My love affair with the Waitaki Valley - North Otago region is no secret, I have never tried to hide it.
It started naturally enough for me with the wines, having access to grapes and making wines there ever since the first commercial vintage 20 years way back in 2004. Man does time go by fast.
It was the transparency, vibrancy, energy, length of flavour and the pure expression of place that grabbed my attention. Grabbed it with both hands covered in superglue and stuck forever. It only took a couple of years working with this fruit and I knew I wanted wines from the Waitaki to be a permanent part of the Valli Portfolio, so a number of years ago we purchased our own land, an existing vineyard that had been my favourite source of grapes.That was a commitment to the region, but a modest one compared to what we have just done. About a year ago, Nicole and I purchased a gorgeous Oamaru stone building in the heart of Kurow. Built in 1934, it was originally the Kurow Post Office. Now it is the Valli Wine Bar. We have spent the last 6 months restoring it to its former glory, and beyond. We have pulled up carpets and polished the heart Rimu floors they hid.
We have ripped off gib board to expose Oamaru Stone walls and a fireplace, installed an ancient copper cistern, an old Kauri lead light door, given the humble school chairs a complete makeover and so much more. I am as proud of what we have done with the old Post Office as I am of all the wines I have made put together, well close anyway.
As of a couple of weeks ago we have been in full operation and would love to see you there when you are next in the Waitaki Valley and if you have never been, I strongly suggest a visit. The Waitaki has a lot more to offer besides its wines.
For cyclists and scenery lovers it is the heart of arguably the country’s most picturesque ride, the 6-8 day Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, starting at Aoraki-Mt Cook and finishing in Oamaru.
For Geologists and historians, The Waitaki has this year received just this year Unesco Global Geopark status, officially known as the “Waitaki Whitestone Geopark”. It is the only Unesco Global Geopark in Australasia! There is a lot to explore, from other worldly rock features to dinosaur fossils. It is these fossiliferous limestone soils that help make the Waitaki’s wines what they are.
It is said that the closer to the wines source the better it tastes, and from my experiences this is 100% true.
The two wines that wine writers have awarded us a perfect 20/20 score for have been a Waitaki Pinot Noir and a Waitaki Chardonnay. They were shipped hundreds of kilometres for tasting, so I am wondering what they would have thought of those wines tasted in their own homes (the wines homes not the writers.)
There is a good chance you will see Nicole or me in the wine bar (especially with some notice) as our even more recent commitment was the purchase of a home in the Waitaki and we will be living there full-time next year. Once we have tasted everything on offer, if you wish, I can always take you trout fishing on the secret river just down from our new house.