We talked to Brent Park of Volcanic Hills Winery for this Rotorua Proud story.
We’re pretty chuffed with what Brent and his lovely wife Larissa have accomplished – that is to set up a successful winery at the base of Mount Ngongotahā in Rotorua which they serve at the top of the maunga in their Volcanic Hills Winery & Tasting Room based at Skyline Rotorua.
How long have you lived in Rotorua?
I was born in Dunedin, then spent my younger years in Europe, finally ending up in Rotorua for my last years of primary at Otonga before attending Rotorua Intermediate School and then to Raukura Rotorua Boys’ High School. I left for Massey University and then travelled overseas, before settling down in Auckland. My parents still live locally, so once again I call Rotorua my home.
What do you love most about Rotorua and why?
It was definitely a huge change to move back to Rotorua after so many years away, but it was part of the growth plan of Volcanic Hills Winery.
When we began our business it was extremely scary, and many in the industry questioned our sanity, with there not really being any existing wine scene in Rotorua or the wider Bay of Plenty compared to the likes of Hawkes Bay or Marlborough.
Yet the community adopted us and accepted what we were trying to achieve. It has always felt easy to be a part of both the tourism and hospitality worlds which are part of the backbone of the Rotorua economy.
Probably the biggest things are the feeling of belonging, compassionate attitude and really amazing people who are in the Rotorua community, no matter what religion, race or heritage.
Do you have any hobbies or pastimes that take advantage of our beautiful region?
I always played golf when I was younger and have managed to partially rekindle the love of the game, although the social side is much more attractive now than the competitive ways of my youth.
Mountain biking and exploring by bike is something that I also love. And we are blessed with some of the best mountain biking tracks in the world at our front door here in Rotorua.
To be honest, anything outdoors I am into, and it is great to have the freedom to do what you want, and still be only five minutes from home.
Do you have a favourite café or restaurant in Rotorua?
I am not a coffee drinker, hence really don’t have a massive café preference, but I love sweet treats, so really like the guys from Capers Café and Scope Rotorua for their amazing cake selections!
In Rotorua we have such a great diversity of restaurants and food offerings, that I feel we are spoilt for choice compared to many other cities of our size.
One of the best philosophies I follow is that it is not about the food or the wine you have at your table, but the people you have around you. That is what makes an amazing meal (Volcanic Hills wine definitely helps!)
When you have friends or family visit, what do you recommend they do while they’re here?
We have a very strong connection with Skyline Rotorua and the Luge, being a huge attraction for most families who visit us.
We also love to take people mountain biking and walking in Whakarewarewa Forest.
There are so many attractions that it is all about what suits the people. Rotorua Canopy Tours is amazing along with ZORB and Velocity Valley, but our less adventurous guests have loved the Redwoods Treewalk or Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. It’s all about tuning the visit to the person.