North Canterbury – Waipara (part 2)

Greystone Waipara Valley

Continuing on from where we left off in Part 1 of the Waipara Valley wine tour – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=3535

The Crater Rim is a boutique winery with two vineyards in Waipara, and make wines from other sites including Banks Peninsula and even Central Otago. Their Pinot Gris did really well in our first WineFolio ‘Top 10 Tasting’ – the ‘From the Ashes 2019’ came in at 6th, and is a “superb example of the variety” – see: www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=1214 They have three tiers in their range of wines – the Icon range includes a Methode Traditionelle and they do a few different Pinot Noirs. I’m biased as the Pinot Gris did well, so I’d definitely keep an eye out for that – I’ve also tried their other aromatics like Riesling and Gewurztaminer. I don’t think they have a Cellar Door, although I did pass the signpost for the vineyard a couple of times as I travelled around, and I’m pretty sure that the winery is in Omihi – Hayden Good is the winemaker – so best to make contact through the website and see if you can get an appointment? www.thecraterrim.co.nz

Greystone vineyard ferment

One place that definitely does have a Cellar Door and is next along this side of SH1 at Omihi is Greystone. Their Cellar door is currently open Thursday to Sunday 11am to 5pm. You can visit at any time during those hours for a tasting, and there will often be some Cellar Door exclusives, or library wines open. But they now also have a set menu lunch option that is prepared by the chef (and licensed forager) of four courses including five paired wines included, and currently costs $79 per person. That sounds like a deal to me! 

The menus are posted on social media, so if you follow Greystone, you’ll be able to see what’s on offer and decide, as it changes every week. The building is lovely and has a large outdoor area if the weather is playing ball – it was glorious when I visited in May. There’s also a Cycle trail and walking track that runs through the vineyard if you need to work up an appetite. I’ll be publishing a full feature on Greystone on WineFolio soon. The fully-organic certified property is magnificent, with vineyards spread through the rolling hills behind the Cellar Door.

They’ve been named Winery of the Year by Raymond Chan (in 2018), their winemaker Dom Maxwell has been New Zealand Winemaker of the Year (also 2018), they have wines on the Fine Wines of NZ list (my go-to guide to the very best of our wines) and are regular features in the NZ Organic Wine awards. If you’re in the area, you have to visit Greystone.

My advice on the wines would be that the Pinots are superb – ask if they have the ‘Vineyard ferment’ Pinot available to try – I wrote a short piece and review – 94/100 – of this special wine: www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=3422 which was also named in Robert Parker’s “Top 100 Wine Discoveries” this year. But also try he Chardonnay(s), Pinot Gris and the Sauvignon Blanc – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=3672. This really is one of the country’s top wineries.

Muddy Water Estate is another classic Waipara label that’s nestled into the Teviotdale Hills. The name is literally a translation of ‘Waipara’ and the 12-hectare BioGro-certified organic estate was planted back in 1993. They produce a couple of completely additive-free wines (including no sulphur) – a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay, and also look out for a Skin-Ferment blend that’s also sulphur-free. Their website is www.muddywater.co.nz

Next stop along the highway is Mountford Estate, which is also the home of Koyama Wines, at 434 Omihi Road. Takahiro Koyama first worked at Mountford alongside CP Lin, but has progressed from being assistant winemaker, to buying the Estate (with investment from Japan) in 2017. He now makes both his own label, Koyama, and the Mountford wines, on site. I had a great session with Takahiro when I was in the region in May – that will be appearing on WineFolio soon. Established in 1991 by Michael and Buffy Eaton, the property is fabulously picturesque, with now 9.3 hectares of vines going up ever steeper limestone slopes, and the valley spread out in front of you.

Tastings are by appointment only and you can make contact through the website at www.mountfordestate.com, or www.koyamawines.com. I’ve always rated the Mountford Chardonnay, but what was clear at the tasting I did with Takahiro was the quality of the Pinot Noir that’s being produced here. 

Mountford Vineyard

The beautiful Waipara Valley, from Mountford Estate.

There are multiple versions to choose from – Mountford do three; and for me, the pick of the bunch are the two single vineyard Koyama Pinots (Pearson’s Vineyard and Williams’ vineyard).

Along the highway a short distance is another winery making a name for itself in recent years – Black Estate. Opening hours are currently Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm, with the restaurant open from 11.30am. The lunchtime restaurant was the winner of a ‘Winery Restaurant of the year’ award in 2019 and offers an enticing a la carte menu. You can book through the website – www.blackestate.co.nz, where there’s also a link for a Wine Tour, and details on how to reserve a ‘Winery Room’ for an event, lunch, meeting etc. Amazingly, that’s not all! There’s a Studio that can be booked for an overnight stay – again, check out the website for all details.

It’s a biodynamic estate, with three vineyards – Home, Damsteep and Netherwood, producing some excellent wines. 

Black estate

When I visited on a Saturday morning I was treated to many of the current releases. Chardonnay was great, but Riesling and Pinot Noir were the standouts. Great to see a Cabernet Franc as a single varietal – not heavily oaked, but with its own moss and bark-like earthiness. They also showcase things at the more ‘natural wine’ end of things –  like skin-fermented Pinot Gris (yum) and a Pet Nat  – that I’m told by someone who knows, is excellent – if you can grab it before it sells out (quickly). Also a “Wild Life” set of wines that I didn’t try – but you could! Black Estate is at 614 Omihi Road, and you can call them on 03 314 6085.

The last stop here before turning back south towards the village and more wineries, is Fancrest Estate. Another organic Estate, specialising in Pinot Noir – with a selection of Dijon, Pommard and Abel clones, suited to the site and planted in a north-facing fan across the ‘Golden Mile’ of Waipara’s limestone slopes. There’s no Cellar Door but look out for the wines, and you can order through the website – www.fancrest.com

Waipara Springs Cellar door

Turn back towards the south after leaving Fancrest or Black estate – whichever was your furthest point – and on your right you’ll soon find Waipara Springs, at 409 Omihi Road. This is one place that you can rely upon to be open – the restaurant is extremely popular and lively with people heading in, whether they came for the wine or just for a lovely spot to socialise. Open from 10am until 4pm every day except public holidays. It was established in 1981 and is still a family-owned and run business. Host to many a wedding, event and party, you can book online at www.waiparasprings.co.nz

When I dropped in, the garden tables were already filling for lunch, and the menu looked very inviting, making good use of local produce including olives, cheese and meats. On a less sunny day I imagine the Tasting Room would be full – you could get a tasting for $10 and then settle in for a glass of your favourite – maybe a bite to eat. Aromatics are a strong contender here (it is Waipara after all) – they do four different Rieslings! Also, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurz. Or one of the Pinot Noirs? It’s classic Waipara and you can expect a warm welcome.

Along this stretch of the road, but set back along Church Road (this loops around towards the village) is Sherwood Estate at 113 Church Road. Again it’s an established property – making wines here for nearly twenty years, and also still a family business – Dayne and Jill Sherwood can be found around the winery most days. There is a Cellar Door – they don’t offer tastings, but you can purchase the wines – open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. In the vicinity as well, are Ataahua Wines – look for the wines at Pukeko Junction or specialist wine stores. Also Glenmark Vicarage offers rooms to stay, and wines with unique labels like ‘The Wicked Vicar’ or ‘The Divine Daughter’.

Torlesse Wines at Loffhagen Drive is another great Cellar Door that shouldn’t be missed. Of all the places on offer here in Waipara, this is the one that a couple of people I know, who had visited the region ahead of me, had both recommended. Co-owner and winemaker Kym Rayner is a thoroughly entertaining chap who is happy to tell you all about his wines given the chance. Ask him about how his Dessert wine got its name! Open 7 days a week from 11am until 5pm. The 10-year old Tawny is a great wine, with real depth and colour – similar wines can set you back twice the price elsewhere. I enjoyed the lighter versions of some of their wines – the Torlesse Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, rather than the Omihi Road version – which are their more premium offering – but try them yourself and see which you prefer!?

Torlesse
North Canterbury wine map

2 Comments on “North Canterbury – Waipara (part 2)”

  1. Excellent – love your guides to the wine regions. It is good to get personal recommendations like these. I’ll be using this.

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