Charles Finny of Kawarau Estate

Charles Finny, owner of Kawarau Estate in New Zealand, was visiting New York this week and we got the chance to spend some time with him at Candle 79 Restaurant. Also joining us were Leigh Fredrickson and Steven Frenkel of Organic Vintages, who are distributors of organic and biodynamic wines in the tri-state area.

I first met Charles, and his wife Wendy, during a trip to New Zealand two years ago. I was roaming the south island with no set schedule and they were gracious enough to have me over on Christmas Day to taste wines and see the vineyards. Outside of their vineyard, both are active in the political arena. Charles is the CEO of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Wendy serves on the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Over some great Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noirs from Kawarau Estate, Charles filled us in on the latest news. Kawarau has grown from producing 2000 cases a year to 5000, and is likely to double again soon. Part of his trip is to open new markets for his wine in New York, Atlanta and Texas. One of the problems of selling his wine in the United States is he needs two different government agencies to sign off on each label; each which can take up to six months. Another argument for a global standard for organic certification.

There is also a new organization of organic wine growers of New Zealand, of which James Milton, of Milton Vineyards, is President and Charles is Vice President. Charles said there was already an informal organization in place, where organic wine makers could go to each other for help and advice. When the Green Party received some influence from the latest elections, they formed an official group to take advantage of research funds for organic winemaking. There are 16 fully certified organic wine members, and another 16 wineries who are in transition.

Visit Kawarau Estate online at


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