The Hunting Lodge is a winery based in the heart of Auckland’s Wine Country with a rich heritage and a youthful spirit.
It is the place where the Spence brothers, founders of Matua, created the first New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. In a nod to the brother's pioneering nature, The Hunting Lodge continues to celebrate its rich heritage through innovation.
Today, the winery gets its name from a historic building which was the original country lodge of the Kerr-Taylor family from 1868. Interestingly, the family’s city home is also a heritage building, Alberton Hall in Mount Albert. In the 1970s, the Kerr-Taylor country house was renovated and opened as a fine dining restaurant named The Hunting Lodge.
The current owners Brent and Denise Sutton have fond memories of the previous owners, who were also their friends, helping them landscape and lay the brick paths or helping out when the restaurant was short staffed while their kids played amongst the vines. When it was put up for sale in 2016, the Suttons saw an opportunity to share this beautiful site with others once again and let the story continue.
Driven to do things a little differently and keep the spirit of innovation alive, The Hunting Lodge wine range not only showcases the best wine regions in the country but also captures the spirit of New Zealand’s pioneering nature in wine – the search for something new and interesting. They also have a slightly unconventional contemporary style in terms of packaging and design. Each illustration that makes up the label represents a certain aspect of their site and winemaking process.
“The Hunting Lodge’s winemaking philosophy is very much in keeping with the history of the land. This was the birthplace of a wine revolution,” says winemaker Pete Turner.
“In true Kiwi spirit, the Spence Brothers were pioneers of Sauvignon Blanc but also dabbled in all sorts of interesting varietals and styles – some of which worked and some of which didn’t, but they persevered.”
“We are big supporters of diversity in New Zealand wine, and besides, playing around with new things is where the fun is at in winemaking," says Pete.
"Our Southern Rhone-inspired Marsanne Viognier is one wine that has developed a small cult following and the go-to for staff drinks. Albarino is another favourite, as are our subregional Pinot Noirs, but Waimauku Chardonnay is definitely where it’s at if you ask any of the Winemaking Team.”
About 75% of their Home Block vineyard is planted in Sauvignon Blanc of varying ages. Unfortunately, some of the original vines have succumbed to disease over the years and have been replanted. Being neighbours to some of New Zealand’s most renown Chardonnay producers, they have diversified with new plantings – Chardonnay, Albarino and Tannat.
“However, Sauvignon Blanc will always have a special place here and we have kept three rows of 40-year-old vines which are surprisingly still very productive and fruitful each year,” says Pete.
This fruit goes into the Homeblock Sauvignon Blanc, along with fruit from some of the younger vines.
"The Homeblock Sauvignon Blanc undergoes a wild barrel ferment and is a blend from vines ageing between 10 and 40 plus years of age. The grapes are crushed and pressed, and the juice then rolled to barrel with differing degrees of solids/clarity to achieve a complexity of fermentation characters. The result is unmistakably Savvie in nature, but with an edgy side - an element of funk, plenty of texture and tarted up in some fancy oak."
Realising Auckland Sauvignon Blanc is never going to rival Marlborough for intensity, we wanted to treat it differently from the start and let its own style emerge. We like to refer to it as Sauvignon Blanc for the Chardonnay drinker.
“It is definitely the punchy aromas and flavours that make NZ Sauvignon Blanc so distinct,” says Pete. “Freshness and fruit intensity seems to be what people want from modern wine styles and New Zealand’s climate and geography can offer this. Even though classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc remains king, it’s great to see more alternative styles emerging, and great examples from Central Otago through to Waiheke Island.”