Down in the Cellar with Gordon Russell | Esk Valley

Specialist Cellars sits down with Gordon Russell from Esk Valley to discuss all things wine in our “Down In The Cellar” series.

Who do you admire most in the world of wine and why?

“I find this impossible to answer as the world over there are people daily putting their sweat, money, and reputations into creating something special from their own unique piece of land, whether that be in Jura, Priorat, Mendoza or here in Hawkes Bay. The world is full of wine heroes”.

What wine variety are you most excited about for its future in NZ?

“Red Syrah and white Albarino”.

Have you had a “wine moment”? Like a specific point in time where you knew you wanted to work in the wine industry?

“In the mid-1980s, I got a taste for wine and spent an inordinate amount of my time tasting and reading about wine. As you do? New Zealand wine as we know it was just getting started and it rare interest. One day my curiosity and ambition got the better of me and I rode my motorbike out to all the wineries in West Auckland and asked for a job. I had decided to turn my hobby into what would become my life. Thankfully one needed a cellar hand and I never looked back.”

What are your 5 favorite wines available at Specialist Cellars?

  • Pegasus Bay – Bell Canto Riesling
  • Esk Valley – Verdelho
  • Kumeu River – Mates chardonnay
  • Burn Cottage Pinot Noir
  • Trinity Hill – Homage

Is there a specific wine region you benchmark your wines against?

“No specific region but France as a whole has been the role model for the Esk Valley wines over the twenty-five years I had responsibility for it.  For most of that time, we have made wine from the classic varieties of France whether that be Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone, so no need to look beyond the classics.”

What is your biggest learning curve you’ve met working in the industry?

“I think maybe that what’s in the glass is only part of the experience.  Great wine should not only taste great but have a great story also. People like stories.”     

Have you tasted many Australian Wines and if so which region are you most excited for?

“Many years ago when I first started tasting and ultimately making wine (the 1980s) most of the fine wine I tasted in New Zealand was Australian. I held the finest Australian wine producers in awe and never imagined that one day we would be making wine of similar quality, albeit a very different style. In those days many of the new regions commonplace today were undiscovered.  Adelaide Hills, Orange, Beechworth, Great Southern and Tasmania are a few that spring to mind. Which region am I most excited for? This might seem an odd answer but I would say Coonawarra as I feel we have yet to see the best of this unique bit of dirt”.

Set the scene for us. You are having the night of your life…What are you drinking (from your range)?

“Heipipi The Terraces 1995 – our most unique and greatest vineyard.”

Who are you drinking it with?

“My wife Pia, our dog ZsaZsa who isn’t actually drinking it, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and the Esk Valley cellar team.”

What are you eating?

“Osso Bucco with truffled polenta and truffle shavings atop.”

And what music is playing?

“Aldous Harding – Designer album”

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