Harvest time is not long over when I arrive at the cellar door of Georges Road Winery and Vineyard in Waipara. The air inside is scented with the rich aroma of fermenting fruit. It is a lovely day, quiet and crisp, with the morning sun casting sculpted shadows across the hills.
When Kirk and Alison purchased this property in 2003, it was bare land. The following year, the vineyard was planted with Syrah, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and a winery was added in 2015. Recently they opened a cellar door and now guests can also stay at the vineyard’s very own wine pod. This is a private, beautifully-appointed tiny house with its own deck and a wood-fired hot tub for relaxing beneath the stars. Bikes are available for those wishing to explore the area and other local cellar doors.
‘We could see the growing demand for wine tourism and that there were not many places to stay in Waipara,’ explains Kirk, who enjoys hosting wine tastings and tours for their guests. ‘We had a private and secluded spot here with amazing views that we thought would be perfect for a little wine pod.’
We take a short walk to the pod site, down a path of pavers between a young orchard and rows of newly planted Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer vines. The crystal clear views of the hills and distant snowy mountains beyond are superb. Steel-framed and cedar-clad, the tiny house is stylishly contemporary and oriented to make the most of the gorgeous vines to hills rural scenery.
‘We set this up so you could lie in bed and look at the view, sit in the hot tub and look at the view or sit at the breakfast bar and look at the view!’ Alison says, as we step onto the deck and take a look around.
Much care has been lavished on the design and fit-out of this tiny house, which first opened for bookings in March. Retro prints by Irish designer Orla Kiely (cushions, duvet) are a luxurious touch as is a pair of stylish armchairs by the double bed (Nood). I love the pair of slender bedside lights on stands with easy to reach switches. Kitchen and bathroom areas are neatly finished and well-equipped and there’s even a barbecue on the deck. The nearby wood-fired hot tub, already proving a winner with guests, only takes half an hour to heat.
Alison scoured the markets of Christchurch in search of special touches for their guests from eco-soaps and shampoo/conditioner bars through to the goodies that go into the breakfast boxes.
‘As much as possible, I’ve sourced everything locally. I’ve tried to include all those little things to make sure people are well looked after. The kitchen is completely self-contained but guests can also pre-order a dinner food package if they wish.’
It is a tiny slice of heaven, fast catching on as a romantic weekend getaway destination for couples celebrating a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary.
Many of today’s vineyards are large-scale, somewhat impersonal operations. Not so here, where Kirk is solely responsible for both the vineyard and its wines. It is something that seems to resonate well with visitors and guests. It is hard not to love a winery where the stainless steel tanks are named after family members and pets.
The couple have both worked hard to develop their vision from scratch. Alison observes that friends and family have also been a tremendous source of help with planting over the years.
While Kirk spends every day at Georges Road, Alison works as a speech language therapist and runs her own business, Socially Speaking. ‘It has worked out well as it’s very flexible for us with the kids, apart from that really busy time around harvest.’
Kirk was an accountant in his thirties when he decided to pursue his interest in winemaking at Lincoln University, where he completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology, graduating with distinction.
His cellar experience was built in Waipara, France, California and Germany. Working in and around small family-run, quality-focused wine estates in Germany proved particularly influential in shaping the vision for Georges Road.
‘The wineries there are a similar size to this one and are also family-owned operations where they do everything,’ says Kirk. ‘It’s much the same here, where I work in the vineyard and do all the winemaking. I’m not beholden to any particular style – it’s my own take on the particular growing season and winemaking philosophy.’
That unique style has led to many prestigious wine awards and reviews for Georges Road.
The cellar door is currently open by appointment, but the next goal is to develop the business so events such as weddings or birthdays could one day be hosted there.
For more information, visit georgesroadwines.co.nz.
WORDS Kim Newth IMAGES Charlie Jackson