VANSTONE’S LEGACY BLOOMS

Christchurch Press 18 June 2005

Millionaire Akaroa vineyard owner Graham Vanstone would have got a kick out of seeing his pinot noir being sipped at the town’s top tables.
As an investor, he no doubt would have appreciated his wine doubling in value from $30 a bottle in 2001 to $60 for his 2004 vintage.
Vanstone’s plan for his 5ha paradise in Lighthouse Road is finally bearing fruit _ only he is not here to enjoy his success. He mysteriously disappeared on Father’s Day 1999, before seeing his first vintage.
Vanstone had promised the kettle would be on for the arrival home of his new partner, Maeve Allen. By the time she returned on September 5, 1999, he was gone.
Searchers failed to find him. Police inquiries are continuing after a 2003 review of the case renewed interest.
But Vanstone’s extended family has ensured that his passion for the vineyard was not lost with him.  As the vines have matured, they have rallied around and are producing wine in his memory under the Vanstone Estate label.
The eclectic variety of grapes Vanstone planted are making pinot noir, pinot gris
and riesling.
Alison Coles, ofChristchurch, said her younger brother would have been thrilled the vines were producing.
“He had the piece of ground for quite a few years and was never sure what he was
going to do with it,” she said.
“He got interested in wine, and then he decided if it was suitable, he was going to
grow some grapes. I don’t think he ever wanted it to be commercial. But obviously
if you produce a lot of grapes and you produce a lot of wine, you have to do something with it.”
After a German manager of the vineyard had to leave in 2002, Coles called on husband Lindsay’s family for help.
His cousin, Dr Graeme Coles, a Crop and Food scientist, stepped in, along with his 30-year-old son Theo, who has a post-graduate diploma in viticulture. Graeme Coles’s brother, Rob, is marketing manager for the venture, assisted by their nephew, Ben.
Vanstone still technically owns the vineyard, which his estate leases to the Coles family. The wine label bears Vanstone’s name, if not his perplexing story.
The Coles family has taken over responsibility for everything from pruning to pressing, bottling and retailing. The vineyard made 1200 bottles of wine at first and production has grown steadily, apart from 2003, when heavy rain ruined the yield.

The latest vintage will be bottled at Graeme Coles’s new plant at Omihi, north of Amberley, and launched in November. It should make nearly 5000 bottles of wine.
Vanstone’s grapes are also contributing to a wider brand, Crater Rim, which is being developed to showcase Banks Peninsula and Canterbury wines.
“The family has the opportunity, if they want, to continue to retain that connection with Graham through something a little less sad than a gravestone,” said Coles.
“I don’t think anyone realistically expects to see him again, but people would very much like to know what happened to him.”
Ironically, Vanstone was more of a beer drinker than a wine fancier.
“But he was gaining an appreciation of other gifts of the sun,” Coles said.
wine label