New Zealand is one of those countries, despite being a far-flung destination for most people, that tops most travel bucket lists mainly for its sheer raw beauty that reaches its ultimate wow factor in Central Otago (southern part of the South Island). Although it is now considered one of the most stunning places on Earth, at one time it was an inhospitable place for people. In the late 1800s, Central Otago was one of the largest alluvial gold mining areas in the world and so thousands of men took on the treacherous trip to find themselves in hostile conditions for the chance to find gold. Well, Central Otago was basically a desert back then with not that much growing in terms of these men finding the nutrition they needed; many died of scurvy because of a vitamin C deficiency. As legend has it, one day a local farmer found a body of one of these unknown, young men and he buried him with a coarse wooden cross on his grave that simply said “Someone’s Darling”.
First Name Basis
This story was told by the owner of the vineyards in Central Otago that go by the name “Someone’s Darling”, a man named Kim, or known by the wine drinking world as Kim Crawford (a famous wine brand) although he, like his wife, Erica, like to go by just their first names as it has been over a decade since they have had anything to do with their previous wine brand. Firstly, it may be a surprise that Kim is a man albeit being a name for men long before it became popular for women. And secondly, that the plan for Kim and Erica all along was to build a successful wine brand, sell it, and then have enough money to buy all their own vineyards so they could start their own winery: Loveblock.
The famous Kim Crawford brand was eventually bought by large conglomerate Constellation Brands, Inc. and not only did Kim and Erica have to wait five years after the contract was signed before they could sell their own personal wines on the open marketplace, but they had to give up their right to use the Kim Crawford name as well. But in the end, it is worth it and no other place fills them with gratitude than their Loveblock vineyards. The first time they walked to the top of the hills in these vineyards they were speechless with the astonishing 360 degree view overlooking the Awatere Valley, in Marlborough, that took in the rugged landscape with river terraces; when Kim and Erica saw it they knew they had to buy it as it was “the one that stole” their “hearts”. The vineyards have great exposure to the sun as well as intense winds that keep low levels of disease pressure and they are currently certified organic by BioGro New Zealand.
Kim and Erica never thought at the time that it would become their winery’s name as it was simply to note that they deeply loved that certain block of vineyards… but when it came time to decide on the labels as well as the name, nothing else seemed as right as Loveblock.
Organic and Less Preservatives
Kim had been part of creating a wine brand that helped to define the New Zealand, specifically Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc style but his Loveblock style is distinctively different. The most immediate difference is the lack of intense green notes that many people associate with the Marlborough style yet his and his wife’s commitment to organics have changed that aspect. Sauvignon Blanc can be a vigorous variety and many New Zealand growers will take advantage of the abundance of leaves on the vines to create a canopy that shades the grapes. But the organic practices at Loveblock allow for weeds to thrive, giving the vines competition in regards to nutrients in the soil and hence the vines becomes less vigorous and there are less leaves to shade the vines. Kim and Erica’s philosophy of low intervention farming to show the naked terroir creates a fresh Sauvignon Blanc with ripe stone fruit flavors layered with complexity that has a textural element to it.
Their newest release of an experimental wine labeled “Orange Sauvignon Blanc” points to their commitment to less preservatives in the wine with no sulfur added; but Kim didn’t want their desire for fewer preservatives to produce an inferior product so he experimented with using powdered green tea in tiny quantities (no more than a teaspoon every 3,000 gallons) as an antioxidant. During the bottling process the wine picked up some dissolved oxygen and the color has a little oxidative pinking. Although some orange wine experts may say that it is not technically an orange wine because it has not spent an extended time on skins, in Kim’s mind, there wasn’t a better word to describe this new style of Sauvignon Blanc and the name not only denotes the color but also a more natural process; also, those same orange wine experts would probably prefer the term amber wines for skin contact whites anyway since that is the preferred term used by Georgian wine producers.
Live Fully the Dream that Others Couldn’t Live
Despite Kim showing his unwavering love for his Marlborough wines such as the Sauvignon Blanc, the new Orange style and Pinot Gris, there was no doubt about his obsession with their Central Otago Pinot Noir – a Pinot Noir that deviates from the rest of New Zealand’s style of this grape. Since there are long days, up to 18 hours of sunshine, the skins of the grapes are thicker and the wines are more “masculine” with “darker, brooding flavors” and that is the style that Kim loves hence why he makes it in this extreme climatic and mostly uninhabited place. Funnily enough, his 2018, which received many accolades and high scores, just happens to be in an atypical “feminine” style with a pretty nose and elegant body.
Kim undoubtedly loves the Pinots of Central Otago but when he tells the story of its treacherous past during the gold rush, one cannot help but think that part of his connection to the place is the idea of the unlived dreams of others, represented by his “Someone’s Darling” vineyards. Each young man must have had a vision of the life he wanted once he found his gold that inspired him to take such a dangerous trip. But many around the world, due to various factors, never achieve their dream like Kim and Erica. The conception of their dream started many years ago in a bar as they wrote their business plan on the back of an envelope and with a little luck, lots of hard work and Kim’s winemaking talent and Erica’s marketing brilliance they were able to accomplish it. And the goal wasn’t to have a life of easy luxury, it was about being true to the vineyards that they would one day own and making the right choices that would do justice to all those who never got to see their dreams realized.
2018 Loveblock, Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand: A pristine Pinot Gris that had rich tropical fruit and nectarine flavors with a hint of Brazil nut that was fresh yet was balanced by good flesh on the mid-palate. Certified Organic – BioGro #5266.
2018 Loveblock, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: A weightier, more textural Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that had juicy peach flavors and hints of wet stones and honeysuckle with crisp acidity. Certified Sustainable – Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
2018 Loveblock, “Orange”, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: Only 150 cases made since this was an experiment and so only a small quantity will be available on the U.S. market. Kim made 1,000 cases for the ’19 vintage and he says he expects to keep improving this wine as time goes on. Incredible vitality to this Sauvignon Blanc that has a fun contrast with smoky minerality and bruised golden apples with a hint of orange blossoms and saffron; the richness is balanced by a phenolic texture that gives lift to the flavorful finish. Certified Organic – BioGro #5266.
2018 Loveblock, Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand: Floral and fresh red fruit notes that has layers of tarragon and clove with forest floor in the background that has a long expressive finish that caressed the palate with fine tannins. Also, Kim noted that Central Otago has lots of wild thyme and hence why the wines will have a key herbal note as the oils travel in the air and land on the skins of the Pinot Noir grapes. Certified Sustainable – Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.