Nestled in a rural setting on State Highway 2 just south of Katikati, in the Bay Of Plenty region, the winery complex boasts full winemaking, bottling and warehousing facilities, an underground barrel cellar and wine tasting room.
The modern winemaking facility has sufficient tank capacity to cater for our annual harvest needs, along with the flexibility of a second winery located in the Riverview District of the Hawkes Bay region which also serves our needs as and when necessary.
To further enhance our pursuit of the highest quality wines, our tanks are predominantly 16,000L-20,000L in size which enables small-batch processing of site and row-specific vineyard parcels, which in turn maximises our blending options later in order to craft the best possible wines and styles.
We also have blending tanks capable of holding up to 50,000L, and smaller ones down to 1800L to manage the full spectrum of activities involved throughout the wine's life cycle. The working winery is complete with in-house laboratory facilities, bottling line, and a temperature-controlled warehouse that also serves as our distribution centre.
Our award-winning winemaking team is led by Tim Preston and Paul Dawick who apply their considerable talents to make Mills Reef wines what they are today.
Winemaking at Mills Reef
As soon as the fruit is harvested, we have a clear vision as to what we want to achieve. We believe that each wine has its own unique personality, which first presents itself, and is acknowledged, as the fruit comes off the vine. From then on, its individuality is sympathetically nurtured throughout the winemaking process.
Machine-picked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc fruit is harvested in the cool hours of early morning and then delivered to a winery in Hawkes Bay, who dejuice the fruit for us. The ensuing juice is settled, then immediately dispatched to our winery in the Bay of Plenty where the winemaking team is ready to begin the fermentation process.
Fruit for our Reserve and Elspeth ranges is selectively hand-picked in the early morning and delivered directly to our Katikati winery where it receives the special handling necessary to extract the full potential of this venerable fruit. Fermentation may proceed spontaneously or via inoculation of wine yeasts specially selected for a particular style. A spontaneous fermentation can be unpredictable, but with careful management can add stunning ethereal qualities including luscious mouth-filling weightiness to the wine.
Our premium Syrah is fermented within barrel to promote earlier integration of the aromatic oak, conferring greater complexity, with seamless softer tannin structure. This is a more labour-intensive process, but we believe is well worth the effort. Fermentation of our Bordeaux reds take place in open top stainless steel vats that allow gentle hand plunged cap management and delestage to extract the wonderful colour and structure we are seeking.
Once the wine has completed fermentation, we match the wine with carefully selected barrels from our list of preferred coopers, for aging. Our preference is for 300L hogshead and 400L Integrale barrels coopered from tight-grained quality French and American oak, to impart subtle structure, weight and also to progress each unique personality of the wine. This is one area where quality cannot be compromised, and isn't.
Once the wines are moved to the wine cellar for the aging process, they are left undisturbed but under close observation until ready for blending by our skilful winemakers, Tim and Paul.
Blending is the final master stroke in wine-making. It is a true test of the palate where the winemaker finely tunes the wine to achieve that celebrated, yet sometimes elusive, perfect balance. Something we can pull together in bucket loads!