Growing up with Grapes: Samantha Jones and Kahurangi

Ever wondered what it would be like to grow up in a vineyard? Our director Samantha Jones knows first hand — she literally grew up with our Kahurangi vines. Pretty romantic right? Sam remembers that life in the vineyard was a lot of fun, but it was hard work too.

These days Sam is our National Sales Manager, but she’ll never lose her close connection with Nelson and the winery. Just a teenager at the time, Sam was there at the very beginning of the Kahurangi brand, when her parents Greg and Amanda bought the winery from Herman Seifried in 1998. The Kahurangi label and Sam literally grew up together. 

Samantha Jones and her husband Simon.

Many of Sam’s childhood memories are related to wine and the people of the Moutere Hills area. As teenagers, Sam and her siblings were involved in almost every aspect of the business: from helping out with the harvest, tending to vines, hosting at the cellar door, doing dishes, or serving food. Sam remembers the worst job of all was scraping labels off bottles in the midwinter after a labelling mishap.

Often Sam would rope her friends into working with her during the school holidays. Some mornings in the winter were so cold that the vines would still be covered with frost at 8 am. ‘Nothing wakes you up quite like a frosty vine slapping you in the face,’ laughs Sam. 

Of course, it wasn’t all hard work. The vineyard was a kids’ adventure playground and they had all sorts of fun, including holding mini triathlons. These games were hotly contested, with the swim stage being a race across the pond — with live eels adding a whole new level of excitement. 

When Greg and Amanda decided to sell the business, Sam was keen to get involved but pretty daunted by the prospect of taking on the whole thing: ‘It’s just a huge job, so that wasn’t really an option.’ The proposal of having four working directors turned out to be a fantastic solution. Sam’s parents are really proud to see her carrying on the family business, and she is thrilled to be able to honour the hard work, sweat and tears that they poured into the place.

Sam lives in Wellington these days, with her husband, Simon and their young son, but Nelson will always have a special place in her heart. She loves coming back whenever she can and soaking up those spectacular views of Mt Arthur: ‘it’s just such a special place and brings back so many happy memories for our family.’ Sam was married in the vineyard in 2018 and remembers that the wedding fell between two really difficult vintages: ‘there were two cyclones around that time, one on either side of our wedding!’

When it comes to choosing a favourite wine, Sam can’t go past Mt Arthur Chardonnay — that’s the Nelson wine her family enjoys when they are all together. One of Sam’s favourite places to holiday is Taupo Bay in Northland and she always takes up a bottle of Mt Arthur Chardonnay to enjoy at the beach. It’s become a bit of a family tradition to pick up some fresh oysters on the way. What could be better?

In her role as Sales Team Manager, Sam’s greatest joy is surprising people with an introduction to Nelson wines. While everyone is familiar with Marlborough wines, Nelson wines are still very much hidden gems. People are often stunned to discover how wonderful they are. 

Sam loves telling the story of our area, and of course, is proud to showcase Kahurangi wines in particular. People get such an astonished look on their faces when they taste our 2020 Pinot Noir. Nelson is not yet known for its Pinot Noir and people just can’t believe how favourably it compares with the Otago labels. 

Sam has made it a bit of a mission to share her knowledge with as many people as she can. She loves it when customers tell her that Kahurangi is their favourite supplier: ‘it just shows what a great job we are doing as a team.

Sam’s top wine tip is for the younger generation, who might just be starting to get into wine. When you’re visiting a winery, if you can, she recommends buying three bottles of the same wine. One bottle is to enjoy straight away, and the others are to put away. That gives you the chance to discover how the wine evolves over time. The trick is to hide the bottles, so you forget they’re there! Sam hides hers in the back of a cupboard. Make sure you lie it flat and find a place where the temperature is fairly controlled, not a shed or garage. 

While sharing wine at home is enjoyable, Sam is really looking forward to seeing people getting out and about more. Her sales role means that she sees firsthand how the restaurants and bars have suffered over the last few years. These small businesses are really struggling and there’s never been a better time to go out and support them. And if you haven’t tried Nelson wines, be sure to give them a go.

Sam always looks forward to harvest time because every new vintage brings new surprises — in the wine industry you never know quite what to expect. This year has certainly had its ups and downs for the poor growers. 

The good news is that overall volumes are up on last year and our winemakers are busy doing their magic. If, like Sam, your favourite wine is Chardonnay, you’ll be pleased to know that the Chardonnay is looking great for 2022. There are early signs that this might be a vintage to look out for. In the meantime, our 2020 Mt Arthur Reserve is drinking beautifully. Maybe it’s even time to pick up some oysters?

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