This week on the Radio Show© WineGuyMike™ “The Long and Winding Road” to Waitiri Creek Winery

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Liquid Planet “Best of Beverage” and a great place to find your holiday wine and wine accessory gifts located in the heart of downtown Missoula.

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Georges Distributing in Helena, Montana.

This week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© perhaps Paul McCartney said it best on the Beatles Let It Be album; “The long and winding road, That leads to your door, Will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before, It always leads me here, Lead me to your door”.

"The Long and Winding Road" to Waitiri Creek Winery

"The Long and Winding Road" to Waitiri Creek Winery

Paula Ramage and her husband Allistar Ward have traveled extensively and lived abroad in different places throughout the world but home for them is the Central Otago wine region on the South Island of New Zealand.  This is the southernmost grape growing region in the world, but they produce very good wine.  Paula grew up in Alexandra and the Ward family farmed for many years on Malaghan’s Road, near Arrowtown.  Last week’s blog provided an overview of New Zealand as a wine country;  This is a land that is breathtakingly beautiful and produces some of the finest single varietal wines available. 

Paula Ramage has had at least 5 careers that she can recall but in spending time with her on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© this week I’ll forevermore think of her as Ambassador of New Zealand and the New Zealand wine industry.  Needless to say she is a terrific spokesperson and extremely knowledgeable about her country and the wine industry in New Zealand and throughout the world.  Paula handles all of Waitiri Creek’s administrative business and development of offshore markets, a natural for a “reformed barrister”.  She has a lovely Kiwi accent that you cannot help loving too.

Allistar Ward is a merchant banking consultant full time, although he makes time to focus on vineyard development and as Paula puts it, “he juggles all the balls and keep them in the air”.

Viticulture Crew, Mark and Jason

Viticulture Crew, Mark and Jason

Jason Thomson is their very accomplished viticulturist along with his team Mark Naismith and Scott Culpan who run the day to day operations.  Interestingly the Waitiri Creek winemaker is a woman, Jen, from the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  As I mentioned last week many winemakers are now traveling winemakers who work in the Northern Hemisphere during its summer months and the Southern Hemisphere during their summer.  With the Willamette and Central Otago sharing similar latitudes with a focus on cool weather grape varietals it is a natural for winemakers like Jen.

Shanagolden Block in Summer

Shanagolden Block in Summer

In 1993 Paula and Allistar purchased their first vineyard the Shanagolden Block in Gibbston and planted Chardonnay in 1994.   The northerly facing block was ideal for sustainable viticulture and the lower half of this area provided a perfect location for the future wine tasting venue.

The Shanagolden Block was originally settled in 1867 by James Leslie, a Scot who had emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 17.  He and his partner, Thomas Kinross followed the Dunstan gold rush.  Kinross established the Gibbston store and Post Office and James Leslie was the butcher and baker but also continued to prospect for gold.

The vineyard has a micro-climate that produces ripe fruit earlier than most in the general area.  The soil composition is made up of glacial deposits and free draining alluvial soil matter (scheist).  This terrior is well suited to the cool weather grape varietals that Waitiri Creek produces.  This is where Jens’s Willamette Valley winemaking experience really shines.

Waitiri Creek’s portfolio of wines includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc.  The grape vines  of Waitiri Creek are all hand pruned and hand harvested.  New Zealand is aiming for all of its vineyards to be sustainably accredited by the end of 2012.  Compliance currently stands at about 93% – Waitiri Creek has been fully sustainable for some years.  Another interesting fact about New Zealand wines, 75% of the bottles are all screw tops.  The Kiwi’s are an environmentally conscience country and I applaud them for this effort.

Chardonnay Grape Harvest

Chardonnay Grape Harvest

The first vintage of Chardonnay was produced in 1998 and full production of three different varietals in 1999.   In 1996  Paula and Allistar decided that an old church building would serve as the Waitiri Creek tasting room, they needed a structure that would be harmonious with the terroir of the Shanagolden vineyard.  So a search which led them all over the lower part of the South Island, culminating in a visit to Wangaloa, near Kaitangata in 1998.  On first sight, the former Wangaloa Presbyterian Church would have sent less hardy souls running in the opposite direction….but not Paula and Allistar.  Negotiations began with the local community and ownership of the church was secured a year later.

Cellar Door

Cellar Door

The Waitiri Creek tasting room just celebrated its 10th anniversary at its new vineyard home.   This former Presbyterian church, built in 1893 was moved to its new location at Waitiri Creek 300km in one piece on the Shanagolden Block in 2000.

I want to thank my new friend Paula Ramage for sharing this rich history of the Central Otago wine region, New Zealand, and the Waitiri Creek Winery with the WineGuyMike™ audience.  From my home in Montana to the “The Long and Winding Road” down under, Happy Holidays to my friends in New Zealand and Waitiri Creek.

Waitiri Creek Wines

One of the keys to increased demand for Waitiri Creek wines is consistant quality.   Waitiri Creek has been recognized at domestic and international competitions every year since 1999 across their entire portfolio.  Their expansion into Bannockburn with the purchase of additional Central Otago fruit has now expanded their portfolio to include Rosé, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

Pinot Noir

Waitiri Creek Pinot Noir 2007 The nose shows rich varietal layers of cherry and plums supported by an earthy complexity. The depth of fruit on the nose continues on the palate supported by a fine tannin structure, good integration of oak and a length of flavor that lingers on the tongue.

The nose displays complex notes of stewed cherries, cedar and mushrooms. This Pinot Noir shows the elegance of the 2008 vintage with a bright garnet hue and the perfume of violets and rose petals. The fruit driven palate has flavors of wild raspberries with hints of cinnamon, red cherries and succulent plums. On the finish there is a note of thyme and mushrooms. The silky tannins are woven seamlessly into a structure balanced by savory French oak and alcohol.


Rich strawberry and raspberry aromas dominate the nose and are supported by perfumed floral notes. The palate shows good berry fruit weight with strawberry and white peach aided by creamy texture. This wine is well balanced with a long, lingering, strawberry finish.


Made in a fruit-driven New World style, this wine shows all the influences of classic Old World winemaking. The palate is rich and succulent with an appealing texture and displays outstanding primary fruit.  

Handpicked grapes were whole bunch pressed and the juice cold settled for two days before being racked to barrels with light yeast. The wine was then cool fermented using both commercial and indigenous yeasts. This Chardonnay spent 10 months in 100% French oak (22% new oak) and underwent 100% malolatic fermentation with weekly lees stirring. The finished wine was then racked, lightly fined and filtered prior to bottling in late-March 2009.


This Riesling shows complex aromas of mandarin, pear, honeysuckle and orange blossom on the nose. The body has crisp citrus flavors, offset with spice and good length of finish. This wine has great cellaring potential and additional characters will develop in the bottle over time.

Riesling grapes from two different blocks were handpicked and combined. The grapes were whole bunch pressed using a bag press and then the juice was left to cold settle overnight, before being racked and inoculated with yeast.

Fermentation lasted several weeks with temperatures being maintained less than 13 degrees to retain optimum flavor. Once fermentation was complete the wine was sulphured, racked and blended. The wine was then lightly fined and cold and protein stabilized prior to sterile filtration and bottling in September 2008.

Pinot Gris

Floral and pear notes on the nose lead into a richly textured palate of nashi pear, citrus and spice flavors. The long finish is balanced by fine acidity.

First vintage fruit from Legends (Legends Vineyard, Felton Road) was hand-harvested.  One tank of the Legends juice was chilled with daily lees stirring for four days.  It was then racked taking light lees to blend with the second tank of Legends juice which was settled for one night and then racked clean to blend.  A portion of this juice went to a neutral French Oak barrel.  The blended Legends juice was warmed naturally to 14ºC and innoculated with an aromatic yeast before undergoing cool fermentation until optimal balance was achieved.

The fruit from Annika’s (Annika’s Vineyard, Wanaka Road) was hand-harvested with 50% left on skins overnight while the balance was cold settled overnight and racked with light lees.  The fruit with extended skin contact was racked cleanly.  The two Annika’s components were blended, warmed naturally to 14ºC and fermented using aromatic yeast.  A percentage of this juice was fermented in two neutral French Oak barrels.

The three barrels were stirred regularly after the peak of fermentation and then blended. The two separate tank blends were blended in August and underwent cold and protein stabilization before being lightly fined with isinglass and sterile filtered before bottling.

Sauvignon Blanc

For her 6th birthday, our niece Stella Paris Columbia B. Ramage who lives in Sydney and loves art had a wine named after her. This is a single vineyard, Gibbston fruit.



A nose of passionfruit, gooseberry and capsicum aromas lead to a lively palate displaying good balance and zesty acidity. Best served lightly chilled.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes were handpicked and then was de-stemmed and crushed prior to gentle pressing. The resulting juice was cool stainless steel fermented to retain fruit character. The wine was left on yeast lees for two months to help with mouth feel and complexity. The resulting wine was fined with milk casein prior to filtration and bottling.

Be sure to check out New Zealand wines from my show Sponsor Liquid Planet, “Best of Beverage”, in the Heart of Downtown Missoula.

"from my table to yours"

"from my table to yours"


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