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Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant: An Organic Journey

Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant is a destination like no other with its spectacular views, delicious food and wine, a cellar door, an aesthetically pleasing rooftop bar, lodge accommodation, vineyards, and scents of lavender and rosemary from their perfectly manicured gardens. The family business, managed by Oscar Jones, has been operating for the past 32 years, with their newest venture integrating organic varieties.

Nick and Robyn Jones are the proud owners of Mudbrick, having purchased the property in Church Bay, Waiheke, in 1992. Both working as accountants in Auckland, the pair had a dream to start a vineyard and produce wine on Waiheke, even though at that time, it wasn’t a known thing to do, with only a handful of vineyards emerging on the island.

What seemed like a huge risk certainly paid off as their business organically evolved over the years; their original home on the property was converted into a café, and the café that they had built was converted into a restaurant and cellar door for wine tasting and selling their products.

Across Mudbrick’s five sites, they have 13 hectares dedicated mostly to vineyards, with the main white variety being Chardonnay, but they also grow Viognier, Pinot Gris, and Albariño. Of the red varieties, they produce Syrah and Bordeaux blends consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

“People often ask us what our best wine is and, for a long time, we’ve said that all of our wines are the best of their kind. Then we came up with the idea of making a premium product, if we used all of the best grapes and new barrels, and made a really high-value, high-quality wine to be able to sell to the market.”

“So the first iteration of that was our Bordeaux blend, which is a Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot blend called The Velvet, named after the texture on the palate. Our Velvet wine is really special; it comes hand-waxed and is our first wine under cork at Mudbrick,” Oscar said.

The next wine in their Velvet range is a Chardonnay, named after Oscar’s sister, Francesca. After a few years went by, the third and final addition to the range was none other than Oscar, a high-quality, premium Syrah. “I used to say there were three children in our family. One was Velvet, being the Mudbrick child, which always seemed to come first. Then it was my sister, Francesca, and then me, Oscar. It makes the range a family thing,” Oscar added.

Growing up in Waiheke, Oscar spent his childhood at Mudbrick, going to school, and helping his parents out in the restaurant. He went to university in Wellington before working a corporate job at an accounting firm in Auckland. It was a few years ago that Oscar’s parents called him home as they needed help with the vineyard and restaurant. Oscar accepted the offer to run the family business, and before he knew it, he was cemented in his role and was thoroughly enjoying island life again.

“I think what makes us unique is that we are really multifaceted. There are few places that you can go to where you can drink the wine, stay, eat the food that’s grown in the gardens, and really experience everything that Waiheke has to offer in one place.”

“We’ve always tried to operate from a customer-centric point of view, so everything we do here is to enhance people’s experiences. We’ve always wanted to grow and build that, and the people that work here share that vision. We keep it small, but also big enough to be able to accommodate lots of people – all at different times and in different ways. We don’t have that wine snobbery outlook; we’ll also have backpackers come in and try wine for the first time and learn something new,” Oscar said.

We were lucky enough to get shown around the vineyard sites by Josh Kingston, assistant winemaker at Mudbrick. While we were at their Seaview Road Vineyard, one of Mudbrick’s larger sites, Josh showcased his knowledge and enthusiasm for winemaking.

“The thing I love about winemaking is the process of growing something and then turning it into something that can be enjoyed by a lot of people. Seeing how vines can grow and produce some amazing fruit as an expression of the place is really unique, and I don’t think it’s something that you really get in many other industries. There’s a term in winemaking called terroir, which basically means a sense of place. On Waiheke it’s a very special, unique climate, which means we can produce high-quality, small-quantity wines that are like nowhere else in the world,” he said.

Josh has been working for Mudbrick for a couple of years now. Once finishing his studies at Lincoln University, he moved to Waiheke and has loved every minute of his time at Mudbrick. Over the growing season, they employ ten people in the vineyard, and throughout their vintage season, they have two full-timers in the winery.

They are moving towards growing organic grapes, with Josh emphasising the labour-intensive process. “It’s a niche way of making wine, but it could get easier if we stick to it. We want to be more sustainable, and it’s a healthier way of making wine and healthier for people drinking the wine. Robyn, one of the owners, is very passionate about it, so we wanted to take her vision and implement it into the vineyard,” Josh said. Their organic practices are something that they’re going to hold onto, providing a sustainable environment.

They are in their third year of their new Albariño variety, which is well suited to the Waiheke climate, and they would like to keep improving on their award-winning success and keep producing wines that they’re proud of as a team.

“Here at Mudbrick, we have a very simplistic approach to everything that we do. We don’t try to intervene in the winery, and we do what we can in the vineyard to help the vine produce at its best. We have a team that really cares about what we’re producing, and being small in quantity, we can pay a really high level of attention to what we do. Everything here at Mudbrick is hand-harvested and sorted through the vineyard and winery. Once it’s in the winery, we do as little as we can and let the fruit speak for itself, making the wines truly unique,”Josh concluded.