Q&A: Guy McMaster

Viticulturist Guy McMaster’s been knocking around the wine industry for over 15 years.

Originally a South Islander, he’s been working at Martinborough’s Palliser Estate since 2016.

Toast Martinborough may be off the calendar this year but that’s not stopping Palliser from going ahead with their plans to wine and dine by the vines.

From 19 November “Egmont at Palliser” will be open and serving bistro style lunch dishes and grazing plates. Guy’s looking forward to “partnering our delicious wines with great food from the Egmont Street Eatery and sharing it all with wonderful people.”

We caught up with the winemaker to talk good wine, good work, and good cheese scones.

What’s your favourite place in the wider Wellington region?

Ngawi: rugged coastline with its rusty tractors and trailers, fishing boats and seals. Moody and so powerful in a wild southerly yet equally as breathtaking on a beautiful summers day. Also, the source for Palliser’s annual seaweed collection that, rich in minerals and nutrients we then ferment and spray it out over our grapevines in line with our organic philosophy.

What do you like about your job?

I am passionate about organics, so breathing life back into our soils by feeding the microbial life, compost, molasses and seaweed, sowing legumes to provide the vines with nitrogen removing the need for man made fertilizer, planting flower row crops of phacelia and buckwheat to attract beneficial insects to get rid of insecticides is very important to us. Once the summer ends you get to harvest these precious bunches and craft them into wine that speaks not only of the soils they are grown in but the passion of the Palliser team and the season in which they grew.  Then to travel the world selling what you have made completes the circle and is immensely satisfying.

What’s your earliest (good) wine memory?

Deciding to start my own wine cellar and buying a very expensive case of Chardonnay as my starting point. The aim was to watch it age gracefully over a number of years and reap the rewards of faithful cellaring. Next minute, three days later after a very raucous flat party I was back to square one with an empty cellar.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I have a few wrinkles on my face so Van Morrison is a go to but recently Mild Orange. It has a local link with the lead guitarist Josh Reid hailing from the Wairarapa.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

“Never show the land you are poor.”  All plants are a reflection of what they live in. There’s a whole kingdom beneath your feet so treat it well and you will reap the rewards.

What’s your bad habit?

Have been guilty of snoring after a few too many good Pinots!

What’s the best local purchase you’ve made this year?

Just recently the frost alarm went off at 2.00am and we had to get out of bed and go and protect the young tender leaves from getting frozen and destroyed. Despite it been a long night the sun eventually rose and with no damage to the vines I slipped into the Neighbourhood Café in Martinborough for a flat white and a cheese scone straight out of the oven. Heaven.

Read more Q&As here.


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