In 1852 William Ostler emigrated from Yorkshire to New Zealand to manage Benmore Station near Omarama for Robert Campbell. Campbell, of Castle Duntroon in Scotland, had already emigrated and bought Otekaieke Station in the lower Waitaki.

As a pioneer in the new colony Ostler soon desired his own station and, in time, bought first Ben Ohau behind today's Twizel township, and subsequently Lilibank at the head of Lake Tekapo, from the original squatters who had occupied the vast tracts of land some years before.

In 1998, unaware of this history, Ostler's great grandson Jim Jerram and his brother-in-law, winemaker and viticulturist Jeff Sinnott, went prospecting for suitable grape-growing country in the lower Waitaki's limestone country, inland from Oamaru. At that time there was no history of commercial winegrowing in the region.

The two discovered a site Sinnott believed encapsulated the essential parameters for growing premium cool climate wine grapes; a north-facing limestone-influenced slope on an escarpment overlooking the braided river. It reminded him of the famous slopes of Burgundy.

The first Pinot Noir vines were planted at 'Clos Ostler' in 2002 and, with Jeff Sinnott as partner, viticultural adviser and winemaker, the venture was a launched. Over the next two years, further Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines were planted.

International recognition and accolades soon followed for wines of a unique style...

Our People

Jeff Sinnott - Winemaker

After training as a sommelier in New Zealand in the early 1980s, Jeff's career in wine began in the retail and wholesale trade in Melbourne. From this fertile training ground, he developed his palate and especially a deep affection for, amongst other things, fine Pinot Noir. This path eventually led him to graduate with a Degree in Viticulture from Roseworthy, South Australia, after specialising in Pinot Noir and sustainable viticulture.

Several vintages in the great southern land was enough to make him realize that there was more to life than Aussie Shiraz and he moved to Gisborne where he became assistant winemaker at the Millton Vineyard in 1992 and then principal tutor in wine studies at Tairwahiti Polytechnic. In 1997 he was attracted down to Marlborough where he helped establish a small family winery called Isabel Estate. During his time in Marlborough, he had the pleasure of working both in California and Burgundy.

After five years and some spectacular results with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, including the IWC Trophy in 1999, he finally realised his passion for Pinot Noir in establishing Ostler Vineyard while working as winemaker at Amisfield in Central Otago. The Ostler site was found after a trip to Burgundy and the lure of the terroir was immediate. Captivated by the slope, aspect and more importantly the limestone seam that underlies the vineyard, it became apparent that this was one of the most viticulturally significant sites in New Zealand.

"It is with the greatest of pleasure that I can work with what I believe to be one of this country's Grand Cru estates."

Jim Jerram - Commander in Chief

Jim is a wine lover and he loves producing it.

After a youth spent working as a farmhand on a sheep station in the Southern Alps, Jim qualified as a medical doctor and spent 29 years in this career. This included two years as a volunteer working in Kunde Hospital near Mount Everest in Nepal for Sir Edmund Hillary's Himalayan Trust, as sole charge doctor. Fifteen years were spent as a family practitioner in Nelson then nine years running the University Of Otago's Student Health Service.

Always having had a great fondness for wine, it was during the '90s in Dunedin that Jim honed his tasting and wine appreciation in the company of some new friends with developed tasting skills. Over many evenings of tastings, frequently 'blind', his attraction to the fickle Pinot Noir grape began.

After meeting Jeff Sinnott, the germ of an idea which incorporated both his frustrated farming ambitions and his love of wine flourished. Together Jeff and Jim prospected the limestone country in the Waitaki Valley and found the Ostler site.

Together with wife Anne, Jeff's sister, Jim developed the Ostler site. As the first harvest approached in 2004, he left his medical career to pursue the production of the 'perfect Pinot Noir grape'.

He and Anne live in the Valley where they have developed the Ostler business to become this exciting new wine region's first local producers. Other passions include the outdoors, flying, hunting, fishing and the Waitaki Valley and its inhabitants.

Jim is to be found at the Vintner's Drop in Kurow, in the Waitaki vineyards, or somewhere between here and there around the globe selling our precious products.


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