Top winemaker Patrick Newton says his blending skills rely on high quality raw materials. In the vineyard with daughter Rita.

He may have been crowned Winemaker of the Year in the NZ Aromatic Wine Competition, but Mudbrick’s Patrick Newton reckons it’s largely down to the grapes.
“This win just cements our belief that our minimal impact style is producing outstanding wine,” Patrick says.
A panel of four international wine judges picked the Mudbrick winemaker who entered the annual competition with the vineyard’s renowned Reserve Chardonnay, its 2013 Reserve Syrah and 2013 Velvet, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec.
Patrick’s success is not the only reason for islanders to raise a glass or two: popular vineyards Obsidian and Goldie’s Estate both collected trophies at the NZ International Wine Show awards announced last week. Obsidian’s 2015 Montepulciano won gold in the “international red wine varieties” class, while Goldie’s Estate topped the viognier class.
The accolades not only confirm Waiheke’s emergence as a quality winemaking region; they also highlight our vineyards’ ability to succeed with less familiar varieties – not just the syrahs, chardonnays and Bordeaux blends for which it became known.
For Patrick, it is not the first time he has tasted success at the NZ Aromatic Wine Competition – he was Young Winemaker of the Year in successive years, 2014 and 2015. But this year the competition’s top accolade was open to all ages.
“It’s great for me personally but it’s also great for Waiheke because in the past its quality hasn’t always been recognised,” he says. “Awards like this, and the two trophies for Waiheke vineyards at the International Wine Show, tell the rest of the industry we’re a serious wine region.”
Much of the credit for the Mudbrick entries should lie with vineyard manager Nick Otto, he claims. “Most of the work is done in the vineyard.”
Patrick  is based at the Shepherd’s Point winery, which produces wines for Mudbrick, Obsidian and other vineyards. But as harvest approaches, he spends a lot more time among the vines.
The label prides itself on whole-bunch pressing (more gentle on the fruit), natural fermentation and minimal intervention to produce a wine which reflects terroir and season as honestly as possible, he says.
The reserve chardonnay is blended from three different blocks on the island. “The winemaker’s aim is for the overall blend to be better than each of the individual components.
“I’m a bit humbled that I get the glory when in reality it’s the raw ingredients and vineyard management that are more responsible for what comes out of the bottle. At the end of the day I’m just helping the grapes along.”
The 34-year-old is married to a winemaker, Jess, and the couple have two children, Joe and Rita. He grew up on a vineyard in Hawkes Bay (his parents planting on Gimblett Gravels when it was regarded as barren wasteland) and qualified in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University. “Winemaking wasn’t even on my radar then I decided it was an easier way to travel.”
After several “endless summers” on northern and southern hemisphere vineyards he returned in 2007 to a job with Villa Maria subsidiary Vidal’s. He joined Mudbrick in 2011.
“It’s a great little team,” he says. “We’re always pushing to better ourselves every season.”
For Goldie Estate winemaker Heinrich Storm, winning gold and trophy with the vineyard’s reserve viognier at the NZ International Wine Show was a surprise, as the vineyard produces “only a small amount every other year”.
“It’s a very hard variety to get right, you really need all the stars to align,” Mr Storm says. “We are competing against the very best in New Zealand and worldwide and proving that we can compete on a high level consistently.”
Obsidian winemaker Michael Wood was equally thrilled. Its success was its third with Montepulciano at the International Wine Show in recent years, confirming the variety’s suitability for the island.
“It’s great that these two wines have taken out the top awards in their respective classes, given the number of high calibre entries from both New Zealand and abroad.”
• Geoff Cumming

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