Interview with the Winemaker: Renee Dale
February 28, 2019
Why did you get into wine?
Alas, I am not the resulting child of Amelia Earhart and Jamie Oliver! I also don’t come from a family of winemakers or heritage grape herders but my intrigue of wine DID begin at a young age. Playing under our house I stumbled across my dad’s stash of wine in the dust and since then always found wine a mysterious beast. It never really changed much after that – making wine is dirty business 97.3% of the time!
I’ve never been afraid of mud though – in High School I was hugely passionate about soccer and represented New Zealand as a senior. I had every intention to further my soccer career with a scholarship to an American College, but by the end of my senior year of High School I had experienced one bad coach too many. With the help of a guidance counsellor I finally made the difficult decision to never let my self worth be dictated by other people. I hung up my dreams of being a professional footballer when I hung up my boots for the last time. One could say I gave up, but I believe our purpose in life remains constant and I just simply changed my route.
Back then the NZ Herald was still a decent publication and I had read an inspiring little article about a young woman traveling and making wine after studying a Bachelor of Wine Science. Naturally, I applied. I used the dedication I developed from my football life and redirected it into my studies which resulted in me being selected as the first female Romeo Bragato Scholarship student to head to Italy. A year later I graduated as the valedictorian in the class of 2007 and the rest is history.
What was your Moment of Impact?
After seven lucky years of working in the wine industry around the world there is one moment that I can definitively say impacted my life and ultimately changed the course of my career from struggling artist to Winemaker. My luck seemed to have run out in trying to get a more permanent US visa and I could no longer work in Napa, California. I was forced to return home to Auckland to pursue my career in my home city. While glumly perusing through the French markets in Parnell, spending my last few dollars on a flat white, I received a phonecall from M-Wines in the UK.
“Would you like to make your dream wine, all funded by M-Wines?”
For me, this was completely out of left field and the dark cloud following me disappeared in an instant. With a mouth full of pain au chocolat I only had two words:
It seemed too good to be true at the time but the M-Wines contract winemaking project really happened and in doing so opened doors up for me to create my own small parcel of Cabernet Franc from Waimauku in West Auckland. This was to be the catalyst for my fascination of Auckland wines which I continue to make, love and promote.
Why is a “Moment of Impact” so special to you?
Impact is defined as: the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another / a marked effect or influence.
My memory is not the greatest and I doubt I’ll ever become a Master of Wine because I can never remember the names of all my family members let alone wine producers and obscure appellations. I’m a practical girl and I learn through experience and action. BUT we all have moments in our lives where something so powerful happens that the finer details and subtleties of that moment never leave our memory.
I personally believe these moments are a culmination of many factors. The wines I make are intended to add to these moments; add to the food; add to the ambiance – not to take away.
The moment when the wine transforms on your palate and completely opens up with the food you’re eating is fleeting; one that is never forgotten, forever chased and best shared. All of my most memorable wines were made unforgettable by the event, the food and more importantly the people I shared it with.
My intentions are to make wine that instigates the change I want to see in the world by creating positive moments of impact…
Do you ever find yourself day dreaming of a better world than the one we find ourselves in today? Did you know that it’s partly due to our genetics? They have recently discovered a “dissatisfaction gene” inventively named 5-HTT which can determine our levels of seratonin and hence determine our satisfaction with life. There is hope for us idealists though because dissatisfaction drives innovation.
I believe in a world where authentic collaboration between socially responsible and innovative businesses results in a thriving global economy of happy, creative and fulfilled humans. I believe that there is room in the market for everyone and that compassionate leaders breed creative ingenuity and in turn build a resilient world.
I envision this future world where people hand in lost wallets; where people ask others before flying their drones above you; where your neighbours say thank you when you return their runaway bunny; where drivers will let you into their lane with a smile; where every child gets to go to school with a packed healthy lunch and warm dry clothes; where anyone can hold the door open for anyone; where every house has its own self sustaining energy; where urban bee farming is as common as cellphones; where ‘bottom-of-the-rung’ employees go to work feeling empowered and heard; where fruit trees are planted in public spaces; where every human can close their eyes feeling safe and loved at night.
I truly believe local businesses collaborating together will build strong communities, encourage leaders of excellence to rise up, and ultimately lead to humans finding fulfilment in their lives.
It is a bold and seemingly unachievable vision but I’m sure we would all want to live in this idealistic world. The road to change starts with ourselves – Essentially it starts with “me” or one could even dare to say “moi”. What can we do right now?
What I can do is make wine.