Those attending the June meeting heard a very entertaining talk on how Ralf Harrison converted from being a pastoral farmer in Manawatu to owning a vineyard and winery on the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawkes Bay.
Through being a homebrewer Ralf made contact with the Manawatu homebrewers club. About this time his son Christopher was a food technologist with the Apple and Pear Board, as it was then, and decided he needed a change and suggested to his dad that they go into winemaking. Dad said get some qualification and we will think about it. He went to Roseworthy in Australia and did a post graduate degree in winemaking. After that he roamed the world for a while gaining experience in wineries. Coming home he worked for a small brewery which didnt extend him much so floated the idea of to his father about building a brewery.
The family decided to have a change in their lives, sold the farm and moved to Hawkes Bay. The brewery was built, Roosters, on Omahu Road in Hastings. Christopher made the brews and success followed success. The success of the brewery allowed them to purchase some land for grapes. Their first wines were made at the brewery but space was an issue so a winery was built on the vineyard. All this time Ralf was deeply involved in the planning and running of the whole venture. A cellar door was built near the beach at Te Awanga village with pleasant surrounds for winetasting and sales which Ralf takes a full part in. The brewery still operates and Roosters beers are well known and respected around Hawkes Bay.
And while we were hearing the story of the making of Roosters brewery and Beach House Wines Ralf gave us a sample of their 2009 Levels Chardonnay. This is hand picked, barrel fermented and lees stirred for several months. It has lovely chardonnay nose and palate and considering the fermentation was in new barrels the wood characters are not dominant and blend beatifully with the wine. It should keep for a few year yet.
So theres a success story of a middle aged farmer and his family who had courage and a vision to make a u turn and start afresh with a new venture.