The Donaldson Family have been seriously involved in viticulture and winemaking for over 40 years. Founder Ivan Donaldson planted the first Canterbury vineyard in 1976 and went on to establish Pegasus Bay in 1986 with his wife Christine. It is a true family business, with all four of their sons now involved.
THE VINEYARD AND VINES
The vineyard is located within the Waipara Valley of North Canterbury, on free draining, north facing terraces. It benefits from being in the lee of the Teviotdale Range, giving maximum protection from the Pacific’s easterly breezes and thus creating a unique mesoclimate. The vines are over 30 years old, with a large proportion planted on their own roots. They are located on the “Glasnevin Gravels” where greywacke stones, silt and loam have been washed down from the mountains over the millennia. The soil is of low fertility, resulting in naturally reduced vine vigour. This produces low yields of optimally ripened, high quality, flavourful grapes, which fully express the qualities of this unique terroir. The vineyard has warm days, but the nights are amongst the coolest in the Waipara Valley, drawing out the ripening period of the grapes, while still retaining good natural acidity.
Unsettled weather over flowering resulted in a lighter than average set, meaning that no further fruit thinning was necessary. A classic North Canterbury summer then enabled this smaller crop to mature beautifully. Accelerated ripening allowed harvest to take place slightly earlier than usual, and favourable autumn weather ensured the grapes were picked in perfect condition.
THE HARVEST AND WINEMAKING
This wine is made in the same style as the celebrated Claret from Bordeaux, using traditional methods. After being picked in late April, the grapes began fermentation naturally in stainless steel tanks. During this process the juice was regularly pumped over the cap of floating grape skins (rather than plunging), to ensure a perfect tannin balance was extracted from the fruit. The wine was then gently pressed off and put into French oak barriques (25% new). The following summer, when the weather warmed, it underwent a natural malo-lactic (secondary) fermentation. After maturing in oak for 18mths, the various batches were then carefully blended in varying portions to produce the most complex and balanced wine possible. The finished product is predominately Merlot, with the remainder comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a small amount of Malbec.
Upon release it is an intense garnet colour. The bouquet is an arresting melange of black fruit and savoury aromas. Dark cherry, blackcurrant and plum soon morph into truffle, woodsmoke, leather and spice, along with faint mineral notes. In the mouth the wine is full bodied and assertive, laden with ripe elegant tannins and a classic structure. The larger Merlot component ensures the blend remains succulent and fruit driven, however there is a backbone of perfectly judged acid and tannins from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec that balances the wine, offering outstanding depth and harmony. While ready to drink now, it will evolve gracefully in the bottle for many years to come.