Rippon Vineyard

Emma Rippon, daughter of a chief cashier of the Bank of England, was born in England at the start of the 1800s. She married Frederick James Sargood, a draper and in 1850 they moved to the new colony of Victoria, Australia to set up a small merchant business.

Much later, one of their grand-sons, Percy Sargood, came out to Dunedin (then New Zealand’s largest port and capital city), to advance the family business, Sargood, Son & Ewen into New Zealand and 1912 he bought Wanaka Station, then a large run, flanking much of the western side of the Upper Clutha Basin.

Percy’s own grand son, Rolfe Sargood Mills grew up between Dunedin and Wanaka and always dreamed of one day moving back on to the family farm. Many years later this, and many more of his dreams besides, would become reality.

In 1974, Lois and the late Rolfe Mills moved back to the family farm in Wanaka. Acting largely on a hunch born in the schist slopes of the Douro Valley many years earlier, they planted a few short rows of experimental vines on a small steep bank above their house. Despite the mostly negative opinions of the viticultural experts of the time, the climate data that Rolfe collected was encouragement enough for them to plant their first commercial vineyard block in 1982. The growing belief they had in the site’s potential to produce fine wine was soon to be realised.

Rolfe Mills was one of the pioneers of the Central Otago viticultural region, choosing an outstandingly beautiful site on the edge of Lake Wanaka. Rippon has really come of age in the hands of his son, Nick Mills, former Olympic skier, and vigneron with top class Burgundian experience at JJ Confuron and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

There were many years of monitoring weather patterns, sugar levels and different grape varieties that could be suitable to the area. Through many years of empirical and scientific observation, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer & Sauvignon Blanc quickly came to the fore as the varieties which are most suited to the Rippon site. We also enjoy working with Gamay and Osteiner, from which we make lighter style summer wines.

Some of the varieties which we have worked with, but have been replaced are Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Muller Thurgau, Breidecker, Chardonnay...The total area under vines is now 15 hectares with the majority of plantings in Pinot Noir and Riesling.

For the last few years Nick has been turning out some of New Zealand’s finest pinots from his biodynamically farmed vineyards which are among the longest established in the region. Those used for the Mature Vine bottling date back to 1986-1994.

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