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A beautiful aperitif: Ataahua Wine

Ataahua means beautiful, and boutique Ataahua Wines is synonymous with North Canterbury history.

“A glass of rosé is elegant, moreish and sophisticated. It goes with race day,” says winemaker and owner Stephanie Henderson-Grant. Her handcrafted wines grace select local wine lists.

“Our rosé makes a fresh, pretty aperitif. With hints of cherry and strawberry, it’s crisp and off dry. I love it with smoked salmon blini, prawns, or soft cheese and crackers. The subtle flavours pair so well.”

Six exclusive varietals create Ataahua’s stable of boutique beauties, including oaked chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and merlot. The Gewürztraminer has aromatics of ginger and lychee that marry well with Asian-influenced flavours.

And a boxed rosé 2019 with two Italian crystal glasses, etched with Ataahua’s signature, is a gift that won’t be forgotten.

Order online for a prompt, contactless courier delivery.


Grape Expectations: Melton Estate

Nestled comfortably on a 12-acre block on Weedons Ross Road, West Melton, Melton Estate is, at its heart, a modern restaurant and event venue, but it’s the boutique winery which is meeting the grape expectations of a loyal and growing patronage.




Owner and wine afficionado Philip Caunter says that while the popular winery – surrounded by lush pinot noir vines – supplies Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Méthode Traditionnelle, Sauvignon Blanc and the increasingly popular Rosé, it is the Sparkling Riesling known as ‘Summer Love’ which has earned widespread acclaim.

“We’ve been making Summer Love for 11 years now,” Philip says.

“Every year it’s extremely popular across a broad range of people. Its popularity has really surpassed expectations.”

To describe this tasty tipple as a Sparkling Riesling with a bit of pinot added to the mix may over-simplify the time, talent and labour-intensive process of vinification, but equally, it can be described as fun in a bottle.

“Summer Love is about fun, celebrating, coming together,” Philip says.

“It’s just slightly sparkling, or what the Italians call frizzante; it resonates with people who want something that’s a little bit fun.”

When it comes to celebrating, their French-style champagne Méthode Traditionnelle, is another top drop.

At this time of year, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are on the online order for many Melton Estate customers, while in summer the fruity Rosé comes out of hibernation.

“We’ve had a great year in the vineyard and look forward to releasing more new wines,” Philip says.

“We enjoy the fact that people enjoy it; everything else flows on from that.”


A place to celebrate! – Rossendale Vineyard

Planning a wedding or family celebration is stressful at the best of times but in recent weeks, planning has become near impossible.



Enter Rossendale Vineyard! With more than 20 years’ experience, this beautiful and unique venue offers the ultimate setting for any celebration, big or small.

With in-house catering, experienced and friendly professional staff and beautiful gardens as a backdrop for ceremonies and photography, Rossendale is available year-round with each season offering its own opportunities.

A wealth of information is available on their website with an amazing 360 degree visual tour and drone-shot video that shows just how beautiful the setting and venue is.

For an on-site visit please call venue managers, Graham or Liz to arrange a day and time for them to show you around and discuss your plans.


Why Waipara Springs Winery?

The Waipara wine region, an hour north of Christchurch, boasts 75 vineyards and stretches over more than 1,200 hectares of plantings. It is renowned for the amazing pinot noirs and rieslings that are produced there. But every great region has an equally great origin story; a pioneer in the trade and for this particular district… it was the Waipara Springs Winery.



Established in 1981, the Moore family pioneered the planting of the first vines in the valley.

Having bottled their first vintage in 1989 and officially opening the restaurant in 1990, the proud original North Canterbury family will be celebrating their 30th anniversary in October this year.

The family owned and operated business is in its third generation.

But that doesn’t stop first owner Jill Moore from sitting down behind the Cellar Door telling a collection of her most cherished stories while running you through the wines.

Whether it’s about the original building being a horse stable or the unique climate of the Waipara Valley – there’s never a dull moment.

The Waipara Springs Winery is already locally recognised and loved, so why not go out and have a look at what everyone is raving about.

Current owners, Katie Lumber and Andrew Moore, expressed that “We are about offering a memorable experience,”. Their motto is “wine dine relax” and they certainly have plenty to offer; casual dining, group lunch bookings, hens’ parties, corporate functions, weddings and (you guessed it) wine tastings.

This hidden gem is only a short drive from Christchurch… so what are you waiting for?


Stellar Vintage

The anticipation is building at Cross Hares Wines; the 2020 grape harvest is about to begin.

“This looks like being a stellar vintage,” owner Natalie Edwards says.

“The quality and quantity of the fruit on the vines is superb. The weather over the ripening period has been settled and we haven’t had any major rain events, hail damage or disease. Our very own pest controller — our 12-year old daughter Tessa — has been hard at work under the nets, removing every single animal or avian pest. The pheasants, sparrows, rabbits and hares don’t stand a chance with her on the hunt!”

From their one-and-a-half hectares, Natalie and Warrick Edwards hope to pick five tonnes of pinot noir grapes and 10 tonnes of pinot gris.

“With 15 to 20 pickers, the harvest will take a couple of days,” Natalie says.

“It’s all handpicked to maintain the quality. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing the sound of a bunch of grapes hitting the bottom of a plastic bucket.”

Quality fruit means quality wine to come.

“We have just cellared the 2018 pinot noir. The fruit last year was top quality too, so we can’t wait to hear our customers’ reactions to the wine when it is released in June.”

Cross Hares has already made a mark with its wine at the NZ Wine Awards with bronze awards for their 2016 pinot gris and 2017 pinot noir.

“A good start,” Natalie laughs. “But now I’m spurred on to do even better – nothing less than silver or gold.”

For more information email


Divine Vines

Only 15 minutes from Christchurch Airport, the beautiful Melton Estate is a family-owned boutique winery, restaurant and event venue. Set amidst 12 acres of vines, visitors can relax on the expansive deck and take in the beautiful surroundings the of lawns, gardens and the lush pinot noir vines surrounding the restaurant.



The winery restaurant has multiple indoor/outdoor options and, with full conference facilities available, it’s the perfect venue for weddings, family celebrations, Christmas parties, corporate events, live shows, wine events and so much more.

All Melton Estate wines are available at cellar door prices and you put a smile on the face of the family member or friend who is impossible to buy for but appreciates a really good New Zealand wine, with a gift voucher from one of Canterbury’s most favourite wineries.

Find Melton Estate at Weedons Ross Road, West Melton, phone 03 347 4968 or email


Sam Neill’s many hats

Sam Neill has been an international spy (Possession), a palaeontologist (Jurassic Park), a senior KGB officer (Amerika) and a corrupt policeman (Peaky Binders), but his most recent role was ‘host’ to a possession of family members who turned up at his Central Otago vineyard, Two Paddocks, over the Christmas holidays.



“I did get a bit of a break,” he says when we catch up in the New Year. “But it was chaos with grandchildren turning up… they seem to be proliferating!”

The 72-year-old has been a grandfather since 2000 and, between three children and a stepchild, he’s since racked up several more, not that he’s complaining!

“It’s always fun,” he says of the craziness that comes with a full house during the festive period.

But that’s not to say he’s lonely when they go back home; there’s always the other side of the family to keep him company.

Charlie Pickering (that’s his duck), Susan Sarandon and Anjelica Huston (a couple of his many beloved sheep), Helena Bonham Carter and Graham Norton (two of the cows) are all part and – very welcome – parcel of farm-life, Neill says. “Every animal has a different personality, so I’ve grown fond of them and enjoy their company.”

The Central Otago crew have developed somewhat of a media presence themselves, with Neill regularly sharing their exploits with his many global followers on Twitter and Instagram.

It was 1993 when the opportunity came up for him to purchase the block of farmland near Queenstown.

But it would take a giant leap of faith for Neill to plant pinot grapes in the first of his vineyards – of which there are now four – in the rugged Gibbston Valley.

Because although Central is world-renowned for the drop now, in 1993 it was yet to be demonstrated that the region’s dicey climate could produce a quality pinot.

But then wine – Neill says – is in his blood.

His family has been trading in the business of ‘booze’ in Otago since the gold rush, importing and trading wine and spirits since as far back as the 1860s.

“I’ve always enjoyed wine, I’ve never been interested in booze, but love wine; there was always wine on the table growing up,” Neill reminisces.

“Once I went abroad and I could afford to buy good wine as opposed to ‘vin ordinaire’ then I got the opportunity to grow wine and realised I wanted to grow really good wine.

It’s been a slow process to realise that, but a very interesting one.”

So what makes a good wine?

“You can reduce it to three things – the right grape, the right place and people. There are other things of course – patience, diligence, hard work, 8000 years of viticultural knowledge – there are many things that come into it, but I’m not interested in making wine; I only want to make great wine.”

And great wine is exactly what he’s making, at least if accolades are any measure of success.

His four small certified organic vineyards produce pinot noir and a little bit of riesling and he’s pretty proud of earning 95 points from Wine Spectator in New York two years in a row.

Two Paddocks is low yield, boutique winery and perhaps that’s why it’s so good; or perhaps it’s the passion that goes into it. Ask Neill and he’ll tell you it’s all about the people.

To Sam Neill, it’s the people that make everything.

He first caught the acting bug off his older brother who dabbled while at university.

It looked like “a bit of fun” especially when family on both sides were in the military.

The fact that ‘bit of fun’ ended up becoming a career wasn’t something he expected, “but just as well because I have a spectacular lack of confidence in any other field!”

“I certainly would not be much of a soldier, less of a businessman and probably a pretty average lawyer – all three things I contemplated at some point.”

He’s earned three lifetime achievement awards in the last few months – one in Spain, one in New Zealand and one in Australia.

And the accomplishment has given him reason to reflect.

“It looks like a very busy life, but I remember a lot of sitting around listening to good music and spinning yarns with friends, so while it’s been busy it hasn’t been hectic.”

Neill’s Twitter account says he is also seen acting “on occasion”, but at 72 it seems he is busier than ever, with a slew of new movies recently, topped by the recent announcement that he’s reuniting with his 90s Jurassic Park co-stars Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum on Jurassic World 3 in June 2021.

“I’ll be away in six weeks and that will take me somewhere warm when it gets cold in Central.

I’m very fond of Jeff (Goldblum) and Laura (Dern) and it’s always great to reunite with old pals. There’ll be a lot of laughs to be had.”

There will be plenty of local work on the cards too. “One of the best things about what I do is to come home and work on familiar ground,” he says.

“I’ve actually done three films here and in Australia in the last 12 months; Ride Like a Girl has done well in New Zealand and I’ve got another one coming up soon in May called Rams which, as the title suggests, features a lot of sheep, a subject I know a little about given I’m a sheep owner.”

He may have worked with some of the world’s best actors and directors on huge hits, including Jurassic Park and The Piano, he may also star in the popular British television drama Peaky Blinders, but at Two Paddocks there is little evidence of this glamourous, star-studded ‘other life’.

That’s where you’ll find him in the country’s uniform of red and black ‘swanny’ and gumboots.

He spends as much time as he can on the farm, between making movies, preferring the movies to come around when it’s winter in Central Otago.

“When it’s mid-winter in Central it can be very cold with short days as well, so I do like to be somewhere warm with some agreeable people to work with.”

And although his two worlds really do seem like parallel universes, in Sam’s eyes, they have plenty in common.

“It is people that are the most important thing.

I’m lucky enough to work with some really great people in films and also in my vineyards and that’s been the most rewarding thing for me in all of this.”


Coolest little wine festival

The North Canterbury Wine & Food Festival returns to the Glenmark Domain in March, showcasing the very best the region has to offer.




Following the popular event held earlier in the year, organisers are now getting ready for another brilliant festival that is set to feature 30 local wineries and more than 20 stalls offering a bounty of local and seasonal fare.
There really will be something on offer for everyone at ‘the coolest little wine festival’ on Sunday 8 March and it’s only a 45-minute drive north of Christchurch.

As you wander the beautiful grounds, you’ll have the opportunity to talk directly to the food and wine producers, and sample a range of local delicacies as well as new, exciting flavours.

When it’s time for a break, grab your favourite beverage and stop off at one of the food trucks. Enjoy the sunshine as you listen to some awesome tunes from local musicians and DJs.

Another popular attraction will be the Makers’ Market, a place where artisans share their skills through classes and demonstrations, and also the Talk Tent, which allows producers time to discuss provenance and sustainability.

The family-friendly festival will also include a bouncy castle, face painting and entertainment for the kids.

The North Canterbury Wine & Food Festival will be held on Sunday 8 March 2020, from 10:30am to 5pm at the Glenmark Domain, Waipara, North Canterbury.

Keep an eye out on for a full list of stallholders and the musical line-up!




Toast to champagne

At this time of year, we are turning our heads to celebrations; Christmas parties and family get-togethers. Regardless of the event, nothing says celebration like the most prestigious of wines: champagne.



A severe set of winters in the 49th parallel north in the 1600s saw the French offloading late-fermenting, sweet – about 30 grams of sugar per bottle – slushy pink bubbly stuff to the English. Surprisingly, they started to really love it.

It wasn’t until Dom Pérignon refined the process in 1662 and the invention by the English of a bottle that could take the pressure of the bubbles that the beverage began to take its modern form.

Today there are 260-odd champagne houses in France and each has a rich history; from the story of Clicquot, a woman widowed at 30 with a young baby who invented the riddling process and built a fierce empire, to the tale of Jean-Rémy Moët who became famous as a supplier to Napoleon and his armies.

Most champagne is comprised of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, but what champagne is best, and why? What do you choose for that special moment when you celebrate?

I’ve been fortunate enough to taste some of the best that the world of champagne has to offer and it all comes down to personal taste and style. At a recent Laurent Perrier masterclass, I sampled the Cuvée Rosé, Grand Siècle, the Ultra and La Cuvée; all stunning champagnes but I found base champagne the Ultra was my favourite. My go-to is Veuve Clicquot but many of my friends prefer Moët or Dom Pérignon. The choices per brand are also wide. Do you go for a vintage? A rosé? A Brut? Here are some highlights that stand out for me this Christmas.

Moët & Chandon is set to unveil its holiday-season collection to mark the 150th anniversary of its flagship expression, Moët Impérial. This limited-edition bottle is dressed for the holidays in a shimmering gold leaf sleeve. Veuve Clicquot Pencil and Clicquot Pencil Rosé also have special cases, one that keeps your bottle chilled for up to two hours! Then there’s the biggie, the new limited-edition collaboration between Dom Pérignon and Lenny Kravitz. Dom Pérignon is 2008 vintage only – it’s hard to get hold of and retails for $300.

Napoleon Bonaparte would take Moët to each battle. After all, he was said to say, ‘In victory you deserve it; in defeat you need it’. Salut!




Wines for the taste conscious!: The Winemaker’s Wife

The Winemaker’s Wife wines are the creation of husband and wife business partners, Simon McGeorge and Olive Hill.


Their back-label reads, ‘This wine celebrates our partnership and is a tribute to all that can be achieved by two people working together’.

Clearly their partnership works as they are into their fifth vintage. Simon is a multi-award-winning winemaker, with more than 20 years’ experience, making fine wines for international and New Zealand brands. Olive is a gregarious individual with a love of history, socialising and bright red lipstick.

Together they have created a fantastic range of Waipara wines that include a fabulous 2019 pinot rosé, contemporary-styled chardonnay, incredible riesling, crisp pinot gris and bright, fruity pinot noir. If you have not yet tried their wines, you must. You can purchase online (NZ-wide delivery), at Fresh Choice stores or from Liquor King, Carlton Mill Corner. Cheers!