Ata Rangi is Maori for 'dawn sky' or, more aptly in this case, 'new beginnings' and the wine estate bearing its name is the foundation of Clive Paton.
Clive was a bit of a pioneer here in Martinborough, selling a herd of cows to buy his first parcel of land for vines in 1980 when they were almost unheard of in the area.
He says that playing rugby and regularly skinning his knees on the stony soil told him that the ground would be good for vines, a view confirmed by a 1978 report claiming that Martinborough had a microclimate similar to Burgundy.
He was soon joined in the 'gamble' by his sister Ali who bought five hectares next door. At first it was tough going and he persevered with the help of family and friends but in 1986 Clive's pinot noir won his first gold medal and things began to look up.
These days Ata Rangi is regarded as one of New Zealand's finest producers, famed for its pinot noirs grown on the free-draining gravels that abound here.
There is a strong emphasis on sustainable viticulture here. No artificial herbicides or pesticides are used and Clive has initiated or joined several ecological projects on the estae and in the general area. The vineyards themselves are divided into 80 different parcels, all picked separately so that each is harvested as the fruit ripens but trying to avoid overripeness, before coming together in the winery and being vinified together in batches depending on the age of the vines. Bunches can be destemmed, left whole or partially destemmed subject to the vintage conditions prevailing in any given year.
Intervention is minimal throughout with no enzymes used to help the indigenous yeasts that ferment the must and a judicious 35% or so of new oak is used for the eponymous Ata Rangi cuvée.