Hawke's Bay's Trinity Hill Winery is back in New Zealand hands, nearly four years after its US owner was imprisoned for fraud.
A group of private investors, including Waikato-based rich-lister Mitch Plaw, have acquired the well known winery formerly owned by American Charles Banks.
Founded in 1993 by Robyn and Robert Wilson, Trinity Hill was an early pioneer of the now-famous Gimblett Gravels winemaking sub-region located near Hastings.
In 2014, Banks, formerly a financial adviser and wine executive, bought a 67 per cent stake in it.
But in April 2017, Banks pleaded guilty to defrauding former NBA star Tim Duncan and was sentenced to four years in prison followed by three years' supervised release.
Banks was also ordered to pay Duncan $7.5 million in restitution. He is up for parole later this month.
Director and new owner Plaw said he and his partners Craig Turner, Mark Sandelin and Michael Nock, who are all wine enthusiasts, were excited to bring Trinity Hill Limited back to a majority New Zealand ownership.
"We see significant opportunity in Trinity Hill and look forward to being part of its growth and development in the future," he said.
New chairman and owner Sandelin said all of the winery's staff have been kept on board.
"We have retained all staff and we want to grow the business," he said. "We want to work with the local people and contribute to the local economy."
The group will continue to operate the business and have plans to expand and advance the winery.
"Our long-term goal is to ensure that the Trinity Hill brand and its wines are regarded as the best New Zealand has to offer," he said.
Already with award-winning syrah and chardonnay, Sandelin said their winemakers Warren Gibson and Damien Fischer are working on plans to advance their offering.
The new chairman said with the iconic wine company now back under New Zealand ownership, the focus can be on "maintaining and enhancing its reputation and the reputation of both Hawke's Bay wines and NZ wines".
"We chose Trinity Hill because it is an established and highly regarded winery – it's one of NZ's leading wineries, in our view," Sandelin added.
A Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association spokeswoman said they were delighted to hear that one of the region's iconic wineries has found new owners based in New Zealand - and that they plan to keep present staff on.
They said the Wilsons can take great credit for its success and the quality of its wines.