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 is married to Sue and they have two children, Ryan and Nina.

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Sue McKenna

Escarpment Vineyard Director and Wine Lovers’ Manager

As one of Escarpment’s four Directors, Sue takes a full and active role in Escarpment. She devotes her time and energy to special events and sharing Escarpment’s passion for making fine wine with fellow wine lovers (via mailings, the website, or when they visit the winery).

From Sue’s perspective, owning their own vineyard offers a whole new series of exciting and rewarding challenges for her, Larry and the children.

Robert and Mem Kirby

Directors of Escarpment Vineyard

Robert and Mem are Escarpment’s two other Directors. Based in Australia, the Kirby family are the principal shareholders in Village Roadshow Ltd, an Australian publicly listed company. Investing in Escarpment personally as opposed to through their business, the Kirby’s believe Escarpment complements existing vineyards they have in the Mornington Peninsula, The Yabby Lake brand, Heathcote, the Heathcote Estate brand and the Strathbogie Ranges districts of Victoria, Australia.

Robert and Mem share Larry and Sue’s passion and love for nurturing wine from the ground up – with Escarpment adding another all-important New World dimension to their family of vineyards.

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. Huw, and his partner Amanda, are joining the Dujac vintage team in Burgandy this year to help with both the harvest and the catering for 60 pickers. Huw has a bike ready to join the Escarpment road racing team but we are yet to see him out on the road!

Catherine Ellis

Global Business Manager

Catherine has joined the Escarpment team as Office Manager. Malaysian born and yes another Aussie citizen Catherine joined the team in December 2009. She is your first point of contact and looks after all the day-to-day administration, sales and logistics. She speaks fluent Chinese so we look forward to her contribution to our efforts in the new and rapidly expanding Chinese market. She comes to us from many years with an Aussie horticultural company where she looked after 400 staff members! Escarpment should be a breeze!