As a commercial photographer, I usually rely on someone else to add words to my photographs. Since English isn't their mother tongue, Kohei and Kuniko asked me to take some photographs of their vineyard and help tell their story. They have been very successful at telling their story in Japan, where they moved from 6 years ago with their daughter, Moeka. They make amazing wines, and they sell well in Japan. But why not avoid shipping the wine across the ocean when there are people who appreciate good wine right here in New Zealand?
Kohei studied viticulture and oenology here in New Zealand seeking a change from his hectic life in the financial sector in Japan. He also chose to grow grapes differently to most New Zealanders.
The only sprays that are applied to the vines are milk and seaweed fertiliser. These are sprayed on by hand using an old backpack sprayer sans waist belt. Kohei hauls the heavy load onto his shoulders and walks up the steep hills carefully applying exactly what is needed at exactly the right time. The hillside that the vines seem to love is very steep. Too steep for a tractor, so everything is done by hand - by Kohei, although he does accept help from his family (Moeka and Kuniko) and some friends and locals willing to give a hand. I get the feeling he appreciates the company as much as the help.
He has been working on these vines full time for 4 years. The vines are pruned by hand and the grapes are picked by hand. Larger estates would reserve a small section of their estate to be treated with such care, only hand picking grapes lucky enough to go into their exclusive and expensive reserve labels. Kohei and Kuniko, on the other hand, are committed to providing exceptional, organic (not certified) hand picked wine at a very reasonable price.
The steep hillside overlooks the Motueka valley to the East and the mountains to the West.
Kohei controls the condition of the vines to such detail that he knows how many leaves are serving each bunch of grapes. Here he's trimming the new growth so that the energy goes into the grapes instead of the shoots. This has to be done at exactly the right time to ensure the perfect sugar content of the grapes.
Kohei is keen to share his wine with locals, who usually fall in love with the flavour. The next step is to spread the word.