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edited by Sue Courtney
e-mail address: winetaster@clear.net.nz

Touring the North
By Sue Courtney, ©
13th June 2001
Updated 29 April 2008

Northland, New Zealand - Wine sub-regions. Northland has a very important place in the history of New Zealand wine. For it was the first place in New Zealand where grape vines were planted. It was September 25th 1819 when the Missionary, Samuel Marsden, turned the soil to plant the vines at the Mission Station he had established at Kerikeri. However it is thought the grapes produced were solely for eating.

Vines for viticulture came with James Busby when he arrived in New Zealand at the Bay of Islands in 1833 to take up the position of 'Official British Resident". These vines were European in origin, having been collected from Busby's trip to France and Spain the year before. He planted them in his Waitangi vineyard, near Russell, adjacent to the house he built (now the historic Waitangi Treaty House). The first wine was thought to have been produced just three years later.

These days, however, vineyards are not a dominant feature on the landscape as you head north from Auckland, through the Rodney district past the vineyards at Warkworth and Matakana, towards the top of the North Island. If you are vigilant you may glimpse the vines in the Te Hana orchards as you pass through the town but no others stand out until you reach Longview Estate at Otaika on the southern approach to Whangarei, about 2 hours drive from Auckland.

Lochiel Estate, in Brook Lane off King Road, Mangawhai, is the most southern of the 'Northland' vineyards. Just over an hour from Auckland City, the vineyard is in the eastern lee of the Brynderwyn Hills, just 6 kilometres from the surf beach at Mangawhai Heads.
Open from daily from 10am to 4.30pm, wines include Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rose and a very palatable fortifed Dessert Wine ($29) made from Malbec grapes. Syrah will join the wines when the first vintage, from 2007, is bottled.
Wines from nearby Kingsview Estate and Millars Vineyard are also made at Lochiel Estate.
Website: www.lochielestate.co.nz. Telephone: (09) 431-4554

Millars Vineyard, in Bush Lane off King Road, Mangawhai, is adjacent to Lochiel Estate, where the wines are also made. Open daily in the summer from 10am to 5pm and from Easter to Labour Weekend by appointment, wines include Pinot Gris, Viognier and Syrah. Prices start at $24.
Email: millars.vineyard@xtra.co.nz. Telephone: (09) 431-4326

Longview Estate, on State Highway 1 at Otaika south of Whangarei, is famous for its scarecrows and during the summer they certainly grab the motorist's attention. For they are life-size blow-up dolls nattily attired in tiny bikinis. Take the time to drive into the vineyard and to the elevated site of the tasting room, where the magnificent view looks out over the heel of Whangarei harbour toward Mt Manaia and Bream Head.
Open from Monday to Saturday from 8.30am to 6pm in the summer and from 8.30am to 5pm in the winter. Closed on Sundays. Wines include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and a Port with prices ranging from $18 to $27.
A small tasting charge applies and is refundable on purchase of wine.
Website: www.longviewwines.co.nz. Telephone: (09) 438-7227

Omata Estate is just off Aucks Road near the car ferry wharf on the Russell side of the Bay of Islands.
(In December, 2006 it cost $15 per car and $2 per person for return tickets on the ferry, that departs about every 10 mins).
It's worth a visit to this destination, just to see it. Don't let the long (approx. 1.5k), partly unsealed drive way put you off. Once you reach Omata Estate you'll find magnificent views across the vineyard and the bay with Paihia in the distance, a vineyard restaurant that serves lunch and dinner (bookings are essential) and super luxury accommodation further down the driveway at the water's edge.
Omata Estate is open for wine tastings from 11am to 5pm daily from November to March, other times by arrangement.
The flagship wine is syrah, with chardonnay, merlot and desert chardonnay completing the portfolio in 2006.
Tasting fees apply. Prices have dropped under a change of management and the silver medal winner 2004 Syrah ($75 a bottle in 2006) is just $35 a bottle in 2009.
On the Web: www.omata.co.nz. Telephone: (09) 403 8007

Cottle Hill Winery on State Highway 10 is two kilometres south of the roundabout junction to the town of Kerikeri, on the eastern side of the road.
It is open daily 10am to 5pm daily from November thru March but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays April thru October when opening hours are 10am to 5pm.
The wines priced from $15 to $32 include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Bay Breeze (Muscat), Pinot Noir Rose, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Pheasant’s Walk (a blend of Pinot noir & Chambourcin), tawny port and a decadent white port made from Chardonnay grapes.
The country's northern most Pinot Noir is grown on the property along with Chardonnay and Chambourcin. The Syrah is also grown locally. Other grapes are sourced from outside the region.
It costs $5 to taste a selection of wines with tasting fee refundable on purchase.
The cafe, with views over the vines, serves lunches to match the wines and is open from 10am to 4pm from December thru March.
Telephone: (09) 407 5203.
On the Web: www.cottlehill.co.nz.

Marsden Estate on Wiroa Road towards Kerikeri airport is open from 10am to 5pm daily.
(There's a major roundabout at the State Highway 10/Wiroa Road/Kerikeri intersection - turn left if approaching from the south, turn right if approaching from the north, keep ahead if approaching from Kerikeri).
Open daily, from 10am to 5pm from September thru June, and 10am to 4pm in July and August.
There's a comprehensive selection of wines for tasting, all produced from Kerikeri grown grapes.
White wines include Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, including the often gold-endowed Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay. Syrah is quickly turning into the premium red wine for the region and this red is supplemented by the distinctive Chambourcin, as well as Pinotage, Cabernet Merlot and Port.
Prices range from $17.50 to $35.
Free wine tasting (April 2008).
The popular vineyard restaurant serves local Northland produce in a Mediterranean style. Open for lunch daily and for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. Bookings are recommended.
Telephone: (09) 407 9049.
On the Web: www.marsdenestate.co.nz.

Ake Ake Estate at 165 Waimate Road, Kerirkei, is Northland's newest cellar door, which opened in December 2006.
The cellar door is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm with free vineyard and winery tour at 11.30am. Closed during the month of July.
Wines produced are Syrah and Chambourcin grown on the property with Temparanillo and Pinot Gris to join the portfolio when the vines are mature enough.
Prices start at $18. Free wine tasting (April 2008).
The new vegetarian and seafood restaurant is open for lunch on Wednesday thru Sunday and for dinner on Friday & Saturday. There's a good selection of local wines as well as wines from further afield, including from Spain.
Bookings recommended.
* You can also taste and buy Ake Ake wines at the Kerikeri Farmers market on Sunday mornings.
Telephone: (09) 09 407 8230.
On the Web: www.akeakevineyard.co.nz.

Okahu Estate, formerly the the country's most northern winery and the country's first winner of a gold medal for Syrah, is just about 3 kilometres east of Kaitaia, in Okahu Road just off the Kaitaia-Ahipara Highway.
Open from 10am-5pm - daily from Dec thru Feb and week days only from March thru November but will open weekends by arrangement.
There's a extensive range of wines made from locally produced grapes as well as from further afield. Okahu Estate is the premium label, while Shipwreck Bay is for more afforable drinking. Varieties include Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough), Chardonnay, Rose, Syrah, Chambourcin, Pinotage and Bordeaux-styled reds. Prices range from $15 to $60.
There is no charge for casual tasting, however a hosted "Tasting, Walk and Talk" has a charge.
Okahu Estate has a self-contained 3-bedroomed vineyard cottage-stay, an ideal base for the many Far North attractions.
Telephone: (09) 408-0888.
Website: www.okahuestate.co.nz.

Karikari Estate, new Zealand's most northern vineyard and winery, is on Matai Bay Road, approximately 20 kilometres from State Highway 10 on the beautiful Karikari Peninsula.
Open daily, from 10am-6pm in the summer and 11am - 7pm in the winter, you can taste wines, enjoy a vineyard platter and take in the resplendent views.
There's a extensive range of wines made from locally produced grapes as well as from further afield. The Karikari label uses only estate grown grapes. The Carricon and Silver Bay labels use grapes from elsewhere, including Sauvignon Blanc from Nelson and Chardonnay from Gisborne. Estate grown varietals include Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinotage, Syrah and robust Bordeaux-styled reds and prices range from $15 to $60.
Superb accomodation is available at Carrington Estate in the lodge or villas and other facilities include fine dining, golf, horse riding, skeet shooting and beach walking. It's really the ultimate package.
Telephone: (09) 408-7222.
Website: www.karikariestate.co.nz.

Other Producers
There's a lot of vineyard development in Northland, especially around Kerikeri and after touring the region in December 2006, I can definitely state the future is undoubtably in Syrah for red wine and Chardonnay for white wine. Winemakers Rod McIvor (Marsden Estate) and Ben Dugdale (Karikari Estate) are setting a standard for these varietals.
However after visiting vineyards in April 2008, it was the Chambourcin from Marsden Estate and Ake Ake that stole the show. Karikari Estate has also produced the country's first varietal Tannat.
Look for new labels such as Fat Pig, Iron Hills Vineyards and Te Puna, which do not have cellar door facilties but the wines can be purchased at the Kerkeri New World supermarker, which just happens to be owned by winegrower Russ Willkinson who grows the grapes for the outstanding Te Puna Syrah. He's set up a dedicated Northland section in the wine department.

Okahu Estate's winemaker, Jen Bound, who has her own label 'Manaia', is establishing a vineyard near Okahu Estate.

At the foot of the Karikari Peninsula, Hugh Ammunsden has planted a experimental vineyard with a number of varieties. The first wine released was a Merlot from the 2001 vintage. On the web: www.doubtless.co.nz.

There's also a large vineyard development at Paewhenua Island, just south of Doubtless Bay. Karikari Estate took grapes from the first vintage in 2006. There was no harvest in 2007 due to rain. Look for a new label in the coming months from the 2008 harvest of grapes.

If you are driving north from Whangarei, then you might want to take a detour around the coast road, past Tututaka Harbour, the haven of the deep sea game fishermen. Nearby is the Sailfish Cove vineyard and winery which overlooks the deepsea playground. They produce chardonnay and a cabernet blend as well as olive oil. Currently it is not open to the public. Contact the owners on (09) 434-3121 or dial up the website www.sailfish.cove.co.nz.

Links
Northland Winegrowers - operated by the region's winegrowers, this should have the most up to date information.

Northland Grape Variety tonnages harvested from the 2004 & 2007 vintages

Variety

2004*

2007*

Chardonnay

28

62

Gewurztraminer

2

1

Pinot Gris

13

17

Semillon

0

0

Viognier 0 1
Other Whites 0 1
Cabernet Franc

10

10
Cabernet Sauvignon

14

14

Malbec

7

5
Merlot

20

26
Pinotage

11

13
Pinot Noir

4

0
Syrah

23

42
All Hybrids

9

7
Other Reds

6

5
Total

144

203

* Figures are rounded and may not add to the total as supplied by New Zealand Winegrowers.

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