It seems to be a theme amongst Central Otago producers, to move from industry that is fast-paced & harsh towards our planet's environment, to small-scale vineyards and something somewhat more holistic and "down-home".
Mary & Ian Zurakowski moved to New Zealand from the UK to continue to work in the oil industry in New Plymouth, before leaving that lifestyle behind to find a more relaxing way to live, and to combine Mary's love of art, with a true sense of place... thus, Archangel Wines was formed in 2003.
Combining a unique site as one of the few producers in the Queensberry area, and an interesting family history, Shaughn Jenkins sits down with Mary Zurakowski on a beautiful Central Otago morning, to go over a few questions, & several lovely wines:
Shaughn Jenkins: Archangel is an evocative name for a vineyard, where does that come from?
Mary Zurakowski: It stems for an incredible family story. It starts with two young Polish girls, Halina & Stefania in the year 1940, who were forced from their homes, and though they didn't know each other at the time, they were both taken to the same labour camp in the city of Arkhangelsk (Archangel), Russia.
Later the two of them end up in Africa, where during the process of volunteering to join the British RAF and moving to Great Britain, they finally meet for the first time, and become lifelong friends.
Halina was my Mother & Stefania was my now husband's mother, so our families have been connected as long as we have lived.
It felt only right to honour their dramatic journey by referencing it with the name Archangel, as well as naming our two Rieslings, Halina & Stefania.
Shaughn: What makes this site so special, that you would choose to plant away from the more heavily planted regions of Central Otago?
Mary: This 11ha (27.18acre) site, is located on the Queensberry terraces, and was chosen really by gut feeling more than anything else. By visiting other producers in Central Otago, we got some excellent advice on what to look for, with Nigel, Blaire & the team from Felton Road being integral in that stage, and set out
We planted upon two old river terraces above the Clutha River, which also features ancient glacial moraines, giving us a diversity of soil.
These soils include plenty of schist, quartz and far more river stones of truly incredible size & quantity than anywhere else in the region.
Boulders like those actually made planting the vines, a significant challenge, as you can see by large piles of rocks around the edges of edge vineyard.
Ample sunshine, & shelter from the wind and rain means that ripeness & finesse can be achieved simultaneously.
Shaughn: Where can folks get a hold of your wines today?
Mary: We opened our beautiful cellar door here just 20 minutes from Wanaka in the first half of 2017, so we are now selling a good amount of our wine direct, we distribute throughout New Zealand, and well as export to select markets.
These include our homeland of the UK, as well as Canada, China, Hong Kong & Australia, plus of course you can order online through our website.
I tasted through the range of wines available at Archangel which included: two Rieslings, Stefania Riesling 2015 (dry) & Halina Riesling 2014 (medium-sweet), Pinot Gris 2015, Chardonnay 2016, "Lace" Rosé 2017 (first vintage), & Pinot Noir 2013.
It's a tough choice, as I liked a lot of the wines here, but I would have to say that my pick of the lot would be the Chardonnay 2016 which was incredibly expressive, with notes of roasted hazelnuts, brioche & baked bread. Smooth, elegant texture after 9 months in oak and regular less stirring. Well received in years past, the 2015 vintage was awarded Elite Gold at the 2016 Air NZ Wine Awards, and the 2016 should be a wine to lay away, though it will be much enjoyed upon immediate consumption.
Click here to visit Archangel Wines