Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


A Memorial to Mike’s great wines and great mind

Mike Weersing passed away in his sleep on 12 November and will be sorely missed by all who knew him, leaving a legacy of great wines from the rare, isolated, 2.2 hectare vineyard he established in 2000, in North Canterbury. His desire was to make great wines modelled on the best from Burgundy and every detail of his vineyard pays homage to this dream. He spent years researching soil types, climates and the aspect of the land on which to plant the grapes he most wanted to use to make wine. This exacting research and absolute quest for the best site possible on which to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are among the factors that set him apart from most winemakers. But there was much more to Mike  because his focus was 100% on biodynamic farming of his land. When I stayed with him and Claudia in the early 2000s, I saw this from the food we ate for dinner to the wines in our glasses. Not that we stuck to the parochial by any stretch. The Pyramid Valley wines that he and Claudia produced were another level and clearly the result of an artist as much as a winemaker.

Mike was born and bred in California but had a fascination for New Zealand from a young age and when he eventually arrived here, it was with an impressively significant CV of winemaking. He studied winemaking and viticulture in Burgundy, working for winemakers such as de Montille, Potel, Pousse d’Or, Kreydenweiss, Deiss and Loosen. In 1996, he and Claudia moved to New Zealand, working for Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson before buying the land on which they created Pyramid Valley vineyard and winery. This is now owned by Smith & Sheth, a partnership between Master of Wine Steve Smith and Brian Sheth, a US businessman.

Mike was a quiet thinker with an amazing ability to communicate his passion, underlining it with facts and experience. I was lucky to have enjoyed many great wines with him, including, most memorably, a Conterno Barolo, of which he said: “If I’d known how incredible Barolo was when I first started, I would’ve been on a quest to grow Nebbiolo.”

Mike Weersing’s warmth, open mindedness and humility, as well as his winemaking talents, will be marked at an event planned for Saturday 21 February 2021 at his favourite place, Lion’s Tooth Vineyard at Pyramid Valley in Waikari, North Canterbury.