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Kerikeri Day Tour, Northland, New Zealand

July 22nd, 2008-- by Sue Courtney

Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand’s Far North is often described as a ‘fruit bowl’ and indeed it is the abundant sheltered orchards of citrus, kiwifruit, avocados, olives, persimmons, tamarillos and macadamia nuts that dominate the rural landscape. But there are vineyards too, although just a few. As well as Marsden Estate, featured in the previous article, other Kerikeri winegrowers include Cottle Hill, Ake Ake Estate, The Fat Pig, Te Puna, Chinook Winds and Iron Hills. However only Cottle Hill, Marsden Estate, Ake Ake Estate and The Fat Pig are open to the public in 2008.

Cottle Hill Winery was established by Americans Michael and Barbara Webb who bravely sailed across the Pacific Ocean from San Diego to the Bay of Islands in a 35-foot yacht. They fell in love with Kerikeri where they decided to plant a vineyard and make wine that people wanted to drink. They grow most of their own grapes, including chardonnay, syrah, pinotage and the country’s northern-most pinot noir, but utilise grapes from other regions, such as sauvignon blanc, to provide a range of wines to suit all palates. There’s also a rather seductive white port that they recommend serving over ice as an aperitif.

Cottle Hill

Cottle Hill is on State Highway 10 at Kerikeri about two kilometres south of the main highway roundabout. Their elevated winery and tasting room is separated from the highway by the vineyard and the balcony on the building overlooks the vines. They open 10am to 5.30pm from 1st November until 31st March but are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays the rest of the year. A wine tasting fee of $5 per person is refundable on purchase of wine.

Marsden Estate is in Wiroa Road, which is the left turn, going north, off the afore-mention roundabout. Opening from 10m to 5pm daily for wine tastings and lunches, the restaurant also opens on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ake Ake Vineyard is at 165 Waimate North Road, the first road on the left on the north side of the roundabout on State Highway 10 – or if you travel via Marsden Estate, you can continue along Wiroa Road until turning right into Waimate Road North at the crossroads. It’s less than a mile as the crow flies between Marsden Estate and Ake Ake Vineyard but of course longer by road.
Ake Ake VineyardThe original vineyard was planted in 1997 on what used to be a kiwifruit orchard, hence the wide-spaced rows that you can see from the tasting room and restaurant. John Clarke and his wife Aynsley Quenault bought the property in 2004. 
John, from Jersey in the Channel Islands but lured by his Kiwi wife to her hometown Kerikeri, has had a long love of wine. His family were wine merchants in the Channel Islands for over a hundred years. He had always wanted to plant grapevines to make wine for a hobby, but now he has a more commercial affair.
They top-grafted Chambourcin and syrah on to the old vines and planted a new block with pinot gris and tempranillo. John follows organic viticultural regimes and wants the vineyard to become fully organic certified as soon as it can.
They named their vineyard ‘Ake Ake’ after a native New Zealand shrub and tree but then found the Maori name has other meanings, including the poignant ‘timeless’.
John and Aynsley owned a vegetarian restaurant in Jersey and have continued that theme at Ake Ake. The restaurant has a point of difference because it is completely meat free, although the menu does have some seafood options. They open Wednesday thru Sunday for lunch, and on Friday & Saturday nights in the summer for dinner. As well as Ake Ake’s own wines, there is an extensive wine list of approximately 90 local and international wines.
The cellar door is open for wine tasting and sales from 10am to 5pm on Wednesdays through to Sundays with a free vineyard and winery tour at 11.30am. However it is closed in the winter during the month of July.

Fat Pig labelThe amusingly named Fat Pig Vineyard is owned by Bruce and Sue Soland and is located at 177 Puketotara Road, off State 10 between Kerikeri roundabout & Waipapa. This vineyard started out as being entirely dedicated to production of Syrah, but in September 2007 they added some chardonnay and unusually for this northern region, sauvignon blanc. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
Bruce, a former golf pro, is fascinated with pigs and wanted a label that was different to what everyone else uses.
The pretty macadamia nut tree-lined driveway leads to the vineyard, well hidden from the road where you will find the cellar door that is open for wine tastings and sales 7 days a week, from 10am to 7pm.

Other Kerikeri vineyards
Other vineyards in the area such as Chinook Winds, Iron Hills, and Te Puna are not open to the public except by private appointment. Chinook Winds is next to Fat Pig. Iron Hills is located just off Kapiro Road in the heart of the horticultural area surrounding Kerikeri.
However Te Puna’s owner, Russ Wilkinson, also owns the Kerikeri New World supermarket at 99 Kerikeri Road and he has set a dedicated Northland wine section in the wine department of his store. It is worth checking out.

Last but not least
While you are pottering around the Kerikeri township and looking for sustenance, I can heartily recommend Santeez Deli and Café, almost next door to the supermarket at 93 Kerikeri Road. This café specialises in organic, dairy free and gluten free foods. And if you are in Kerikeri on a Sunday, there is also the Farmers’ Market in the “Books & More” car park, around the corner at 6 Hobson Street, from 8.30am to12 noon. Here you will find an abundance of fresh produce, direct from the growers – although you will find fresh produce at roadside stalls every day when produce is in season.

Kerikeri Wine Attractions MapKey to the Map (right)

A = Cottle Hill
B = Marsden Estate
C = Ake Ake Vineyard
D = Soland Vineyard
E = Kapiro Road horticulture area
F = Kerikeri Supermarket for purchase of local wines with Farmers’ Market location almost virtually around the corner.

© Sue Courtney, July 2008

Tags: New Zealand · Sue Courtney

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