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Wine Director Allan McWilliams: A Rock Ferry Close Up

A bottle of 1982 Jacobs Creek Claret is where it all began.  Allan said, ‘I was completely smitten from my first taste of red wine.’ 

Allan enrolled at Lincoln University in Christchurch to do a Horticulture Degree after finishing his schooling at Sacred Heart College in Auckland.  It was while on a term break from his studies that his date, who obviously already had a taste for wine, ordered the Jacobs Creek Claret.

After graduating Allan worked at the Mt Eden Garden Centre in Auckland for a year, all the while researching and plotting where he could do his Viticulture and Oenology Degree.  (Lincoln University did not offer that degree course at the time.)  The University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy Campus was recommended, and Allan studied there for three years, graduating in 1989. The young now winemaker then set out on his travels, first doing vintages in the Hunter Valley and then Margaret River areas in Australia.  The visa stamps in his passport then began to accumulate rapidly as he crossed the globe working vintages in Oregon, Zurich, Italy, and Bordeaux in France.

Settling in Marlborough in 1992, Allan worked initially for Nautilus Wines where he continued to build his reputation as a winemaker.  A stint as Winemaker and General Manager at
Cellier Le Brun followed by a position as Winemaker for Wairau River.  Allan was then approached by Rock Ferry co-owner, Tom Hutchison, who was in the process of establishing his own organic winery under the emerging Rock Ferry brand.  Seventeen years on and Allan has embraced organic practices and believes ethically crafted wines just taste better.  “Working in a small, family-owned winery offers a great opportunity to trial different varietals and experiment with new processes,” says Allan. 

Juggling the demands of a blended family with six children leaves little time for relaxing these days but escaping to their Marlborough Sounds holiday home for a spot of fishing is always in the diary.

Clearly, we owe special thanks to Jacobs Creek Claret for inspiring our Wine Director.