Black Estate is a true family undertaking with parents, children, in-laws and grandchildren all playing their part to keep the wine pouring. We spoke with Penelope Naish about how this came together and the traditions of their Sunday family meal.
Our family brought the property eight years ago. After several years, Dad recalled how my sister and I had always talked about hospitality and suggested we do food with a tasting room. Somehow I agreed (my sister then started her own business), and three years into the business we built and opened a cellar door and restaurant, with no hospitality experience. It was a steep learning curve but worth it. We had incredible staff who taught us everything we know. I love being a part of this place. Being able to meet guests and share our wines with them at the vineyard is rewarding.
We started serving platters created from local food sourced and prepared by a friend who is a great chef and loves to forage. Then we got busy and had to hire a chef…and now the space has evolved into a busy restaurant with a Cuisine Good Food Hat no less. We have an increasing focus on using organic food too. It tastes better and is we think NZ’s future.
We always wanted to create a sense of place for people to experience Black Estate. We aim for our wines to express the place they grow so the building and dining experience were simple extensions of that philosophy. We’re organic and hands on in the vineyard and winery, so that the fruit we harvest is pure and true to the site. And the food we serve at the restaurant is now largely organic and spray free and of course local.
The building was designed by my cousin Richard Naish which is simple, integral and sympathetic to the environment. We also ensure that people that work in the cellar door, also spend time in the vineyard so we can share the knowledge and culture of the place with visitors.
Sunday evening is the time we sit for a hot staff meal. During the weekdays we make a pretty simple lunch for the staff. On Sundays we take time chat. The Sunday family meal tradition started originally because we had wine left over from the week of service, so we would enjoy it with a family meal and run over the day or week.
We always use food that is being served in the restaurant. Anything that we have to spare or need to use. Often there is fish that won’t keep for long, so we use that. One of the dishes the chef loves making for family meal is a fish curry.
On Sunday’s you don’t have that much time on the floor that you can chat and get to know one another... we have quite a few international people on our staff which is typical of wineries. So I love the conversations that can evolve at Sunday’s Staff Meal, when people can actually sit down with one another. Somehow we manage to attract staff that love to talk about topical things like politics, or immigration - so it’s always a lively table.
I’m amazed at what strong friendships come out of hospitality. And here, I think a lot of them evolve on Sunday nights. You have just been through a really big rush together - so it’s really nice to chill, eat and drink together. You’ve been through a bit of adrenaline and you have given a lot so you can just fully relax during staff meal. I find that a free flowing conversation evolves from that.
We live at the other end of the building, My husband and I with our kids Arthur and Sylvia (6,9). There is a soundproof wall so it feels separate. Initially I was pretty paranoid about this but it’s been great.
With two young children this set up has really been really handy. The kids help out and earn about $2 a day. They used to seat people in the early days, now they help opening things in the kitchen and other odd jobs.
Jake's gnocchi, served with peas, sage from the property and butter.
Slow cooked lamb leg with saffron from Greta Valley, served with Waipara olives, preserved lemon, moroccan seasoning and bulgur wheat.
Spring onions and quinoa salad.
Jake (Chef) - he seems to always sit at the head of the table
Nicholas - He doesn't work in the restaurant but joins us on Sundays, and often brings in a unique wine to taste (husband and winemaker)
Sylvia & Arthur - children. They always come in which is great because I always work Sundays so it’s lovely to have the family together and they know the staff well.
Ricky & Erik - are from Norway. Erik is our Vineyard Manager and his sister Ricky works in our restaurant and the vineyard.
Surya - our restaurant and cellar door manager.
Claire - our second restaurant manager.
Lisa - who lives across the road. She’s married to Russell Black who planted the original vineyard.
Brie - from Texas originally, and travels the world. She’s a writer and loves vintage clothes and surfing.
Samara - a student and our viticulturist’s daughter. She helps with the dishes in the weekends and looks after the kids in summer.
Find them here!