The Donaldson Family have been seriously involved in viticulture and winemaking for over 40 years. Founder Ivan Donaldson planted one of Canterbury’s first vineyards 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, and favourable autumn weather allowed the fruit to be left on the vines till later in the season.
THE HARVEST AND WINEMAKING
This wine is made in the same style as the celebrated Vintage Port from the Douro Valley in Portugal. It was inspired by a Portuguese winemaker from Vila Nova de Gaia who worked with us during our 2019 harvest. A small selection of our Bordeaux reds were left to hang until mid-May, reaching a ripeness of approximately 26-27 brix. After picking, the grapes were placed into trays and trodden by foot, using traditional methods. Fermentation occurred naturally in stainless steel tanks and was stopped at approximately 10 brix by the addition of a neutral spirit, raising the alcohol to a typical port content of around 20%, and leaving the remaining residual sweetness to balance the tannins and acid. The wine was then gently pressed off and put into old French oak puncheons, where it matured for approximately 18mths, prior to blending. Only a very small batch of this wine was made, and it is comprised predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance made up of Merlot and Malbec.
Upon release it has a dense inky hue. The aroma is deep and concentrated, showcasing a medley of blackberry, doris plum and cassis, melded with fruit cake spice, dried fig, chocolate, and a hint of marzipan. In the mouth the feel is generous and weighty, enveloping the palate with a velvety, full-bodied texture. Tannins are ripe and well-integrated, providing structure and length, without overpowering the rich fruit flavours. The finish is long and gratifying, leaving behind a pleasant warmth and a lingering impression of dark fruit and sweet spices.
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