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Stanley Estates

Stanley Estates

With degrees in horticulture from the University of Bath, Steve Pellett and Bridget Ennals set off, in true intrepid explorer mode, to travel through Africa then back to the UK to work as fruit technologists. However the beauty of Marlborough’s spectacular Awatere Valley captured their hearts, and lead to the creation of Stanley Estates in 2003.

Why the name Stanley Estates?

Stanley the Land Rover took them on a 30,000 kilometre adventure - from Bath to Cape Town over 15 months in 1991. It was named after Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the famed African explorer. After their epic journey in Stanley Rover, they spent a further two years under African skies establishing an export program on a vegetable farm just north of Cape Town. After a year in the UK from 1994, they travelled the world as fruit technologists, auditing growers and pack-houses for UK retailers.

Wanting to run their own business in a beautiful and stimulating environment, in 2003 they came across the exceptional terrain of the Awatere Valley and bought 11 hectares at the foot of Mount Tapuae-O-Uenuku ("the footprint of the rainbow" in Maori). Bridget and Steve started work the day they arrived on their new block of bare land. They planted 7 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and 3 hectares of Pinot Noir with Dijon clones in the stony Dashwood loam soils. Two years later, they bought a small neighbouring block called Little Oasis, which was already planted with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc on its stony riverbed soils. In 2006, they transformed another bare plot just opposite Stanley, on the southern side of Stafford Creek, into a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard they call the SECC block.

They now have just over 20 hectares planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc, but also to Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Lagrein and Chardonnay. Steve runs the vineyards with the help of a succession of international backpackers. Great care and meticulous attention to detail is paid to tending the vines to get the right fruit to canopy balance which varies with the soil types of each block. The vines are grown on a vertical shoot positioning trellis with two and three lifting wires. Leaf-plucking improves airflow around the fruit and minimises disease pressure, whilst the Pinot Noir simply needs more exposure to the sun. Harvest time is mid March to mid April.

The team is complemented by viticulturalist Jeremy Hyland, and by noted winemaker Eveline Fraser, whose expertise and experience guide them towards picking each block at its optimum point of maturity and flavour.

The vineyard is at the top of the Southern Alps, nestled under Mount Tapuae-O-Uenuku which strongly influences the climate with its rain shadow bestowing low rainfall and low humidity upon the Awatere Valley. Along with sunny days and cool nights, this creates perfect conditions for slow, steady ripening and flavour development. Awatere grapes have a distinctive fruity yet steely and herbaceous flavour, quite different from those produced elsewhere in Marlborough.

Sustainable viticulture has been the foundation of the vineyard's practices since the outset. Stanley Estates joined Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand in its early days and became an accredited grower in 2005. To Bridget and Steve, sustainability is the foundation of their philosophy and underpins all activities on the vineyard, big or small, each growing season.

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