Chris & Jenny Hill – Owners of Locharburn
For years, owning a vineyard was an unattainable dream Chris and Jenny Hill would joke about with friends… until they succeeded in making it a reality late in 2004.
After working in the construction industry for most of his life and growing a medium-sized electrical contracting business with 20 employees in New Plymouth, Chris wanted a change of lifestyle. Meanwhile, Jenny had been helping to establish the retail arm of the business in addition to shouldering much of the responsibility for their four children. As the kids left home, she embarked on part-time study in fashion and textile art at the Western Institute of Technology of Taranaki.
The couple had long harboured an interest in wine and frequently visited Central Otago. “When we first drove up to Locharburn, we knew we had found the place we were looking for,” says Chris. “Our requirements had been for a partially developed site with views, and from a viticultural perspective the potential to produce great wines.”
After buying the vineyard, Chris completed a two-year distance learning diploma in winemaking and viticulture at EIT in Hawke’s Bay. His focus is on the vineyard itself and he is involved in all the day-to-day activities of managing Locharburn vineyard, with guidance from Grapevision’s Robin and James Dicey, who initially managed the property.
With his commercial background, Chris takes care of the business management. His other interests include aviation and cooking. He previously held a commercial pilot licence and occasionally he assists their son Joshua (now a chef and owner of popular Cromwell restaurant Feast) as sous chef! For relaxation, Chris loves to cycle, read and do gardening.
Apart from helping to handle sales for the brand, including working at the nearby Lazy Dog Café that is effectively their cellar door at the moment, Jenny pursues an increasingly rewarding career as a mixed media and textile artist.
During her studies, Jenny became particularly excited by the possibilities of free machine embroidery and the ability to draw with stitch. Her interest in photography and the manipulation of photos expanded to printing digital images on fabric.
Jenny is also often inspired by the self-made tapestry of patterns formed in nature. “I want to expose a different view by enhancing the details of texture, line, patterns and colour to highlight the unnoticed form.” Her process of exploration typically starts with the camera, combining the photos into collages with paint and different papers. Her textile work blends dyed and digital printed fabrics, free machine embroidery and embellishing techniques.
“For us, Locharburn is the realisation of our long-held dream. It gives both of us the opportunity to indulge in our love for wine and the lifestyle we chose for ourselves,” says Chris.
Named for the Locharburn stream which the vines and their home overlook, the 14ha sustainability accredited vineyard is planted on north-easterly facing terraces near the top of Lake Dunstan in Cromwell Basin.
It is surrounded by panoramic alpine ranges. Towering directly behind the vineyard is Mount Pisa, to the east are the Dunstan ranges, and in the distance across the Upper Clutha River plateau you can see the beautiful St Bathans Mountains.
The unique microclimate of the terraces, Central Otago’s famed hot summers and long autumns let the grapes ripen slowly, yielding high-quality fruit with intense, complex flavours.