Californian Making Mark in New Zealand Wines with Pyramid Valley

By Pamela S. Busch

Pyramid valley landscape

I don’t think there is a delicate way of putting this, so I’m just going to come right out and say it: An American makes the best wines coming out of New Zealand. Californian Mike Weersing arrived in New Zealand in 1996 by way of enology school in Dijon, France, and several stints at some of France’s best wineries, including De Montille in Burgundy and Kreydenweiss in Alsace. In New Zealand, he initially went to work as the winemaker at Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson, and in 2000, he purchased an old farm in North Canterbury with his wife on the South Island.

Weersing’s vision was to make wine biodynamically, but it would take a few years before he would be able to work with the fruit from his land.

In the meantime, he rented parcels from growers in other areas. His stipulation was that they let him farm his section his way. While some may have thought his method was strange at first, a few have actually followed his lead and are undergoing organic and biodynamic conversion.

Now that the estate fruit is ready to go (and has been since the 2006 vintage), Pyramid Valley has the home and grower collections. Weersing uses native yeast and adds very little sulfur. Depending on the wine, he ferments in stainless steel, older barrels and increasingly, amphora.

While Pyramid Valley is not the only one to make wine naturally in New Zealand, the vineyard seems to have taken it to a greater degree than most with unsurpassed results, based on complexity and age- worthiness.

Here are a few to try:

Pyramid Valley Grower Collection Pinot Blanc, 2011 (Marlborough, New Zealand): If I had this wine blind, I would have pegged it for Alsatian pinot blanc, or so I’d like to think, as it has the honeysuckle and spice and tangerine I associate with pinot blanc from Alsace. Every vintage I’ve tried has been impressive, but this wine is truly astonishing. Suggested retail: $26

Pyramid Valley Riesling, Riverbrook Vineyard, 2009 (Marlborough): Weersing has been working with two riesling vineyards over the years — this and Rose, which has a slightly cooler microclimate. It is hard for me to choose one over the other, but for drinking now, I’d go with the 2009 Riverbrook. There is a hint of a little petrol in the nose at first, but it blows off in the glass, giving way to floral aromatics, green apples and fennel. Pressed on its skins for 16 hours, the wine has a lot more texture than most rieslings, allowing it to match a wider spectrum of dishes. Suggested retail: $26

Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir, Earth Smoke, 2009 (Canterbury, New Zealand): Earth Smoke is made from a small block on the home vineyard. Unfined and unfiltered, this is not a bashful wine. However, recognizing that it is pinot noir, Weersing allowed it to remain true to its delicate nature. With tobacco, dried herbs, a rusty, iron note and black-cherry fruit, there are a number of characteristics playing off one another, but in a graceful manner. Though pricey, it is one of the few pinot noirs made outside of Burgundy that is worth it. Suggested Retail: $85

Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics. 

Published: The Examiner. San Fransisco
July 27 2014

The energy of street art arrives at Pyramid Valley

It was the Cranmer Cantina, a pop-up fundraising restaurant in Christchurch that Pyramid Valley Vineyards has been involved with since 2012, that sparked the connection with two of that city’s respected street artists whose work is now adorning a new winery just completed in North Canterbury.
Artists Morpork and Yikes have created an eight metre by four metre artwork on the inside back wall of Pyramid Valley’s new winery just completed.
Owner Claudia and Mike Weersing wanted to support the talent of street artists of Christchurch and invited them to visit the vineyard to commission a bespoke artwork.

“I wanted them to show their expression of Pyramid Valley and what they felt while they were here,” says Mrs Weersing. “The art was to be totally representative of their emotions when walking the property and their subsequent creativity. “The art took four days to complete. It is a very emotional piece for me and it embraces everything about what we do here at Pyramid and the gifts of life we enjoy living in the country.”

Morpork painting at Pyramid ValleyIt was the grand opening of Oi You Rise when Claudia Weersing, who was instrumental in forming Cranmer Cantina to raise funds for various Christchurch charities, met street artist, Morpork. “That moment was very special for me, I immediately connected with Morpork and had a guided tour through some of the work he and Yikes had been doing,” says Mrs Weersing.

“It was obvious to me that these artists needed the support of the community to allow for their true expression of what it is like living in a post earthquake city. We have been most fortunate to see the evolution of street art across our city today; it has taken sad empty sites and given them life again.”

Morpork and Yikes visited the vineyard while the winery was under construction and together walked the property to get a sense of the style that is unique to Pyramid Valley, and developed their work that depicts the philosophies, flora and fauna of the property.

Read the full Press Release here.


Alternative Orange Wine by

Exciting Alternatives

There’s more to wine than simply white and red, or indeed the sauvignon blanc and pinot noir that dominate New Zealand’s vineyards. In this section, I’ve explored lesser known whites, a rose and a rare “orange” wine.

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection Kerner Estate Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris 2012 $32
This intriguing amber-coloured wine derives its hue from the grapes being fermented with their skins, rather than having them removed before they can impart much colour or texture, as is the way with most whites. If you’ve never tried a so-called “orange wine” before, you may be surprised by its firm structure, which is more akin to that of a red. It’s flavours, too, are unconventional, blending notes of fresh hay, honey, cardamom and chrysanthemum with apricot fruit and a soy-like savoury undertone. A must for the adventurous wine explorer.

Stockists: Great Little Vineyards and Pyramid Valley Vineyards

Published: The New Zealand Herald – viva
April 24 2014

Pyramid Valley Biodynamic Wind Growing

NZ Vineyard Earns Demeter Certification

NZ Vineyard Farmed Biodynamically From Inception Earns Demeter Certification

Pyramid Valley Vineyards in North Canterbury was the first vineyard in New Zealand and one of only a few in the world, to be established from the outset under the most stringent biodynamic principles, and now 10 years later, it has earned Demeter certification.

“Most producers establish their vineyards conventionally and then convert to organics and biodynamics over time due to the difficulty in vine establishment and the cost to do this biodynamically,” says Caine Thompson, Pyramid Valley Vineyards managing director.

“Consequently, Pyramid Valley is one of the world’s unique vineyards, where no systemic chemicals have ever been used.”

In a quest to link this feat into the wine world market, Pyramid Valley Vineyards has achieved Demeter certification for biodynamic farming for wine grape production.

The North Canterbury vineyard becomes one of few Kiwi producers to be Demeter accredited and joins such peers as Felton Road, Seresin, Millton and Quartz Reef.

“We’re finding that customers are starting to ask for certification. There is a huge awareness now that there never used to be, so it was a logical step,” says Thompson.

Demeter is the world’s leading biodynamic certifier and maintains strict protocol for ensuring all rules and regulations are diligently followed.

“This makes it one of the toughest accreditations in the world of wine to achieve,” says Thompson.

Biodynamics precedes modern organics and was first introduced in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher, through a series of lectures on agriculture. He saw the effect modern agriculture was having on soil health and advocated for the use of certain preparations and techniques and their interactions so these could work in harmony to improve soil health and revive the land.

Having managed organic vineyards around New Zealand, Thompson believes biodynamic farming provides an additional level of energy that can’t be seen, sensed or felt in conventional or organic vineyards. “There is no doubt in my mind that this energy and purity is converted from soil to the grape and finally into the bottle.”

Mike and Claudia Weersing established Pyramid Valley in 2000, and based on experience in Europe, felt there was no other way to grow grapes other than biodynamically.

“It just made sense in my mind, and from what I saw in the great vineyards of Burgundy and Alsace, to farm biodynamically as soon as possible, without compromise,” says Weersing.

“We’re super committed to producing wine with as little as possible artificial input. Our wines are therefore unfined, unfiltered with little or no sulphur ever added, with zero chemical residues, which makes Pyramid Valley one of the world’s most purist wine producers.

“For me it’s just about letting a place speak to the best of its ability. If certification assists with allowing that voice to speak through to our customers, then so be it,” says Weersing.

To celebrate, Pyramid Valley will offer, for a limited time, free shipping from its website on all six-bottle orders or more, anywhere in New Zealand.


Demeter NZ Award Pyramid Valley Wines     Demeter_cobrand_transp_white_small


Pyramid Valley Vineyards
Phone 03 314 2006 or 027 2233312