An article by Dale De Meulemeester, which first ran in the former
Ahuroa Community Newsletter (circa 2000). 

Photos of the dam in the early days kindly supplied by Jo Bradshaw.

In 1971 we bought our property in Ahuroa and named it "Lothlorien Orchard". We planted the best 20 acres in fruit trees and, as an experiment, we did it all organically. Our main original crops were peaches, feijoas and NZ grapefruit.

Looking towards the stage, early 1970's

As years went by, our family grew and so did our fruit crops. By 1980 we had more feijoas than we could possibly sell - so we had our first thought about some form of processing. We investigated various forms of processing, bottling, drying, juicing and in a very small way, wine making. Our first batch of home made feijoa wine was fermented in 1977. We made many types of home made wine and we soon noticed that the feijoa was always our favourite.

In 1983 we took our feijoas and our NZ grapefruit, "Poormans Orange" to a Fruit Processor in Huapai to be juiced and bottled as fruit juice. After a few years of juicing fruit and blending fruit juices, we decided to try making wine from some of the feijoa juice, blended with apple juice.

We bottled small amounts and 'tested' them among our friends. It was so popular among our friends that when the fruit processing plant and winery that had been processing our fruit for 10 years came up for sale we wondered if we should buy it, and go into production ourselves. My son Eli was interested in the idea of winemaking and about to go to university to get a degree in winemaking. We had to decide whether to go into the wine business now or pass up the sale of the plant we knew.

At just about this time, Annie Whittle of TV3's "The Living Earth" tasted a bottle of wine that I had given to a friend. She came to see us to ask about doing a TV show about the feijoa wine because she loved it and considered it uniquely NZ. On the strength of this interest and all our local support, Eli said he would purchase the Winery if I would supply the fruit in hopes that it would all work out.

The dam in the early 1970's

In February 1993 we brought home the fruit processing plant and winery equipment. Eli, with help from the rest of us, cleaned up all the equipment and installed it into a shed with a few alterations. We started juicing feijoas in April and on the first day of production Logan Petley came by to see how we were getting on. When he saw we needed help he lent a hand. Logan had worked at the juice plant in Huapai and had heard about us juicing ourselves. Logan joined Eli and myself and Lothlorien Winery was in production.

Annie Whittle came back with her TV crew and captured all phases of orcharding, winemaking and living organically at Lothlorien. It was shown as a seven part series on "The Living Earth". This generated a lot of interest in Lothlorien Winery. We made very good friends with Annie Whittle during this time and owe her a great deal for helping our wine get so much exposure.

When our first vintage was ready, we decided to throw a party to launch the wine. We had been throwing parties for a number of years now but we wanted something special. We asked all our friends in the music business to help us out. With the help of Herbs, Annie Whittle, Mahia Blackmore, Shane Wills and many others we had the entertainment under control.

We wanted to feed the people as well so we called on Selwyn Tolhopf, Jimmy Smith and a few other local Bohemians to do an eight sheep spit.

The big day arrived, the sun shone, the music was excellent, the wine went down well and the locals just barely managed to hold back the crowd while they served the food. TV3 filmed it all and our business had been kick-started.

The dam as it is today

Seven years later, we've tripled in size, taken Eli's brother Cy on board and now the four of us (Eli, Logan, Cy & myself) are a limited company, "Lothlorien Winery Ltd".

We've built a cellar to store all our wine in as well as label and box it. My middle daughter Amaya does most of the labelling and runs the cellar with an iron fist.

We've won a number of medals over the years as well as a few trophies from the NZ Fruit Winemakers Association. In 1999 we cleaned up with our medium feijoa winning a gold medal, a trophy for best feijoa wine, a trophy for best sparkling wine and a trophy for best wine overall!

We are proud of our wines, fruit juices and liqueurs. Jo my partner, Logan, Eli, Cy and all the rest of our children have worked hard to make this venture productive but it could never have come to anything without the overwhelming support of the local people of Ahuroa as well as the wider community. We would like to thank you all for that support. Our wines now sell in stores all over NZ, but the local people, Mangawhai to Orewa, still manage to soak up one third of all production.

Thanks again for your support.