An Interview with Penelope and Nicholas of BLACK ESTATE (North Canterbury, NZ)

Just very quickly why don’t you just tell us who you are and where you’re from and will ya?

Penelope: I’ll start. I’m Penelope Nash married to Nicholas and we live here which is North Canterbury and what was your other question?

Nicholas: Oh and we’re from Black Estate.

How long have you guys been here and what’s special about North Canterbury to you?

Nicholas: So we purchased Black Estate from Russell Black in 2007 and since then we’ve expanded from one vineyard we call home to three vineyards. All certified organic, so we now look after Damsteep which is limestone, Netherwoods, which is sandstone and home which sort of clay, so yeah. That’s what we’re into.

Penelope: Well for me, I know Nicholas was very passionate about the soils and the climate here, but for me it was… I know this is gonna… it’s the vibe. It really was there’s an amazing atmosphere here and we did actually come out for a year to live here first to see if we could live in the country and commit to this project and as soon as we arrived and rented a house, we just really enjoyed the community really the people and the amazing kind of food and bounty around us that was not as obvious as when we lived only an hour away in Christchurch so that was an easy decision for me because I wasn’t so focused on the soils at the time but now I really am.

The restaurant has been amazing at Black Estate. Why the restaurant?

Penelope: The restaurant has been amazing like I’ve never worked in hospitality so that was a really big learning curve but we kind of felt like we had to do it because we discovered all this food around us and organic growers and it was on our doorstep so it was just for us if we were gonna tell a story, and make wines with the sense of place. We felt like we really needed people to come to the place and see it but also spend time here and eat food that was of the place so we sell a lot of local food. But now we’ve really, really enjoyed finding out more organic producers as well, so sometimes we stretch further to get certified organic products cause it’s a pretty big passion of ours.

Nicholas: We’re pretty excited about sharing the site, the site access is very special, where you can come off the highway and gain some elevation and look over the valley and get a sense of it as a valley.
So, we wanted people to come and have that perspective and coming onsite and visiting the place is very powerful so we wanted to make that really welcoming and share that with everyone.

How does North Canterbury Pinot Noir differ from say other regions or what’s special about the Pinot Noir?

Nicholas: Yeah, it’s a tricky place to grow yields of low. Seasons are quite different but the grows are remaining quite resilient and they’ve become very focused on their small plots and trying to bring out the intricacies and the uniqueness of reach place. So I think what really gets people’s attention initially is the texture and weight of the wines. Other regions in New Zealand have this beautiful fruit impurity, North Canterbury there’s weight and texture and persistence that stays with them, sort of captures people’s, I guess attention when they’re discovering different Pinot Noir’s with a lot of complexities. So I think that’s something that we really love about this region, it’s tricky, it’s tricky but it’s a great place to grow. Yeah.

Penelope: And but, no sorry. But what I was going to… because it’s tricky and mainly smaller growers that’s why it’s a great place to live too because everyone’s slightly mad but committed.

Well speaking of slightly mad, if you had to describe North Canterbury as a music style, what would it be?

Penelope: Oh, Nicolas you answer that because you’re a music fiend. You were in a band afterall.

Nicholas: Well, true I was in Wild for a minute wasn’t I? I can’t get past Ambient music at the moment. Apollo, The Rising. The Start, The Infinity it’s just so beautiful and moving. It just gets that, it comes from within. It’s like as you’d put it blood sick evading through your body it’s flowing and it’s with you. And I love it, and I just find that during harvest it doesn’t annoy anyone too much, and I feel it’s good for the wine.

Penelope: Yeah. But it has an ease. Like it carries you on a journey but there’s no… everything’s integrated and balanced.

Well that’s the next question that leads into it, what do you listen to during vintage?

Penelope: A lot of techno that I hear from upstairs.

Nicholas: Yeah we rock. It’s mainly German. But Fortune made an appearance this year so a bit of English there. Yeah just something that’s not so annoying. So, it’s gotta stay with us the whole day. Nerves are frazzled so, it has to coax us.

Penelope: And sometimes words are too much. I think. Like electronic music is great to get lost in as you continue to press that basket.

Nicholas: Keep on pressing.

There’s a soundbite right there! Okay so, North Canterbury, we love North Canterbury aside from obviously coming to Black Estate what is the one thing that someone has to do when they come here. What do you think is the one absolute must do thing when they come here?

Penelope: For me it’s the beaches to the north. Mar Channel and Golden Bay in summer, maybe not on winter. But I just love they’re so free like it’s only 20 minutes up the road in the oar with the ocean which is a really nice change in openness after farming quite intensively and it’s really clean and wild like there’s not many people on those coastlines so it’s pretty refreshing.

Nicholas: And, yeah in winter, cause we ride on to the beach in the coastline here it’s beautiful, it’s isolated there’s no one around there’s some surf. But in winter, getting out into the gorge and discovering all that limestone, the dinosaur fossils and the truffles up there, that with the dogs that find the truffles and stuff up like that.
Just explore