Waipara – a diamond in the rough

When we were in Hawke´s Bay, we got a recommendation to check out Waipara (pronounced WHY-para), as an under appreciated wine region on the South Island.

Okay! That was all we needed.

When we were in Wellington we found a B&B that accepted kids (some don´t, hey, I understand!) and decided it would be a respite from the road tripping – so we booked two nights. What an excellent decision!

The place was called the Ardross House, and I guess I should have guessed from the pen and ink old timey drawing their website featured of their house that it was not going to be new and modern. It was possibly the first house with poured concrete in it in all of New Zealand, our host told us. It was built in the 1880s.

Despite a slightly shabby exterior, it was charming. We had a spacious room and a bathroom, plus a small fridge and a tea kettle. As per usual, we had exploded all our stuff around the small space in about a half hour, but it was still lovely.

They had chickens (called chooks in New Zealand) and sheep. Their neighbors had some cattle and a lone alpaca. There was space to run around outside and a small (if hopelessly cobwebby) playground area. We promptly popped a cork, brought some glasses down, and had a glass of wine in the yard while Kiddo ran around. Amazing!

Anyway, the town!: What town? Waipara is extremely small. Our b&b was actually in Amberley, a few minutes down the road. There is not even a “dairy” or convenience store in Waipara. Just a café and a sign. (Amberley has a couple of good restaurants, a supermarket, and a playground. And a gas station, I think.)

The wineries there are tiny. This makes it really fun for wine aficionados like me and Hubby.

We went to Terrace Edge, Pegagus Bay, Black Estate, Fancrest, and Greystone. We ate lunch at Waipara Springs but didn’t buy any wines.

  • Terrace Bay was super cute. The man behind the counter reminded me of this college guy my parents paid to clean up our yard when I was a preteen. I had a minor crush on him obviously. But this guy was just a really great representative of the farmers at work in the region – knowledgeable, humble, energetic, and passionate. They made an olive oil that we bought, as well as a syrah.
  • Pegasus Bay was a huge operation. Their wines were pretty tasty though, and they had a wooden tea set for Kiddo to play with, so obviously she was in heaven. We bought one of their Pinots. Tasty.
  • Black Estate was really fun. They were very well marketed, with everything sleek and, well, black. Their wines were all pretty good. They had a restaurant that looked tasty, but we didn’t stop there. They also had a really cool map of the region which we bought. We have lots of walls back home to fill up!
  • Greystone was ok. They had a poodle there. They had bought up Muddy Waters, an organic winery, and now made their wines. It was very commercial, but the wines were good.
  • Last but not least: Fancrest. This was the kind of wine visit that people write about in wine books. It was fabulous. We called Di, the proprietor/owner/wine maker/farmer and she said she would love it if we visited. She proceeded to welcome us into her house, since she didn’t have a tasting room, and lived and worked in a two tiny containers. Really, they were shipping containers made into living accomodations. She and her husband lived there, worked the land, and made one pinot every year. I will admit: I had a girl crush on her. She was a lot of things: accomplished, confident, no nonsense, knowledgeable, energetic and passionate. She told us about her farm, about the soil, about the pHs and terroir and frost fighting measures. She told us about her competition. She told us what makes it fun for her (growing wines on this amazing land that she has been so fortunate to have access to). And then we tasted her two wines, that were really good. And THEN, she told us about her 2011 Pinot, which hasn’t been released, but just got a bunch of accolades at a Pinot fair. It was the best Pinot from Waipara that some judges had ever tasted. And of course we asked her if we could taste it. She hopped up and ran off to get a bottle. We tasted it and it was amazing. We asked if we could buy a bottle but she said she couldn´t sell us one, but she would just give us the one we had opened when we tasted it. What fun! I was in wine tasting heaven!

Full disclosure: I just had two glasses of her 2009 Pinot right now, while writing this. It was good. I still have a girl crush on her!

Oh my! I am still writing this post on Waipara!

That is about it. We had a great two nights at Adross House, and then when we left the final morning, our host called her friend and suggested we go with her to visit, since her friend had a mini Kuni pig, a local variety. She said she knew how fond Kiddo was of animals, and thought she would like it. We were glad to go, and had a great time meeting the pig. The couple has a tomato farm. We asked to buy some (they had been making an appearance in our breakfasts from the b&b) and she said she couldn’t do that on site, but she would just give us some. So Hubby gave them some business advice, and they gave us a bag of the best tomatoes we have ever tasted. And we were off!

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