A quarter of a century ago, just out of Kerikeri in the Far North, Cindy and Rod MacIvor were growing kiwifruit for a living when a small incident became the catalyst for a life-changing decision.
Interesting how things turn out. A friend brought them his surfeit of grapevines, thinking the couple might put them to good use. He couldn’t have known what he’d started.
Marsden Estate’s beginning
Rod and Cindy had long held the idea of growing vines to make their own wine. Across the road was a 6.7-hectare property for sale they’d also had their eye on it for some time. They bought it and began to plant a vineyard. The venture was called Marsden Estate, named for the missionary, Samuel Marsden, who is generally considered to be the first person to plant grapevines in New Zealand. Both men had made bold moves.
On 25 September 1819, when Marsden had broken new ground at the mission station in Kerikeri, the results could not have been known, and when Rod MacIvor planted his vines, not quite 200 years later, the Far North was not recognised for producing great wine.
Around 25 years after Rod had first turned the soil on his new place, I was sitting in the shade of the vine-covered patio of Marsden Estate’s large, Mediterranean style, winery/restaurant, imbibing a vigôt syrah 2015 and contemplating how things had changed.
“Rod took himself off to Hawke’s Bay to learn about winemaking and then sought more advice up here,” Cindy said. “For our first vintage in 1997, we produced a cabernet and a chardonnay. It was made in a winery with no roof because we’d run out of money.”
Marsden Estate now produces around 81 wines. Most of them are contracted for other wine growers in the region but 12 are their own label and these are mainly sold from the cellar door. “That includes a dessert wine and a tawny port,” Cindy said. “The syrah is popular but it’s the oaky chardonnay that is our big award winner.”
But the fruits of Bacchus are only part of the show. On-site a semi-formal garden, transformed from a scrub-covered valley, spreads around a large lily pond. Exotic trees throw a dappled shade on the sloping lawn. Romantic tables are set on platforms under the trees down at the lake’s edge, and rows of vines stretch away from the far side of the lake. The tranquil setting belies the years of hard work that have gone into its creation.
At this time of the year, to fend off avian attack when the grapes were ripening, the vines were draped in veils of white netting and looked like queues of brides gliding up the slopes.
Maybe it’s the food that is the greatest lure of all. Sourced from the Kerikeri area, where a wonderful variety of produce grows in such abundance, it is turned by chef Dale Gartland into inventive, mouth-watering combinations.
“I source as much as I can locally, then let the natural ingredients do the talking rather than over-complicating things,” he told me. Dale was the chef at Kauri Cliffs Golf Resort for 14 years before coming here, so he knows what he is doing. I can attest to that. My choice—an entree of marinated salmon, black rice, cucumber, radish, soy, and mustard that came to the table so elegantly arranged—was memorably delicious and reasonably priced.
I left this pleasant place feeling rested and replete and so, of course, I’ll go back. Next time I think I’ll try locally produced mozzarella, tomatoes, and chargrilled bruschetta or the chargrilled cauliflower with halloumi and harissa vinaigrette. It will be interesting to see how those turn out.
Win a lunch at Marsden Estate
Keen to discover Marsden Estate for yourself? We have a lunch voucher for two, valued at $150, to give away. We’ll ask our lucky winner to provide a short review of their experience, which will be published in a later issue of Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations magazine.
Competition closes 8 March 2018.
Marsden Estate is located at 56 Wiroa Rd, Kerikeri, Northland. For more details, call 09 407 9398.