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The Waitaki Valley will come of age tomorrow as a wine region with the official opening of its first winery and cellar door east of Kurow on State Highway 83.
The $3 million investment by Kurow Estate in the new complex developed from a former stone fruit outlet and packing shed has been described by Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean as a positive economic sign and beacon for both tourism and wine industries in the region.
The opening starts today by hosting wine critics and writers from throughout New Zealand.
Tomorrow, invited guests will attend an official opening by Mrs Dean.
The cellar shop and winery will be opened to the public on Sunday.
Mrs Dean said yesterday the investment by Kurow Estate and the Pasquale family had created jobs and a new tourist destination in the Waitaki Valley.
"The investment in the Waitaki and Hakataramea Valleys by Antonio Pasquale shows his confidence in North Otago as a new and identifiably different wine area that can add something to the whole Otago mix of high-quality wine," she said.
He has planted about 100,000 vines and developed a spacious, modern winery, equipped with state-of-the-art European and New Zealand technology.
It is already producing medal-quality wines and next year plans to produce and release more than 4000 cases, almost half of which will be pinot noir, general manager Murray Turner said.
"By 2012 we expect to be up to full production from our own vineyards with 11,286 cases," he said.
The winery has capacity for production of 28,000 cases annually.
More than a quarter is expected to be pinot noir, with the balance in aromatic white blends, some Italian varieties including arneis, and popular, proven varieties such as pinot gris and riesling.
The company has about 27ha of its own vineyards and the 1700sq m integrated winery complex has its own bottling line, storage and a cellar door outlet with a local stone fireplace.