Just when you thought Central Otago grapes couldn’t get any better, the women of Coal Pit have managed just that! A team of ladies leading the way in the wine industry wasn’t something Rosie Dunphy, Coal Pit Owner had planned, but this team of passionate and skilled women made for some exceptional Central Otago drops.
We caught up with Rosie and Anika Willner, Coal Pit Winemaker to find out a little bit more about this leading Central Otago brand, the scenic Gibbston location and the ladies who make the magic happen!
Rosie, tell us about your experience in the wine industry?
R: Honestly, prior to Coal Pit I had absolutely no experience in the wine industry, my studies were in horticulture and viticulture. When we purchased the Coal Pit site the original plan was to grow grapes, however it became clear that our grapes were premium quailty – so the decision to start making wine was an obvious one. From there we employed winemaking experts and built a winery to maximise the premium grapes and the potential of the site.
Rosie, the Coal Pit team are driven by females and has such a unique name and offering, tell us more about that?
R: It just happened that the best people I stumbled across were females and were all perfect for the various positions we had available at Coal Pit. As a smaller vineyard we were after staff that had the ability to multi task (naturally all females do!) and of course have the right personality fit for the team. We have been so lucky to have Anika our head winemaker as she has been so passionate and driven to take on new initiatives and projects that were outside her original job description!
As for the offering, the name comes from the location – Coal Pit Road. This originally stemmed from the 1800’s with coal being sourced from a site in the Mountain ranges at the top of the road. The Pioneers would ride their horses to the site and fill their side saddles with coal to transport down what is now Coal Pit Road! Our team, paired with the location and the Coal Pit history make the site what it is!
Anika, sustainability is very topical at the moment across the board, however particularly in the tourism and wine industry. What is Coal Pit doing to run a sustainable winery?
A: We work with BioGro, an organic viticultural and wine accreditation body. We have decided to take the commitment to sustainability one step further with our current conversion to organics. With my experience in organic vineyards and producing organic wine we pay extremely close attention to the vineyards health at all times and act pre-emptively – if you have good fruit you are going to make great wine!
Rosie, tell us more about the selection of the Gibbston region for Coal Pit and why you have chosen to branch out from the traditional Central Otago Pinot Noir and offer a Sauvignon Blanc alternate?
R: After a year of driving up and down the country (with 4 children in the car!) and speaking with a range of people I really learnt a lot about the best places to grow different varietals. It was while loving in Ireland that Coal Pit was up for sale, my brother went to view the property, took a few photos and said “don’t think about it, just do it”! My family and I went to the vineyard and 2 days later were the proud owners of Coal Pit.
We already knew that Gibbston was the most elevated of the Central Otago sub regions and produced the most elegant and refined wines, the delicate acidity provides a wonderful backbone for ageing which has rewarded us for both our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted in 1994 by the previous owner and we found that this particular Sauvignon Blanc was so different to any others in New Zealand, it almost feels like a completely different varietal. For this reason we decided to maintain a small area, producing a few hundred cases a year and we are so pleased we did!
Anika, what is the future of Coal Pit and encouraging more women in wine?
A: With every vintage we are looking to push ourselves to achieve a higher quality. We have recently added both a reserve Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc to our stable and have plans for a sparkling wine in time!
As for the future of Women in Wine, we would love to see more inclusion of all generations and ethnicities, we can learn so much from others who have embraced the power of plants and nature. Generally
, we would love to see more women break the glass ceiling and inspire others to do the same!
The team of ladies leading the way in the vines at Coal Pit are incredibly passionate and want to continue to see this passion and diversity in years to come. If you want to find out more and learn from the ladies with all the expertise, pop into Kinross on your Altitude Tour for a fabulous Coal Pit summer drop!