Our visit to Pegasus Bay, 45 minutes north of Christchurch, was special in many ways. Here to celebrate it is a photoblog with commentary.
The enterprise which became Pegasus Bay started in the garage of the house in Christchurch, in which the Donaldsons still live, as a hobby. But it was a serious hobby as attested here by Ivan Donaldson’s 1984 Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma. Ivan took it as a young medic working in London. When he returned to New Zealand he brought with him a love and a deep knowledge of the classic wines of the old world which still flourishes today. As my work at the WSET is to revise today’s Diploma I was touched by how much this qualification is valued around the world. Sadly, today’s certificates no longer boast a real seal, however!
From nothing, the business grew into a good-sized winery (30,000 litres a year), a destination restaurant and a fine garden created by Ivor’s wife, Christine. As Ivor continued to pursue a celebrated medical career until retirement, much of the day-to-day oversight of the project was Christine’s work too. They make a great team.
As you can see, the inside of the winery is straightforward, even utilitarian, but my goodness does it do its business effectively. Only the stained glass windows tell you there is a creative spirit here.
We had a fantastic, comprehensive tasting with the current vintages tasted at this table on the winery floor and some older bottles over lunch. They make a large range of wines as Waipara is warm enough to ripen Merlot and Cabernet, while also producing very good to excellent Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot.
When you are a family business, in the early days you look to your own resources. The original ‘Pegasus’ on this bottle of 1991 was drawn by the then-teenage age son, Paul. He tells the story how he had thought this was just a sketch which would guide a professional but in fact, it appeared on the label!
The garden which surrounds the winery is a real treat at Pegasus Bay, lovingly tended and expanded over the years by Ivor’s wife Christine. It captures that fine balance between planning, order and happenstance.
Part of the garden is devoted to native plants, overseen by this decorative but slightly fearsome chap.
Sadly Christchurch has been in the news for sitting on the active fault-line which runs up New Zealand. The city has made a remarkable recovery from the serious earthquakes of 2010-12. There are many new buildings to be seen and some remaining casualties. Above is the Anglican Cathedral over which there continues to be debate about whether to demolish and start again or to rebuild … It is difficult for visitors to comprehend how the locals go on living with the constant threat of the ground literally moving. Shortly after our return, there was a quite a significant earthquake which mercifully did not take too much of a toll.
But our overwhelming memories of Pegasus Bay are of beauty and abundance. Of course, the English do understand that peaches really grow on trees but what could be more attractive than this sight in the winery gardens?
Finally, I must pay another tribute to the quality of the Pegasus Bay wines. This gorgeous orange number is a barrique-aged botrytized Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, both a homage to and a fair competitor with the great wines of Sauternes. It actually spent four years in oak and is a fine melange of apricot fruit, toasted marmalade, rancio and toffee notes. The 10-year old Prima Donna Pinot Noir and the 13-year old Merlot/Malbec blend we tasted over lunch were superb examples of fully mature wines with lots to give. These are wines to buy, to drink and to cellar.
With many thanks to all the Donaldson family for all your generous hospitality.
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