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Enterprises in the Hawke’s Bay story Eskdale Winegrowers Ltd

Kim Salonius found his sandy loam soils at Eskdale in the Esk Valley where he and his wife Trish established their boutique enterprise. The house and winery are tucked away inconspicuously in the trees on the edge of the hills. They planted vines on the flats in 1973 and 1974, with their first tiny vintage in 1976 and a larger one in 1977.

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They had bought 20 acres of land but most of the time they have had only about 12 acres in grapes. Kim was intent on keeping the enterprise to a size where he could manage both the viticulture and winemaking with minimal additional labour.

He continues to make highly distinctive wines in the European artisanal tradition. For him, this involves minimum interference with the grapes that arrive at the cellar door combined with continuous innovation in his vineyard including changing varieties and clones when necessary. Malbec is one of the varieties that he has favoured in the last decade or so, but his Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have been consistently interesting and complex wines.

As the millennium approached, the wine industry was rightly proud of coining the name ‘New Zealand Winegrowers’ for the combined organisation representing enterprises growing grapes (the New Zealand Grape Growers Council) and enterprises making wine (the Wine Institute of New Zealand). In the Esk Valley, Kim had beaten them to the punch. The Salonius enterprise has always had the viticulturist and vinifier wearing the same hat.

Alwyn Corban considers Kim Salonius one of the largely unsung heroes of Hawke’s Bay winegrowing in the 1970s.

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