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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Zealand's Northland wine region

There is a rich wine history in NZ’s Far North region.  In 1819 Anglican Missionary the Rev. Samuel Marsden planted the very first vines in Kerikeri’s rich soils, and in the late 1830s, Official British Resident James Busby produced the first recorded example of wine made in New Zealand.   In the late 1800s Croatian gum diggers settled in the far north, bringing their family cultural tradition of winemaking and establishing some of New Zealand’s firs commercial wineries.

North of Auckland City there are a few wineries spread along the Island, sprinkled from Matakana, Mangawhai, Whangarei, and Russell to Kaitaia. Northland is still a marginal wine region; sub-tropical summer temperatures and humidity make it difficult to grow many varieties. 

We recently took an opportunity to head up north to stay in Russell for a long weekend and to explore a few of the wineries in the region.  

Omata Estate
Aucks Road

Ph: 09 403 8007  Web:
Omata is a historic area, purchased from local Maori in 1831, by Captain John Wright. This land was passed down through generations and then in 1994 the land was developed to make today's Omata Estate
where Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah are grown.  It is now owned by the Cashmore Family, with winemaking by Rod McIvor and vineyard management by viticulturalist Bruce Soland.
Notable wines – Deux Blanc $27 Blended medium sweet, fruity white wine.

Marsden Estate 
Wiroa Road
Ph: 09 407 9398 Web:
Nearly 20 years ago, Rod and Cindy McIvor named their vineyard after Samuel Marsden who planted the first grapes in Northland in 1819.  Their vineyards, with 3.5 Ha (9 acres) of vines are planted in Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Pinotage, Tempranillo and Chambourcin (a French/American hybrid red). Annual production is around 4,000 cases.
Notable wines
– Chambourcin $28 Dark and intense with spice and black berry flavours.

Cottle Hill Winery
State Highway 10
Phone: 09 407 5203   Web:
Californians Michael and Barbara Webb, sailed to NZ aboard their 10 metre yacht from San Diego, and fell in love with the Kerikeri region.  They decided to stay on, and established Cottle Hill Winery in 1996.  On their home vineyard they grow Chardonnay, Chambourcin and Dolcetto.  Gisborne and Hawkes Bay contract growers supply other grapes.  The Cellar Door offers spectacular views from the highest peak in Kerikeri.
Notable wines – Tawny Port $28 Classic tawny with rasiny caramel flavours.

Paroa Bay Winery
31 Otamarua Road,
Paroa Bay
Ph: 09 403 7928 Mob: 027 875 1094
Paroa Bay winery is part of a large luxury accommodation estate near Russel, with stunning elevated views into the Bay of Islands.
They are associated with organic Urlar Martinborough winery and have some of these for tasting at the cellar door - alongside their own Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The cellar door is a simple square modern building, furnished with hot pink lamps and chairs, adjacent to gardens, a lake and a putting green. 
Notable wines – Chardonnay $27 Crisp and fruity with light oak.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland