New Zealand is blessed with an outstanding array of independent winemakers, all heroically forging their own path, rather than towing the corporate line. Made up of old heads, young guns, and mavericks, not one of them fits the old school model. Allow us to introduce you.
Mills Reef Winery
Possibly the most charming people we’ve met, the Preston family established Mills Reef Winery in 1989. Their award-winning wine making team is led by Tim Preston and Paul Dawick who apply their considerable talents to make Mills Reef wines what they are today.
Adding commitment and dedication to excellence, Mills Reef has established itself as one of New Zealand's premium wine brands with a particular reputation for outstanding Bordeaux varietal reds and Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels.
Located at 143 Moffat Road, Bethlehem, Tauranga, the Art Deco style architecture is a reflection on Hawkes Bay, and specifically Napier - the Art Deco capital of the world.
Mills Reef Winery has frequently been acclaimed as one of the most stylish and attractive wineries in New Zealand. Set on 20 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, the complex boasts full wine-making and bottling facilities, two underground barrel cellars, an aged wine cellar and an enviable reputation as one of New Zealand's leading wine producers.
Tim Preston & Paul Dawick Winemakers
It all began when Mr. Taizo Osawa, a Japanese wine lover, decided to go travelling with the intention of starting a vineyard and making his own wines. A year and many miles later, Mr. Osawa arrived firstly in New Zealand, and then Hawke’s Bay. He quickly fell in love with the climate and scenery and bought 100 acres at Maraekakaho, on the western side of Hawke’s Bay, in the beautiful Mangatahi Valley. As a civil engineer, and not a wine maker, he needed some expert help with this single estate vineyard, so in 2006, the much awarded Rod McDonald joined as winemaker, with the shared ambition of making New Zealand’s best wine.
Initially, the Osawa wine was exported to just a few restaurants in Japan, but as both production and reputation grew, so did the list of interested customers, and Osawa wines are now the third largest exporter of New Zealand wines to Japan.
Rod McDonald Winemaker
We like Tim Turvey’s stubbornness. Told in 1985 that the location was "too cold to grow wine grapes" he went ahead regardless, and purchased a property at Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay in 1986. Taking the negative comments as a challenge, Tim and his business partner Helma van den Berg, hand grafted and planted the first vines in the winter of 1988. They rammed the posts, ran the wires, even trained the young vines, and so the first red wine was produced in 1989.
Since then they’ve planted 2,500 trees, including avocados, olives, lavender and citrus, and continued vineyard plantings at a rate of 3 acres per annum, and the estate now boasts 11 grape varieties.
In between the vineyards and orchards, Tim and Helma also designed and built the winery, to create this sustainable haven with a considerable reputation for high quality, hand made wines.
Matt Kirby Winemaker
The Gimblett Road area of Hawke's Bay is synonymous with world-class wines. From these much celebrated soils, hails one of the region's most exciting boutique labels: Squawking Magpie. The name is wonderful, but the wine they make is even better.
The "cradle of quality" for Squawking Magpie is the Woodlands Vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels area, the first 4 hectares of which were planted in 1995.
Owner Gavin Yortt and his team hold the firm belief that great wine comes from great grapes, so from the very first plantings, emphasis has been placed on creating outstanding wines by focusing on viticultural excellence.
And the proof is certainly there to be tasted: Squawking Magpie wines exhibit all the elegance and finesse of the unique terroir and stand testament to the superiority of single vineyard estate management and production.
Gavin Yortt Owner & Winemaker
In 1888 a daring 22-year-old Spaniard named Anthony Joseph Vidal arrived in New Zealand and became one of the first winemakers to harness the natural potential of Hawke’s Bay. Taking advantage of the hot summer days, long growing season, and free draining soils, he established Vidal Estate in 1905, producing well balanced and understated wines. His spirit of adventure and commitment to crafting classic, elegant wines remains an inspiration to this day.
In 2006, Hugh Crichton took over the winemaking reins and he and the team continue to raise the bar. Opting for minimal intervention in both the winery and vineyard, and selecting only the best fruit from the best growing regions, including Gimblett Gravels, they create gorgeous wines that are not only reflective of the region and terroir, but true to the memory of Anthony Vidal himself.
Hugh Crichton Winemaker
The Darling Wines
Unusually for a New Zealand winemaker, Chris Darling originally hails from Victoria, Australia. He arrived in Malborough in 2003 but as with most winemakers, the urge to have his own label grew, and he established ‘The Darling’ in 2007 with guru organic viticulturist Bart Arnst. The partnership proved to be a complementary one and they produced their first wines in 2008.
Though not owning their own land, they source organic fruit for ‘The Darling’ from up to five vineyard sites, two in the Wairau Valley, and one each in the Southern Valleys, Rapaura and Upper Renwick districts. The vineyards are managed directly by Bart, and the wines made by Chris.
Due to the quality of the wines, interest has exploded, production has grown and their commitment to organic fruit led to them being named Winery of the Year at the 2015 NZ Organic Wine Awards.
Chris Darling & Bart Arnst Winemaker & Viticulturist
Yes, the name is unusual, but it starts to make sense when you learn that O:TU's six vineyard blocks are found in the south-eastern Awatere Valley in Marlborough, on the banks of the Otuwhero river. The extraordinary terroir, the cooling coastal breezes plus the roar of the nearby Clifford Bay surf all combine to produce bold Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes with which to craft distinctive and memorable Marlborough wines.
The chance to create something a bit unusual is what attracted acclaimed international winemaker Jan Kux who, as winemaker and general manager, is responsible for crafting these bold, appealing wines. While the initial focus was quite rightly on the premium Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Noir now demands attention, with both wines pushing the boundaries of what has traditionally come out of Marlborough.
Jan Kux Winemaker
The Ceres wine brand is the result of a collaboration of brothers Matt and James Dicey, a clan originally from the Ceres region in South Africa. They have a passion for focused, hand crafted wines that reflect the Bannockburn region.
James Dicey is the viticulturalist and is responsible for growing the grapes to the highest possible standard. This means a lot of hand care and attention and low yields to ensure concentrated and intensely flavored grapes. Yields are restricted to a maximum of 6t/ha and all grapes are hand harvested.
Matt Dicey is the wine maker for Ceres Wines. Wines from the brothers vineyards (Black Rabbit and Inlet Vineyards) are included in the "Composition" Pinot Noir. To create the Ceres blend the barrels most representative of both of the vineyards and season are selected to be part of the blend. The "Swansong" Pinot Gris is sourced from their fathers "Swansong" vineyard located on Felton Road. The Pinot Gris grapes are interplanted 1:10 with Gewurztraminer to provide additional spice and aromatics. The grapes are hand harvested and co-fermented to create a unique expression of site and season.
Robin, Matt and James Dicey Winemaker
Drumsara Wines were founded by John Matheson, while Michelle Woodhouse acts as Vineyard Manager. The Drumsara winemakers, Anthony Worch and Marion Vialade are both from France originally. They bring their European experience to blend with New Zealand techniques.
Drumsara enjoy a handcrafted approach to their viticulture technique, and use the innovative method of ‘Compost Tea’ as a means of vine nutrition. Compost Tea in short, is a concentrated liquid created by a process to increase the numbers on beneficial organisms as an organic approach to soil care. The results of this form of nutrition is demonstrated in excellent health, fruit quality and in part contributed to their many medal accolades.
We cannot forget to mention the Drumsara Ventifacts Block. These rock formations are found only in Antarctica, on Mars and in the Drumsara vineyards. They are glacial rocks shaped by the 300mph late afternoon winds that rushed down the Otago glaciers picking up sand and sediments to shape the rocks. These of course contribute their own unique characteristics to the Drumsara wines.
Anthony Worch & John Matheson Winemakers
Aka The Davishon Vineyard, named after owners David and Shona Garry, is situated on the Dunstan Flats above the Clutha River. The label shows a gold stylized schist rock (made famous in scenes from the Lord of Rings) depicting both the harsh environment and the history of gold in the region.
Peter Bartle, Alexandra Wines' current winemaker, has established himself as one of Central Otago's most successful and respected winemakers with his no nonsense, passionate approach to winemaking. This approach has lead his wines to great success in competitions and tastings.
Peter has been in the wine industry for over 17 years. He loves vineyards and really enjoys working alongside the vineyard team getting to know the site from the ground up. He believes most of the work is done before the fruit arrives at the winery and it is his job to coerce the best out of the grapes the vineyard has produced and to make wines with poise, texture and balance.
Peter Bartle Winemaker
Originally a native to New York, Sean spent much of his childhood in Gibbston and the surrounding area, where his family has had land for over 30 years. At an early age, Sean realized that he wanted to settle in this part of the world and began his winemaking career in 1994 when the first vines were planted on the family vineyard in Gibbston. There is great diversity throughout the Brennan vineyards, proving an instrumental factor in the development of layered complexity in their wines.
For many years, the fruit on the Brennan Vineyards was sold to Peregrine Wines, while Sean was developing his winemaking skills. In early 2006, Sean moved to Gibbston permanently with his family, and launched the Brennan label. He has created Brennan Wines to produce limited quantities of exceptional wine that truly represent what this region has to offer. Their fruit is sourced entirely from the family vineyards and Sean maintains intimate control in the winery. While the challenges of the environment are immense, the potential is even greater, and with an extreme perfectionist producing the wines, the outcome is remarkable.
Sean Brennan Winemaker
In 1998, Jim Jerram, the great grandson of William Ostler, and his brother-in-law, winemaker and viticulturist Jeff Sinnott, went prospecting for suitable grape-growing country in the lower Waitaki Valley’s limestone country, inland from Oamaru. At that time there was no history of commercial winegrowing in the region.
The two discovered a site Sinnott believed encapsulated the essential parameters for growing premium cool climate wine grapes; a north-facing limestone-influenced slope on an escarpment overlooking the braided river. It reminded him of the famous slopes of Burgundy.
Brennan’s fine aromatic wines are made with fruit from selected growers, each with their own unique terroir giving each of their vineyards a tantalizing point of difference. These differences offer unique characteristics worthy of celebration in the hands of their skilled winemaker, Jeff Sinnott. With over 20 years of experience, Jeff carries out his winemaking with as little intervention as possible, using traditional Burgundian and Alsatian techniques to produce Ostler’s flagship Caroline’s Pinot Noir and Audrey’s Pinot Gris.
Jeff Sinnott Winemaker
Nick Nobilo, Vinoptima’s winemaker, is regarded as a pioneer of the modern New Zealand wine industry. He has a very long list of accolades in the wine industry since the 1970s. He has been responsible for many firsts in the New Zealand wine industry, including the development of Vinoptima, a single variety vineyard dedicated to producing world class Gewürztraminer that has gone on to achieve international acclaim.
The Vinoptima Estate is as much the result of a wine-making tradition handed down from father to son over hundreds of years as it is to Nick’s 40-plus years of winemaking. He has had great success in producing new world Gewürztraminer with reference to old world methodologies. The Vinoptima Estate is a fully integrated, self-contained vineyard and wine producing business. No grapes are grown under contract and no other winemaking or bottling is undertaken on behalf of third parties.
Nick Nobilo’s passion, history, and experience have led him to create a truly world class wine, that will develop with age.
Nick Nobilo Owner & Winemaker
Located 20 minutes south of Nelson, Brightwater Vineyards is a family owned premium boutique with a must see selection of wines. The name has an optimistic ring about it, which is fitting. One visit and you get a sense that it’s all very positive here.
Returning to Nelson after many years living abroad, Gary and Valley Neale established Brightwater Vineyards in 1993, finally bringing to life their passion for wine and desire to make it. Their ambition was lofty; to create a vineyard and winery that would be considered among the finest in NZ. And we think they’ve succeeded.
As the winery has grown, so has their reputation. With numerous trophies, gold medals, awards and accolades to their name, Brightwater has earned a deserved reputation for premium, hand-crafted wines of scintillating clarity and immaculate poise. One of our best discoveries.