Peregrine Wines of New Zealand: Awards-Winning Wines, Architecture, Philanthropy
What is this? And where is it?
Actually, it is not a secret defense weapon in the US Air Force arsenal, but upon approaching it, it does look numinous and otherworldly. It is actually the Peregrine Winery, situated in Gibbstown, New Zealand, on the famous Central Otago Wine Road, a road that takes the oenophile 20 minutes outside Queenstown, NZ on a great tasting trip, beginning with Peregrine.
Before discussing the wine, it is important to mention this architecture's many awards, the most recent being the
New Zealand Supreme Architectural Award. Judges from UK magazine The Architectural Review like it too, placing it, in 2004, in the top five of its annual emerging architecture awards. The jury described the Winery as "an elegant blade of light [that] contrasts with the rugged and sublime natural landscape. But Chris Kelly, the architect, described the building in a more avian manner: "It was recognized early on that the building would be important in reinforcing the Peregrine wine brand, so the changing roof gradient was inspired by old images freezing the kinetic rotation of a bird in flight. The roof is evocative of the majesty the Peregrine or native falcon has as it glides on the thermal uplifts off the heated land." However it is interpreted, it is also on DesignCrave's 2009 list of the Ten Architectural Wonders Of The Wine World, for among other things, its inventive handling of space and light.
The architecture is just one part of this tripartite meditation: another is what the architecture houses: the wine. I had the chance to interview the co-owner, Greg Hay, of this winery while on my travels in New Zealand, that I wrote about in Luxist recently. I wanted to know more about Peregrine's wine, and its brand that combined awards-winning wine with its unique brand -- the first to my knowledge -- of avian philanthropy.
First, how have your wines been doing within the past few years?
"Most recently, our Pinot Noir 2007 was awarded Champion Wine of Australasia from any variety, and well as placed in the top 10 Pinots in the world at the International Wine Challenge in London. We have also won Top of its Class at the International Wine and Spirits Competition, Gold at Air NZ Wine awards, Gold at Sydney Top 100 Wine awards, 5 stars in Cuisine Magazine and several others. The white wines have also done exceptionally well, particularly the Pinot Gris and Rieslings but Wine awards and accolades aside , the best gauge for us is that we are still selling out of the wines that we make each year"
Talk a little about your philanthropic endeavors as it relates to Peregrine wines, and how this connection began.
"We named our winery Peregrine, mainly because we wanted to be associated with the endangered species, the Peregrine. The idea of using the New Zealand falcon (Karearea in Maori) as the brand for the winery came about as I had been allowed to keep injured and orphaned falcons where I lived, then either nurse them back to health or teach them to feed for themselves as they would in the wild and then let them return to their native habitats after about 4 months. They nearly became extinct in the 60`s and 70`s in NZ. Therefore I felt that there was some great work we could do to make their chances of survival greater by supporting and funding conservation projects. We wanted them to soar in the skies again, thus our logo is Wine With Altitude. Peregrine Falcons are majestic birds and reflect a lot of what Central Otago is about as a region and also represent the ethos behind our wines well, that being the combined ideas of power with elegance. We also support programs for Wingspan, a Birds-Of-Pray Sanctuary."
How does Peregrine support Wingspan?
"We have been supporting Wingspan for about 9 years now. They are based in Rotorua, and there is a very high quality avian hospital, used as a captive breeding program and education center for injured and orphaned raptors or birds of prey. We don't necessarily work on a % of profits for any of our conservation work but more look at individual projects that are put before us that we can totally fund and be actively involved in. We have other work through the Fiordland Conservation Trust where we fund projects helping save the South Island Saddleback bird as well as the Mohua, also endangered NZ birds."
How long has your winery been producing? What does the crop look like for the coming year?
"The brand starting out with its first vintage in 1998 so it has now been about 12 vintages . The first we actually made in this facility was the 2003 vintage with the previous ones being made offsite. Our 2009 is now in the bottle and just starting to come onto the market and 2010 vintage looks like they will be two best vintages ever seen in Central Otago, with great concentration and complexity but with amazing finesse also."
On a personal note, I can attest to some of the wines Greg discussed, even though I am admittedly not a lover of red wine. I tasted some, and subsequently bought their 2007 Gewurztraminer, which was one of the best wines I had ever tasted. It had a soft, lemony, almost pineapple-y scent, and light, fruity slightly sweet finish. It was one of New Zealand's many unexpected gustatory surprises I won't soon forget.