When we looked at a block of coastal land near New Plymouth nearly 21 years ago we knew it was a silly place to try and grow grapes. But wow, those views. We bought the property, with a vision of establishing a winery.
We’d bought the land but we’d done nothing with it and we were here one day. It was a howling gale and we were under a hedge and the view was phenomenal and we said ‘we’ve got to share this view. I often wish I hadn’t said that but the other part of me is so glad we did.
Today the 50-acre block, just 10 minutes south of the city, is home to the Okurukuru Winery with its cellar door and wine tasting, a function and conference centre, luxury accommodation, two motorhome spots and The Vineyard Bistro restaurant".
Taranaki has very little history of vine growing and wine making.
The earliest record is of a monastery that existed briefly on Koru road in the late 1800's where vines were grown and wine produced. 2002 saw the first grapes being planted.
Initial varieties tried were Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Plantet. The site is very exposed to weather from the South and West resulting in most plantings failing. Plantet was the only variety that showed some resistance to our weather.
Therefore subsequent plantings have been of Plantet except for a small experiment with Gewürztraminer.Of interest, the cuttings identified as Plantet, were obtained from a retired Kiwifruit grower, Mr Vern Evans.
Upon retiring he had experimented with a number of grape varieties in a well sheltered situation and had determined that this Plantet, given to him from a very good friend of his who ran a nursery, was the most suitable variety for Taranaki that he had tried.
Therefore, our vineyard is, and probably will always be a compromise.
To share the spectacular views we can not shelter too much, however to achieve consistent harvests we require shelter from the October and November South Easterlies which roar down off the mountain just when the vines are getting going, vegetation is at its softest and flowering is initiating.
We also have the salt laden South Westerly and Westerly winds to contend with. These typically come later in the season, stripping foliage and the power house that feeds the developing berries.
So the compromise is we have started to develop more extensive shelter belts to protect from the Early South Easterly wind, this may mean we lose some of the view to the mountain from the upper car park. Below the Restaurant and Chalets the shelter that is being established will be much smaller in stature, so the view of our coastline is not lost.
The landscaping and gardens are a huge part of what makes Okurukuru special.
An experienced gardener, Chris had a vision for the property from the outset. She continues to oversee the gardens, employing one full time gardener and one part time.
“I designed all the original planting so I knew what I was looking for. I’ve tried to keep the plantings low, tussocks and flax so you look out over them to the sea. It’s about the view.”
It’s clear Chris takes great pride in what she, Peter and their close-knit team have created at Okurukuru.
“It is a labour of love I would think.”
Rae, Okurukuru Manager