Jill and Dayne Sherwood have been involved with wine for many years. Dayne was part of the first intake in the Viticulture and Oenology course offered at Lincoln University. Although both Jill and Dayne both have backgrounds in business and banking, their love and passion for wine inspired them to plant their first vines in West Melton in Canterbury. Sherwood Wines was started in 1987, and they have not looked back.
On top of expansion, and the need for more space, Jill and Dayne found themselves torn between spending time in their newly constructed restaurant onsite, and the actual winemaking. They decided that they wanted to focus on the winemaking, so they packed up shop and moved the business to the Waipara Valley. To this day, they remain in the area, with a state-of-the-art winery and distribution centre. Dayne Sherwood said, “We now own five vineyards in the area and lease a sixth. In total, we have 120 hectares of vines throughout the Waipara Valley. All of our production is done onsite, from making the wine to bottling, packaging and distribution. The winery also houses our main offices where we look after all New Zealand and international sales.”
“I think we got to be where we are through a shared passion for wine. It was really important to both of us that we worked on something we loved, and something that was for ourselves. It is such a diverse industry, you really are making something from scratch, and you have the opportunity to put your mark on it every step of the way.” Jill and Dayne are prime examples of passion and dedication. What started as a two-person team, has now grown to 22, plus additional seasonal staff at different points in the year and underpins their commitment to the wine industry.
Dayne described the wine scene in New Zealand in his earlier days, saying, “Back then, [the mid-1980’s], wine wasn’t a common drink for the average New Zealander. When we first started out Cabernet was being grown in New Zealand. It was clear to me that this is a warm climate wine, and we are a cool climate region, particularly in the South Island. It became obvious that we should grow Pinot Noir rather than the more popular Cabernet and Merlot varieties. Pinot Noir was not particularly popular in the 1980s, and there weren’t many growers when we planted our first vines.” Now, focussed on what grapes grow best in the area, Sherwood focusses on aromatics, Pinot Gris, Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and a little Syrah. “That’s not to say that we wouldn’t look at other, lesser known varieties in the future. Many growers have had success with varieties such as Semillon and Albarino, and I think as the market develops the consumer will be looking to try lesser known varieties.”
The Waipara Valley is one of the few, if not the only winegrowing region in New Zealand that is in a valley. The hills offer protection from prevailing weather fronts and temperatures can often be up to 10 degrees different to areas less than 10 kilometres away. Rainfall in the Waipara Valley is often significantly less than that of the surrounding areas. “The wines here have long, very warm summers with cool night temperatures, so the fruit ripens well while still having the ability to allow the flavours to develop in the cool of the nights. The climate gives rise to some amazing aromatic wines.”
One of Sherwood’s unique qualities is their meticulous control of each of their winemaking processes. Everything is hands-on in both the vineyard and the winery. “We do every step of the process ourselves. We employ our own vineyard teams that work throughout the year pruning, spraying and maintaining the vines and then our own harvest team. All the winery processing is done onsite by our winemakers. This way we know exactly what has happened to our wine at every stage. It may be the “old fashioned” business model, but it’s our way of stamping our mark of quality on every bottle of wine we make,” said Dayne.
Wine is something different to every drinker. Some people like to be able to taste where the wine came from, or who’s distinct techniques come through in the flavour. Sherwood Estate Wines aims to make wine that above all else, provides value to the drinker. “It must be a wine that they will want to have a second glass and a second bottle. Our wines are always made to be full of flavour, allowing the fruit flavours to be the star of the show. We want our wines to be approachable to our customers and a wine that can be enjoyed by anybody.”
Sherwood Estate Wines was one of the first wineries in the area to have all of their vineyards and winery fully certified under the Sustainable Wine Growing Scheme in New Zealand. They have been an advocate for implementing sustainability in the industry. “As the industry continues to develop, we must be aware that changes in our practice will always need to be made to make sure we remain as sustainable as possible,” Dayne said. “This is not just true for us, but it’s the responsibility of everyone in the industry.”
“Wine is primarily about people, so a great wine is a reflection of the people involved with its making.” Sherwood Estate’s wines reflect not only the dedication apparent in each of its employees, but it also reflects the refined techniques used and the beauty of the soils and climate of the Waipara region.