Following our Wine for the Bay fundraiser, we asked some of our winery friends to share their experiences of the cyclone and what they believe is next for them. Here are those accounts.
"Tuesday morning a few weeks back was not a good time to be in Esk Valley, an inland mud tsunami swept through our little hamlet and destroyed everything, not much on our vineyard can be saved, not even the steel posts as they have been bent or ripped out of the ground and lost to the sea.
We can pull out the wooden post and end assemblies, the wire and bird nets are history as are the much-loved vines, planted out from 2008 right up to the spring just gone, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Gamay were our latest additions.
That is the vineyard, we were lucky enough to escape with our lives by taking to the roof at 4:30 am. The noise and this unbelievable sight of the raging angry river will never be forgotten, the sheer power of water will always have my respect from now on. The amount of silt left on our property defies belief, until you take a trip up the valley and you can see where it has come from, the hillsides and a lot has been gauged out from what is left of the river banks.
The grapes were only 2 to 3 weeks away from harvest, my neighbours' apples had the bins placed, all ready for picking just few days away, which just makes this all seem so much worse, a full 12 months work gone, along with (for me) 16 years of development. Anyway, I am happy to be alive and more so my family are here, we have a second chance, when many do not, it really could have gone either way, so let us celebrate the good things from all of this mayhem and misery, with a glass of Hawke's Bay wine!
- Philip Barber, Petane Wines
Stock needed to be checked, tested and then cleaned. The local community came to the rescue.
"Where to start? As I am sure you are all aware Cyclone Gabrielle devastated our vineyards, grounds, our beautiful buildings and wine in storage. It looks like we have lost about a third of our stock and our front block vineyards will need attention to bring them back to production. Our buildings will need major work to bring them back to be operational.
We have created this new saying that now appears in all our correspondence.
' Devastated not Defeated'
I guess that best sums up how we are all feeling and our owner, Bruce is more determined than ever to rebuild both the winery and brand."
TONY BISH WINES
"Cyclone Gabrielle is the most destructive force anyone in Hawkes Bay has ever witnessed. To be honest, words fail. Driving around and seeing the destruction to land and property, with mountains of household items piled on the roadsides, and silt from ankle to 5 meters deep – it’s like a post-apocalyptic nightmare scene.
Our most premium vineyard had water over the top of the posts, and now has pumpkins, corn, logs and silt throughout the canopy. The vineyard owners brand new house is yellow stickered, with 1.6 metres of contaminated flood waters through it, the surrounding sheds and equestrian facilities, all trashed. We have desperately tried to save the crop, by taking off the ruined bird nets, replacing them and we finished re-clipping them this morning. The mental health of the family is very fragile, this is a disaster that will take years to re-build from. Dreams are shattered.
We lost half another important vineyard in the Ohiti Valley, also destroyed by floodwaters. We will be very lucky if we can make any of our important super premium brands this year, which means next year we will have very little wine to sell. Cashflow will be a very tricky problem for all of us in the Bay. The ground remains sodden, disease pressure is at the highest imaginable level. Roads are closed, some vineyards are totally cut off, and can’t get staff in or the crop out.
Having said that, there are areas that have not been flooded, and are possibly able to ripen the crop should it stop raining and the groundwater level drops to allow fruit concentration to return. Good wines will be made, albeit in very small quantities. Many producers will be unable to process any grapes at all however. So support Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers please, we need you more than ever this year and next. Kia kaha."
- Tony Bish
"The community spirit has been outstanding, in fact if there is one thing I will remember from this it will be the amount of people that have rung me or turned up that I have never met or spoken to or even from HB. People all around the county that have just shown up with no intention other than to get stuck in and help. It has been the most humbling thing I have ever been apart of, whether it has been people helping clean bottles, dig out mud and silt, cook lunches, set up community centres or help us move wines like you have spoken to us about, the outreach is hard to take in!
For Saorsa ours is a mixed bag. I cannot stress how lucky we are and how much my heart goes out to those that have lost lots more than us and have had their family homes destroyed. Hana my wife is a member of our local volunteer fire brigade so we have been seeing it form the onset and for the first three days barely saw her except for her run in and feed our youngest child who was 5 months old at the time. We awoke to many fire calls that night and Hana had heard how bad it was in the Esk Valley where my place of work is at Linden Estate and all our wines are made and stored. The next morning's pictures were sent through of the entire winery under water and the entire Eskdale region as just one massive river!
Since then it has been growing Zero. The winery and everything inside has been destroyed. We have spent 2 weeks now trying to save the bottled wines and with a mammoth team of volunteers unpacking, cleaning up silt and cleaning all bottles we can possible save. We have endless work to do now as we hare still about half way through digging out the winery form silt and finding all our damaged machinery.
The Eskdale region looks more like a war zone than a fertile valley. Out from our winery Linden Estates' vineyards are lounging flattened under piles of silt, with no way of saving them and apple orchards over the road are completely non-existent and houses have been washed down the valley.
As we speak we are trying to make arrangements to save whatever fruit we can as we are on the cusp of the 2023 harvest and arranging to take to another winery for fermentation until we can clean up ours and wait for the power and water to return to the area, which we don’t foresee in the near future.
Although total destruction is all around us we still are lucky. We have had one house we own flooded but we still have everything and a safe, dry place for our family.
Lots of work to come and a long long time for the bay to overcome this but it Cant Stop US!"
- Alex Hendry
We lost power in the cyclone for 3 days but being near Bridge pa airfield meant our area was a higher priority for electric. The airfield became helicopter central for rescues and lifeline supplies.
A helicopter pulled our 2 full time staff off a roof, they had been there 36 hours. They lost everything, their belongings, the home & the car . But they were alive, sadly the lady 2 doors down was not. But now understandably they have left Hawke's Bay to start anew, and we have no staff.
With no travel our Cellar Door is closed, all our bookings and future events such as concerts & Art Deco are cancelled. Our accommodation guests have cancelled to. It is like winter trading 5 months early, our income stream has gone.
We contract bottle for other smaller artisan wineries, we are desperate for our new bottle stock, but the bottles are not delivered. We need to get the wine out of tank before vintage for our customers and ourselves.
So with every glass of wine, enjoy & relax because with every purchase you are putting cash flow into the artisan NZ wine system. Thank You
- Terry Horn