WELCOME TO WAIPARA WEST
Waipara West is the trading and brand name of Tutton Sienko Hill, a family partnership of Paul Tutton, Olga Sienko, Vic Tutton and Lindsay Hill.
We purchased Waipara West in 1989 knowing that, although it was an unsuccessful rabbit infested, sheep farm, it had a combination of factors suitable for the production of quality grapes. Being further inland and higher than existing Waipara vineyards, it was hotter and less frost prone due to natural air movement caused by the river and the sloping terraces. Only then did we realise that the farm had been previously owned by our family some hundred years before.
Waipara West, a geographically correct name but actually called after our weather station, is situated on sunny stony north facing terraces along the Waipara River some seven miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and nestling in the foothills of the Southern Alps.
Waipara, a recognised viticultural region in North Canterbury, is situated 60km north of Christchurch in the South Island. Vines were first planted in the district in 1981, although commercial winemaking really only started in 1990. Waipara has many natural advantages for grape production with its long, dry warm summers, sheltered from cold easterly winds by a range of coastal hills but exposed to hot norwest winds which help control disease. Drought risk is mitigated by irrigation and the long, dry autumns coupled to good diurnal variance, help provide phenolic ripeness and complexity.
Over the millennia, our river valley has been formed through successive geological cycles of inundation then emergence from the sea. Abundant marine fossils evidence this history. Geology is well exposed in our area, with limestone outcrops, and deep terraces where the river has been forced to keep digging down to retain its level against the up-thrust of the land. The Waipara river is a small but good example of a braided river with a number of ancient underground river streams running through Hellblock. These are some of the more interesting soils in New Zealand where once giant marine creatures, then more recently Moa, thrived then died. There is around 12 kilograms of Phosphorous in an adult Moas bones, so these creatures that lived large in our valley, still give to our soils and vines.
Planting started in 1989 and there are now some 25 hectares of producing vines. Soils range from river gravels with silt and limestone to alluvial loams over gravels. The blocks in the vineyard differ in height and aspect with the river terraces being partially encompassed by cliffs. Considering the region and climate, the vineyards natural amphitheatres allow a wide range of varieties to grow and ripen, creating incredibly diverse flavours. We are members of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, which provides a framework for the best viticultural practices to protect the environment while efficiently producing premium grapes. We do not use insecticides, residual herbicides or artificial fertiliser and are continually extending our areas of native bush on our land and adjoining river bed.
Only grapes from our own vineyard are used for our wines with each clone and block being vinified separately to allow subsequent blending options. Our modern functional winery, under the direction of Paul Goodege, is located centrally in the vineyards. Because the yields in all varieties are low, the wines are generally intense and have an inherent structure. Our winemaking is aimed at retaining rather than enhancing these characteristics, allowing a framework for each wine to develop and evolve in bottle to provide a wine with complexity and interest.