It wasn't exactly California weather but one of the bright lights of the American wine industry, Charles Banks, was not too bothered by the distant dark skies and low-teen temperatures of rural Hawke's Bay yesterday.

He was more interested in taking in the "remarkable" landscape of the Gimblett Gravels and being back in a part of the world he confessed he had fallen in love with.

"Hawke's Bay is a very special place and it has great people - and nothing works without great people."

In winemaker Warren Gibson, founder and co-owner John Hancock and chief executive Michael Henley, Trinity Hill had that ingredient.


Mr Banks flew into Hawke's Bay from the United States last Sunday and, after spending time in Queenstown and Taupo, arrived in the Bay on Wednesday to catch up with the Trinity Hill winery crew in his new role of majority shareholder.

Mr Banks had been a co-owner of the winery since last December but, in the wake of fellow co-owners Robert and Robyn Wilson deciding to step back into a less active role, has taken on the majority share.

While it is early days, Mr Banks is already eyeing the future strongly - as strongly as he is eyeing up the American market he knows well, for more Trinity Hill exposure.

"Oh yes, they will see a lot more Trinity Hill," he said, adding the Gimblett Gravels' reputation was well known in the US for its high quality reds.

He is looking at an initial five-year plan of all business aspects, with the bottom line being growth.

The signs are already good. An initial target was selling 3000 cases in the first year and increasing that, so that by year three, some 8000-10,000 cases would be on the market there.

So 3000 cases were shipped out - and they sold in a fortnight.

"We sent over another 6000 cases."

He said that was indicative of the whole Hawke's Bay and New Zealand wine industry, which was in "great shape" and had huge potential to continue to grow internationally.

While a relative newcomer to the business side of the wine industry, Mr Banks has long been a pursuer of fine wines.

When he embarked on his first vineyard venture, he was advised the land he had earmarked was probably more suitable for growing something like asparagus, not grapes.

But he knew better, staking out the land in the Santa Ynez Valley in California, and in 2007 he produced his El Alma de Jonata Cabernet Franc, which received a string of accolades.

He also became involved in the iconic Screaming Eagle winery as a managing partner, although has since relinquished that role.

His passion for winemaking has seen him venture into South Africa and Burgundy, and now New Zealand.

It is all about focusing on new ventures that would allow him to become involved in "multiple wine passions" within the world of wine, and Hawke's Bay has a strong place in that world.

He was made aware of the uniqueness of the Gimblett Gravels by the Wilsons, whom he had come to know through the years.

So in November 2012, he and his family came across from California to visit the Bay, and Trinity Hill, and were smitten.

"We wanted to come and visit but I was not particularly focused on trying to do something at that stage. But then I started to taste the wines."

He had been to the Bay earlier though. Back in September 2001, when the family had been in Australia and were diverted to Auckland instead of back to the US in the wake of the Twin Towers tragedy.

"So we came down to take a look at Hawke's Bay and we loved it here."

He said Kiwis came across as casual in their appearance and approach, but there was nothing casual about the way they went about business and industry.

"And doing business in New Zealand is so transparent."

He described the Gimblett Gravels as "one of a kind" but said the whole winemaking region had "stepped up" to create a respected global recognition.

He said the wine industry was super simple.

"You make wine and you sell it - but you better have a very good marketing strategy and a full overall plan."

In his role, he intends visiting the winery and the region three or four times a year.