Larry McKenna

Our People

Larry McKenna

Escarpment Vineyard Director and Winemaker

Larry has firmly established himself as a leading winemaker in these parts and is particularly renowned and respected as one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent Pinot Noir winemaker. Referred to by various wine writers and authorities as everything from the ‘Prince of Pinot Noir’, the ‘Godfather of Pinot Noir’, a Pinot Noir ‘legend’, and ‘maestro’, Larry has built a solid reputation for understanding and gaining the best out of this typically stubborn and capricious grape. (No mean feat, for as leading British wine writer, Jancis Robinson, says “pinot is a minx of a grape” and “demands much of both vine-grower and winemaker”).

Much of Larry’s success with wine making has come from a deep seated passion for producing the very best wine out of the grapes he has to work with. He takes a collaborative approach to wine making and believes in sharing his knowledge and understanding with fellow winemakers to ensure collective learning and progression occurs. He points to the developments and successes in recent years with NZ’s Pinot Noir and argues that the open exchange the winemakers have shared and the fact they represent a range if nationalities and approaches to wine making and this grape, benefits the quality of the wine produced.

Playing an integral role in helping shape the development of Pinot Noir in New Zealand, Larry has headed-up a number of winemaker-critiquing workshops and conferences to ensure this open exchange and healthy sharing of learning and knowledge continues and is valued by emerging wine makers as well as established ones.

Known for his relaxed and unassuming style Larry applies the same approach to his winemaking. Rather than force a wine into doing something out of character, he works with the grapes to develop distinctively superior wines that are true to character, quality and vintage. And this doesn’t stop at Pinot Noir. Regardless of the varietal, Larry applies the same skill, precision, understanding and integrity to ensure his pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling and pinot blanc stand proudly alongside his noir.

Born and bred in Adelaide, Australia he graduated from the Roseworthy Agricultural College there in 1976 and has nearly three decades of wine making experience under his belt. After travelling for a stint through Europe sampling the wine culture, he ‘cut his teeth’ with fellow Roseworthy student, John Hancock, at Delegat’s Wine Estate in Auckland, New Zealand.

In 1986 Larry left Auckland to take up the position of CEO/Winemaker at Martinborough Vineyard in the Wairarapa region. From 1986 to 1999 he grew this company from 20 to 160 tonnes and firmly put Martinborough Vineyard and himself on the world map as one of the pre-eminent New World Pinot Noir producers and winemakers.

Larry McKenna Escarpment

Huw Kinch

Winemaker

Huw joined the Escarpment team as winemaker in 2008. Another Aussie who graduated from Charles Sturt University. While at school he under took vintages in Margaret River, Hunter Valley and Coonawarra. Since then time spent in California, South of France and 2 years at Trinity Hill, Hawkes Bay have qualified him for a career concentrating on his passion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Since being at Escarpment Huw has spent vintages at Saintsbury in Caneros, California and Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. Huw enjoys wines that have a lot of character, personality and that represent their sense of place. Huw endeavours to bring these qualities out when making wine through a minimalistic approach.

Outside of work Huw enjoys the country lifestyle of the Wairarapa with his wife Amanda and daughter Zara and watching the Wallabies flog the AllBlacks

Huw Kinch Escarpment

Rowan Hoskins

Vineyard Manager

My interest in viticulture and wine started at a young age as I grew up in and around vineyards in Martinborough. This was due to my father being Martinborough vineyards viticulturist at the time. I always found the vineyard a calm and relaxing place (boy was I wrong!). Then with moving to Gisborne and meeting James Milton the spark was reignited. After becoming an electrician in Gisborne then working in the Hawkes bay and back to the Wairarapa I quickly lost interest with electrical work. Nick Hoskins (my father) was starting up Vine Managers at the time so I decided to take a year out in 2006 and work in the vines. This quickly moved into being the tractor driver within a year and followed quickly by running Redbank Estate under the guidance of Nick in 2008. I have gained a breath of knowledge in the wine industry since starting with Vine Managers in 2006. I have worked 2 vintages at Matahiwi winery, competed in the young viticulturist competition twice, helped to run the Martinborough regional competition in 2015, and managed Redbank and Cobblestones vineyard in the rugged Te Muna Road area, east of Martinborough. I added the 12 ha Schubert “Bio grow” certified vineyard to my portfolio in 2012. I have been involved in the Martinborough part of the “Virus elimination project” collecting data and working with growers to identify Grapevine leaf roll virus type three.

Looking to further my career and knowledge I jumped at the chance to join the team at Escarpment. My interests in organics and biodynamics have been key drivers in this. I’m looking forward to implementing a long term plan to get Escarpment to be fully organic. Starting this year with a trial to look at undervine weed control.

The Te Muna valley is a place of extremes, but I have come to love the area and enjoy the challenge of coaxing a crop from the weather-beset site. The wind is a force of its own, so in winter it’s frosty, and it’s hot and dry in summer, but it’s the best valley in the south east.

I love the people, the vineyards and the industry, how it all grows and changes – and then getting to sample the wine at the end of vintage!

Outside of work my wife Brooke and I have 3 kid’s Ruby, Indigo, and Rowan from ages 6 to 2 and a half. I’m a keen surfer so our family sends a lot of time at the beach also walking in our lovely native bush in the Wairarapa and trying to find time to get out on my mountain bike every now and then.

Rowan Hoskins Escarpment

Noel Farmer

The Tractor Whisperer

Noel has been the star tractor driver for Escarpment Vineyard since the early years of 2002. He has a wealth of knowledge about the vines and the region, and is self-proclaimed as the number 1 tractor driver in Martinborough!

He is a very happy man when he has a new pair of gumboots, but you wouldn’t want to catch him on a holy gumboot day!  He has recently published a book titled “The World According to Noel,” for orders please talk to him directly. He is thoroughly enjoying his journey of self-discovery along the path towards Bio dynamics.

If Noel likes you, he will invite you to KFC with him, on one of his regular trips into Masterton! Noel’s favourite saying is “I Noel nothing,” which can be heard during our regular meetings here at Escarpment.

Noel Farmer Escarpment

Catherine Ellis

Global Business Manager

Catherine joined Escarpment in November 2009, formerly a Malasian of Sino-Dusun heritage (a mix of one of the many indigenous group of Borneo and Chinese), and now is an Australian living in New Zealand!

She began her career as a Car Sales Representative for Toyota Malaysia. From these early beginnings Catherine has undertaken a wide range of positions in different fields from Administration to Aircraft Maintenance.

She is your first point of contact and looks after all the day-to-day administration, sales and logistics for Escarpment Vineyard. She speaks fluent Mandarin, Hakka, Malay and English. We look forward to her contribution to our efforts in the new and rapidly expanding Chinese market.

Catherine Ellis Escarpment

Bec Collins

Digital Consultant

Bec started contracting for Escarpment Vineyard during 2014 and brings with her very limited knowledge of viticulture, but vast knowledge of the digital world!

She helps out with any digital aspect for the business, whether this be something to do with the website, newsletters, blogs or social media…..and on the odd occasion helps Larry upload all his photos from his many overseas/distributor trips. Bec keeps the team on their toes by always requesting blog information to keep all of our Escarpment subscribers and followers updated on what is happening within the winery.

Bec lives in Hinakura 20minutes east of the vineyards where she does most of her digital work from home. She also helps her partner Matt on their sheep and beef farm, so you won’t see her rocking up to our meetings in her digital work attire, more likely gumboots!!

Bec Collins Escarpment

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