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Urban vineyard thrives on the sunny slopes of Mt Eden

Time:2016-11-21 02:21wine - Red wine life health Click:

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Urban vineyard thrives on the sunny slopes of Mt Eden

NICKY PELLEGRINO

Last updated 05:00, November 21 2016

Angela and Mike Sparks prepare to harvest with son Douglas - they are proving you don't need acres of rolling hills to ...

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Angela and Mike Sparks prepare to harvest with son Douglas - they are proving you don't need acres of rolling hills to grow enough grapes for a cellar full of wine.

For Mike and Angela Sparks there is immense satisfaction to be found looking out over their vineyard while sipping a glass of syrah made from the grapes they've grown there.

Not such an unusual thing in a winemaking country you might think, except the Sparks' family vineyard is right in the middle of Auckland city, planted in the backyard of their home.

Where other people might have shrubs, trees and vegetable beds, they have vines staked in neat rows, growing up a high wall and over a pergola, covering a large part of their steep section on the slopes of Mt Eden. 

Since space is at a premium on the steep Mt Eden section the vines have been grown as bushes but they still require ...

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Since space is at a premium on the steep Mt Eden section the vines have been grown as bushes but they still require regular pruning to keep them in shape and allow the sun to reach the grapes to ripen them.

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Mike and Angela had an urban vineyard in mind right from when they first bought the rundown old house about 15 years ago, and set about renovating and trying to tame the overgrown, hillside section.

"It was like the top ten noxious weeds of New Zealand out there," recalls Mike. "There was ginger, datura, bamboo, big decorative banana trees that had gone crazy. I sprayed it all so many times I worried I might be developing Round Up-resistant varieties."

Mike Sparks enjoys knowing the story behind the wine he is drinking

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Mike Sparks enjoys knowing the story behind the wine he is drinking

When it was tidy, he set about terracing his plot with sturdy retaining walls, constructed in part with rocks found there.

By the time council requirements and an antsy neighbour had been catered to, they were more than five years down the track and there was still no sign of any vines in the ground. But Mike was determined to keep going. 

"In a way I was trying to push back on the commercialism of everything being done to add dollar value to a property," he explains. "I wanted something that didn't have a financial aspect to it but was just cool and fun."

Having spent a part of his upbringing in Napa Valley, a Californian wine region, Mike knew people who were involved in the wine industry and had worked on vineyards himself. Still, when it came to planting his own, he called in a local expert, West Auckland winemaker Stephen Nobilo.

"I told him I wanted a single varietal that wasn't prone to lots of diseases, because who wants 350 dead grape vines in their yard," says Mike. "He came to look at the area then suggested a syrah he thought would be good."

Mike Sparks called in West Auckland winemaker Stephen Nobilo to advise on varietals; they sourced the syrah stock from ...

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Mike Sparks called in West Auckland winemaker Stephen Nobilo to advise on varietals; they sourced the syrah stock from Riversun Nurseries in Gisborne.

Mike sourced his stock from Riversun Nurseries in Gisborne and there was great excitement the day it arrived, with all the family gathered for planting. 

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