Winemaker opens Kurow bar

Nicole Schofield and Grant Taylor, from Valli Wines, celebrate the opening of their wine bar in...
Nicole Schofield and Grant Taylor, from Valli Wines, celebrate the opening of their wine bar in Kurow’s former post office. PHOTO: CHLOE LODGE PHOTOGRAPHY
Celebrated Otago winemaker Grant Taylor is toasting his latest venture, opening the Valli Wine Bar in Kurow.

And with a move to the nearby Hakataramea Valley early next year, Mr Taylor is also looking forward to spending time behind the bar in the town’s former post office.

Valli Wine has been growing grapes and making wine for 25 years. In that time, it has grown to include vineyards in Bannockburn, Bendigo and Waitaki, as well as the original Gibbston vineyard. Valli Vineyards produces pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and riesling wines from the grapes grown in its Waitaki vineyard.

Mr Taylor, who coincidentally was born in what is now the Whalan Lodge rest-home in Kurow — which was then a maternity home, said the couple loved the Waitaki Valley area.

He also had high praise for the wines produced from the valley over the past 20 years, saying the reaction to them from international wine writers reinforced his thoughts, and they needed to be "showcased". The post office building, in Kurow’s main street, which previously housed The Vintner’s Drop, would also stock wines from other parts of Otago.

Mr Taylor, who has bought a house in the Hakataramea Valley, said he was excited about moving to an area which was peaceful and "a bit more rural heartland New Zealand".

"It’s a community like I’ve never experienced before. We’re loving it", he said.

He was keen to spend time behind the bar and to talk to visitors and educate people about the wine.

Ms Schofield said while grape growing was quite new in the Waitaki district, the area had a rich history and the couple wanted to celebrate that intertwining of the past with the present.

"We’ve exposed the limestone fireplace, repainted the old safe, fitted out the space with refurbished furniture and created shadowboxes for tables, each of which explores the geological or social history of the region.

"We don’t want to change what it’s been. We want to celebrate that character and give people somewhere they can celebrate special occasions, their region and everything it has to offer — and have something to talk about after a long day on the cycle trail", she said.

Mr Taylor said the limestone soils lent "incredible characteristics to the wines". "There aren’t many growing regions in New Zealand that have limestone. Waitaki Valley is going to be important to New Zealand’s grape growing journey."

Mr Taylor established Valli in 1998, after 18 years of winemaking experience in the United States, Australia, France and New Zealand. In 1993, he signed on as winemaker for Gibbston Valley Wines.

At that time, only 20ha of grapes were planted in Otago. Now there were more than 2000ha.

He produced the first vintages for many of the region’s well-known labels, including Mt Difficulty, Felton Road, Carrick, Peregrine, Mount Edward, Hawkshead, Mondillo, Bald Hills and Rockburn.

In 2006, he left Gibbston Valley to concentrate solely on Valli. His philosophy was to highlight the differences between sub-regions in Otago.

Tourism Waitaki consumer and trade marketing manager Krissy Griggs said it was fantastic to have an industry leader investing in the district.