Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The saddest day at Murdoch James Estate

Obituary: Pepper Fraser.

Pepper - The Chardonnay 'Guard Dog'!

Last week we lost our beloved Pepper. For those that do not know she was an Airedale we raised in Australia and brought back to New Zealand when we came home to plant our first vineyard. She has been Jill's and my companion for over 14 years and she welcomed many folk at our the cellar door all that time. Everyone got an inspection and had to pass approval before being allowed in, and a few pats on the way past were obligatory. In later years, as she aged, the process changed a bit. In the last few years, she just lay there happily, lifted a leg for visitors to scratch her tummy, then they had to step over her to get to our restaurant or tasting room. 

Lovely, gentle and friendly, she converted many children who were frightened of large dogs to dog-lovers. It was great to see, and over the years many kids have come back to the winery looking for her. It was always a great thrill to see them recognise her and rush to pat her, pull her tail, or just cuddle her. 

Sadly no more now, but our memories of those 14 years are rich and rewarding;  'walkies' every morning and night, a big wagging tail at the front door on arrival home (no matter how late we were), a big snuffly head out the window of our cars as we drove through the smells of the New Zealand country-side, a patient companion sitting at our feet in the office while we worked at nights communicating with customers all over the world, but best of all unconditional love from a wonderful dog. 

As I write this I find it unbelievable anyone can abuse pets. In doing so, while demonstrating they are undeserving humans, they are missing out on one of the most uplifting experiences anyone can ever enjoy.

Raising a puppy teaches you patience and tolerance (think chewed favourite shoes and furniture!) but most of all it taught me that most of the stuff people consider important in the world pales beside the experience of sharing part of your life with a very special pet. The sad thing is that they don't live as long as we do, so parting always seems to come too soon and with a rush.

While we knew the end was approaching, it was still heart-breaking the day she passed away.  

Pepper - all your family and friends, your acquintances, visitors to the winery, your buddies in the local dog population, the postman, and our neighbours, as well as Chardonnay, Rocco and Winston, will miss you for terribly. But in the fullness of time we will recall with increasing pleasure the best dog anyone could have been fortunate to have been given the gift of sharing 14 years with. 


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Are elections all bull?

Lot's been happening in the last few weeks. Firstly one of our New Zealand distributors has merged with another company and no longer need us, so we have been given the 'pink slip' and asked to move on. Not too bad an outcome actually as they did not sell a lot of our wine, but still disappointing after all the work we put in. However, that's life and as consequence we need to identify a new partner to help us sell our wines in the domestic market. While we are doing that I have been out an about in the market calling on key customers and filling the gap. To that end I was recently in the Hawke's Bay to see a key on-line marketing company, and on the way back to Martinborough I spotted the accompanying scenario in a paddock just outside Havelock North. Nothing to do with wine, but it really made me smile. Does this bull know something we don't? Or is he telling us to vote for Mr Mackintosh? Or does he just think local politics is a load of 'old bull'?

In the vineyard, the team is almost finished pruning and the canes they have had to work with look great, so we are looking forward to a good vintage in 2011. But the most exciting news of the month is the recent arrival of Rhiannon, my first granddaughter (and maybe our future wine-maker!). Well.........  maybe I should not get too far ahead on myself, but as the great granddaughter of Murdoch James Fraser, she is the 4th generation of the Fraser Clan to be involved with our winery so it is all just wonderful.

With spring upon us and summer just around the corner, the restaurant and cellar door are picking up as well. Quite busy most weekends and great feedback on Bloom Restaurant and Terrace. We have a wonderful team there who lease the restaurant from us. Michael and Jerry have been open just under 12 months and the number of repeat visitors is amazing. With a lovely deck ready for summer, and their decision to move to a full organic menu, we can only expect that to continue and for their business to grow. And this is good for Murdoch James of course, as visitors to the restaurant often stop for tastings, to but wine, or to do one of our 'Grape to Glass' tours.