Ayrburn – a former sheep farm just under 30 minutes’ drive from Queenstown, on New Zealand’s South Island – is undergoing a metamorphosis, as local property developer Winton transforms it into a food and wine precinct.

In the vineyard, a single white rosebush is planted at the end of each vine row. Roses are susceptible to many of the same ailments as grape vines, and viticulturalists traditionally used the flowers as a kind of “canary in the coalmine” to alert them when preventative measures were in order. “It was a flawed system, though,” Ayrburn’s consultant viticulturist Gary Crabbe tells Broadsheet. “By the time the roses have something like powdery mildew, so do the grapes. It’s too late. Today planting the roses is just about tradition.”

Roses are just one way Ayrburn pays homage to tradition. The property’s 160-year-old farm buildings have been faithfully restored, stone by stone, and turned into house restaurants and bars like The Woolshed, The Manure Room, and The Barrel Room, as well as a diminutive ice-cream shop called The Dairy. The vineyards’ grapes will become next season’s rosés, pinot gris and rieslings; broad stone paths wend their way through meticulously manicured gardens; a rushing stream is fed by a gentle waterfall. Despite all the progress, this little corner of paradise retains its bucolic charm.

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Next to the cycling path that rolls down to Ayrburn’s valley, a flock of piebald sheep graze, taking shade under a copse of trees. It’s the sort of place where you could happily spend all day. When it’s sunny, Central Otago’s vast blue skies are magnificent, and the quaint stream-side tables at The Woolshed take full advantage of good weather.

The contemporary menu celebrates local produce and incorporates international flavours. For instance, the Southland venison tataki is tempered with ponzu and nashi pear, finished with a sprinkling of togarashi. Charred, tender octopus is served with black garlic and a chilli-sesame dressing, while a shoulder of Lumina lamb raised on New Zealand’s high country is slow-roasted and topped with a herb-and-olive crust plus classic mint sauce.

A speakeasy during the country’s early 20th-century temperance movement, The Manure Room, with its vaulted timber ceiling, is a poetic spot to try Ayrburn’s fledgling wine offering. Compared to the established winemakers of the region, this newcomer is strong. The sauvignon blanc is mouth-wateringly fruity, with gooseberry and passionfruit, while the dry riesling has a vibrant acidity. The standout is Bessie’s Blanc de Noir, a pinot noir rosé with a fairy-floss finish, named for the original property owner’s wife, Elizabeth. According to Crabbe, having any vineyards at all in the chilly Ayrburn region is a relatively new phenomenon. “Twenty years ago, you couldn’t have done a vineyard here, but there’s been a change because the seasons are shifting and getting warmer.”

In the evening, the moody, candle-lit Barrel Room is the place to be for cocktails, wine, and dinner featuring more local produce. Charred kōura, yabby-like crustaceans, are served with red pepper and chive dressing; mushrooms foraged in the mountains are stirred into creamy risotto; and fillets of Big Glory Bay salmon come with confit fennel, star anise and preserved lemon. Coming soon to Ayrburn’s stable of venues is a bakery; a flower shop; a high-end butcher; and Billy’s, a fine-dining destination restaurant. Eventually, luxury retirement homes and a hotel will complete the property.

It’s unrecognisable from its humble beginnings in 1864, when Scotsman William Paterson claimed the land, built a homestead and began farming. The property, with its picturesque stone buildings and backdrop of the Southern Alps, remained a going concern until the early 21st century as a dairy, sheep and wheat farm. Winton, founded by property developer Chris Meehan, acquired Ayrburn in 2018 and began reimagining the 60 hectares. Such a dramatic, large-scale transformation takes money – up to $184 million – and the vision of a local who wants to see the area flourish.

“I grew up here, and I live just down the road,” Meehan says. “I want to create something that will give people a lot of enjoyment for many years. It’s been a hell of a process to get it just right. This place is going to be here forever.”

Ayre Avenue, Arrowtown, New Zealand