Martinborough Stars

The latest copy of New Zealand Wine Grower (official journal of the New Zealand Grape and Wine Industry), edited by Terry Dunleavy, features snippets on the outstanding careers of four Martinborough wine people – Richard Riddiford from Palliser Estate, Larry McKenna of Escarpment, and Clive Paton and Phyll Pattie from Ata Rangi.

At the Royal Easter Show in Auckland, Richard Riddiford was inducted into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame. He joins New Zealand wine luminaries such as Assid Corban, Mate Brajkovich, Bryan Mogridge, Peter Hubscher, to name but a few. This award is given only to those “exceptional few who have made a lasting, nationwide impact” both on a local and national scale. Richard is a fifth generation Martinborough lad, and worked in the meat industry in London for eight years before returning here to invest in what was the Om Santi vineyard in the early 1980s. Over the years this expanded to become Palliser. Richard became chairman of Toast Martinborough, then kick-started the now enormously successful Pinot Noir conferences. He’s a grumpy old bugger who takes no prisoners, and enormously loved in the village. His award is well deserved.

Meanwhile, two more of Martinborough’s most popular wine identities were keeping quiet about a prestigious award they received at Pinot Noir 2010 in Wellington. It came as a complete surprise to Clive Paton and his wife, Phyll Pattie when their names were read out as recipients of the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa award – Maori for great growth – loosely interpreted as grand cru. Although, puzzlingly, this does not relate to a vintage and will not be used on the label. It’s more of an accolade; an affirmation from one’s peers. And why not? It’s one thing to win wine awards from judges who have spent a day tasting thousands of wines – that’s a pretty controversial process. Isn’t it more heartening to have the resounding and unanimous confirmation from others in the business, that what you are doing is correct? The Ata Rangi pair, who’ve worked so hard to get where they are, received a standing ovation, and Phyll told Winegrower magazine, “The crowd went wild..and throngs of people came forward to give us hugs.”

When we held our hugely successful Home and Garden tour (and I’ll blog on that later), we asked several winemakers for wine to sell. It’s always hard doing this, because they get approached all the time for wine. Larry McKenna from Escarpment is no exception – he said he gets calls from all over the country from Rotary, Lions, etc, and he just has to turn some of them down otherwise he’d end up with no wine to take to the market. But he unhesitatingly said yes to us. So it was good to see a two page spread on Larry – the Prince of Pinot Noir – rather cliched but true. He is the leading winemaker of Pinot Noir (and Syrah, I’d add), and as local correspondent Barbara Gillham says, “He has successfully built a reputation for understanding and getting the best out of what is a typically a stubborn [sic – bad editing there] and capricious grape.”

Martinborough – a small town, but perfectly formed.


The award is given only to those “exceptional few who have made a lasting, nationwide impact” both on a local and national scale.


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