Rosie Butler

Rosie Butler

Lime Rock Wines (Winemaker & Owner)

We arrived at Lime Rock Wines in the morning of a beautiful clear day. Rosie Butler, its esteemed winemaker and owner, greeted us with a huge welcoming smile and then quickly ushered us into her rugged vehicle. It was the perfect time to view the impressive vineyards she and her spouse Rodger Tynan had planted in 2001. (Rodger, Lime Rock’s viticulturist, was away the day we visited.)

Rosie grew up not far from the location of Lime Rock Wines. She attended a Catholic high school in Wellington and recalls being “. . . a 15-year-old country girl with no specific plans for her future but to excel in what she did.” When she did not do well on her French exam, she decided to focus on science. This led to working in a hematology laboratory of a local hospital and several years of work and travel in Scotland, England, and with friends, where she tasted and enjoyed various wines. Upon returning, she completed a Certificate of Proficiency in Medical Laboratory Technology (specializing in Hematology and Microbiology) in 1973. She was only 19 years old at the time.

The next year Rosie accepted a lab technician position at Montana Wines in Auckland and also was responsible for quality control. She loved it: “Working in the wine industry was fascinating, and I got hooked on all the facets of wine production.” After a few years, Rosie decided to study enology and attend Roseworthy College in South Australia “because there was not much to choose from [in terms of New Zealand enology programs] in those days,” completing her BSc. in Oenology and Viticulture in 1981. She was one of only two women in her class.

After graduating, Rosie held a number of wine-related positions in Australia and New Zealand, including the position of Winemaker at Montana Wines in Gisborne. She and Rodger, an Australian whom she had met at Roseworthy College, married during this period and their son was born in 1991.

Both were working in Australia when two of Rosie’s brothers offered them family land for vineyards in New Zealand. Rosie knew from her years of experience how much work a vineyard and winery would be, but she and Rodger decided nevertheless to accept the offer. Rosie noted, “We did not know how lucky we would be with our vineyard site. It has been an amazing experience.”

The Vineyards. During our extensive tour of the vineyards, we learned that the site was chosen both for its limestone soils (reflecting this, examples of the 3-million-year-old oysters, scallops, and barnacles uncovered in their vineyard are displayed in the cellar door) and its high north-facing hills. Rodger’s vineyard management is based on “minimal disturbance to the soils to preserve natural biological processes and site complexity.” Rosie noted that the steep slopes of the vineyards allow cold-air drainage, thereby protecting the vines from frosts in the Spring.

Words of Advice. Rosie has “always worked with men”—she had three brothers—and worked in a rural farming community. This experience proved to be helpful because she still mostly works with men and sees relatively few women at various wine events. Her words of advice for achieving success were to “. . . work on the cellar floor and laboratory, get as much experience as you can in all parts of the industry” and travel to other countries.

The Wines. Lime Rock’s red wines, and its 2009 Pinot Noir, caught the attention of Jancis Robinson, the renowned wine writer. We now know why, having now tasted two of thewinery’s highly-rated Pinot Noirs—the White Knuckle Hill Pinot Noir 2013 and the Kota Pinot Noir 2010. The White Knuckle Hill Pinot Noir, named for Rodger’s experiences while driving a tractor on the steep slopes of the vineyard, was luscious with delicious red fruit, velvety tannins, and fine minerality. The Kota Pinot Noir, named for the ‘kota’ or large fossilized oyster shells found in the soil and that contribute to the unique character of this wine, displayed bright cherry and wild raspberry flavors, along with soft tannins.

Lime Rock also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Grüner Veltliner. These award-winning white and red wines, all made with estate-grown grapes, are known for their elegance, pure fruit, balance, mineral character, and length. Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 cases are produced each year.

We brought back a bottle of their excellent Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016, which the ever-gracious Rosie generously had delivered to us when we forgot it at her cellar door!