Meet Matakana’s beverage boss crafting natural wines and organic cider on Duck Creek Road. The site was once home to the biggest apple orchard in the Southern Hemisphere.  Justin Oliver represents what the Matakana region is so well equipped to produce;  a resourceful creator with an inherent sense of how to turn what grows here – beautiful grapes and heritage fruit – into a wine to enjoy.
Justin studied horticulture at Massey and complemented this with post-graduate viticulture and oenology.  The group of alumni leaving Lincoln University together in 1993 was impressive to say the least.   Justin graduated with the likes of Jules Taylor, John Kavanagh, Duncan Forsyth and Ben Glover who all now hold significant roles in the New Zealand wine industry.
During a cadetship at Villa Maria, Justin was part of the first team to plant trial grapes on the renowned Gimblett Gravels in the Hawkes Bay.  Justin knew that in order to enhance his love of winemaking time was needed to be spent overseas to learn more and earn more.
Justin landed in Oregon first, learning from Scott Henry, the creator of a unique trellis system that increases grape quality.  In the late 1990s Justin worked three vintages in Sonoma and returned to New Zealand with his Californian wife, Cynthia.  A shared love of hospitality grew while managing Warkworth’s famous Bridgehouse Lodge.  This was followed by the assistant winemaker role at Kaimira Estate in Nelson, expanding Justin’s skill set to producing aromatic rieslings and gewürztraminer wines.
David Hoskins of Heron’s Flight Vineyard passed on to Justin a unique winemaking style and philosophy, in return Justin convinced David and Mary to bottle a rosé to complement their dolcetto and sangiovese wines.
In 2014, encouraged by the natural wine movement in the South of France and California, Justin developed the sulphite free Te Rata Cabernet Franc Merlot from grapes grown nearby at Red Ridge Vineyard.  Satisfied with this wonderful batch, Te Rata Natural Wines continued to focus on organic principles with minimal intervention during the winemaking process. 
Outside of the grape harvesting and winemaking months, Justin returned to his horticultural roots, and developed the range of Bohemian Cider, picking and crushing heritage cider apples on a traditional rack and cloth cider press. 
Te Rata’s 2018 vintage was bottled at John Crone’s Hyperion Wines in Matakana.  The two winemakers shared the harvest work, winery equipment and bottling space until Te Rata expanded out of the small ex-milking shed that Hyperion still calls home.  This type of co-operative winemaking, barrelling and bottling work is common amongst members of the Matakana Winegrowers Association, who see benefit in the support and camaraderie offered by neighbouring vineyards.
Winemaker at Lothlorien is the third panel to the triptych of Justin’s career as a ‘beverage boss’.  Lothlorien Winery, a unique icon in this area, has produced certified organic feijoa wine for 25 years.  It is also home to the rack and cloth cider press that Bohemian Cider use to extract the apple juice for their ciders.
The 2019 Te Rata Cabernet Franc Merlot, now bottled will be available at Matakana Liquor and Matakana Four Square.  And before the year closes wine and cider lovers will be able to relax under cider apple trees and meet Matakana’s beverage boss at Justin and Cynthia’s new cellar door on Duck Creek Road.