Winemaker Rod McDonald

Winemaker Rod  McDonald

Winemaker Rod McDonald

Te Awanga | Harke's Bay, New Zealand |

THE STORY: When I was a kid, I thought I'd be a farmer. All my family thought I'd be a farmer. When we sold our farm, I spent every school holiday I could on a farm. I loved getting up early, I loved the stock, the dark mornings and the sunrises. I loved the ritual and routine of farming life - early starts, back home for long breakfasts, feeding the dogs, feeding out hay from the back of a tractor...

My first memory of wine being on the radar was at my grandparents' place, Christmas dinner, when I was ten. Papa always fancied a drink, his martinis and G&T's were the stuff of legend. He also loved entertaining, big dinners, a bottle or two of special wine on the table. There was always a story that went with it. Great wine is all about that.

So, in 1993 I arrived in Hawke's Bay with a love for making wine and everything I owned packed into the boot of a small car.

THE LOVE: In winemaking there are no absolutes. It is what it is. No two winemakers using the same grapes will ever make the same wine. I love that.

There's different kinds of winemaking; There's making a technically good wine that displays balance of acidity and sugar matching the wine's natural extract and fruit concentration. Then there's the making of wine that shows the hand of the winemaker. It has a signature or fingerprint stamped all over it and running through it. It's a house-style.

There's also the kind of winemaking that reveals more about where the wine came from. It's difficult to grow grapes like that. And it's impossible to make wine like that if you haven't managed to find a site to grow grapes like that, that's then managed well for the purpose.

What I now know, having worked for a really successful well organized wine company like Villa Maria, what it's like to have the perfect winemaking job. Perfect in that most of the hard work has already been done. The business has been developing for 50 plus years to get to a point where success is almost guaranteed. All the pieces are there to be assembled.

Much of the joy of winemaking for me is in the build. The intuition. The assembling of the natural resources, the chase of the perfect site, the best people and winemaking, the best facilities you can muster and the leaps of risk and faith to create something unexpected.

THE GUFF: I spent nine years as winemaker at Vidal Estate in Hawke's Bay and was awarded New Zealand Winemaker of the year in 2006, glory days. I left later that year with a few ideas about what Hawke's Bay wines could be like, where the great ones would come from, and started Rod McDonald Wines which is now Te Awanga Estate.

The plan was to consult a few leading producers and launch a family of wines; Trademark, Quarter Acre, Te Awanga Estate, Mister and One Off. Our winemaking happens at The Hawkes Bay Wine Company in Pandora on the edge of Napier, but our cellar door and spiritual home is on the coast at Te Awanga.

Last year our Trademark 2015 Syrah won four trophies at the prestigious International Wine Challenge (IWC) in London; best International Syrah, New Zealand Syrah, New Zealand Red and Hawke's Bay Syrah. This followed earlier wins at the same competition for our Quarter Acre 2015

Syrah where it was awarded the trophy for Champion Red Wine of Show, along with trophies for the best International Syrah, New Zealand Syrah, New Zealand Red and Hawke's Bay Syrah.

I'm a Senior Judge at the New Zealand International Wine Show and spent six years as Chairman of the Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association, helping establish us as one of the great wine-growing regions of the world. Way back in history I grabbed a Post Grad Diploma in Viticulture at Lincoln University.


You can meet Rod at the:

Debut of Rose on Wednesday, April 1, 4-7 pm in the Four Seasons Ballroom
Lamb Cook-Off on Thursday, April 2, 3-6 pm on the streets of Vail
Mountain Top Tasting on Friday, April 3rd, 12 pm-2:30 pm at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola
Grand Tasting on Saturday, April 4th, 5-8 pm in the Marriott

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