The Gentle Cycling Company

Dunbar Estates


Hodgson meets a couple who have turned a run down farm into a winery, café and tasting room, popular with cyclists, located in rural Ngatimoti. Dunbar Estates is located on the opposite side of the Motueka River to the cycling route.

The majority of this region’s wine growing happens on the Waimea Plains, in the Moutere Hills or in the Tasman area, but tucked away in the Motueka Valley at Ngatimoti in a delightful setting is Dunbar Estates.

As well as a vineyard the property includes a cellar door and café; when I visited them recently I loved the environment the new owners have achieved in a very short time.

John and Jennifer Dunbar purchased the property, formerly Rabbit Hill, on the 19th October 2017 and opened for business on the 21st December. It all happened so quickly they haven’t even been able to get promotional material ready, “we just put the sign up, opened the gate and people came in” says Jennifer.

While the couple haven’t owned a business like this before it is obvious they are incredibly hard working people and they do own a small vineyard in Central Otago so growing grapes isn’t new to them, making wine and selling it is.

John is an orthopaedic surgeon based in Dunedin but his very first qualification was an agricultural science degree, so even though his career took him in another direction he has always loved the outdoors and open spaces, “my ancestors were farmers and I have always liked that sort of thing”.

According to Jennifer, when they were working very long days in Dunedin “John said I want land to walk on and I said if that was the case I want a gardener, so we ended up with a vineyard and employed a vineyard manager to look after it – John got his garden and open space.”

Located in the Cromwell Basin, their Shine Basin Vineyard is so-named after the description ‘Shine Basin’ used for the Cromwell basin in the gold rush days, the grapes they grow on the nine hectare property are currently sold to Peregrine wines, but they do have some wine from this property made under contract to be sold here at Dunbar Estates.

The couple built a ‘shed’ on the Shine Basin Vineyard property and it became their retreat from a busy Dunedin work life, they have also holidayed in the Nelson region regularly.

“We came to Kaiteriteri camp for many years and love the area, John has cycled all around the area and it is about 28km from Kaiteriteri to this property at Ngatimoti so we can stay at the beach, bike here, have coffee and bike back again.”

It all sounds very easy but believe me it isn’t, John and Jennifer have put a huge amount of effort into creating something special and the first few months are just the beginning of the project.

It started when they asked Jason Frater, the builder of their holiday home, if he knew of another suitable project in which they could be involved.

John says they like to be busy and like projects, “we thought this was a lovely property with lots of potential but it had been let go a bit, we bought it to see if we could create something special.”

“We have been growing grapes for a while and thought it would be nice to have our own wines, just small volumes. We love the setting by the Motueka River and want to create a place where we can enjoy coming as well as being a business.”

“We are very fortunate to have what we have here and the café offers us the opportunity to share that with others.

“My job is about helping people make the most of their lives and we love to pass on the enjoyment we get from this place to anybody who comes by, there is no point in having nice things and keeping them to yourself.”

Jennifer told me that being on the Great Taste Cycle Trail is a bonus “on the first day we just opened the door without any advertising or promotion and 18 cyclists came in so we are about to install some bike stands and will probably set up a charging station for electric bikes.

“John is a keen cyclist so while we think we understand what tourists need, we will find out what people really want and then try and meet the market a bit.

Thanks to Neil Hodgson for permission to use this article, first published 20/1/18