Queenstown New Zealand Map
When Rudi Bauer arrived in New Zealand in 1985 he was probably the best-qualified vigneron in the country. He had already spent nine years studying the theory and practice of viticulture and winemaking, punctuated by regular examinations, and had worked in vineyards and cellars with international varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Muller Thurgau as well as grapes native to Austria or Germany such as Zweigelt, St Laurent and Gruner Veltliner.
In March 1985 Rudi began working at Mission Vineyards in Hawke’s Bay where he stayed until June 1989. During those years he took three winter breaks – the first to cycle around the South Island, the two others to extend his international experience with vintages at Simi in the Sonoma Valley, California and at Sokol Blosser in Oregon. In the winter of 1989 he planted the second block of the Rippon Vineyard with Robin Dicey who was advising Rolfe and Lois Mills on their viticulture. Rudi had already established a reputation as a winemaker based on notable wines he was involved with at Mission, including their 1985 Gewurztraminer, 1987 Pinot Noir and 1989 Reserve
Winter 2011 at Rudi Bauer’s Quartz Reef. Suellen Boag Semillon. Winning Rippon’s first gold medal for Pinot Noir in 1990 enhanced his reputation as well as confirming his skills in the Central Otago environment.
Rudi left Rippon at the end of 1992 to work at the Giesen Wine Estate where he was one of their principal winemakers until November 1997. In accepting this position Rudi was not spurning Central Otago. By 1991 he had discovered the land he coveted on Bendigo Station and remained intent on exploring the possibility of establishing his own vineyards and cellar in Central: ‘I always wanted to come down here. That was a very clear call.’ His wife, professional photographer Suellen Boag, grew up in Dunedin and is equally as enthusiastic about Central Otago and especially Arrowtown where she spent holidays as a child.
Queenstown New Zealand Map Photo Gallery
Giesen’s brief for Rudi, undoubtedly influenced by his success at Rippon, was ‘to improve their red wine portfolio’. He was responsible for grapes from their Canterbury property, from land the Giesens owned in Marlborough, and for grapes bought from Marlborough growers. The experience included working with white grapes – notably botrytised Riesling, Muller Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris – but what confirmed the direction that Rudi wished to take was clear: ‘What for me was the best was dealing with Pinot Noir from two more regions.’ He added the distinctive Canterbury (Burnham) and Marlborough Pinots to his Otago experience.
In 1996, Rudi Bauer visited John and Heather Perriam to discuss the possibility of planting grapes on their Bendigo Station. ‘He asked whether we’d be interested in forming a partnership,’ recounts John Perriam. ‘He was looking at the Loop Road. I told him to bugger off because I was running around the world at that stage setting up Merino New Zealand.’ The Loop Road is a triangular side road with two entrances off State Highway 8 east of Lake Dunstan, about 30 kilometres north of Cromwell. At its eastern apex is the site of the former gold-mining settlement of Bendigo. Loop Road is on a flat terrace between 210 and 220 metres above sea level. On the southern arm of its triangle a relatively gentle concave slope rises above this terrace until at about 280 metres it becomes too difficult to cultivate with a tractor.
Rudi Bauer had long admired the slope as a site for a vineyard. He had observed it often from across the Clutha when driving between Wanaka and Cromwell: ‘And you look at it, and you say, “That’s not good enough, it’s west facing”, you know. And of course I made a mistake!’ They visited the site where Suellen used her watch in relation to the position of the sun to convince Rudi that the slope was within 10 degrees of due north. He became more enthusiastic, even harbouring thoughts of establishing a monopoly over a large chunk of these slopes.
Rudi and Suellen were keen to use the name ‘Bendigo’ for the nascent enterprise, but firms in the winegrowing area of Bendigo, Victoria in Australia had already captured that intellectual property. Within a 10-kilometre radius of Loop Road are numerous colourful names from Central Otago’s gold-mining era, especially of the creeks draining
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