After 18 years, 90 tonnes and 4000 cases of wine sold annually, a string of medals and four big overseas awards, Wim Julicher and Sue Darling are putting their feet up - shortly.

Preparing for their impending retirement, the co-owners of Martinborough's Julicher Estate have put their 18.6-hectare vineyard on the market.

The decision to sell follows a year of international success for Julicher. Last month, the winery was awarded Wine of the Year-Best in Show at the 2014 UK Sommelier Wine Awards, beating out 2000 other entries.

However, Mr Julicher and Ms Darling, partners in business and life, wish to produce a few more trophy winners before "sailing off into the sunset."


"Wim and I are both turning 67 this year, and we're thinking about retirement," said Ms Darling. "Vineyards do not sell quickly, so we're getting a feel for the market and starting early.

"We don't want to be 70 and still working. We want to be able to put our feet up, travel the world, and be footloose and fancy free. But we're not desperate to bugger off just yet."

These days, said Ms Darling, vineyards can take at least two years to sell, due to the economic downturn and the lack of demand for boutique wine.

However, the couple is hopeful the Te Muna Rd vineyard's reputation will attract buyers.

Founded in 1996, Julicher Estate won its first award, the Champion Pinot Noir Award, at the 2007 New Zealand International Wine Show, and has since snatched close to 20 national titles.

As well as the Sommelier Awards gong, its wine has also won gold medals at the London International Wine Challenge, the Decanter World Wine Awards, and the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition.

"Medal-winning wines have been produced here. We hope that will encourage people to carry it on," Ms Darling said.

She said the vineyard offers some great land for grape growing. It is sited on the old Huangarua River path, rich in alluvial soil and a fantastic winemaker in Outi Jakovirta, who will likely be staying on.


In addition, the neighbouring Edwards Vineyard is also up for sale, which presents an expansion opportunity for the buyer of Julicher Estate.

In their final years on the vineyard, Mr Julicher and Ms Darling plan to keep increasing their wine sales, expand their overseas market and win more trophies.

"We're not going to drop our standards," said Ms Darling.

"Although we are looking forward to retiring eventually.

"It's bloody hard work looking after a vineyard. Your energy levels need to be up all the time."

Once retired, the couple plan to spend more time with their grandchildren and to take more trips to The Netherlands to visit Mr Julicher's family.