Kate Radburnd

Kate Radburnd

Radburnd Cellars (Winemaker & Director)

“The best experience is seeing your wine through from first to end”

The renowned Kate Radburnd of Radburnd Wines Ltd was in the process of a major career change when we met her for lunch in Hastings. We had heard rumors that something was afoot but nothing more than that. Her new adventure was central to our conversation. First, though, let’s start at the beginning.

Path to Winemaker. Kate and her three siblings grew up in Adelaide, Australia, in a family that enjoyed drinking good wine and engaging in lively discussions about wine. Her mother was a biochemist and her father an architect, and both encouraged her interest in science and the complexities of wine, an interest that led her to study science and then oenology at nearby Roseworthy College. She completed a Bachelor in Applied Science (Oenology) in 1983, the only women in her graduating class.

From there, Kate describes herself as “incredibly lucky” (we would add, “modest”). After graduating, she successfully competed for an assistant winemaker position at Vidal Estate, one of Hawke’s Bay’s oldest wineries. She was 21 at the time. At Vidal, she had “the amazing opportunity to work with and be mentored by Sir George Fistonich, the godfather of New Zealand’s wine industry.” She loved her work there, was promoted to lead winemaker within three years, and stayed on in that role for another four years, during which time she produced a number of award-winning wines.

In 1991, Chris Pask, the first person to plant vines in the Gimblett Gravels district, offered Kate an opportunity to work with him at his winery. Kate was interested, professionally and personally. “He needed someone to drive the winemaking and marketing,” responsibilities that were a good fit with her skills and interests. Kate and Simon, her spouse, were also thinking about starting a family, so working at a small winery with its own fruit was attractive for that reason. She joined Pask as Head Winemaker in 1991, becoming a Director in 1992, Co-Owner in 1993, and Managing Director in 1999.

At Pask, Kate crafted an impressive array of distinguished wines that included the Kate Radburnd series and the Declaration series. The Kate Radburnd’s 1998 Pask Reserve Merlot was particularly outstanding, and helped establish New Zealand’s reputation for this varietal when it was awarded the Bordeaux trophy at the International Wine Challenge in 2000. Kate also championed sustainability; Pask was awarded the trophy for sustainability at the International Wine Challenge in 2014.

Kate left Pask in 2016 after 26 years there. It was time to write her own third chapter—Vidal Estate and Pask being the first two.

At lunch, Kate shared some details about her exciting next chapter. Her business partners are in place, brand names are being test marketed, an unoccupied winery located in Bay View is the site for her new winery, and sources for most of her fruit are identified. And winemaking seems to pervade the family genes: her daughter has just completed her viticulture and oenology degree at Adelaide and may join Kate at the winery sometime in the future.

Leadership. Kate sees leadership in the wine industry as vitally important, and that sense of importance fuels her involvement. She is the recipient of two prestigious awards recognizing her outstanding contribution to the New Zealand wine industry. The first was the Sir George Fistonich Medal in 2010. In 2015, she was the first woman winemaker to be inducted as a Fellow of New Zealand Winegrowers.

Early on, Kate had recognized the importance of sustainable winegrowing and wine excellence, and the leadership required to create the conditions for both to thrive. She has been a board member of New Zealand Winegrowers for a number of years, and was the only woman on the board for the first 14 years that she served. (Currently there are two women on the 12-member board).

Kate has been a senior wine judge at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards and is Chair of Judges of the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, New Zealand’s oldest wine competition. She has been involved in education through the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT), where she was a council member for 12 years. EIT has viticulture and winemaking as flagship degrees.

The Wines. The first wines of Radburnd Cellars became available in 2019. Kate’s plans are that, “We’ll have four wines — Chardonnay, Syrah, a blended red from Hawke’s Bay, and a Pinot Noir from Martinborough. Our winemaking style across all these wines is a focus on pristine pure fruit characters, subtle oak, and a lovely backbone of acidity, emphasising cool climate viticulture. This produces elegant, restrained styles which age beautifully.”

We look forward to following Kate’s third chapter and to enjoying her wines as each becomes available!