Fabulous Pegasus Bay

Christine Donaldson has a lot to answer for!

It was her Christmas present in 1966 (Hugh Johnson’s Wine) to her husband Ivan that sent them on a life’s journey making wine; it was her love of opera which has resulted in some very original names for their special bottles (Bel Canto, Prima Donna, Aria, Maestro, Encore and Virtuoso); and it’s her green fingers that have created the most fabulous gardens around their famous winery and restaurant in Waipara.

Not to mention raising a fine family of four boys while at the same time making Ivan’s dream – their own vineyards  – happen; indeed planting some of the early vines herself while Ivan continued his full time occupation and practice as a senior neurologist.

The wines, the winery, the vineyards, the destination restaurant are all as remarkable as the gardens – though not quite as photogenic…

I’m leaving http://www.winefriend.org/blog to do justice to the wine side of this story and hoping the photos below do justice to the gardens


This is the view that greets those lucky enough to stay in the flat above the restaurant  and below is the herb garden alongside it; box for the parterre and for most of the topiary grown is of course grown from cuttings….


Christine installed the Donaldson Poupou (below) – a post which represents ancestors – to acknowledge the link between tangata (people) and whenua (the land).  She calls the huddle of topiary her ‘brain’. Everywhere there is colour and form, native species and exotics. Her next project is to tackle some 40 year old ornamental trees which she had rescued from a tree nursery using Niwaki: prunung, training and shaping trees the Japanese way. Her energy seems limitless!




The pond is the only indicator that the land ran down to swamp; the wider landscape on the edges of this paradise serves as a reminder of what used to be.








Christine is rightly proud of her gardening achievements. She and Ivor are equally proud of their sons, three of whom are actively involved in the business of Pegasus Bay. We had the good fortune to taste seventeen of their wines with Paul – the overall manager and the youngest (but tallest below) – who also joined us for lunch at their outstanding restaurant. This is run very efficiently and effectively by Belinda, (the shortest below) who with Edward, responsible for marketing and sales,  kindly invited us for supper, along with their two delightful sons. We were sorry not to meet Matt, the wine maker, who was away at a conference; nor did we meet the lawyer Michael, who Christine describes as the ‘one who got away’ !

It was a pleasure to meet so many of such a talented and cooperative family. All of them must take credit for finding a way for each individual to contribute and to flourish. We learnt that business meetings involve the use of a talking stick. Whoever has it, gets to speak, and the rest must listen. Better than a spoon for stirring!


The first indication that our hosts were pretty special came by text. How many people do you know would leave the house open for complete strangers to settle into, telling them to use the pool and drink the Riesling chilling in the fridge, eat the olives etc, until they return from their french conversation class on a Thursday night?

Next morning Christine found time to drive us through the streets of Christchurch,  five years almost to the day of the terrible earthquake which left so much of Christchurch devastated. Their own house will need radical repair – involving lifting the whole house in order for 15 m deep piles to be inserted in their new foundations. It was both moving and impressive to see how committed the people of Christchurch are to both restoration and to the future.

Ivan and Christine Donaldson have always led busy lives. Ivan’s work in neurology took them to London when their family was very small. Somehow they managed to fit in over fifty visits to the Opera during their short stay. After a long day’s work, to ensure they arrived before curtain-up, each took turns to ride their only bicycle for a few hundred yards before padlocking it to a lampost for the other to use once s/he had caught up…

Think about it…. A model of the team work and ingenuity (using what is available to maximum effect) which is at the heart of their fabulous story.

Thank you to Christine, Ivan, Paul, Edward and Belinda for finding the time to make us feel so welcome, and our visit so fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s