Central Otago: Gibbston Valley (Part 2)

Assuming now we’re moving on from what is arguable the region’s centrepiece at Gibbston Valley winery; and off on either two wheels onto the excellent Cycle Path, or on SH6 through the valley heading East towards Cromwell.

Quite quickly you’ll come across another large Winery and Cellar Door to your left – this is the famous building at Peregrine, constructed in 2002. On the day we visited, we had a guided trip around the building and a potted history of the site and operations.

Look out for a turning that appears swiftly on the right hand side as you head back onto the highway – it is well-signposted. This road – Coalpit Road, will take you to a handful of Cellar doors.

Mount Edward is one of the wineries up here, at no.34 Coalpit Rd, but the Cellar Door is open by appointment only: call 03 442 6113. It’s a BioGro certified organic operation, across 5 different estate vineyards. Started in 1997, making one wine, they now have a range of offerings, from the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot, to Chenin and Gamay. We didn’t manage to fit in a visit, but I know their wines are distinctive – think an orange wines based on Albarino, but with 8 months skin contact – or a vermouth? www.mountedward.com

PEREGRINE

The site at Peregrine Winery that we see now, was originally farm country – farming sheep – typical New Zealand; and this is where you’ll find the historic Woolshed building which dates from the 1860s from when it was a working farm. It’s a lovely building – used now for weddings and events. There are a couple of cottages on site as well – one is the Management Office which was the original cookhouse and shearers quarters, also from the 1860s. The other one is a replica cottage and was the original Peregrine Cellar Door when Peregrine started in 1998. The big architectural building that everyone now recognises was completed in 2004. It was designed to ‘replicate the rotation of falcon’s wing through flight’ – so it’s steeper at the entry end, and down at the winery end it’s much flatter. It’s also designed to be tucked in between the quartz reefs that run through the land, using the natural landscape. As a building, it’s quite something – beautiful, and has a feeling of lightness despite it’s huge scale.

Originally Peregrine was a Vineyard estate – with a number of landowners, but with a bit of transition – it is family-owned, and now has large vineyards over at Bendigo, and source fruit from Lowburn/Pisa on the other side as well, as well as on site at Gibbston. Unique in some ways for Central, in that not everyone has their front of house, events space and winery on one site, and literally under one roof.

A feature of Peregrine are their ‘resident’ falcons. A feed table is kept with food put out a couple of times a week, to keep them interested, and on one side of the main building is a hatch box where they have a few years ago, brought falcon chicks down from the Wingspan Trust in Rotorua. They were fed through the back of the box where the chicks don’t interact with – and know that they are supported by – humans. The hope is that they then regard the area around the winery as their territory, as they are territorial birds. There is now a natural population in the basin and they haven’t had to bring chicks down for a long time.

The main building has a big barrel hall at the back end, – there’s another smaller one at the front that the public are able to wander through, and smell and touch the barrels, get that feel, and take photos in amongst them. 98% of the year they can do that, when winemakers aren’t busy working in there.

Coalpit Wines are also up here (funny that…) at no.121. They are unusual that for their relatively small size they have a winery on site – enabling control of the process from vineyard to wine. Wines made by the talented Anika Willner are available for tasting at Kinross – more details on this fantastic operation later. A superb, highly-rated Pinot Noir and a couple of styles of Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a rosé from Pinot Noir are worth seeking out.

At the beginning of the road – 8 Coalpit Rd, signposted the Gibbston Tavern is a combined destination of Rockburn cellar Door, and the rustic ‘pub’ which has a long and colourful history, also offers a great menu of pub food such as wood-fired pizzas. It’s open 7 days a week from 11am daily. A family-friendly spot, with heaps of outdoor seating if the weather is being kind.

Across from the Tavern (but in the same grounds) in one of the old stone buildings is the Rockburn Cellar Door. It’s a deservedly popular stop along the cycle paths, and tours drop in here too, so be prepared to wait if there are already visitors – they don’t have a huge amount of room. Lots to try here, and I’d recommend the Fumé Blanc as a great example of what can be produced from Sauvignon Blanc given the inclination. See if they have their 2019 Champion Wine of Show at the NZIWS, the Rockburn Pinot Noir on tasting. It really is an example of the quintessential Central Otago Pinot Noir. Don’t miss it. Email winery@rockburn.co.nz or phone 021 833 135.

Waitiri Creek is another example of a lovely heritage building being repurposed to use for catering to the masses of tourists in this region. Originally a church, it was deconsecrated in the 1950s, and moved to the current site in 2000. Cargo Brewery moved in around November 2017, and it’s turned into a unique Tasting Room, beer garden, concert venue, restaurant and Cellar Door all in one… it’s quite the experience. You can try beers, Wild Earth, Providore and Pagan brand wines, and get some great tasting platters, pizza or yummy food to go alongside. Waitiri Creek is down Church Lane just off the highway at no.2323. Call 03 441 3315. www.cargobrewery.co.nz

Your next stop, and with a similar vibe, but an even wider offering, is Kinross at 2300 Gibbston Highway. WineFolio cannot recommend this place enough – you’d be mad to miss out on a stop here.

Just a couple more places to consider a stop – and these ones offer a real boutique experience after some of the bigger-scale places along the valley. Both are off the main road onto the Gibbston Back Road. Brennan Wines at no.86 is another place where the grapes go from vine to wine, through the small on-site winery founded by Sean Brennan. The wines here are a true expression of Gibbston – family-managed vineyards, hand-picked and carefully moulded into wines that reflect the character of the site. 

KINROSS

It’s somewhere a little different – kind of hard to describe just what the vibe at Kinross is. Like so many places along here – it has history! It’s the old Kinross Station, founded by pioneers in the 1860s. There’s even an orchard that was planted over 100 years ago, still producing beautiful fruit.

Since this is a wine website, let’s start by saying first off, it’s a great Cellar Door! In fact it’s the official Cellar door for some amazing wines. Coal Pit (mentioned earlier), Domain Thomson, Hawkeshead, Kinross, Valli and Wild Irishman. When you consider that Valli alone are now frequently winning awards like Champion Pinot Noir (Royal Easter Show) or Winemaker of the Year (and their vineyard is literally next door on the highway)… and Alan Brady’s label Wild Irishman is the original founder of wine in the Gibbston Valley – this place is a must-see.

OK, but there’s also a Bistro on site, open 7 days a week, from 8am. Grab breakfast or a full evening meal – guaranteed the wine matches will be brilliant. And one of the big features is the accommodation on site too. So you can literally put your feet up and relax – there’s everything you could need here. If you stay, you get complimentary wine tastings. The accommodation in 14 studio cottages is right in the vineyard, and without attempting to be a 5-star resort, it’s a lovely tranquil location – there’s 40 acres to explore – to kick back in – maybe even use the hot tub after a tough day out at the wineries?

Their Tasting Room is a converted shed set centrally to their vineyards and has great rustic appeal. It’s a hands-on affair that I’m sure will charm any visitor. It does offer a real counterpoint to their larger neighbours. Good range of wines on offer, from Gewurztraminer through to Muscat and the obligatory Pinot Noirs. Tel 03 442 4315, www.brennanwines.co.nz.

Mt Rosa vineyard, directly opposite Brennan, boasts one of the larger vineyards in the region, planted from 2000, although much of the property surrounding is still run as a sheep station, as would have been back for generations. The Tasting room is open from 11am daily and you can get one of a few tasting plates to go with the wines.

They are one of the few places around who do a Pinot Blanc, but their Pinot Gris is well regarded as well as the Pinot Noir. It’s quirky, and I know of at least one person who regards this as their favourite place to have a wine in the valley. Give it a try and decide for yourself? www.mtrosa.co.nz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *