Stonyridge Vineyard is the ongoing dream of Stephen White. After graduating from Kings College, Stephen obtained a Diploma of Horticulture at Lincoln College, Canterbury University. A big influence in his education was the lecturer in Viticulture and Oenology, Dr. David Jackson. In 1981 Stephen White returned to New Zealand after doing a Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, skippering yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and working in wineries in California and Italy. It was during this 3-year adventure that Stephen came to love the culture and lifestyle of the Mediterranean and the great red wines of France, Tuscany, and California.
His mission now was to locate a site where Bordeaux grape varieties could be ripened to perfection in NZ.
After extensive climatic research he discovered that the ideal site was right under his nose on Waiheke Island. As a fifth-generation Aucklander with an uncle and aunt farming on the island and as a great lover of islands around the world, Waiheke was his destiny.
Unfortunately no one else shared his enthusiasm; the Rural Bank and Ministry of Agriculture scorned the project. Waiheke had been known more for its hippies and marijuana production than anything else. Finally, world-renowned Dr. Richard Smart was appointed as head government viticulturist, and after he gave his support to winegrowing on Waiheke, the bank followed suit.
The first Bordeaux vines and olive trees were planted in 1982, with the help of close friends and family. A firm friendship and alliance was formed with Kim & Jeanette Goldwater, who were also pioneering a vineyard and winery. It was through the Goldwaters that Stephen met Dr. John McLeod, who joined him as winemaking partner from 1984 to 1988.
In 1984 Stephen returned to Bordeaux for a final training period and completed the vintage at Chateau d'Angludet, Cantenac-Margaux under the tutelage of Peter Sichel.
Stephen and John produced the first vintage at Stonyridge Vineyard in 1985. Two years later, they made the great 1987 Larose that rocketed Stonyridge to national fame – a wine hailed as the greatest red wine ever made in New Zealand.
Stonyridge has been credited with many firsts:
- First to recognise the Waiheke climate as ideal for Bordeaux-style reds, and to come to Waiheke with the sole intention of making great red wines
- First NZ winegrower to recognise the value of northfacing land, and to plant roses at the end of each row and know why
- First NZ winemaker to make a wine from the Bordeaux Four (Cab.Sauv., Merlot, Cab.Franc, Malbec) and Bordeaux Five (adding Petit Verdot)
- First NZ winegrower to make a Rhone Ranger wine (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre)
- First NZ winemaker to exclusively use barriques, and one of the first to have an underground barrel cellar
- First to have a second label to protect the quality of the first
- First NZ winemaker to sell “en primeur”
- First to plant a commercial olive grove and a cork forest