Winery set to spread its wings

The heart of Gibbston Valley Winery will be transformed when ''a significant figure'' is invested in a new winemaking facility, a highway underpass linking cycling trails, a hotel and the first new planting of vines in Gibbston in years.

''Gibbston Valley is moving forward with production of more quality grapes and introducing more tourism activities at the winery,'' station and winery chief executive Greg Hunt, of Wanaka, told the Otago Daily Times this week.

''We're now in a position of growth with the winery, which is a positive thing, and that's because of the changes we've made, the concert series and an improvement in the economy.''

The winemaking facility will move to a new and larger complex within the winery in May this year, after the harvest in April. It is expected to be finished in December.

The red barn next to the courtyard will become a second cellar door and museum displaying the history of Gibbston and it is also intended to be open for summer 2014-15.

An underpass linking trails either side of State Highway 6 through the valley will be built beneath the highway in September this year.

The underpass will allow a safe and undisrupted trail direct to the winery, once it is opened to the public, by December 1.

Mr Hunt said the cost paid by the company ''is a significant figure, but we see biking as becoming a major tourism component for Queenstown, and being a winery, you look at France and you look at Napa and there's the winery tours and the riding of bikes and coming into the wineries for a glass.

''We see that as a growing market and that's why we're putting in that underpass.''

The 30km of year-round beginner, intermediate and advanced cycling trails known as Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort, on 400ha of land next to the winery, opened in April last year.

The network will be enhanced by the next stage of development, involving an extra 20km of trail linking Rabbit Ridge back to the winery.

The winery itself will be consolidated as a base for visitors cycling around cellar doors in the valley or Arrowtown, with the addition of a new retail, rental, information and activity booking outlet.

Visitor accommodation to encourage longer stays in the valley has been on the drawing board, but will become a reality when construction of stage one begins this winter. The first guests were expected to check in during the summer of 2015-16, Mr Hunt said.

''We're re-evaluating the market a little bit and we're aiming this as a four- to five-star hotel and we've got consents for 50 rooms, but instead of building 50 rooms straight away, we're going to build eight rooms which will be adjacent to the winery, just to ensure we get the product right and it gives us a chance to test it and then we'll continue to build the balance of the rooms.''

Accommodation would suit cycling and wine fans and wine club members who wanted to spend their holiday in the valley, as well as patrons of the Gibbston Summer Concert, which attracted more than 14,000 classic rock fans in February and would return next year.

Jobs would be created from both the construction and operation of the expansion. At least eight rostered staff would be required for the outlet. The second cellar door, museum and hotel would need hospitality workers.

Mr Hunt said the winery was now in a position where it had to produce more wine to meet demand.

Just over 4ha of vacant land from Tom's Creek towards Glenlee vineyard will be turned into a new vineyard to produce the equivalent of 1500 extra cases of pinot noir.

Planting begins this spring and the first harvest will be in 2016. More station land around the new planting was expected to be turned over to grape growing as demand increased, Mr Hunt said.

''This summer we'll be getting industrial activity out of the centre of the winery by relocating the winemaking, putting the underpass in, doing the second cellar door and museum and getting the centre of the winery completed, then starting work on the hotel and having that ready for the next summer.''