Grand plans for Queenstown wine country

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The first major accommodation complex for the Wakatipu’s renowned wine region is underway – aiming to boost wine and cycle trail tourism.

A complex in Gibbston Valley with capacity for 78 guests including cafe/bar and bike facilities was granted resource consent two weeks ago on former Anthem Vineyard land.

And Mountain Scene can reveal construction of the first stage of what will be called Kinross Cottages & Vineyard – named after Gibbston’s founding father Thomas Kinross – has begun.

The first seven two-unit, rustic-style cottages are due to be finished in April, accompanied by extensive landscaping including a large native garden.

The developers are cashed-up New Zealand Home Loans co-founder John Erkkila and his wife Christine, of Hamilton.

The couple, whose family trust bought the 15-hectare Anthem block in a mortgagee sale early this year, already own boutique accommodation in the North Island, including Great Barrier Island.

Their project and operations manager is Arrowtowner Jeremaia Fisk, who has extensive outdoor guiding and wholesale tourism experience.

Fisk tells Mountain Scene the Erkkilas identified that Gibbston Valley lacked any major accommodation.

“There’s been lots of promised developments over the last six or seven years in the Gibbston Valley and they’ve never come to anything,” Fisk says.

“Bannockburn and Cromwell are the main wine-growing type areas for this region but Gibbston Valley is the shopfront – the highway is one of the busiest roads in the country.

“Where is there an international airport 20 minutes from a leading wine-growing region?”

Above all, Fisk says they want to help grow visitor numbers to Gibbston: “We need to get more people here.”

Fisk says the future of cycle tourism looks good with the year-old Queenstown Trail connecting to the Gibbston River Trail and prospects of a trail through Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell.

Cycling and vineyards go together, he says.

“In Italy, you cycle around the vineyards and get a baguette that sits in the front basket of your bike – I’m designing bikes like this.”

Fisk suggests a novel fly/cycle tour option: “Groups could fly in from Sydney, cycle 48km out here, stay the night, cycle around the wineries tasting a bunch of wines and then cycle back out on their last day and fly away.” 

Fisk says the Erkkilas’ emphasis is on self-catered, affordable accommodation.

“We want everyday Kiwis to come here, we want to target the wedding market – groups of 40 and 50 that want to have a wedding and stay in the vines.

“We’re focusing on seven months of the year and then we’ll see how winter rolls. 

“The Otago people who love Central and want to come up here for a week’s skiing but can’t afford to take their kids out to dinner every night and want to be able to cook for them, there’s a winter market there in its own right.
“People who want to escape Queenstown for a night but be close to their kids – you can ride out and stay the night with a rucksack or come out with a group of friends and sit around, smash rose and play petanque.” 

Fisk says Kinross Cottages & Vineyard is going to be an experience rather than just accommodation: “You’re there to look after yourselves, we’re just providing the environment for you.” 

Plans include developing conceivably the Wakatipu’s best native garden with wetlands and birdlife, and expanding existing ponds.

Fisk says the vision includes re-establishment of an orchard so guests can sample fresh apricots, a climbing wall, historic ruins roofed over for a community barbecue area, remote-control boats floating on ponds and a petanque course.

“Rather than man-handling the landscape, we’re expanding on what’s already there ’cos people have been walking around here for 150 years.”