Hospitality Business Magazine

Gisborne’s Bridge Estate vineyard celebrates its 30th Anniversary

rsz_denis_irwin_30th_anniv_of_bridge_estateBridge Estate, one of New Zealand’s few single site Bordeaux vineyards celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

Planted in 1985 by Denis Irwin, Bridge Estate was the old horse paddock of the former Bridge Hotel, a renowned watering hole for drovers and shepherds for over a century, on the way to the Matawhero stock yards.

Denis owned the hotel (which was subsequently burned down) and paddock and planted the vineyard in memory of his father Bill who pioneered the modern day wine industry in Gisborne and was responsible for planting the first Mendoza Chardonnay in the district.

Denis chose four Bordeaux mainstays, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec for the 2.5ha vineyard.

The first vines were planted on 23 October 1985 and blessed by the local Minister following which Denis poured some Cabernet Sauvignon over the first vine and invited those attending, who included legendary Auckland wine writer Michael Brett, to a toast of Kentucky bourbon served in Sherry glasses.

By 1989 the Bridge Estate Bordeaux blend was attracting admiration in New Zealand and overseas and Denis continued to produce the blend for a decade until his last Bridge Estate vintage in 1999.

Purchased by the Sorensen family in 2007, the vineyard continues to produce fine fruit and three further vintages of Bridge Estate have resulted, being the 2009 the 2013 and the 2014. Vine age has played a big part in the style of the red wines, with what have now become heritage vines cropping less and the vines’ ‘big engines’ contributing to intensity of fruit, and longevity. The 1989 is still drinking remarkably well according to Bridge Estate Manager, Klaus Sorensen.

The 2009 was regarded as the best vintage for 25 or 30 years in Gisborne, and while the 2010, 2011 and 2012 vintages were adequate, no Bridge Estate was made in those years. However 2013 and 2014 brought vintages to rival 2009.