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 and two spouses involved, managing various aspects.
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. The soil is free draining and 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.
Settled weather during December provided optimal conditions for flowering. A very hot summer then enabled the grapes to ripen beautifully. Free draining stony soil helped mitigate the effects of some late summer rain, and the ensuing dry autumn meant the fruit was able to be picked in excellent condition.
THE HARVEST AND WINEMAKING
This is a unique expression of a traditional white Bordeaux blend using approximately 70% Sauvignon Blanc & 30% Semillon. Both varieties were picked in stages, timing each harvest to optimise the grapes’ range of natural flavours. These varieties were fermented separately, most of the Sauvignon in stainless steel to retain the pure fruit character (with approx. one third on skins) and all the Semillon in oak puncheons to add texture. A small percentage of the Sauvignon Blanc was also matured in new French barrels to give extra length and complexity. Both varieties were aged on their natural deposits of yeast lees (sur lie) for approximately 10 mths, prior to blending. Once bottled, the wine was left to age for another year before release, allowing it to integrate further.
It is pale lemon in colour, with intriguing aromas of passionfruit, melon, orange peel and citrus blossom, coupled with a flinty minerality. There is also a hint of struck match complexity arising from the cloudy, unclarified, natural juice that was used in the fermentation. The Semillon component helps fill out the palate, adding fruit weight, richness, and age-ability, while also acting to restrain the exuberance of the Sauvignon Blanc. Lees contact has added texture and body, yet the wine remains focussed, with a crisp refreshing acidity that emphasises its mineral notes.