Ostler: pioneers in the Waitaki Valley

16 Jul 2020

Ostler’s first vineyard site is where the Waitaki Valley meets North Otago, formed by a 38-million-year-old seabed raised into a north facing limestone slope. The location was the raisin d'etre for their company and pioneering the Waitaki wine region.

Clos Ostler

Ostler Vineyards is owned by the extended Sinnott whānau, including the Jerram & Felt families, who are descendants of Tūwharetoa, Ngatoroirangi and the Arawa Waka.

“While we whakapapa to Te Hatepe on the shores of Lake Taupo, we Whakapapatuanuku to the Waitaki Valley having chosen to live and mahi (work) in this beautiful corner of New Zealand’s South Island.”

The Waitaki valley is a substantial central South Island valley that encompasses Aoraki [Mount Cook] and the Mackenzie Country including its lakes. The name of the valley translates to tears of Aoraki. 

Ostler’s first vineyard site ‘Clos Ostler’ is where the Waitaki Valley meets North Otago, formed by a 38-million-year-old seabed raised into a north facing limestone slope.

The 'Clos Ostler' vineyard site was the raisin d'etre for their company and pioneering this wine region.

38 million years in the making, Ostler describe their wine as liquid geography.

Jeff Sinnott and Jim Jerram - credit: Jamie Goode

In 1998, Jim Jerram a medical doctor of 29 years, who had worked in Kunde Hospital near Mount Everest as well as University of Otago’s health service, and his brother-in-law, trained sommelier, winemaker and viticulturist Jeff Sinnott, went prospecting for suitable grape-growing country.

At that time there was no history of commercial winegrowing in Waitaki. The two discovered a site Jeff believed encapsulated the essential parameters for growing premium cool climate wine grapes; a north-facing limestone-influenced slope on an escarpment overlooking the braided river. It reminded him of the famous slopes of Burgundy.

The name for the Ostler Vineyard comes from Jim’s great-grandfather, William Ostler, who came from Yorkshire to this area in the 1850s. The first Pinot Noir vines were planted at 'Clos Ostler' in 2002 and the venture was a launched.

Over the next two years, Jim, his wife Anne, Jeff and his sister developed the Ostler site, further planting Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines. Jeff describes it as, "perhaps one of the most viticulturally significant soils in New Zealand.”

The Ostler whānau now collectively farm 20 hectares of grapes spread across four vineyards. Attention to detail by their small dedicated vineyard staff ensures the development of the premium parcels of fruit to vinify under Jeff's equally dedicated and skilled winemaking team.

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