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New Zealand Wine Regions -
Waipara, North Canterbury

© Sue Courtney - text and photos, April 2002

Panorama of the Waipara Valley
Panorama of the Waipara Valley taken from the limestone hills on the eastern side of the valley above Black Estate, looking to the west and south west.

When the Waipara Winegrowers invited me to the 2002 Waipara Valley Wine and Food Celebration as the 'guest winewriter' for the weekend, I found an exciting and expanding wine region with dedicated and passionate wine producers.

Waipara Wineries Waipara is part of rural Canterbury just 40 minutes drive north of Christchurch. While there was an unsuccessful foray with grapes in the 1960's most historians record the first grapes in the region as being planted in 1981. Sheep farmers chose grapes to trial as a diversification crop because grapes don't eat grass.

From those testy beginnings, the region has burgeoned to 17 producers who own their own vineyards (see map). Other producers, e.g. Waipara Hills, use contract growers.

The natural 'Y'-shaped valley with its free draining river gravels and limestone-rich clay and sandy soils is only a few kilometres from the South Pacific Ocean to the east but is well sheltered by the intervening Teviotdale Hills. The peaks of the "Three Deans" dominate the vista to the west.

Waipara, like the rest of Canterbury region however, is affected by hot north westerly winds that can rage at a force, much to the detriment of new vine planting's.

Waipara produced 80,000 cases of wine in 2001, a little less than the average of around 90,000. But the output will double by 2004 as new vineyards come into production.

Montana Wines is the biggest vineyard landholder in the area. Montana's new plantings in Kings Road They inherited 5 hectares of Riesling when they took over Corbans in 2000. This was the vineyard that produced the outstanding Robard and Butler Amberley Rieslings and more recently the Corbans Private Bin Amberley Rieslings. These benchmark wines, produced from the mid-eighties through the nineties, inspired many of the newcomers to plant that grape. Montana's riesling was planted on a 60-hectare block, the remainder of which was planted last year with more riesling and pinot noir (see photo). In March 2002 Montana purchased another 160 hectares of land in the area. They will develop the new block over several years with riesling and pinot noir; the planting of which will commence this winter.

With Montana aside, the vineyards in the area range from the seriously boutique-sized two hectares to the more commercial 60 hectares.

There is no doubt that pinot noir and riesling grapes are immensely suited to the region. Other varieties excel too and over the course of the weekend I tasted excellent chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, while cabernet sauvignon - erratic as it is - does well in some vintages too.

As the price of Pinot Noir seems to be rocketing skyward, several Waipara producers are keeping the prices in check with several tasty wines of good varietal character for NZ$26 and under available in March 2002.

Waipara rieslings generally show citrus flavours together with spice and good examples abound.

Waipara Sauvignon Blanc lives in the shadow of its northern neighbour but the wines show excellent varietal herbaceousness and flavour.

There are excellent examples of pinot gris and at least one I tasted, the McCorkindale Waipara Pinot Gris 2001 was outstanding.

Would you believe there is Pinotage in Waipara too? The Muddy Water Pinotage is a big gutsy wine with the alcohol content to match. It's worth pursuing if you are a pinotage fan like me.

My schedule was hectic. Upon my arrival on Saturday morning to my departure on Monday afternoon, it was designed to make sure I would visit most of the producers based in the region. Alas, a late arrival in Waipara due to circumstances beyond my control meant I missed my visit to Waipara West.

The day's proceedings are summarised on the following pages -
Day 1

    Fiddler's Green
    Pegasus Bay
    Torlesse Wines
    Glenmark Wines
    Pukeko Junction

Day 2

    Sherwood Estate
    Waipara Springs
    Canterbury House
    Floating Mountain
    Black Estate
    The Waipara Wine and Food Celebration
    Waipara Downs
    Pegasus Bay (again)
    Alan McCorkindale

Day 3

    Daniel Schuster
    Mounford Vineyard
    Muddy Water
    Alpine Pacific (previously Chancellor)

The following table lists all the Waipara Producers as at April 2002. Some producers, e.g. Sterling Lines, who sell their grapes on, are not included in the table.

West of State Highway One

Fiddler's Green
Georges Road, Waipara
Ph: (03) 314 6979
Planted in 1994 with the first wine produced in 1997
Vineyard size: 15 hectares
Open 11am-5pm on weekends from Sept to May, other times by appointment.

Glenmark Wines
MacKenzies Road, Waipara
Ph: (03) 314 6828
Planted in 1981. First harvest in 1985
Vineyard size: 2.8 hectares
Open 11am-5pm daily

Montana Wines
Kings Road, Waipara
No facilities in Waipara

Sherwood Estate
Church Road, Waipara
Established 1987, in West Melton.
Winery operational in Waipara in 2002.
No tasting facilities in Waipara

Torlesse Wines
Loffhagen Drive, Waipara
Established in Waipara in 1991
Vineyard size: 26 ha
Open Fri, Sat and Sun 11am - 5pm or by appointment

Waipara Downs
Bains Road, Waipara
First planting in 1984; first harvest in 1989
Vineyard Size: 4 hectares
Open by appointment only

Waipara Springs
Omihi Road, SH1, Waipara
Planted in 1982. First harvest in 1989
Vineyard size: 20 hectares
Open daily 1am-5pm (except 24/25/26 Dec and 1 Jan

Waipara West
Planted in 1990,
First harvest 1994
Vineyard size: 23 hectares
Open by appointment only

East of State Highway One

Alan McCorkindale
Ph: 0800 423 532
Vines planted in 1998
Vineyard size: 3 hectares
No tasting facilities

Mt Cass Vineyards
133 Mt Cass Road, Waipara
Ph: (03) 314 6834
Planted in 1982 as a contract vineyard;
First harvest in 1986;
First Chancellor wines in 1996.
Previously known as Chancellor Wines, the company was renamed Alpine Pacific by new owner Chris Parker in March 2002. Wine are now produced under the Mt Cass label.
Vineyard size: 17 hectares
Wine tastings and sales on site from 2003

Black Estate
614 Omihi Road, RD3, Amberley
Ph: (03) 314 5888
First plantings 93/94 .
First commercial production in 2000.
Vineyard size: 8 hectares
No tasting facilities

Canterbury House
State Highway One, Waipara
Ph: (03) 314 6900"
Planted 1994.
First production in 1997
Vineyard size: 60 hectares
Open Sat-Wed 10am-5pm, Thurs-Fri 10am til late

Daniel Schuster Omihi Hills Vineyard
192 Reeces Road, Waipara
Ph: (03) 314 5901
Planted in 1986 for a harvest in 1988
Vineyard size: 6 hectares
Open by appointment only

Floating Mountain
Omihi Road (State Highway One)
Ph: (03) 314 6710
First Harvest 1989
Vineyard size: 4 hectares
Open by appointment only

Mountford Vineyard
434 Omihi Road (State Highway One)
Ph: (03) 314 6819
First production: 1996
Vineyard size: 4 hectares
Open by appointment only

Muddy Water
Omihi Road (State Highway One)
Ph: (03) 314 6966
First harvest 1997
Vineyard size: 12 ha
Open by appointment only

Pegasus Bay
Stockgrove Road, Waipara
Ph: (03) 314 6869
First harvest 1990
Vineyard size: 40 ha
Open: 10am-5pm daily


Waipara Wine Celebration 2002 Tasting

The Waipara Valley wineries website.

If you know of any new wineries in Waipara, or other links that I should consider for this page, please e-mail me. A reciprocal link would be appreciated.

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