Chapter one of the Nga Waka story is set in Paris. The year was 1974, as it happens the year the first, experimental New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was produced. Gordon Parkinson, a career diplomat, took up a posting at the New Zealand Embassy in the French capital. As he and his young family settled into life in France, Gordon became captivated by the wines of the Old World. He explored, tasted and collected. This fascination with wine rubbed off on his son, Roger and was, in turn, the impetus for the eventual establishment of Nga Waka Vineyard in Martinborough.
The new wave of New Zealand wines began to appear in the early 1980’s. Their distinctiveness and quality convinced Gordon and Roger that New Zealand could produce wines that would, in time, stand comparison with their European counterparts. The idea that became Nga Waka was inspired by two important precepts. The first was the thought that all great wines started from uncertain beginnings. The second was the conviction that an opportunity existed to play a part in shaping a strong, quality wine culture in New Zealand. Our wines, labels, buildings, landscaping, and the people we work with contribute to the development of a distinctive New Zealand identity.
The startling potential of the first Martinborough wines and the fact that the region’s suitability for viticulture had been properly researched and assessed were compelling. Roger scoured Martinborough and the four-hectare home block purchased, as bare land, in 1986. The vineyard was established in 1988. Following four years of overseas study and work experience Roger returned to New Zealand in 1992. The first Nga Waka vintage was in 1993. The winery was completed the following year.
Great wine expresses its particular site; it reflects a sense of place. The name Nga Waka was chosen to reflect our sense of place. The name is taken from Nga Waka A Kupe (The Canoes of Kupe). Three hills, which lie like upturned canoes, form a backdrop for the town of Martinborough. Legend has it that the hills were formed by the three canoes of the Polynesian explorer Kupe, carried inland by a huge earthquake and coming to rest in the valley behind Martinborough
Nga Waka remains a family business. Winemaker and CEO Roger Parkinson is a Roseworthy College graduate and prizewinner with experience in winemaking and viticulture in New Zealand, Australia and France. He is responsible for all aspects of production. His wife Carol is qualified in business studies and is responsible for financial management. Roger’s parents, Margaret and Gordon, now retired, maintain an active interest.
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