The Boneline



THE BONELINE is our watercourse to strange pastsThe river and the permeated landscapeThe charcoal poem of ancient bonesThe fossil’s hieroglyphA deep and local telepathy of watercourse and strataWine grown on the shoulders of giants
Made here with humility and heart

Our time here is a blink in context of The Bonelineagainst the vastness of the geological riches we live amongst

The Bone Line. Named in reference to the nearby K-T Boundary line that is evidence of the global catastrophe of an asteroid impact on the earth and the end of the Mesozoic Era and the extinction of the dinosaurs. Each of the wines’ labels features fossils discovered in the Waipara River dating back as far as 65 million years. The labels thus bear a tangible connection with the land on which the fruit is grown, old vines and the family partnership of Tutton Sienko & Hill’s growing experience.

The Waipara Region

The Boneline is situated deep in the Waipara Valley, snuggled in the lee of the Teviotdale hills that provide protection from cool easterly winds but open to warming north west winds. The protective Southern Alps ensure low rainfall, abundant sunshine and often very warm summers, helped by the famed hot, dry nor’wester winds, though cooling sea breezes and the occasional cold southerly fronts temper this. Drought risk is mitigated by irrigation. Canterbury’s long dry autumns coupled to good diurnal variance help provide phenolic ripeness, complexity and a variety of styles. Growing Degree Days for the Waipara region range between 1,000 – 1,200.

Earthly Pleasures

Over the millennia our river valley has formed through successive geological cycles of inundation then emergence from the sea. Abundant marine fossils evidence this history.

Geology is well exposed in our area, with limestone outcrops, and deep terraces where the river has been forced to keep digging down to retain its level – against the upthrust of the land.

On terraces and alcoves of various height, our vines grow on overlying gravels over an impermeable basin – on the Glasnevin soils of the braided river plain – Hell block lies over currents of under-running river streams, where the river still flows it’s ancient paths underground.

These are some of the most fertile soils in New Zealand – where once giant marine creatures, then more recently Moa thrived then died.  There is around 12 kilograms of Phosphorous in an adult moa’s bones – so these creatures that lived large in our valley, still give to our soils and vines.

Soil types include:

Rangitata_32: Recent, typic, extremely, shallow fluvial, sandy loam soils, these are the main soils where the Cabernets are planted.

Eyre_2: Weathered Allopathic Orthic soils based on decomposed greywacke (mudstone) and schist. Known to be phosphate fixing. Riverbone & the Merlot are planted on these.

Glasnevin_2: Young Pallic soils derived from greywacke & schist, not strongly weathered, high in calcium – home to the Pinot & Chardonnay as well as a smattering of Sauvignon & Riesling.

Boneline Vines

Planting started in 1989 and there are now some 60 acres of producing vines. Soils range from river gravels with silt & limestone to alluvial loams over gravels. The blocks in the vineyard differ in height and aspect with the river terraces being partially encompassed by cliffs.

The vineyard’s natural amphitheatres allow a wide range of varieties to grow and ripen (considering the region & climate), creating incredibly diverse flavours.

We are members of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, which provides a framework for the best viticultural practices to protect the environment while efficiently producing premium grapes.


Jeff Sinnott is consulting winemaker, ably assisted by Paul Goodege. Both Jeff and Paul have extensive experience making wine within New Zealand and around the world. They work closely together to craft a faithful expression of variety, site & season each year – to ensure each bottle is true to this place and this time.

Fruit is handpicked clonally, and treated individually in the winery –this allows each parcel to reach it’s own potential and provides multiple blending options. With the unusual range of varieties this site can successfully ripen, we run tank and barrel fermentations alongside small lots of hand plunged Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Syrah.

Successive vintages under Jeff show further stylistic development, guided by the seasons and the progress in bottle of our wines from previous vintages.

We love growing grapes & making wine –although every year has the same rhythms of work, each season brings out something new & intriguing from the depths of this site, from the vines to the winery. If we can pass this through to your glass, then we are happy.

The Boneline fossil mentor

Leigh Love is our local expert on fossils and formations of the Waipara River – Leigh has incredible knowledge & appreciation of what lies hidden within the stratas and gravels, which he shares with others readily.

During eleven years fossicking along the river, Leigh has made notable academic discoveries – including the Australornis Lovei named after Leigh, which is one of the oldest flying seabirds, of the Paleocene era, about 58 million years old. It is a pivotal species in early avian evolution. He’s helped further the study of Waimanu – the ancient giant penguin,  plesiosaur, mosasaur, megaladon, shark, and other prehistoric creatures. Leigh works closely with his colleagues at the Canterbury Museum, and  enjoys sharing the scientific study of many of his finds with international experts.