Grey Ridge, Alexandra Basin
Hailing from backgrounds of major oil industry work in Africa, & worldwide photography, Paul & Sue Keast must feel like their quiet ridge line home and vineyard, on the Letts Gully Road just outside Alexandra, is a whole world away from their previous lives.
Grey Ridge is comprised of a stunning 4ha(9.88acres) Pinot Noir vineyard planted in 2002-2003 with small, undulating hills formed from an intricate landscape of old river beds.
These are overflowing with rocks and quartz at the top and more fertile, water retaining soil at the base of the slopes.
The vineyard property was formerly known as Greylands Ridge, with Paul & Sue taking over in 2015 and shortening the title to Grey Ridge.
Shaughn Jenkins sat down with Paul & Sue to ask them a few quick questions about their site, and the local region.
From our conversation, the pair lived a significantly different life prior to owning Grey Ridge.
Shaughn Jenkins: Vineyard ownership is so completely different from your previous lives abroad, what inspired you to buy Grey Ridge?
Paul Keast: Having spent significant time in Otago during university and having family ties to the region, I knew we would be drawn back here one day.
After many years in the oil industry (most recently in Gabon in Africa), we decided to head home after the oil price drop of 2014-2015 and having a vineyard seemed to be the perfect opposite to our life outside New Zealand.
Grey Ridge was the perfect size, and the view from the living room over the vines was too beautiful to ignore.
Shaughn: What do you think sets the Alexandra Basin sub-region apart from the other parts of Central Otago?
Sue & Paul: A truly separate microclimate. Alexandra gets colder nights than almost anywhere else in New Zealand, and constantly hits growing season records for warm temperatures too. The change between the two is crucial for acid development and retention in the grapes.
It also has one of the most supportive winemakers associations in New Zealand, with a true community here, that helped us with all kinds of tips and advice.
Our winemaker Antony Worch of Alexandra Vintners, has been incredible with his guidance.
Shaughn: How about your site? What makes this piece of land so special? Why did you choose this spot to grow grapes?
Sue & Paul: There are numerous reasons why we chose the site: it featured established, healthy vines, came with a liveable house and a spectacular view across the vines to the mountains beyond. This vineyard features a lot of old river gravels with potential to produce distinct styles of wine from different parts of the land.
Shaughn: Finally, where can people find Grey Ridge wines?
Sue & Paul: We sell mostly through the cellar door which is open daily at our home vineyard, we operate a Bed & Breakfast here, so visitors can stay and enjoy the wine and beautiful views, and we also personally distribute to several restaurants & lodges around New Zealand.
Tasting through a range of Grey Ridge wines, everything from 2015 onwards showcases a smart new label, that feels modern, and incorporates the profile of the mountain ranges visible from their window.
The new labels, now including a Rosé ( 2016 - awarded Gold at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards) & two Pinot Noir, an estate & a reserve, are available now.
Standing out to me was the Reserve Pinot Noir 2015, showing notes of blueberry, thyme & sage with a lovely balance between fruit & structural tannins, adding to that, the acidity is nice and supportive, which will lead to a healthy life in the cellar of at least 5 to 8 years.
Note: Previous vintages of Greylands Ridge collection were made by the same winemaker and from the same site, with limited allocations still available for sale.
Click here to visit Grey Ridge!