In August 1986, Rob set his eyes on Chard Farm for the first time.
After studying winemaking in Germany in the early 80’s, a chance encounter with a cousin who worked on an orchard called Chard Farm, near Queenstown piqued some interest in Central Otago. I ventured down there and ended up running the farm as an orchard..
Harvest, first vintage 1987, Taramea Winery
Sitting, overlooking the property one gorgeous, balmy Central Otago evening, I had an epiphany. I could see it all - the farm as a vineyard, laid out before me.
My father was quickly summoned, along with his chequebook! and the start of establishing the vineyard first began.
There were a lot of doubters however!
In the beginning, the advice was simple - "Don't be stupid, best not to plant anything down there at all!"
The First Grape, March 1987
There was a huge sense of community then - friends, family and locals all rallied together and were used and abused, to plough, dig and plant the first vineyard. Gerdi arrived on the scene! I am sure they all loved the work, probably though with a sense of foreboding, concern and sympathy for the unlikely success of this venture
I remember also in the early days, a particular wine critic who, I assume would rather remain anonymous, commenting, "If Central Otago wine producers believe they can create high-quality wines, they are seriously deluding themselves."
The rest as they say is history.
Early days in the tasting room, 1997
Chard Farm matriarch Jean Hay & Merl Hyland lifting the nursery, August 1987
Kayfa The Cat, April 16 1988
Bottling Finla Mor Pinot Noir, 1997
Putting in the screw anchors, 1987
Rob discovered Chard Farm as a run-down, failing, stone fruit orchard in the early 80’s and converted it into a vineyard. He’s at the helm still, although he is trying desperately to delegate more/retire or pass the baton to his children! When not on the Farm, he’s often seen amongst our beautiful vineyard holdings in the Cromwell area.
Gerdi, our proprietor and office manager, she is also the local Arrowtown Preschool office manager. She runs both with an iron fist and good German financial rectitude! A keen mountain biker, she is often seen cycling between the two offices and is also famous for her legendary staff lunches.
John Wallace has held the position of Chief Winemaker at Chard Farm since 1997. John is a retired Ski instructor, keen brewer, a dedicated foodie and another mountain biker. He has been with us forever, initially employed as a vineyard hand and cellar rat in 1997. He took over the reins of chief winemaker at Chard Farm in 2002 and has done several Northern Hemisphere vintages in Oregon and California. John and his wife Jo have a son - Hugo and a daughter - Isobel. John is famous for his dry sense of humour and very tasty beers, the latest being an IPA-Indian Pale Ale. As the saying goes - it takes a lot of beer to make great wine! He also makes a wicked Central Otago gin created using the traditional triple-distilled London dry gin technique, and using Central Otago botanicals.
Michelle has recently re-joined the Chard team after a stint as our Vineyard manager from 2007 – 2015. She brings with her a wealth of viticulture knowledge and spent the past few years setting up and running her own wine business in Cromwell as well as a viticultural consultancy business and operating a Café in Kingston. Welcome back Michelle, good to have you on board again! Of course - this isn't her photo. She is a little camera-shy, but we feel this photo best represents her!
Matt is our most camera-shy, so we picked the photo he thought best represented him! Perhaps this is why he sells so much wine? Matt fancies himself as a top golfer, ace ice hockey player and gun skier we hear about his exploits every day at smoko! He is, in reality, none of those but has been doing a great job marketing and selling Chard Farm wines to NZ and the world. Matt has been with us since 1999.
Fiona Banks and Jan Forward come as a package deal in all things administration. Dry wit and a good sense of humour go far with these ladies. Both Fiona and Jan have worked at Chard Farm for many years in various departments, and are the driving force behind the day-to-day runnings of the business.
Originally from Southland, Sian has it pretty tough working in the same office as Matt, enduring his sense of humour. She loves wine (of course) and has travelled the world working in the golf industry before settling in Queenstown.
Since 2017, Hamish has been a guiding presence in our team. His pet project is Regenerative Viticulture and is deeply involved in converting all of our vineyards to this philosophy. Originally from a small farm in Ashburton, Hamish pursued a diploma in Agribusiness Management and now brings his expertise to our vineyards on a daily basis.
As you step through the doors of Chard Farm, you're likely to be welcomed by the radiant smile of Nicky, who hails from England and has been an invaluable member of our team for more than two years. Nicky possesses an incredible depth of knowledge about our wines.
Connor, a promising young winemaker driven by his passion for a career in winemaking, joined Chard Farm in 2022 following his graduation with a Bachelor's degree in Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University.
Charming, bubbly and hardworking, Katrina has worked for Chard Farm for seven years armed with a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology. Kat won the Central Otago Young Viticulturist of the Year Award in 2021 when she was pregnant, and continued to compete against fellow regional competitors when her baby was just five weeks old.