By Jill Herron
Tarras: Baking hot summers, dry, stony soil and in the winter, bone chilling frosts…and that’s just the way they like it. Italian olives have found a happy home in the Ardgour Valley near Tarras and are producing delicious oil the country’s upmarket restaurants can’t get enough of.
There’s bonuses as well as challenges in the climatic extremes here, as Squeaky Hinge olive oil owners, Simon Gibbard and Nicola Mulvena, have learnt. The couple admit it was a “very steep learning curve” from arriving with no knowledge to now being one of area’s most significant growers in both production and reputation.
“We really just got into olives because they came with the house,” Nicola says. “We learnt by reading books, joining the Central Otago Olive Growers Association, and from our neighbours.“
The trees are 15 years old, Simon and Nicola having arrived to take on their care six years ago when they moved to Tarras following the Christchurch earthquakes. Nicola, a massage therapist, kept a diary of daily activities and in their first season the couple excitedly produced 150 litres of oil, imagining it to be a great haul.
On becoming more acquainted with the incredibly hardy trees, the couple began to fine tune operations.
“We’re on a slope here and we noticed an amazing difference in temperature from the top to the bottom of the hill. The frost rolls down and we pick at the end of May so it’s a real timing juggle”, Simon said.
The first season they started picking at the top of the block and worked their way down. By the time they got to the bottom, the fruit there was frosted.
“Now we pick from the bottom and work up, aiming to start when a third are ripe, a third are turning ripe and a third are still green.”
It’s a big job, especially now as production has grown three-fold and there’s three and a half tonnes of fruit to gather by hand. The thick trunked trees are fruiting heavily, aided by many factors, not least, a new irrigation system.
Work Force No Problem Thanks to Nicola's Cooking
As harvest time approaches Nicola puts the word out for WOOFers and backpackers to help pick in return for board and food.
It’s no problem finding takers and many stay on longer than planned. The food part of the deal is a big factor, the couple say, and also the chance to stay in comfortable accommodation as the weather cools, pre-ski season.
“We usually get three couples and I start stocking up the pantry a month before. I start freezing meals two weeks out then just keep on cooking to keep them fed. They love it,” she said.
Large sections of netting are laid out under the trees and pickers use special plastic rakes - not unlike something you would see in a child’s sandpit - to gently remove the olives. The fruit is then taken straight to Cromwell for pressing.
Every year an olive press is set up in Freeway Orchard’s commercial kitchen. Growers from all around book a slot and turn up with anything from a cardboard box of olives and an empty wine bottle, to fruit by the tonne and large drums to fill.
The press operates continuously day and night to get the job done, Simon said.
“Once the fruit’s at room temperature the leaves are blown out and it goes into a water trough then through an auger into a press to become a paste. The nuts and skins are separated off by centrifugal force at about 40,000 rpm. The oil flows out a stainless steel pipe.”
Ours goes into 50 litre drums and settles for a few weeks. We used to keep them in the house because they need to be warm. That was okay for three drums but now there’s ten.”
Simon works week on week off at the huge Macraes gold mine in East Otago. He’s one of a staff of around 700, his job being in the deep underground part of the operation. Not surprising then that an underground option for storing the precious oils occurred to Simon as the perfect solution.
The cool, dark cellar is dug deep into a bank behind the house and now that the memory of the painful consent process has faded the couple are delighted with how well it works.
Even on a blistering hot afternoon the interior is invitingly cool and in winter severe cold is kept at bay.
Chefs at Minaret Station, Federal Diner, Fedali and many others who have been waiting for the new season’s oil receive their much-anticipated deliveries and there's never any left over.
The Big Prune Begins Again
Nicola and Simon then toil through the winter prune. It’s the biggest job on the place due to the tree’s vigorous growth.
“They’re like willows, they grow fast and want to hang down. They say they should be open enough in the middle that a bird can fly through, otherwise the fruit there won’t ripen,” he said.
The cold and dry keeps pests away so there’s very little spraying aside from a few weeds. Fertiliser is added but it’s mostly Central Otago sunshine and water that goes into producing the peppery, green liquid gold that the couple sell under their Squeaky Hinge label.
According to the literature you can gain a myriad of health and beauty benefits from this good oil. Consume a teaspoon a day to help fight arthritis, aging, cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Rub it on for burns, dry skin and psoriasis or in the ear to combat earache.
Or forget all that and just do what those savvy chefs do, drizzle it on a salad and enjoy.
Above: Brook and Lucie Lawrence, part-owners of Aurum Wines, Cromwell
Aurum Wines head winemaker Lucie Lawrence brings a bit of French flare to Central Otago’s wine scene. She recently shared some of her knowledge to an audience of international experts as part of a panel discussing the evolution of structure in Central’s pinots.
The event, hosted at Aurum near Cromwell township, was part of an international Pinot 2017 celebration based in Wellington.
“As part of the programme wine regions were given the opportunity of hosting international guests on tour pre or post Pinot 2017. They are leading wine writers, critics, buyers and sommeliers and had the opportunity to spend time in Central doing tastings, masterclasses and dinners.”
Lucie says the visits were co-ordinated by Central Otago Pinot Noir Ltd(part of COWA) and funded by the participating wineries.
“It’s a great opportunity to promote wines from throughout the region and our individual sub-regions like Bannockburn, Cromwell, Wanaka, Bendigo.”
Winemaking has an artistic, fun element to it, Lucie says, but it’s mostly science and hard graft and getting together with others in the industry always helped maintain the motivation.
Aurum are a small organic vineyard, family owned and operated, producing a unique style of wine for a niche market.
The reality of winemaking, particularly for this small operation, is quite different, Lucie says, to the glamourous picture people sometimes imagined. At harvest time the oenologist(winemaker) is flat out processing grapes as they are delivered to the winery from the vineyard.
“We go out in the morning and look and look again at the grapes then tell the crew what to pick that day. In the winery, we are receiving the new grapes and we are processing them, pressing, placing them in tank or de-steming. We are dealing with them, putting them where they need to go, then maybe starting the wine from the grapes bought in the previous day.”
Some years if the harvest is short, everything may come in at once. Four days straight could be spent just processing new grapes before actual winemaking could start.
“Then we are tasting, looking, smelling, and measuring everything. It is very involved, intuitive and scientific… there are good yeasts and bad yeasts and good bacteria and bad bacteria so we are promoting the good stuff, eliminating the bad stuff.”
A Family Operation
Lucie, husband Brook and Brook’s parents Tony and Joan, work together to grow and harvest the grapes as well as maintain the property and develop the business. Each has their own areas of responsibility within that, Lucie says.
Joan looks after the property’s olive plantation, the beautiful cottage gardens and the cellar door in the weekends. Tony manages vineyard staff, especially during harvest and maintains the property while Lucie runs the tasting room, is head winemaker and paperwork controller and Brook, also a qualified winemaker, ultimately takes charge of the viticulture. The couple work together during vintage in the winery.
Tony is also an orthodontist with a practice in Frankton he attends one day a week. Then there is Brook and Lucie’s two young daughters, Mathilde and Madeleine, who help with chores in the organic gardens. The girls are also continuing a long family tradition in wine - on Lucie’s side - by each lending their names to an Aurum vintage.
Lucie grew up in Burgundy, France, where her grandparents owned a vineyard and other family members, including her mother, had restaurants.
The couple met when both were apprenticed to a wine estate in Burgundy near the end of their studies. Lucie loves her adopted home in Cromwell, as do her family from France who often visit and have become familiar with our local golf courses.
The tasting room at Aurum is open everyday, all year round, providing significant sales and the important opportunity to showcase the wines to customers and distributors.
Backpackers are bought in to provide labour at busy times but the Lawrences’ mainly do all the work themselves from picking the grapes to marketing. It’s busy, constant, even relentless at times but there is a huge bonus to owning it and doing it yourself, Lucie says.
“We can do our own thing. Here we only need a small audience for our wines so we can make it how we like.”
Being organic is key to Aurum’s way of being and they wouldn’t have it any other way, she says.
What interests her is the texture of the wine, how it feels to drink and making a clean, transparent, restrained wine that truly reflects its origin without being over the top.
“That is my style and we are so lucky we can make the wines we love, we don’t have any pressure from shareholders to make a certain wine. We are tiny, we don’t need to find so many people because we are not making millions of bottles to sell. We are making for a niche market so we just need to find our own audience.”
Every Pinot Noir from Central Otago is different, she said, as all wines are different. They express where they come from and the people that make them and Cromwell was producing great variety in a small geographic area.
Central Otago wines represent less than 5% of New Zealand’s annual production but punch way above their weight in terms of recognition nationally and internationally.
Lucie says this is a huge help in marketing the wines and is testament to a lot of hard work being put in over time by organisations like the Central Otago Winegrowers Association.
“It is a big credit to these organisations, what they have done over the past twenty years and the pioneers of the wine industry here, they have done such a great job.”
Lucie says seeing what others are doing in the industry overseas and also getting together with winemakers here is hugely inspirational.
The prospect of creating new and exciting wines every year exactly how she pleases certainly helps fuel the motivation too.
Aurum Wines Fact File
Size of Vineyard: 4ha
Varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay
First vintage: 2006
Style and characteristics of wines: organic, transparent, textured wines
Favourite accolade: Winestate top 5 Pinot Noir Wine of the year for the 2014 Estate Pinot Noir
The grass is actually quite a bit browner on the other side but that doesn’t seem to deter dozens of Southlanders who every year pack up their lives and move to Central Otago.
So what’s the attraction and why do they leave green valleys behind for the land of rocks and rabbits?
Lloyd and Suz Allison say it was not just the sun in what’s known as ‘Sunny Central’ that brought them there, it was opportunity.
There’s no denying the community spirit in Southland and it forms a big part of the Allison’s memories of raising their family around Wyndham, near Gore.
Fourteen years ago, however, the couple made the decision to move permanently to Central Otago. They’re now fully converted Central-ites who say they can’t ever see themselves leaving the area.
The couple were enjoying a minibus wine tour on a weekend away from Southland when their driver announced he had to shoot out to a house in Bannockburn to drop something off.
“I’d never even heard of Bannockburn,” Suz says. “But I’ll never forget it, we drove up and I remember thinking this is the best view in the world.”
The property they stopped at - a small, dated house on a rough sloping section - was on the market. The couple instantly sold their Arrowtown holiday home and “got stuck in” commuting two and half hours up from Wyndham during weekends to work on their new get-away spot.
They ferried up plants, tackled the large section head on and tidied up the little house, weekend after weekend.
It was the weather that first prompted some serious discussion around making the place a permanent rather than a holiday home. Driving out of rain into sunshine one way, then leaving sunshine and driving back into rain was becoming a feature of the couple’s busy weekends.
“We thought bugger it, let’s just take the bull by the horns, really make something of this place and move,” Suz says.
“The builder said it would be cheaper and quicker to take the whole house away and start again but we couldn’t see that at the time, we had a budget and just redesigned, reroofed, rewired, the whole thing. Of course it totally got out of control,” she laughs.
Suz had long harboured a desire to have her own B&B so the couple added an apartment, got some hens, created a huge vegetable garden, mini-vineyard and large flower garden.
“We’re fairly self-sufficient now, we have a green house and as long as you have compost and water everything just goes nuts in the garden.”
While the climate was certainly a catalyst for change, employment opportunities in Central Otago were a major consideration for the Allisons.
The couple’s three adult children had well and truly flown the nest and home economics teacher, Suz had retrained as a chef. Lloyd was also in need of a change in the employment stakes.
“After 23 years as a stock agent and lamb drafter I was just stale in the job,” Lloyd says, “And with some hard years price-wise down there it could be pretty depressing at times.”
Prospects for farm ownership were getting worse instead of better as dairying drove up land prices. Lloyd now drives a tractor at Carrick Vineyard, plays a fair bit of golf and sees to the couple’s own vines and winemaking adventures.
Suz initially worked part time at Wooing Tree Vineyard and was delighted to be able to use her culinary skills, but with the B&B now thriving she’s given that up.
The couple make around 150 bottles of Riesling off their own vines, much more than first expected, Suz says.
“The idea was to be self-sufficient in wine but we got loads so lots of friends and family get a bottle. The first year we made it in the kitchen with a sieve and a wooden spoon, the extraction rate was absolutely terrible, I think we got about 35 bottles.”
They progressed to pressing with feet then last year moved up in the sophistication stakes and purchased half-shares in a wine press.
“It’s been years of learning but it’s great fun, you learn by your mistakes and we get help from some good friends… one is a winemaker so that helps a lot.”
So what do they miss about their southern home…well the lush green of the Wyndham Golf Course is fairly high on that list. The couple find it amusing that unlike their fellow golfers from the deep south, locals here won’t play in the rain.
They miss friends but say many from their area - which did not benefit in the employment stakes from the dairy boom - have gradually sold up and also moved to Central Otago over the years.
While statistics are difficult to pin down, real estate companies report that around seven to nine percent of residential sales in Cromwell and Alexandra are to Southlanders. Many are retirement age but certainly not all.
Lloyd and Suz say Central Otago’s health services being pushed further away, and the travel required for shopping, cultural events and even coastal fishing, were things they had learnt to live with in Central…as were the cold winters.
“Southland and particularly the area where we were was a great place to bring up kids, everything was right there sport-wise and recreation-wise.” Lloyd says. But once the kids were gone, Central Otago’s opportunities became more and more appealing.
The couple have made new friends and don’t think they will ever want to leave the Cromwell area. They certainly haven’t forgotten however, the warmth of Southern people.
“Southlanders are so friendly, you could bump into someone you hadn’t seen for five years, walk into their home, have a cup of tea and it would be just like you’d seen them yesterday,” Suz says.
A vase of peony blooms can instantly transform a room from dull to delightful.
Even the names of the different varieties are charming…Bowl of Cream, James’ Pillow, Coral Sunset, Christmas Velvet and on it goes.
Central Otago provides what Tarras grower John Morrison describes as ‘the bloody best climate” in the country for peonies and sixteen years in the export business has allowed him and wife Mary Wood to fine tune their grower skills.
The reward for the hardworking couple is an enviable lifestyle and good financial return.
Peonies like their personal space, John says, and when the winter comes, an undisturbed sleep is in order with lots of good hard frosts.
“They don’t like competition from other plants, they need all the sunlight they can get. And they have got to have a certain amount of cold and hard frost to allow them to break dormancy.”
The latter is mainly why the plants thrive in Central Otago, producing premium buds that can fetch upwards of $30 each in high-end Asian and Middle Eastern markets.
“All those buyers want is a peony that is going to bloom spectacularly and they don’t care what it costs.”
The biggest threat, John says, would be a hail storm prior to the intense six week harvest. There would be no saving plants and their fat, vunerable buds, spread outdoors over three hectares.
Thankfully this had never occurred during their 16 years at Tarras, steadily working at establishing a reputation of reliability with buyers and exporters.
“They know now that we can supply a large number of consistently high quality peonies, often these days the buyers won’t even check our boxes.”
Harvest Season All Go
The couple and a neighbouring grower work together at harvest time and a crew of about 11 people pick and sort the buds. Stems are plunged straight into buckets of cold water to retard the progression to bloom and placed in a chiller at between one and three degC.
“They stay in there for at least 12 hours to take the field heat out of them, then they’re graded and processed, boxed up with ice and twice a week the truck takes them overnight to Auckland.”
Some go to florists in the city but most go straight out to luxury-market buyers overseas. The rest of the year John and Mary happily handle the work, between other jobs, assisted only by four-legged pruners.
“We leave four or five stems on the plants to allow the starches and sugars to go back into the roots for next year’s production. In autumn the neighbour’s sheep come in and strip all the dead leaves off for us and leave a bit of fertiliser behind.”
The plants are irrigated in summer but are pest and disease free due the region’s dry climate. There’s no spray regime, John says, aside from zapping a few weeds along the rows.
“I’m really happy to tend them, I don’t regard it as a burden. There’s never a pressing need and I really love going out and tending them as required.”
His best tip for home gardeners is to resist the urge to pick all the buds for adorning the house.
“Don’t ever pick off all the stems in any one year…as tempting as that may be.”
Weather Adds to the Challenge of Nevis Mountain-Bike Race
After three gruelling hours there was one second in it for Bannockburn Gutbuster competitors Tim Rush(1st) and Micheal Vink(2nd).
Full rivers and cold windy conditions greeted over 200 mountain-bikers who lined up at the Garston Hotel in Northern Southland on Saturday.
Their 75km journey took in over 20 creek crossings and a tough climb, complete with snow flurries, through the Nevis Valley, over Duffers Saddle and down to Bannockburn.
The race was the second in the Bike it Now! Cromwell Summer Series, owned by the Cromwell & Districts Promotion Group. The XS Storage Cromwell Bannockburn Mountain Bike Classic is on 30 December, The Golden Gate Lake Dunstan Triathlon on January 2 and Lake Dunstan Cycle Challenge on January 8. These three events would be run by veteran athlete and sports administrator Bill Godsall from Cromwell.
Results were Junior Boys: Fletcher Sharman, 3.38.13(12th overall), Sam Porteus, 3.41.06, Ty Sarginson, 3.50.59. Open Men: Tim Rush, 3.05.31, Micheal Vink, 3.05.32, Liam Aitcheson, 3.15.04. Open Women: Kate Fluker, 3.48.02, Erin Greene, 4.03.43, Shannon Hope, 4.10.21. Senior Men: Mike Wolfenden, 3.11.27(3rd overall), John Mezger, 3.32.16, Warwick McLaren, 3.40.45. Senior Women: Annabelle Anderson, 3.55.35, Kristy Jenniip, 4.05.47, Melissa Newell, 4.18.21. Veteran Men: Shaun Portegys, 3.35.03, Nicolas Noble, 3.41.44, Wayne Miller, 3.44.16. Veteran Women: Mary Russell, 4.43.45, Linda Hope, 4.45.24, Helena Sodergre, 4.57, 49. Masters Men: Neil Sutherland, 3.45.07, Ray Hope, 3.49.40, Barry Dick, 3.50.47. Masters Women: Polly Buchanan, 5.06.33, Jo Wilson, 6.37.37, Cathy Lewsley, 7.35.54.
By Jill Herron
If it were not for the efficiency of our New Zealand embassy staff of the early eighties, Swedish glass artists Marie Simberg-Hoglund and Ola Hoglund would probably have been Australia’s gain rather than ours.
The renowned artists recently moved to Cromwell where they are setting up their glassblowing studio, adding a certain lustre to the Central Otago arts scene.
Ola’s father Erik was a celebrated glass artist, responsible in part for Swedish glass art becoming recognised worldwide. Ola, who knew from a young age that he too would live by the craft, wished to move far enough away from his famous father to make his own name. He and Marie, who met in high school, set off and first found themselves in Swaziland setting up a studio as part of an aid project.
Casting about for a more permanent base they wrote to both the New Zealand and Australian embassies.
“We couldn’t seem to get any information out of Australia but the New Zealand Embassy was so helpful, they sent us all the information and pictures of houses stacked on the hills in Wellington and the lovely old street in Arrowtown,” Marie said.
The charming cottages of Arrowtown caught Marie’s eye and were never forgotten. When the couple eventually arrived in New Zealand, Hokitika was their first home, then Nelson. Raising two boys - who are now both glass artists - the couple’s business savvy flourished along with their skill in crafting exquisite pieces of art.
They have owned studios and galleries in various countries –most recently India and Australia - and exhibited literally all over the world, gaining a considerable following. Customers have include Bill Clinton and the Americas Cup and Sydney Olympic governing bodies and individual pieces can fetch over $15,000. In Nelson, as their staff numbers swelled to around forty and the boys matured, Ola and Marie began migrating each winter to a glassblowing studio they built in North Queensland.
This past winter was their last at their well-loved tropical rain forest haven which has had such an influence on their work.
“Our container has just arrived in Dunedin with all the glassmaking equipment and tools including the 15 ton glassmelting furnace. It has been sad, we have said goodbye to all our friends and customers there of 16 years but coming to Cromwell has been such a positive experience and we are very excited.”
Bringing the studio from Australia was necessary to set up in Central Otago, Marie says, as the glass business is as expensive as it is challenging.
Equipment costs a small fortune – Ola’s furnace is worth $100,000 alone -and some of the sand required to make their glass has to come from Europe.
The glass-blowing process is notoriously difficult and no one piece can ever be replicated.
Marie equates it to being a classical musician - regular practice is essential. Without it the pieces would lack the high technical standard and sophistication that has made the Hoglund’s work so sought after.
The glass is made from silica sand, some very clear which has had the iron removed by magnets, some slightly green like window glass, which comes from Mt Somers in Canterbury.
People often assumed, Marie says, that the couple bought readymade glass in great blobs to start the process, not realising that they make it themselves.
“We melt a mix of sand, lime and sodium carbonate in the furnace at 1380 degC for a minimum of 12 hours.”
The couple use the ‘Graal’ technique, one of the most complicated in glassblowing and practised by only a few glass artists worldwide.
Marie starts with an ‘egg’ of solid glass which she decorates by painting, etching or other methods. Ola takes this and heats it to temperatures that make your eyes water just thinking about them…again over 1300degC, Marie says. He heats it and blows puffs of air into the blob then heats it some more and a shape is formed. Two assistants are required and it’s a race against time to shape the glass before it cools and hardens.
“You have an idea in your head before you start of how you want it to be but it never works like that. It always comes out differently and we often don’t like the result so put it away in a cupboard. Sometimes you find it six months later and then you like it and get it out again.”
Occasionally, when somehow all the right elements are present and the creative gods allow, another masterpiece is born, which is then buffed and finished to perfection.
But mostly, she says, Ola polishes his technique through practice sessions and once their new studio is built visitors will get to see that in action.
The Hoglund’s new gallery is lined with heavy-walled multi-coloured vases of great beauty as well as Marie’s large paintings. Each is utterly unique and perfectly finished including flocks of tiny glass birds in glorious greens, reds and blues. The birds are probably instantly recognisable to many New Zealanders who have grown up with the couple’s work.
Glass blowing workshops are in the pipeline, where participants would travel from overseas and all over New Zealand to Cromwell to learn the craft and explore Central Otago.
“We are loving it here everyone is very friendly. I’m impressed especially with our artist painters, there is a very high standard. This area has lots of potential in the arts especially if everyone works together.
Over 100 children will line up this Sunday(October 23) alongside the adult competitors for the first race of Cromwell’s long-running five-event series.
The Cromwell Half Marathon, 10km and Teams Relay has attracted close to 250 entries and more were expected on the day, organiser Terry Davis of Highland Events said yesterday.
“It’s great to see so many kids taking part again in the relay section, there seems to be a lot of very sport-orientated kids in this town.”
Starting at 10am, the event kicks off the Bike It Now! Cromwell Summer Series which has been running for over twenty years.
Second is the Bannockburn Gutbuster mountain bike race on November 26. Mr Davis said this would have a new team relay section to allow people who were perhaps not “super fit” to take part in the iconic 75km event through the Nevis Valley.
“The solo ride is very scenic but it’s a good honest effort, really only suitable for fit riders that are firmly in the ‘keen as mustard’ category. The relay will be perfect for a group of friends to mix a bit of four wheel driving and mountain-biking and share the rigours of the Gutbuster”.
Highland Events were contracted by the Cromwell & Districts Promotion Group earlier this year to run the two events.
Veteran athlete and sports administrator Bill Godsall has taken on the running of the last three events in the series, the XS Storage Cromwell Bannockburn Mountain Bike Classic on 30 December, Golden Gate Lake Dunstan Triathlon on January 2 and Lake Dunstan Cycle Challenge on January 8.
The Bannockburn event now has four categories with something suitable for all abilities and ages, Mr Godsall said. A new 56km adventure mountain bike course had been added this year to challenge more experienced riders.
Registrations for this Sunday’s Half Marathon and 10km begin at 8.30am at the Cromwell Sports Club on Barry Avenue and motorists are asked to watch out for runners around the streets until about 12.30pm. Barry Avenue will be closed to traffic from 9.50am to 10.10am as the race begins.
“We would love to have lots of spectators come out and give all the kids – and adults - some encouragement during the race and come and join us at the prize-giving at 1pm”, Mr Davis said.
Judges Annemarie Hope-Cross and Eric Schusser had the unenviable task of choosing our winners. Thank-you to everyone that entered, there was a huge range of styles but all showed various aspects of what is special about our region. We will be sharing more of the photos over the coming weeks.
It was Chris Jones' image(above) of a starry sky that won the judges' hearts for first prize. Chris is a regular visitor to Cromwell, has family here and took the photo while on holiday in Bannockburn.
"We felt this was technically well done, with good use of lines leading to the home, well processed and a lovely expression of a star lit evening," Annemarie said.
Chris is looking forward to his 45 minute helicopter flight with Heliview Flights on his next visit.
Second prize winner Peter Hoskin grew up in Omakau and now lives in Auckland but regularly visits family here. Melanie Keele, whose image came third, lives with her family - the subjects of her image - in Cromwell. The pair will receive hampers from Jones Orchard and Ritchies Gully Store. Melanie's two daughters, Amber and Jasmine, very much enjoy spending time around the lakeshore, she said. The family's love of the area was certainly captured in her image.
Highly commended were fellow Cromwell residents Mary McKenzie and Sam McIntosh. Sam's image of the Cromwell Heritage Precinct was taken on an iPhone.
The competition, organised by the Cromwell & Districts Promotion Group, attracted 28 entries, all of a high standard.
Native flora in olive greens and browns, lichen-covered rocks, cruising Karearea and the odd rabbit inhabit the steep mountainsides above Tarras Vineyards.
Owner Hayden Johnston has a passion for this rugged and difficult place…the dramatic canyons, the eye-wateringly beautiful vistas. A passion, it turns out, that has caused him a few sleepless nights of late. The former-chartered accountant recently hatched a plan to create a unique wine tasting and function venue high on this hill, to allow others to experience what has so inspired him.
At Cromwell’s swish motor racing and tourist facility, Highlands Motorsports Park, a resource consent issue had caused the closure of a popular restaurant adjacent to the park entry.
“I was having a coffee with Luke the Scottish manager there at The Nose and he said the place was closing and the building was going to be dismantled. Before I finished my coffee I had decided I was going to move it and that I had just the spot,” Hayden said.
Two spots emerged as the plan developed, the other being at Earnscleugh near Clyde. As the logistics of moving the monster became clear, a narrow bridge across the Clutha River ruled that one out.
Now that the two day transportation operation, possibly New Zealand’s largest and trickiest, is behind him, Hayden can safely say it was meant to be. The building’s curved roof and perfectly matching colours have allowed it to blend remarkably well into its surroundings. Even the locals say they really have to know where to look to spot it on its high perch, surrounded by nature’s landscaping.
“I don’t think I could have paid an architect to design a better building for this site. I’m very aware of the environment, we are right next to a DoC site here but it’s very suitable and just blends in.”
At 16.7m(four lanes) wide and 22m long, road signs had to be pulled out and traffic cleared as it made its carefully orchestrated way up the highway. Remote controlled steering, hydraulically-tilting wheels and the impressive skills - and courage - of the Fulton Hogan transportation crew allowed Hayden’s idea to become a reality.
The interior fittings and appliances later arrived by shipping container and all is quickly being reconstructed by a team of builders who have probably the most scenic smoko spot in the country.
Food and Wine at Altitude
Originally from Dunedin and of Ngai Tahu descent, Hayden moved from crunching numbers into the wine industry in 2002. Tarras Vineyards, once part of Bendigo Station, sits on a terrace above the river valley. It’s a fairly small block at 3.5ha and is an organically managed, boutique, hands-on operation.
“On very good years, only when I think it’s going to be worthy of a gold medal, we make a single vineyard Pinot Noir here called The Canyon. Every time, it has won multiple Gold Medals. The 2009 vintage won the international Pinot Noir trophy at Decanter Asia Wine Awards… judged better than the regional winner from Burgundy in France.”
In addition the vineyard sources fruit from other growers for Alexandra-based, French winemaker Antony Worch to create Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris blends. These are eventually sent to fine dining restaurants and retail outlets throughout Australia and Asia. Tarras Vineyards also produces a complex Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.
Hayden looks forward to being able to host wine industry colleagues for tastings at the new venue which will be called Tarras Vineyards The Canyon.
“We can start to have fun with it, invite our customers over and have wine events here. I have an idea to have lovely big double-glazed cedar doors opening up at the front to take in the views.”
Never short on ideas, Hayden also plans to add a mezzanine floor to the building and open the whole floor space up to allow large groups of people to be catered for. Four hundred square metres should do it for the weddings and big functions he has in mind.
Then there’s the celebrity chef idea…cooking demonstrations in a fully commercial kitchen with groups of guests.
A second chunk of building, a movie theatre which is thankfully much smaller – will be on its way up the hill once its platform has been prepared. This will sit behind the main building and be accessed down a natural pathway between huge rocky outcrops.
The plan is to be operational by late summer, Hayden says, and the builders are not mucking around. Already the layout is taking shape in the opened up interior only a few short weeks after the building arrived.
“We’re not starting from scratch, we’re just reassembling.”
Kawarau Station’s historic stone woolshed will again provide the backdrop for a screening of early film footage from Otago and Southland.
The return of Reel Life in Rural New Zealand was initiated by organisers of the Across the Bridge at Bannockburn event being held from September 28 to October 2. The 75 minute programme features farming history, kiwi inventions and interviews with Otago identities from 1913 to 2007.
It was put together in a partnership between by Nga Taonga Sound and Vision -New Zealand’s film archive - and Heritage New Zealand.
Richard Anderson of Kawarau Station said about 230 people attended the first screening of the footage held in February this year. The woolshed, which was built around 1860 is still used for shearing the station’s 9000 merino sheep. It originally had 20 stands for blade shearers, Mr Anderson said, and electric shearing machines were installed in 1935 when powerlines reached the valley. The family also run 200 beef cattle on Kawarau’s 20,000 acres.
Jan Hawkins, one of the Across the Bridge at Bannockburn organisers, said many people had requested a repeat of the films after the February screenings. A matinee and evening showing will be held on Wednesday, September 28, as the first of a range of cultural events at Bannockburn’s fifth annual festival.
Owen Marshall, master of the short story, poet Brian Turner and non-fiction writer Mary Hobbs would provide the literary inspiration for the event, she said.
The trio will give readings at the Bannockburn Hotel at an ‘Essentially Central’ literary forum on Saturday, October 1.
“The discussion, facilitated by Robin Dicey, will focus on the importance of conserving Central Otago’s unique character.”
Bannockburn Hotel was also hosting a ‘Budburst Festival’ on Sunday, October 2, with blind wine tasting and build-your-own fascinator competitions.
The popular Banny Beanie-making competition will be judged this year by artist Alan Waters, felter Bev Muir and former seamstress Janet Middleditch. It will be accompanied by a textiles exhibition at the bowling green and the artists of Bannockburn will display work at Cairnmuir Station woolshed throughout the event.
There would also be a performance by a brass quintet, Scottish feast at Carrick Vineyard, craft market with children’s entertainment, guided rambling with Gordon Stewart and a day-long photography workshop with Tim Hawkins. Tickets for all events are available from the Cromwell i-site.