A family affair! Q&A with Paul Donaldson from Pegagus Bay Winery

Pegasus Bay is an entirely family owned and operated enterprise by the Donaldson family in the beautiful Waipara Valley.

We caught up with the youngest son Paul, who has a zoology degree and PhD in Seahorse Ecology, which gives him the perfect skill set for the winery’s General Manager seat!

Hi Paul, you’re the GM at Pegasus Bay, what does that mean?
Because this is a family business, this really translates to general dogsbody, IT guy, health & safety, financial type stuff, some winery type stuff, pencil pushing of all kinds, and since I work with six other family members – then mostly ringmaster of the three-ring family circus.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background
The path that led me to wine was a very varied one. I made the smooth career move of choosing to pursue the highly useful degree of Zoology (with an honours year in Marine Ecology). This naturally led to the beginnings of a PhD in Seahorse Ecology (of course!) which just as naturally led to an early career in banking.

I’m making that sound better than it was though, as I’m not sure you can call working in a bank call-centre officially “banking”. I did, however move up to doing mortgages and loans (so right proper banking in Wellington), before heading abroad for three years of mooching/temping/traveling around Ireland, England, and anywhere I could get to on a 1 pound Easyjet flight.

After my time abroad I finally headed home to Christchurch in 2004 and realised I could never get a job in the real world – I accepted my fate and joined the family business. I completed an MBA at Canterbury University over the first two years just so everyone would then assume I was “businessy” enough for the job, and have been here ever since.

What does a typical working day look like for you?
My day is highly glamorous, and normally consists of arriving late, having coffee, answering a few emails on my phone while simultaneously procrastinating, doing something fun with an Excel spreadsheet, lunch (with wine), tasting some wines, doing something else on a computer, doing something that no-one else wants to do, hiding in my office, oh, and then leaving early.

Paul Donaldson 2

Number of years in the wine industry
Almost 12….. I can hardly believe it. I would never be able to work for someone else again.

If you were a wine, which one would you be?
The Barolo with not much left in the bottle.

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
I’m a big fan of aromatic whites with anything Asian… mostly something weird, like chickens feet or tripe.

Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I am a fully ordained internet minister of the universal life church based in Modesto California. I did it when bored while working in Ireland. I have a card somewhere that says Reverend Paul Donaldson on it.

Interestingly this lead me to becoming an actual Marriage Celebrant here in New Zealand a year and a half ago, which I did to surprise my extended family by marrying my brother Mat to his wife Di. No-one knew till I stood up and performed the service at their wedding.

Pegagus Bay 1

Advice on buying wine
Buy so much you can’t drink it all, and so there is some enforced cellaring occurring. Oh, and make sure a healthy portion of it is Pegasus Bay.

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Salvador Dali. I think that would be exceptionally interesting.

Thanks Paul!

Find out more about this family affair here and follow Paul and his clan on Twitter | Instagram & Facebook.


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