Rod McDonald is a very busy man a decade after being named Winemaker of the Year at the Royal Easter Show - New Zealand's longest running wine awards.

Last month Rod McDonald Wines landed a distribution contract with top UK importer Buckingham Schenk that will see his labels in with every part of the UK market - from the major supermarkets and national off-licence chains to on-trade focused wholesalers and restaurant and pub groups.

He is a highly-regarded wine judge, being chairman of judges at the Hawke's Bay Wine Awards for seven years until the end of last year and is a senior judge at New Zealand International Wine Show.

His wines - Te Awanga Estate, Quarter Acre, Trademark Syrah, One Off and Two Gates - include a broad range of red and white wine styles.


His company has long-term leases on about 50ha of Hawke's Bay vineyards and is buying 25ha at Te Awanga Estate, home of its cellar door.

Fresh from a trip to China, conducting a wine tasting "to whip up a little bit of PR" for customers of his Two Gates wine, he said his day-to-day job was running the contract winemaking business The Hawke's Bay Wine Company.

The company has completed its third vintage at its Pandora home in Napier. The 10,000-tonne plant was previously owned by global giant Pernod Ricard before being bought by local investors.

The new home was a big jump for The Hawke's Bay Wine Company - its previous winery was 700-tonne.

He said the contract winemaker had 25 customers but ran 24-hours-a-day during harvest, so there were no problem finding processing slots.

The new winery was again at full capacity this year from the Wine Company's third Pandora vintage.

Full tanks did not mean there was no room for more Hawke's Bay grapes - the plant was storing wine from Marlborough.

"If we needed to increase the amount of production we would just decrease the amount to storage."


Any growth at Pandora will be demand driven. "We want to do that with the customers - we don't want to speculate."