Meet Sam Bennett, chief winemaker at te Pā Family Vineyards

Te Pa Sam Bennett

Hailing from Whangarei, Sam has known te Pā’s proprietor Haysley MacDonald for a number of years now, and leapt at the opportunity to join the award-winning te Pā team in mid-2015.

Sam and the rest of the team have plenty of reasons to celebrate at the moment. Only last week they scooped the O-I New Zealand Trophy for Champion Wine of the Show at the Marlborough Wine Show for their brand new Pā Road 2014 Pinot Noir. Congrats!

Sam’s international experience has been in the cool climate regions of Tasmania, Oregon and Burgundy. In New Zealand, Sam has worked with great fruit from a diverse range of regions stretching from Hawke’s Bay to Martinborough, Marlborough, Nelson and Central Otago.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background
Born and raised in Whangarei, I have been gradually moving south ever since. I completed a BSc (Biology) at Waikato University and quickly decided I couldn’t really pull off the lab coat look, so moved on to a Diploma in Oenology and Viticulture. I’ve since worked at Highfield Estate, Craggy Range, Marisco and now te Pā Family Vineyards.

Te Pa Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett

What does a typical working day look like for you?
It looks pretty rough until I get my first cup of coffee, then things start to come right. I normally start at the office, answer any urgent emails and try to tick off a few things from the previous few days’ to-do lists.

Normally around mid-morning, when it warms up a bit, it’s time to head out to the winery as there are always trials to look at, samples to pull, or barrels to taste.

The afternoons are spent trying to stay focused, and keep on top of the paperwork. At this time of year there is not much going on in the vineyards, but the closer we get to harvest the more time I will spend out walking the rows.

Number of years in the wine industry
More years than I can count on my fingers, but if I throw in the toes I can work it out: 18 years it turns out, so about 22 harvests if you add in a few overseas ones.

If you were a wine, which one would you be?
I could blatantly lie and say something dark and brooding like a wild, gamey wine from the Northern Rhone, but those who know me would call me out too easily.

Perhaps a Pinot Noir from Burgundy is getting a bit closer to the mark; quirky, pseudo-intellectual and takes itself far too seriously.

te Pā Sam Bennett

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
So many options… so I am going to opt for the blatant plug, and say the 2016 te Pā Sauvignon Blanc with the Cloudy Bay diamond clams I tried the other week. It was a pretty special combination!

Advice on buying wine
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be too swayed by scores, medals, and what the cool cats are telling you to drink.

Basically if you like a wine or a style of wine, go with it and enjoy it!

te Pā wines

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Nick Cave, David Bowie and Nelson Mandela would make for some fairly intense conversation. Throw in Billy Connelly to lighten the atmosphere a bit and Rick James to ensure the party stays lively, and I reckon it would make for an entertaining evening.

Watch the te Pā story come to life in their latest video …

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