Located 60 Km north of Christchurch on SH1, the Waipara Valley with 18 wine producers (plus more to come) geographically form the start to the Alpine Pacific Triangle. This tourist icon has more diverse natural features that can be visited with travel times of under two hours than anywhere else in New Zealand.
The magnificent setting of Kaikoura with rugged mountains set against a stunning coastline with the star attraction of Whale Watch is dramatically contrasted by the idyllic alpine thermal resort of Hanmer Springs to form this unique tourist experience. Less than one hour from Christchurch, which has an international airport and is the major centre and gateway to the South Island, the Waipara Valley has everything at its fingertips.
Waipara is a natural destination, it is a comfortable drive whether heading north or south on either SH1 or SH7 from any of the locations mentioned above.
The charm of Waipara is in the diversity of vineyards and wineries both in size and setting and yet they are all within a 20-minute drive. Torlesse is easy to find located in the heart of Waipara on the outskirts of the village and we can easily direct visitors to other wineries.
The Waipara Valley is snuggled in the lee of the Teviotdale hills that provide protection from cool easterly winds but open to warming north-west winds. The valley has three general sites, valley floor, hill slopes or river terraces. The soil types include; gravely deposits on flats and terraces in the central and west of the valley, limestone-derived clays on hillsides and valley floor to the eastern side and gravely loams over alluvial subsoil in the southern part of the region. The north facing moderately sloping terrain provides an ideal sun trap for fruiting vines. This gives each vineyard unique characters that contribute to a range of wine styles that demand a visit to each winery to fully appreciate Waipara.
Some of the wineries do not open to the public unless prior arrangement is made so once a year in February just before harvest all the Wineries gather at the Waipara Wine and Food Celebration held in the historic Glenmark Church grounds to present their wines. This event is not to be missed by any wine lover.
Waipara can successfully grow and ripen a range of grapes. Riesling is the star performer in whites with a long track record of above average wines with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc being popular and Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer also show promise. Selected sites can also do justice to the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, it is Pinot Noir that most wineries are excited about, the grape that only performs well when the terroir or climate, soils and winegrowing philosophy is in harmony.
Waipara seems to be one of the few regions in the world outside of Burgundy where Pinot Noir can produce wines of elegance yet have weight, extract and character in balance. Time will tell but the indications are to stock up now.