Monique Vongehr Archives - Please The Palate
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I have always wanted to work harvest and learn about the winemaking process hands-on.  I finally got the chance when my friend and winemaker CP Lin of Mountford Estate invited me to come to Waipara, New Zealand for the 2012 harvest. Mountford Estate is owned by Kathryn Ryan and Kees Zeestraten, a wonderful couple who bought the property in 2007.  With 10 planted hectares (approximately 25 acres), Mountford Estate grows Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat.  Producing 4500 cases of wine, they produce 5 Pinot Noirs (3 single vineyard), 1 Chardonnay, 1 Riesling and a single vineyard Alsatian blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Muscat).
It’s been a year since the “big” Christchurch earthquake that we all heard about in the US but Christchurch has actually suffered from over 10,000 earthquakes since September 4, 2010 when the first 7.1 quake hit. Then on February 22, 2011, the horrific and shallow 6.3 quake hit in the middle of the day.  But that wasn't the end of it.  There were 191 earthquakes that day alone (yes, 191).  So many buildings collapsed and sadly so many lost their homes and many lost their lives. And, just when everyone started to settle back in and take a deep breath, another 6.0 earthquake hit just a few months ago on December 23, 2011, during the holidays. So many people have been affected, both physically and emotionally.  However, this has not dampened the spirit of the people.  With the continual earthquakes, rebuilding has been very challenging.  But, those who have been more fortunate and not lost as much have made continual efforts to help their community and friends. One story I had been told when I was in Christchurch last year, just two weeks after the February earthquake, was about a friend of the wine community.  On the day of the earthquake, a local woman whose husband is a winemaker in Waipara, was walking in town and doing her normal shopping when the earthquake hit.  An overhang fell on her and she was paralyzed. As cliche as it sounds, this could have happened to anyone and unfortunately, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now a year later, while she is back home, her life and her family's life has changed and she requires constant care, needs her home retro-fitted and requires pain management, all rather costly.