There’s a great story behind Waipara winery Pegasus Bay, which was the second visit of my New Zealand tour.
Back in 1976, Christchurch neurologist Ivan Donaldson had caught the wine bug, and with some of his medical friends planted a 1 acre vineyard in a cold spot on the outskirts of the city. He assumed winemaking duties, and made the wine in his garage.
By the mid-1980s, he was looking for something a bit more ambitious, and so started scouting properties in an area to the north of the city, which was a bit warmer because a row of hills sheltered it from the coastal easterlies that kept blowing in. He looked and looked, and ended up approaching a farmer, who agreed to sell some land.
Donaldson bought the property in 1985 and planted 50 acres of vines on their own roots in 1986. The first Pegasus Bay wine was made in 1991, again in his Christchurch garage.
For the 1992 vintage his son Matt, who’d been studying at Roseworthy in Australia, processed 18 tons of grapes at the newly-constructucted Pegasus Bay winery. Things were off the ground.
Fast forward 20 years, and Matt is still the winemaker. Brothers Paul and Eddie are also involved in the family business, and Pegasus Bay is now established as one of New Zealand’s leading boutique wineries, specializing in Riesling and Pinot Noir, but also doing well with a range of other varieties. Waipara is now established as an important wine region, too, with Pinot Noir and Riesling being particular talents.
I did an extensive tasting with Matt, before lunching with Matt, Paul and Eddie. The restaurant at Pegasus Bay is pretty smart, and it’s just beautiful on a summer’s day, sitting outside overlooking the beautifully maintained gardens. I then had a look round the vineyard with Ivan, before joining the family for dinner, with a whole heap more wines, including some older bottles.
Particular highlights? The Bel Canto Riesling, which is dry, is just superbly balanced. 2008, 2009 and 2011 are all brilliant. 2010 Pinot Noir is a real standout, as is 2006 and 2002. The 2003 Pinot under cork was a step above the same vintage under screwcap, which was a surprise. Encore Noble Riesling 2010 is superb, and the 2011 Virtuoso Chardonnay is a stunner. Matt also excels with Pinot Gris and Gewurz, but not much is made of either.