Episode 18: Vines On The Hill
Vines On The Hill
When Max Annabell and Kate Norman came from England to plant grapes in Hawkes Bay, their horticultural experience consisted of growing tomatoes on the balcony of their London flat.
And just to make things harder, the hillside they bought near Waipukurau had an unusual additional feature - a huge abandoned hospital.
What appealed to Max wasn't the 7000 square metres of buildings - it was the limestone country around it, which he thought would be ideal for grape growing.
He and Kate set about establishing a vineyard on the northern slopes of their property and seven years later their boutique winery, San Hill Wines, will feature on this week's Country Calendar.
Max has ended up not far from home - he was brought up in Wairarapa but left New Zealand for his big OE in the early '90's. He met Kate in London.
After 12 years Max and Kate returned to New Zealand on what Kate describes as a "No pressure, but could you live here?" visit. That led them to buy the land.
As well as establishing a winery, they've also found a use for the massive hospital buildings - formerly Pukeora Hospital, which once housed 500 patients and staff.
The boiler room has become the new winery and what used to be the staff recreation room is now their bottling plant.
Max, Kate and their two daughters live at one end of the former isolation ward and the other end has been converted into a homestay. Most of the hospital wards have been turned into packpacker accommodation.
Max and Kate say they've still got a lot of work ahead of them but they love the relaxed Hawkes Bay lifestyle.
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