Sophie Harris

Sophie Harris

Te Awanga Estate (Winemaker)

Sophie Harris is a native of the Hawke’s Bay region on New Zealand’s North Island. During the summers of her high school years, she worked at a “cellar door” (tasting room) where her mother was the manager, but a career in the wine industry was not in her plans. Rather, a year after completing high school she went to Auckland to pursue a performance arts degree in contemporary dance. After a year in the program, however, she was uncertain that this was the right goal for her, and went to Marlborough on the South Island to work a vintage as an intern. Sophie enjoyed the experience and the physicality that is part of work in a winery.

Nonetheless, her next position was not in the wine industry, but instead was employment in a clothing shop in Brisbane, Australia. She then returned to Hawke’s Bay to work another vintage as an intern and had an additional internship lined up. It did not materialize though, so this prompted her to enter the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in Hawke’s Bay, the institution where her mother had earlier retrained in viticulture. Sophie earned her Bachelor of Wine Science degree, a three-year program, in 2012. An outstanding student, she was awarded the coveted Bragato Exchange Scholarship to allowed her to study viticulture and winemaking in Italy.

After completing her degree at EIT, Sophie did two five-month internships, one at Mayacamus Vineyards in the Napa Valley and the other in Stellenbosch, South Africa. In 2015 she joined Rod McDonald Wines, now known as Te Awanga Estate, and was the only female full-time employee working in the cellar. With her interests turning more to winemaking, Sophie was appointed first as assistant winemaker and then was named as winemaker in 2017.

According to a former classmate of hers, Sophie is known for her wine intuition and technical knowledge. She is quite modest about her knowledge and accomplishments, however. When asked about the winemakers she most admired, she said, “. . . those who make great wines, are humble, and are willing to share.” These words characterize her as well.