Kaituna Valley

Grant’s fascination with wine hatched while working as a soil scientist in Gisborne. He was seconded into verifying the quality of some of his workmate’s vinous homebrew.

His earliest recollection of a truly “tasty” bottle was a Bordeaux, a Moulin des Carruades (the second label of the famous first growth producer Château Lafite Rothschild). He thought “wow”, this is yummy and he was hooked!

Meanwhile, Helen was studying for her PhD in Plant Pathology at Lincoln University and making occasional forays to Gisborne, usually when exams were coming up. Grant returned to Lincoln University to be with Helen and began a PhD in Crop Modelling. But the lure of making wine (or should that read “imbibing” wine) was too strong so Grant completed the Post-Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology instead (…ooops!).

Our search for suitable vineyard sites has seen us become intimate with most secluded valleys on Banks Peninsula, the limestone hills of Waipara and Waikari and the sub-regions of Marlborough. In the end we were fortunate enough to purchase three properties which we believed would allow us to pursue our winemaking dreams. Along the way we also developed a successful grapevine propagation nursery at Ashburton that provided cash flow and grafted, high-health vines for the vineyards.

A whole heap of people have helped throughout and we couldn’t have done this without them – especially wine drinkers and buyers! Thanks also to family, friends and fellow winemakers for help, advice (solicited or not) and inspiration (often over some serious bottles of wine). At times it has been frighteningly hard work – it still is! It is always challenging and stimulating. We’ve had a lot of fun and some great successes along the way. We hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as us and continue to do so.


Grant Whelan - Winemaker

Grant has been our winemaker from day one back in 1993 when we harvested one tonne of Pinot Noir from the old vines at Kaituna Valley. Ah long contented sigh winemakers heaven. A trained soil scientist (i.e. he can tell the difference between dirt and cowpats) and a highly qualified dude, with a First Class Honours Degree in Agricultural Science and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology with Distinction.

Grant feels that there are always new challenges and techniques to try old dogs can be taught new tricks! He is a very hands-on and physical winemaker and is involved in all aspects of making the wine. Creative, intelligent and fun, Grant is a gifted winemaker with a finely tuned palate. He has been known to disappear into the winery at vintage for a few months, appearing at night to devour any yummy food in sight before sneaking away in the morning. Can be hard to recognise in long, curly hair format ~ affectionately known to the family at this time as Grant-tina.

Has a hidden talent at the pool table and, with Joshua, has rediscovered Star Wars and Dr Who DVDs.

Our Vineyards

Kaituna Vineyard

Our special home vineyard. We have worked with this property since 1991 so we feel we are just starting to come to grips with the soil, aspect and variations in growth potential. The soil is primarily windblown loess and silt overlying volcanic parent material. Soil depth and clay content varies significantly and impacts on moisture retention and subsequently canopy growth. The vines are unirrigated.

The Kaituna Vineyard is only 5 acres in area. The “old vines” of Pinot Noir were planted in 1977. At 33 years of age, we believe this is the oldest commercial block of Pinot Noir in New Zealand. We expanded the vineyard in 1997 with plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (mainly the new Burgundian clones) grafted on low vigour rootstocks. The Kaituna Vineyard Pinot Noir is a blend of the fruit from the old and new vines. The old vines contribute a rich, savoury, earth and mineral palate, with silky smooth fruit tannins and a long finish. The “new vines” contribute excellent colour, bright fruit flavours and great tannin definition. A great blend for us, the best of both worlds!

Kaituna Valley is a stunning and unique environment and we are thrilled to be custodians of this land. We have had the privilege of producing some very special wines since we started.

The last five vintages (1998 to 2006) have received twenty-two gold medals or equivalent reviews. Each wine since 1993 has received either a silver medal, gold medal or Trophy.

Bone Hill Vineyard

A joint venture with our neighbour, David Thomas, this new vineyard is immediately beside the original home vineyard in Kaituna Valley. It is planted on a steeper slope with shallow soils and great aspect. The vineyard is beginning to deliver grapes with exceptional concentration and colour. Although only separated by a distance of less than 100 metres the wines produced are distinctly different. Is this terroir at work?!

Summerhill Vineyard

A gorgeous elevated vineyard, situated on a rolling north-facing basaltic spur close to Tai Tapu on Banks Peninsula. Tai Tapu is within easy driving distance from Christchurch on the main road to Akaroa. Spectacular views of the snowy Southern Alps, Lake Ellesmere, and Mt Bradley (the second highest peak on Banks Peninsula) tend to promote long lunches and lacquostious discussions on the meaning of life. The site of our proposed winery and sales outlet with views to die for!..watch this space!!

The Summerhill Vineyard was planted with Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir vines in 2001 and produced the first harvest in 2004. Our first Pinot Gris, the 2004, received a Gold Medal at the Liquorland TOP 100 International Wine Show 2004. Multiple 5 star ratings in later vintages.

At our Summerhill Vineyard at Tai Tapu we are involved in a joint venture with Environment Canterbury to plant our wetland area with native plants. With the growth of the trees and shrubs we are expecting a corresponding increase in birdlife.

Awatere Vineyard

Grant developed a strong interest in high-density planting systems, like those used in the world-famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards of Burgundy, France, and while at Lincoln University. By planting vines close together the yield per plant is reduced resulting in grapes with more intense flavour. In 1995, a scrubby isolated block of land on the lower river terraces at Dashwood in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough, came up for sale. Grant and Helen purchased the property with the specific objective of producing high quality wines using the high-density planting system. Vines were planted to a density of 4500 vines per hectare (compared to the conventional density of around 2000 vines per hectare) and the grapes were pruned to the traditional Burgundian system of a single Guyot or cane.

The 45 acre Awatere Vineyard has Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris vines that were planted in 1996 and 1999. A total of 20 acres have been planted so far, with additional plantings planned for in the future. The soils are very shallow, sandy and stony with a mudstone base and have resulted in vines with low growth potential that are easy to manage. An ideal soil type for high density planting systems because the vines do not express their full growth potential and turn into triffids!

Grant’s faith in the high-density planting system was rewarded when the first two vintages of the Pinot Noir were awarded two Trophies for Champion Pinot Noir at the most prestigious show in New Zealand, The Air New Zealand Wine Awards. The third vintage, not to be outdone, received the Trophy for Champion Pinot Noir at the Liquorland Top 100 International Wine Show.

The Pinot Noir wine has amassed a huge number of Trophies, Gold or 5 star ratings. We have been privileged to have four vintages of the Sauvignon Blanc served to passengers on Air New Zealand International Flights. All vintages of the Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines have received either silver medals, gold medals or five star reviews.

Alma Vineyard

Our other Marlborough vineyard, the Alma Vineyard is also on the lower bank river terrace of the Awatere Valley, close to Clifford Bay Estate and Vavasour Wines. Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc vines are planted.

Wine Awards

  • Kaituna Valley Canterbury Pinot Gris 2004 (Liquorland Top 100 2004, Gold Medal Wines)
  • Kaituna Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2001(Trophy) (Liquorland Top 100 2002, Top 100)
  • Kaituna Valley Canterbury Pinot Noir 2001 (Liquorland Top 100 2002, Top 100)
  • Kaituna Valley Pinot Noir 2004 (Liquorland Top 100 2005, Gold Medal Wines)
  • Kaituna Valley Sauvignon Blanc The Awatere Vineyard 2006 (Liquorland Top 100 2006, Gold Medal Wines)
  • Kaituna Valley Pinot Noir Canterbury The Kaituna Vineyard 2005 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2007, Gold Medal Winners)
  • Kaituna Valley Canterbury Pinot Noir The Kaituna Vineyard 2004 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2006, Award Winning Wines)
  • Kaituna Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2007, Award Winning Wines)
  • Kaituna Valley Canterbury Pinot Noir The Kaituna Vineyard 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
  • Kaituna Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 (International Wine and Spirit 2008)
  • Kaituna Hills Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 (International Wine and Spirit 2009)
  • Kaituna Hills Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008 (International Wine and Spirit 2009)
  • Kaituna Hills Forty Knots Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 (International Wine Challenge 2009)
  • Kaituna Hills Reserve Chardonnay, 2007 (International Wine Challenge 2009)

230 Kaituna Valley Road

P: +64 3 329 0110
F: +64 3 329 0113

CONTACT: Grant & Helen Whelan