Rotorua is set to add a unique wine experience to its tourism repertoire with a new partnership between Skyline Rotorua and Volcanic Hills wines.
A winery will be established at the base of the Skyline Rotorua site, where visitors will be able to see how the wine is made before taking a gondola to a tasting room within the popular tourism attraction's mountain-top complex.
Skyline Rotorua general manager, Bruce Thomasen, said the partnership was a good fit and would not only add to what Skyline offered, but also fill a gap in the local tourism market.
"Rotorua's heritage of hosting visitors is first-class, while New Zealand is internationally renowned for making good wine, so this venture is complementary to everything we offer. No-where else in New Zealand - and perhaps the world - can you take a gondola to a wine tasting experience with a 180 degree view of our stunning city and lake.
"The development is also a nice local story," he said.
Volcanic Hills business partners Brent Park and Sean Beer both have links to Rotorua, making the new business a home-coming of sorts. Mr Beer's wife is from Rotorua, as is Mr Park.
"We hope to create something that Rotorua people will be proud of and take ownership of," said Mr Park, a former Rotorua Boys' High School student whose parents still live in the city.
"For us this is about taking the wine to the people and telling our story," he said.
It is expected the tasting room - in the old gondola terminal - will be open to the public by December, with the winery taking slightly longer to complete. The aim is to have the first vintage made on site in March.
"Because it's a fully-functioning winery it requires more detail so will take longer to complete, plus there are council regulations and the like to meet," Mr Beer said.
The winery has been designed by Werner Naude and Darryl Church of Darryl Church Architecture in Rotorua, with the interiors of both the winery and the tasting room designed by Kathryn Taylor from The Ivory Studio in Auckland.
There would be some jobs on offer once Volcanic Hills' Rotorua venture was ready for business but numbers were not known at this stage, said Mr Beer.
Mr Park and Mr Beer have approximately 30 years' wine-making experience between them and have worked in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, France and South Africa. The pair also worked on one of New Zealand's most prominent wine brands, but eventually decided to develop their own iconic range.
They launched Volcanic Hills in 2009 and sell their wines to restaurants around the North Island. They started with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, but have also added Chardonnay and Pinot Gris to their range. The grapes are sourced from New Zealand's premium winegrowing regions, but the pair wanted a home base for their brand.
After searching around the Central North Island for suitable sites, the partners settled on Rotorua where they already have a personal attachment and several existing customers, including Skyline which sells their wines in its restaurant.
Mr Thomasen said he expected the new wine experience would appeal to both Kiwi and overseas tourists, and to locals keen to show off their city to visitors.
"We want people to be proud of what we have to offer in Rotorua and this new partnership combines two of the most iconic experiences in New Zealand - stunning views and great wine in a complete package."
Mr Thomasen says he expects the Skyline and Volcanic Hills development to provide an additional attraction for conferences, weddings and corporate groups coming to Rotorua.
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