around 200 tonnes of fruit from their four regional vineyard sites: the ‘Home' block at Meeanee, the 'Ohiti' vineyards, the vineyards in the 'Tuki Tuki River' area and their renowned ‘Hillside’ vineyard. This is comfortable for the team, and all the vinification is handled on-site, as is the bottling of the ‘Reserve’ wines of which there are approximately 1500 - 2000 cases made yearly (quality dependent), accounting for one-fifth or less of the total production. The bottling of the other wines is outsourced to ‘Wineworks’ in Hastings.

 
 

Their wine range is classic Hawke’s Bay, playing to the strengths of the wine region. In the whites, they have world class Chardonnay, old vine Pinot Gris, an indulgent Viognier and a small volume of locally grown Sauvignon Blanc. Regards Chardonnay, variations on winemaking and techniques can change with the vintage and fruit quality. For example, the ‘Marshall Bank’ Chardonnay seen as their flagship white wine - gets only the best oak barrel treatment when crafted in special vintage years.
Peter’s reds include expressions of Merlot, Malbec (uniquely sun-dried), a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and a Rhône style Syrah. Then there are the premium small parcels: the‘Highland’ Merlot / Cabernet, the 'Hillside’ Syrah of particular note, and when conditions prevail - the top wine being the ‘Gold Label’ Reserve Bordeaux red blend.

 
 

Peter works closely with Carl Nicholson (assistant winemaker since 2011) in the winery. Sharon is the company & cellar door manager at the winery - supported by John Thirkell - (who joined the team in 1997) - and has had the role of marketing manager, along with receiving and hosting local and international guests daily for winery tours and tastings. Peter and Sharon's daughter Rachael has the responsibility of the winery restaurant and varied functions - as the outdoor pavilion and struning rose gardens are one of the top venues in Hawke’s Bay for weddings and family gatherings. Peter and Sharon are very much hands-on, as it is with a true family run business.

Peter and Sharon have always taken the quiet approach - allowing their wines to ‘speak for themselves’. Quite often, it’s a matter of people discovering Brookfields and then celebrating the find. It is a pleasure visiting Brookfields, as it exudes tradition and charm, very much reflecting the families’ personality. The cellar door and tasting room is part of the winery complex, and visitors know they are inside a working winery. The building has a special welcoming feel and the sense of history is tangible. Over the past 40 vintages, Brookfields has expressed in all their wines, an essence and sense of place. Handcrafting quality wines that clearly showcase the varietal and vineyards from which they are grown.

 
 

Over the coming months and through into next year - more 2017 varietal wines will be released from Brookfields. So keep a good look out - but if you find yourself in Hawke's Bay, I encourage you to pop into the winery, for a memorable experience. Raise a glass with the family and dedicated team, celebrating 80 years of winemaking history and the 40th vintage crafted by the experienced and talented hand of Peter Robertson.

Brookfields wines are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers and restaurants. For more information - visit their website: Brookfields Vineyards.