Two Terraces is quickly becoming a familiar name in the Hawke’s Bay. It is owned and run by Ian and Linda Quinn. They’re not boutique wine producers and have little interest in making their own wines, yet they’re a critical part of the wine community here. They provide the most important ingredient any boutique Winemaker needs – grapes. Ian and Linda are growers, the first I’ve interviewed, and they opened my eyes to the world of operating a growing business. They’re not the typical picture most people visualize upon hearing the word “growers;” in fact, they’re quite the opposite. This is their passion project; they are following a dream, and investing their blood, sweat and tears into producing premium fruit for specific Winemakers that they’re selective about working with. Ian and Linda are “boutique growers,” if you will, and their story is inspiring.
Ian has much in common with many of us in this industry, in that it is his second career. His first was in telecommunications, where he spent 25 years, mostly in Wellington. Linda had been working for the Ministry of Fisheries but retired early when they built their house in Paraparaumu, where she developed a passion for gardening and soil health. In 2012, Ian was presented with an opportunity to work in Hong Kong for a couple years, and they jumped at it. They used Hong Kong as a base to see much of India and Asia, but knew they’d eventually come home to New Zealand. Ian’s passion for wine developed in his early 20’s, when he was dating Linda. They both were captivated by the experiences that wine was able to provide when paired with the right foods, and the combination of exploring food and wine together became a shared joy. Ian decided to take some papers via distance learning at EIT while he was in Hong Kong, “just for fun,” to expand his wine knowledge. He started his Winemaking papers, which included some Viticulture ones, that he wasn’t looking forward to. “I thought it was like gardening. I’m not into that.” Once he began though, he found a secret love. He believes it has to do partly with his drive to be constantly challenged and partly because of his intrigue with the science behind growing wine grapes. He saw the ever-changing viticulture world as a host of new opportunities that would keep him learning and growing for the next couple of decades.
That explains Ian’s motivation to start Two Terraces, but I was curious how he convinced Linda. She had her passion for gardening, but also held the same idea many do when they think about living in a vineyard. “How glamorous, how beautiful, how lovely, how gorgeous!” She’s since learned that it’s not what it seems. “No, no, no! It’s just hard work! There’s nothing glamorous about it.” Then she conceded and said, “actually, 7.00 at night. Gin and Tonic on the deck. That’s glamorous. At 3.00am, when you’re driving up and down, up and down. Not glamorous.”
Once the Quinn’s had made the decision to come back to New Zealand, they began looking for land to build their vineyard. They were drawn to the Hawke’s Bay as a destination, with it being the Food and Wine region of the country. With the company mandate, right from inception, to focus on premium grapes, and to work with great Winemakers that are passionate about producing great wine, Ian and Linda set out to find some land. They went into their business knowing they would “let the property develop with good reputation for wine and sustainable soil biodiversity and health.”
When they bought the land in the Mangatahi sub-region in 2015, it was a huge plot, and a rundown sheep farm. They came across it through an off-market sales rep who only sold farmland, but later realized he had a plot that may be perfect for a vineyard. After the soil survey confirmed it was, he set the Quinn’s up with a farmer who went in on the purchase and subdivided with them, giving them the perfect sized 24 hectare plot they were after.
They planted the bottom 10 hectares first, in 2016, followed by 10 more up top in 2018. You won’t find any Sauvignon Blanc planted at Two Terraces. They’ve got Syrah and Chardonnay, not only because they’re varieties that thrive in the Bay, but because they’re personal favourites. Ian’s expanded to 5 different clones of Chardonnay now, after having had the opportunity to sample and compare them at the Villa Maria Winery. The Mendoza clone is one of Ian’s favourites, and although it’s not as high yielding, it tends to produce premium fruit, and that’s in line with their goals. They’ve also got Chenin Blanc and Gamay, chosen through the dreams of some Winemakers they aspired to collaborate with, as well as through their soil survey that revealed what would grow best in each section of the vineyard. They also have 5 hectares of Albariño planted. When I asked why they planted the bottom terrace first, Linda laughed and said, “because we can see it from the deck on the front of the house!” It’s the view that accompanies the well-earned Gin and Tonics at the end of a hard day. They enjoy looking out and appreciating their hard work and accomplishments.
With their fruit in high demand, they can be selective in who they work with, and as they look at the whole process as a partnership, they aim to develop medium to long term relationships. “You work with the Winemaker and your joint knowledge of what to do while growing evolves with each season. It’s getting better with time, and a lasting relationship.” Villa Maria has a contract for quite a bit of the Two Terraces fruit, and Ian and Linda describe the partnership as purely positive. They love working with the Villa team, and have been well supported with advice, machinery, and a great teamworking relationship. They also work with Rod and Emma Easthope, Kate Radburn, Smith and Sheth, Decibel Dan, Amoise, and Organized Chaos. They love the mix and variety of all their Winemaking partners.
Working with all these other small producers, and having access to great fruit, I wondered why Ian and Linda haven’t started their own small label. Ian explained how running the vineyard is what gives them their sense of satisfaction. There’s “so much to know. Pests and diseases. Soil health. Vines. Equipment. There’s more than enough scope for what we’re doing. It’s a good opportunity to work with Winemakers. We wouldn’t be able to achieve what we’re doing if we were trying to make our own wine, market and sell it. It would take the focus off the vineyard. If we really want to grow well, we can stay focused on that.” They have their priorities in line and their passions are clear; they have no missions to create their own label. Linda commented that “it gives us a much richer experience to work with amazing Winemakers. If we were making our own, we wouldn’t have [fruit] to sell to all these amazing people. If we did our own wine, it would just be us. Boring!”
One thing Ian loves about the Hawke’s Bay wine community is that “everyone works together and helps each other. There’s lots of sharing of knowledge and experience.” Linda added, “we work with some wonderful people.” Ian shares the sense of satisfaction he feels when the business of harvest season wraps up, and he looks into the vineyard and sees that all the fruit has gone. One of the most rewarding parts of their job is tasting the wines of each of their producers and experiencing how vastly unique they are. “We’re passionate about wine,” Ian explained. “It’s interesting to see the end product. We buy into what Winemakers want to do. We help in the vineyard to get to that end goal.” Linda added that right from the start of their business, “we had a vision of the type of people we wanted to work with and how we wanted to grow. We wanted to grow top notch fine wine. We haven’t varied from that.” Some have suggested they plant a few hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, because it’s a “cash cow. We said ‘no.’ We’ve stuck to that.” Linda recalled something a Winemaker had said about Two Terraces fruit coming into the winery last year, in that he noticed all the other Winemakers were crowding around to see it, commenting that they were jealous of the quality of the fruit he had to work with. She said, “if we can always produce grapes that make people excited to work with, that’s what we want to do.”
A typical day in the life of Ian and Linda begins well before 7.00am, and involves being out in the vineyard, with dog, Max, tagging along, although that’s about all that’s typical. Ian describes how the vineyard is so different seasonally, and the work they do is constantly changing. From pruning all winter in the cold, to dedicated soil health practices, tucking and leaf plucking in the spring and summer, and overseeing contracting crews most of the year, there’s always something to do. Ian and Linda are often visited by the Winemakers to see how their fruit is coming along, and host and participate in various events in the community to learn more. Ian works 7 days a week. He said, “post vintage we get a little bit of time,” and Linda quipped, “we haven’t had a holiday longer than 2 days in the last 5 years… oh, no, we did go away for 5 days once.”
Key practices for Ian and Linda revolve largely around what’s important to the Winemakers they’re working with, and around soil health. They believe greatly in taking care of the land. They’re conventional growers with the intention of converting to organic practices, a process they’ve already begun for some varietals. Ian uses organically based products like fish fertilizers and Mycorrcin, which helps foster the soil microbiology. They’ve planted Rosemary because it brings in bees and they have flowers every 10 rows to encourage insect populations. It’s important to the Quinn’s to be able to “share ideas and innovation, best practice and generally network” with others who are running vineyards. Because of this, Ian joined the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers board at the end of 2017. One of the initiatives they have worked on is starting up HBVINE, a viticulture group for the region, where they can collaborate. The group has been working on how to best grow and ripen Syrah, the evolution of under-vine management and increasing biodiversity in vineyards. Ian recognizes that HBVINE “is a great way to get people together off the vineyards for everyone’s benefit, as well as give everyone an opportunity to catch up socially.”
Taking care of the vineyard on the daily falls largely to Ian and Linda, even though the Winemakers are involved. Ian explained that they do the work through to harvest, under the specifications of the Winemakers. They have a consultation at the beginning of the season and create a plan together of how to manage the fruit, and which rows will belong to whom. “Winemakers come in at key times and have a look. We agree on how to proceed.” Ian is responsible to hire contractors to assist with the manual labour. The Quinn’s have worked exclusively with the same contractor for 3 years, and they like to have certain workers back as “they see the process right through.” Ian wants to continue to work with his contractor because he trusts the people, and they’re ethical. Frost protection also falls to Ian and Linda. He explained that it’s a lot like farming, in that they sell their harvest once a year, and that’s when they get paid.
As you can imagine, starting a vineyard from scratch isn’t a problem free aspiration. Ian and Linda have faced their fair share of uphill battles, one huge one being the set-up of water to their site. They knew that having access to water was crucial to growing vines, so made sure to get the water rights in the land purchase arrangement. They had no idea however, that having rights to water didn’t necessarily mean there would be water on the property. It took them over 9 months, and drilling 4 different wells, all at their cost and frustration before they finally had to set up a system that draws from a gallery on the river flats. Ian mentioned how they “drilled fully expecting to get water, and it was naïve in retrospect.” The neighbours had water, so they assumed they would too. Throughout those tough 9 months, I asked if they ever felt defeated, and although Ian and Linda admit it was a discouraging time, they were uplifted by the support around them. Their neighbours pulled together and helped them with temporary access to water and power, and eventually, they found the solution they now use. It may not have been their original plan, but they didn’t give up.
Running a vineyard has given Ian a new respect for Mother Nature, and taught him not to stress about it too much. “Do everything you can possibly do to get ready for weather events. That’s all you can do. What will be will be.” Ian also looked back in hindsight and said, “if you knew everything that’s involved in starting a vineyard it might put you off. Sometimes it’s good not to know everything.”
Linda spoke of some technology they’ve invested in that tells them how much water is in each vine, so they know when to irrigate, and when to hold off. It’s been difficult to learn to trust their system, when it seems hot and dry out, and not to water. “You have to trust it. Take a leap of faith. Don’t water when you feel you should. It’s easier for someone new to trust what they’re learning. You’ve got to find a way to make those decisions because you don’t have the years of experience.”
Ian’s persistence is one of the main skills he’s valued since he joined this industry. “Things can get difficult. Stressful. You can wonder how to get to the end. Be persistent. It’s amazing what you can do if you’re persistent.” Ian recalled a colleague he worked with over the years, and a statement that was made that has stuck with him ever since. His colleague had said, “People often think you have a streak of brilliance [if you’re successful]. It’s not that. It’s persistence. It’s the last man standing. There’s lots of truth to that.” Ian also commented that when his persistence has paid off, it’s been “all the more satisfying.”
Ian and Linda spoke highly of his family, and how supportive they’ve been. “Nobody sat us down and said, ‘no, don’t do this.’” Linda explained how Ian’s parents “are very supportive. They have worked tirelessly. They travel and help. We couldn’t have done it without them.” They also spoke of many friends that have come to help them. They’ve appreciated and they acknowledge everyone who has helped them and continues to partner with them. Ian noted that “Villa lends machinery and sends people to help out. It’s a big company, but it’s a real personal partnership.” Ian added, “we’ve had support from so many people. So many have given time and experience, completely willingly. It’s an amazing industry and region from that perspective.”
After everything they’ve experienced so far, and all the hard work, Ian and Linda hold true to the fact that it’s all been worth it. Ian described how “it’s incredibly satisfying to grow a product. In the past, I’ve always sold products. Now I’m producing something entirely of my own labour. I work outside, and it might have been a hard day’s work but at the end of the day, it’s a good place to relax!”
They have found that the old adage is true: “you only live once.” They’ve taken the risk to make the most of their lives, and they’ve got no regrets about their decision.
To learn more about Two Terraces and to keep up with the adventures of Ian, Linda and Max, follow them on Instagram @twoterracesvineyard.