Kai Schubert completed an apprenticeship in winemaking (with the Mosel star winemaker Ernie Loosen) and studied at the renowned Viticulture & Oenology University in Geisenheim. Already as a trainee he knew that one day he would establish his own vineyard.
Along the Mosel River, Riesling is cultivated, which Kai loves. During his apprenticeship, however, Kai discovered his favourite variety is Pinot Noir. He was fascinated by the varieties elegance and finesse, paired with the challenges this grape variety presents, often referred as to a “diva”. With his partner Marion, also a graduate of Geisenheim University, first as students they set off around the world of Pinot Noir in search of the ideal place to plant and produce their true passion – Pinot Noir. “We looked in Europe but La Tâche was not for sale and Musigny I could not afford!”, adds Kai with a smile. It became pretty clear it would have to be somewhere in the New World.” Oregon or New Zealand? The decision was made after several visits to Martinborough: “We had found one or two top Pinot Noir producers in several places, but in Martinborough there was an entire village of Pinot Noir producers, and all of them made a pretty good to outstanding Pinot Noir. I thought to myself: There must be something special here, with the climate, the soils; the Terroir!”
Martinborough in the Wairarapa Valley is a small, 700 hectares winegrowing region on the southern tip of the North Island of New Zealand, located about one and a half hours drive from the capital, Wellington. The “cool-climate” in the Wairarapa Valley is comparable to Burgundy however has also one big advantage: the long dry autumns and the cool nights during the growing season! Precipitation is shielded by the Rimutaka and Tararua Mountains, making Martinborough the driest region of New Zealand‘s North Island. The soils are formed by old river sediments; ideal conditions for Pinot Noir. The strong winds and harsh climate cause low yields and keeps the grapes dry and healthy. The berries are very small with thicker skins too, which has a positive effect on the depth of flavours. The growing season is very long. Although in the 19th Century settlers planted a few vines, modern viticulture began only in 1980, after a study had found that its climate is remarkably similar to the climate in Burgundy. Four wineries were the founding pioneers: Ata Rangi, Chifney, Dry River and Martinborough Vineyards.
From that perspective, Martinborough became the ideal spot for Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling, looking for their Holy Grail: an ideal site for Pinot Noir. In 1998, Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling bought land in Martinborough and East Taratahi after having looked at more than a hundred potential sites. Only the smaller property was planted with vines; the other site the Schubert’s established high density planting of vines in accordance with European tradition in 1999 and 2000.
Schubert’s Pinot Noir was released for the first time in 2003 and has won numerous awards since. During a memorable blind tasting in Berlin’s Hotel Adlon in 2007 their 2004 Pinot Noir Block B passed comparison with a top Grand Cru of Chambolle- Musigny in Burgundy; the tasting panel thought the wine to be from old vines from a Grand Cru from Burgundy. The grapes are very carefully selected by hand, and processing is by gravity to ensure that they are not damaged and no harsh tannins are extracted from the seeds. The vineyard blocks are planted with different Pinot clones, each featuring their own characteristics. “Marion’s Vineyard”, for example, is made with Abel and Pommard clones, while the “Block B” Pinot Noir is vinified from Dijon clones.