The Central App

Turning Monte Christo’s history into a local asset

The Central App

Anna Robb

23 January 2023, 5:00 PM

Turning Monte Christo’s history into a local assetA lean-to on the heritage building has been rebuilt

A Dunedin born entrepreneur is driving the reinvention of Monte Christo Winery and bringing the history of the property alive again. 

Plans for the site on Young Lane and Springvale Rd include a cellar door, function centre/underground wine cellar, on site accommodation, a children’s playground, a petanque court, food trucks, and a commercial wine production operation.

Monte Christo is heralded as the birthplace of wine making in Central, and is where Frenchman Jean Desire Feraud produced wines, and grew fruit trees and berries in the 1870s. 

Reconnecting to this history is important to the Paris family behind the project.  

They've done “more and more research and learning” to keep their plans for modern day operations linked with the past, Alan Paris said.

Plans are to open the cellar door in October, and Alan envisages six to ten new jobs being created. 

“It’s an adaptive reuse of the building… we’ll be hiring cellar door staff, there’ll be food truck opportunities, and viticultural staff opportunities in the future.”

New floor slab has been laid to meet structural requirements

Half the car park will have electric vehicle charging points, there will be e-bike charging and a tool stand for bikes available, along with camper van car parking.

On the subject of the loss of the raspberry cafe, Alan said locals had bought some raspberry plants but he was firmly “focusing on wine”.

“[We want] to reach the quality levels of Felton Road and Burn Cottage… and be spoken about in the same sentence.

“While we are closing a local asset, we’re opening another one.”

The family planted two hectares of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris grapes four years ago and this April will be the first vintage for the winery.

Viticulturist Sam Woods, who has been with Monte Christo since 2020, said being involved from the outset has been exciting.

“We’re about to harvest the first fruit. It’s been a while since grapes have been grown there.”

The Paris family has bought land suitable for wine making in Pisa and Bannockburn; they have 22 hectares planted; mostly in pinot noir, chardonnay and smaller amounts of riesling and pinot gris. 

Alan said they’ll eventually produce approximately 10,000 cases a year, making them a small to medium sized operation.

Last year’s research led Sam to send a sample of an old grapevine from the property for DNA testing by the Bragato Research Institute.

Alan said the results were that they were a black table grape (a Trollinger vine) and it was “generally accepted” these vines came from Feraud’s land.

“We’ll be bringing them back and will grow them the way Feraud grew them, as bushes,” Alan said.

Other nods to the history of the site include planting heritage varieties of fruit trees and berries, as they would have been in the 1870s.

The restoration of the heritage listed building has required repointing the stone walls in a Heritage New Zealand approved colour. 

The restored stone exterior

Alan’s brother Nicholas brings wine expertise to the venture. 

He is one of 416 Masters of Wine in the world and works as director of Global Sourcing for the E. & J. Gallo Winery in the United States. 

The brothers and their father Stanley are shareholders of Monte Christo Winery. 

Alan said his experience working in the hotel development in Bermuda is transferable.

“For a project like this you need funding, expertise and the grunt work to bring it all together.” 

Local construction firm Breen is the main contractor on the redevelopment project.

Breen executive director Lindsay Breen said it was a sizable project of five or six stages.

“We’re happy to have a job of this scale. It’s close to our base… it will be a significant piece of work throughout this year.”

Breen has five employees on site at the moment, and a team of seven working on it, plus local subcontractors.

“We have a history of being a part of restoration work in this area, in places like St Bathans, Clyde and so on… and we like this work,” Lindsay said. 

Landscaping plans and layout

Monte Christo’s resource consent application for the winery building and workers accommodation was lodged with Central Otago District Council (CODC) in mid December.

A CODC spokesperson said it was about halfway through processing.

“No further information is available about what type of notification it will require or if a hearing is required.”

The resource consent application for the cellar door, function centre and travellers accommodation (for eight) was publicly notified in early 2021; 16 submissions were received and it was granted on May 31, 2021 subject to conditions.

Monte Christo Winery also supports the work of Haehaeata Natural Heritage Trust (HNHT) and is listed on the ‘friends’ of HNHT webpage. 

A sketch of Feraud’s winery