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Montana and the first grape growers

Just as Canterbury has its first four ships, Marlborough has its first nine properties and first ten growers. The nine properties were those bought by Montana in July 1973 (Table 7.1). The ten growers were those who planted grapes on their own land in 1978, initially to supply Montana. By concentrating its purchases in the Southern Valleys, Montana avoided the stoniest soils further north towards the Wairau in the Rapaura area. Their choice was not surprising. Until now, all of the experience of the Montana vineyard team had been on the heavier clay or clay-loam soils of the Waitakeres and Mangatangi and the alluvial soils of Gisborne and of the Heretaunga Plains, Hawke’s Bay. To provide a matrix for the gravels, the Montana viticulturists wanted some finer materials in the soils to make cultivation easier and to be confident that vines would thrive. Nevertheless, this was the first time that a large area of vineyards had been planted on such gravelly soils in New Zealand.

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Montana’s purchases established its own beachhead and influenced the choice Planting Montana’s of many subsequent buyers and competitors. By the end of 1973, when it had bought Brancott vineyard. Pernod Ricard Winemakers further land in the Omaka Valley to the west, and the Riverlands site for their winery to New zealand Ltd the east, it seemed as though Montana’s properties commanded the east-west axis of the Wairau Valley with the Southern Valleys as the core. Their Woodbourne vineyard confidently straddles the Middle Renwick Road less than a kilometre west of the airport. The Fairhall vineyard on New Renwick Road leads into Brancott Road where the view of the Brancott vineyard from ‘Rob’s Knob’ is expansive, especially by the early twenty-first century when vines fill the valley and sweep on to the hills. Rob Muldoon,

Prime Minister between 1975 and 1984, became a strong advocate of the New Zealand wine industry. Rural Marlborough responded by informally naming the commanding viewpoint overlooking the Brancott Valley after him.

As its knowledge of the soil and atmospheric environments of the different locations accumulated, Montana sold some land. This included parts of the J. M. Walsh and

Giles properties between Hawkesbury and Brookby Roads because they were too wet. The Omaka land on the Waihopai Valley Road was sold because of concerns about possible frost damage. The Gardiner property on New Renwick Road was also sold.

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