The Road Less Traveled

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Mike Weersing

Pyramid Valley Vineyards | Canterbury, New Zealand

These days, we might call a guy with degrees in English and Art History a barista, but Mike Weersing, then in his mid-20s, decided to become a winemaker.

“I was intrigued by Pinot, so I went to Oregon to do a harvest,” he says.

After his experience at Evesham Wood in 1992, Weersing was hooked, but hesitant.

“Having already done a BA and an MA, the last thing I wanted to do was another four-year degree,” he says.

Casting about, his educational search fell on Burgundy, where he enrolled in a two-year wine program in Beaune.

For a few years, he served as a sort of itinerant winemaking assistant, working his way from south to north as the harvest progressed.

“I kind of felt like I was fathering children all over the world and never seeing them grow up,” Weersing says of the wines he made.

After meeting Australian writer and vintner James Halliday, Weersing worked a harvest at Coldstream Hills, in the Yarra Valley, then moved on to Neudorf, in Nelson on New Zealand’s South Island.

He stayed for three and a half years, but yearned to begin his own project.

“I chafe a little at the idea of defined possibilities,” says Weersing. “I wanted to do something new.”

By 2000, when he and his family purchased a 300-acre sheep farm in Canterbury, the search had almost cost him dearly.

“I was looking at geological maps of Uruguay, and Claudia [his wife] was looking at divorce papers,” he says.

Even after that, the first few years were tough, says Weersing.

“We’re on very tight spacing and established the vineyard biodynamically, so just getting the plants up was hard,” he says “We had to do everything by hand.”

The first commercial vintage was in 2006, and things looked promising, says Weersing. “But then the GFC hit and everything changed overnight.”

Now the biggest challenge is selling the wine.

“We can’t sell it all locally,” says Weersing. “We sell 3,000 cases in 30 different markets across more than 20 countries.”

—Joe Czerwinski

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The Road Less Traveled

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