June 22nd 2017
We’re celebrating our 120th anniversary
So we're bringing to life some of our most treasured historical moments.
When you’ve experienced 120 birthdays, there are undoubtedly many stories to tell. Tom McDonald, widely revered as the father of French winemaking in New Zealand is the central character in our story. It was Tom’s vision and entrepreneurial spirit that transported the winery, established in 1897 into the modern era, bringing us here today to celebrate 120 years of heritage.
We’ve selected five images that capture fleeting moments from our past that none-the-less have shaped Church Road. They tell a part of the story across five varietals in our McDonald Series range of wines; a series that is a salute to the legacy of Tom McDonald.
1930’s Tom, born in Taradale in 1907, was a hard-working local lad equipped with the no-nonsense work ethic of his Scots-born dad. He was always busy managing the winery’s operations and love to get his hands dirty with the team during harvest; the team of course included Prince the draft horse, pictured here with Tom in the late 1930’s.
1940’s The cornerstone of our success over the years (aside from great wine) can be put down to investing in the future. In the late 1940’s the popularity of wine in New Zealand was sky rocketing. Modern vineyard equipment including tractors became essential and Tom was passionate about ensuring his team had the right tools for the job. His man Oliver McCutcheon was hugely grateful he didn’t have to cart these grapes back to the winery by hand.
1950’s Harvesting in the early days was physically demanding with hand pruning in the winter and sickle trimming in the summer. Vines weren’t grown as high as they are nowadays, so Tom and his team spent countless hours kneeling. Hand harvesting is a lot easier on the knees these days, but our harvesting teams still work just as hard to get the very best from Hawke’s Bay wines.
1950’s Those who worked with Tom reckon he’d be a little bemused at how much his legacy is respected by the New Zealand wine industry. Considered by his staff as a true visionary and somewhat a paternalistic figure, his love and energy for wine was a powerful, influential force. In the late 1950’s Tom’s lobbying of government authorities culminated in a select few restaurants being permitted to sell wine to their patrons, something previously not possible in New Zealand.
1960’s In 1960, Tom began a working relationship with Hungarian viticulturist Denis Kasza. Tom’s roll-up-your-sleeves Kiwi pragmatism and entrepreneurial drive were the perfect balance to Kasza’s technical skill and winemaking theory. French oak barriques were all but unheard of in New Zealand at the time, but with these rare resources at their disposal, in 1965 the two produced an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon- the first in a series of excellent Cabernet Sauvignons that continue to this day.’
Find these five stories beautifully reproduced across our limited edition Church Road McDonald Series 120th celebration range in stores now.