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Sam Neill Two Paddocks

Along with his amazing acting career, Sam Neill is also a lover of Nature. He is a trustee of NZ National Parks and Conservation Foundation. In 1993, Sam began his career in farming and proved that not only can he bottle sex in a glass, he is also a damned good dirt farmer!

We dedicate this page to Farmer Sam in gratitude for his foresight in NZ conservation, his support of the local economy as a founding member of Central Otago Wine Company, his abiding and deep love of the Land.

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Wines Around The World

Wine Tasting: Actor Sam Neill's Two Paddocks Vineyard In Central Otago
By Sarah Wong
February 13, 2014

From left: Two Paddocks First Paddock Pinot Noir 2010, Two Paddocks Picnic Central
Otago Pinot Noir 2010 and Two Paddocks Picnic Central Otago Riesling 2013.

On Twitter, Two Paddocks describes itself as a “humble, familyowned wine estate. Producers and surveyors of fine pinot to both gentry and ratbags”. Behind the scenes is actor Sam Neill, who has starred in blockbusters such as Jurassic Park, and Oscar-winning films such as The Piano.

Two Paddocks is located in Central Otago, on New Zealand’s South Island. In 1993 Neill bought a paddock in Gibbston to grow some grapes for his friends and family. His friend bought the neighbouring paddock bringing together “Two Paddocks”.

Twenty years later, the winery has garnered a solid reputation for producing high-quality pinot noir and riesling. The wines have won accolades and perform well in competitions.

As Neill says adamantly, Two Paddocks “is not a celebrity wine by definition. The wine speaks for itself. It has its own power and following.”

Cinema and wine are seemingly worlds apart. For Neill, film occupies the “world of imagination”. Wine, he says, is about the farm and is three dimensional. “It is about the soil, air, light and living things.”

There are also some parallels. He says both have elements of art and craft.”The third aspect is a mysterious one. You can tick all the boxes and something does not work.”

In terms of winemaking, having the right block of land, soil condition and using the correct clones may not necessarily result in the perfect bottle of wine. There is some alchemy in the winemaking process which is difficult to pinpoint, he says.

Neill ends on a philosophical note, saying that both film and wine are about enjoyment and having fun.

Two Paddocks First Paddock Pinot Noir 2010
Named after the first paddock Neill bought and planted in 1993, the grapes have been aged in French barriques for 11months.
Perfumed, red fruit, still quite restrained on the nose. Full bodied, with good fruit intensity, very elegant structure with fine grained tannins. A wine with the potential to age for another decade but can be enjoyed now. HK$432

Two Paddocks Picnic Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
Two Paddocks’ entry-level pinot noir. It is a classic expression of Central Otago pinot noir – pure and transparent.
Dark fruit, cherries and savoury notes on the nose. Medium body, with succulent fruit and finishing with soft, ripe tannins. As its name suggests, it's perfect for picnics, but can be also be enjoyed at the table. HK$224

Two Paddocks Picnic Central Otago Riesling 2013
Neill says that riesling is one of his favourite grapes. Apart from his own wines, he says he has a penchant for South Australian and Alsace styles. He describes this as “a drink all day wine”.
Pear, peach, lime, floral and perfumed. Medium body, crisp acidity balanced with a touch of sweetness. A fresh and vibrant wine. Easy drinking style. Makes a great aperitif and will pair well with Asian cuisine. HK$155

Sam Neill Spreads His Pinot Wings
By Warren Barton
Feb. 4, 2014

Many, including visitors to last week's Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration, and the man himself, would have been amused to read in the country's largest newspaper that actor Sam Neill has expanded his Two Paddocks "wine empire".

Hardly an empire, I would have thought, when even with the purchase of a six-hectare vineyard at Bannockburn (his fourth) total plantings are still just 19 hectares.

The real significance of Sam's purchase of Desert Heart vineyard, at the end of Felton Road, is that it gives him a presence in what has become the engine room of one of the world's most exciting pinot noir regions. And makes him the only producer with a footprint in all three sub-regions - Gibbston Valley, and the Cromwell and Alexandra basins.

Not only will the acquisition provide a consistency of supply but will lift Two Paddocks' production by 7000 cases a year - about a third - which should help satisfy a growing international demand that reflects not only the quality of the wine, but Neill's undoubted and very public passion for the variety.

No. Passion is the wrong word.

Sam prefers to call it a grand obsession, which began in the late 1970s when dining with actor James Mason and his wife and they ordered a bottle of burgundy. That was it. He was hooked.

But Sam, 66, also has a family connection with the industry that goes back 150 years, when his grandfather Sidney founded Neill and Co, wine and spirits merchants in Dunedin. This became Wilson Neill and was run by his father Dermott, a former major in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, for whom the newly-acquired vineyard will eventually be named.

While his son Sam chose a different path it was this - acting - that allowed him eventually to indulge himself. In 1993 he bought and planted two hectares in pinot noir at Gibbston and his mate, film director Roger Donaldson, did the same next door. Hence the Two Paddocks tag which became reality when Roger lost interest.

Such was the success of the pinot that Sam intended to share with friends that he then became what he calls "outrageously ambitious" and planted more. The first was Alex Paddocks, above the Earnsclough Valley, the other (now the main vineyard) on Redbank, a farm that is now at the heart of the operation and also in the Alexandra area.

With the acquisition of the entirely pinot vineyard from Denny Downie and Jane Gill, who have run the place since 1999, this means he will be able to add at least another single vineyard pinot to his stable, taking the pinots produced to five.

It also means that all the pinot, including that under the Picnic label, will now be estate grown and from next year part of a completely organic operation.

Meantime, Denny and Jane will at least continue to retail their wines, which include an outstanding chardonnay (Renaissance 2012) and a gold medal rose.

From Two Paddocks:

Picnic 2012 Pinot Noir, $32 The bloke on the label of this easy-drinking introduction to Central Otago pinot is Sam's granddad Sidney, picnicking at Karitane beach around 1920. A potion of cherries and spice

Two Paddocks 2010 Pinot Noir, $50 A lovely soft and savoury blend that runs on darker flavoured, red-berried fruit from the Gibbston and Alexandra vineyards. More restrained and elegant than many of its kind.

Two Paddocks 2010 First Paddock Proprietor's Reserve Pinot Noir, $70 A powerful aromatic, red-fruited pinot with appealing spicy, savoury, sweet-fruit characters off the Gibbston vineyard. Substantial and complex layered with flavours and interest.

Two Paddocks 2010 Last Chance Proprietor's Reserve Pinot Noir, $70 Named for watercourse dug by old-time miners that runs through the vineyard. A dense, brooding but refined pinot built around black cherries, florals and spicy, charred oak. Classy.

Neill's Pinot Empire Expands

Two Paddocks founder and actor Sam Neill,
of Queenstown, yesterday toasts his winery's acquisition
of a fourth vineyard in Central Otago, the 6ha Desert Heart
in Bannockburn, seen behind him.

Actor Sam Neill says his winery's fourth vineyard acquisition demonstrates ''faith and confidence'' in Central Otago and its pinot noir for the global market.

Two Paddocks announced this week it had become the only Central Otago winery with a foothold in all three Central Otago wine-producing sub-regions, owning vineyards in Gibbston, the Alexandra basin and now the Cromwell basin.

Neill said a sum of money which was ''considerable, but both vendors and purchasers think it fair'' had bought the established 6ha Desert Heart Vineyard, plus woolshed and house, at the end of Felton Rd, Bannockburn, last week.

Neill said at the site of his new property yesterday there were few areas in Central Otago, or the world, where pinot noir grapes could be grown successfully and Bannockburn was possibly the epicentre of the Central Otago wine industry.

Differences between the three sub-regions were becoming apparent ''and for that reason I've been looking quietly around Bannockburn to find the right established vineyard for Two Paddocks''.

Fruit from the new acquisition would be evaluated in about two months to become a component in both entry and flagship brands of Two Paddocks' ''fairly restrained, possibly classical pinots and we don't want to stray too far from that, but some lively addition to the main palate may be just the thing'', Neill said.

The top tier is the occasionally produced single-vineyard pinot ''The Last Chance''.

The new vineyard would be renamed in memory of Neill's father, who was a wine merchant and a soldier. The name would be announced after it was registered.

The vineyard would increase Two Paddocks' output by a third to about 7000 cases a year, Neill said.

''Our own brand is becoming increasingly recognised around the world and, quite frankly, at this point we can't make enough. Our distributors are always asking for more allocation.''

Desert Heart had been tended with ''immense dedication and attention'' by Denny Downie and Jane Gill since 1999, he said. They would retain the Desert Heart brand and continue in wine retail while staying in the area.

Asked about his interest in vineyards, Neill said his family had been involved in the wine business for 150 years in Otago.

''I can't think of anything nicer than to grow things you really like to eat or drink and almost everything about it is so much different from my other job,'' he said.

''I've loved pinot since I first discovered it in 1979. I was in a restaurant with James Mason and his wife and he opened a bottle of Burgundy. It was like a moment on the road to Damascus for me.''

Sam Neill: Tasting Notes
April 20, 2010

New Zealand actor Sam Neill established Two Paddocks winery (
in the Central Otago region of his home country in 1993, specializing in pinot noir.
He stars in the new ABC television series Happy Town, which starts April 28.

1. When and how did wine become a big part of your life?

If I could remember life without wine I would tell you . But somehow it's a dim and colorless memory . Wine has undoubtedly been important since I could afford to drink it, and has been indispensible ever since. I decided to actually produce wine in 1991, having had perhaps one glass too many one evening.

2. What do you look for in a wine?

Unalloyed pleasure. The first sip is all I need to know. And life is too short to struggle on with an inferior wine.

3. There are many myths around wine-drinking. Which one annoys you most?

Let us dispense once and for all with the idea that wine, women and song somehow mean the slippery road to perdition. In my view that combination, plus good food is as good as it gets! In moderation of course, as in all good things. Moderate moderation...

4. What is the one thing you would do to change wine or winemaking?

I have had too many bad, corked bottles of good wine to allow any more patience with the cork. We changed to screwcaps 10 years ago, and have never looked back.

5. It’s your last supper. Choose the location, the meal and what’s in your glass.

Oh, why a Last Supper? Not just yet, please: Life's too much fun just now. But all right, if I must choose, a nice simple Shepherd's Pie, a green salad with balsamic, plenty of Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 2006, at my own table at home. Am I allowed friends and family too ? Please...

Wine Tasting: The pinot noir of 2009? It's from New Zealand
Feb 02, 2010

It's a big call, nailing the single wine of 2009 that was most impressionable amongst so many good bottles and an ever-increasing myriad of quality, relatively more approachable wines produced around the globe.

However, Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 2006 from Central Otago, New Zealand, is the wine that stimulated my sensory core, viscera and thoughts most in terms of complexity, quality and sheer enjoyment.

It was my house red for a period. I simply could not get enough of it, drinking the supplier in Singapore dry. I then resorted to hording bottles on my travels to Malaysia.

I recently satisfied my thirst for it at Four Seasons in Hong Kong at the two-star Michelin restaurant Caprice. Caprice's head sommelier agreed with my admiration for the wine, in his words, "This wine is comparable to many red burgundies at several times the price." Quite a statement coming from a Frenchman.

Certainly New Zealand pinot noir is distinguishing itself on the world wine stage and unquestionably the red grape showing the most potential in the cooler areas moreover, stylistically diverse between regions with Central Otago centre-stage in familiarity, popularity, individuality and arguably the most stunning wine region to visit on the planet.

Perhaps what I like most about Two Paddocks is it is atypical to what people perceive as New Zealand pinot noir and resonate in its individual character.

While unquestionably antipodean with the attractiveness of brighter berry fruits, texturally soft and inviting viscosity, refreshing acidities and a subtle sweetness; a combination of qualities that I find particularly suited to practically every Asian cuisine - whether spicy or not.

It is, however, noticeably more savory and has that special quality known as "tension", an attribute, Allen Meadow's, the leading authority on Burgundy and American pinot noir describes as the French equivalent of "nervosite", encompassing the nervy, invigorating natural acidity and taut yet fine-grained tannins that balances wines endowed with intense fruit.

The proprietor of Two Paddocks is New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who began with modest ambitions to satisfy the thirst of family and friends however, by his own admission, has now become "outrageously ambitious - we want to produce year after year, the world's best pinot noir".

The Two Paddocks wines are made by the Olympian of Central Otago, Dean Shaw, at Central Otago Wine Company, but make no mistake; Sam Neill is an auteurist agriculturalist and pinot noir producer. He just knows that to achieve perfection you need the help of the right people.

My tasting note on the 2006 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir - a blend of the three paddocks: there's a whiff of tobacco leaf and leather amongst enticing deep scents of black cherries, stewed plum and dried fig with an alluring herbal nuance of wild thyme and lavender.

It is curious how sometimes you can smell the viscosity in some wines, a sort of creamy-lactose milk chocolate sensation, which this wine has. There is also charred woods and black tea; amongst clove and black pepper spice with a wet slate and rusted iron-like minerality.

The palate entry is tart with tamarillo and sharp raspberry, fleshing out to sweeter red cherry and roasted beetroot with a soft and ethereal mid-palate - an easing back in the chair and nosing type of wine with a deceptive lightness - until the "tension" reminds you of the wines liveliness enhanced by a lingering savory herbal-spiciness.

Such intense carry of flavors in a delicate manner is the hallmark of great pinot noir, of which this wine has. It drinks wonderfully now having a couple of years in bottle and will develop nicely over 5 years or more, I suspect holding well up to 2016, maybe longer, given the screwcap closure.

If you cannot find the 2006, be on the lookout for the equally impressive 2007. If you're in Asia, you would be wise to register your interest with the vineyard direct, visit

Sam Neill's New Zealand Vineyard
Corie Brown
12:14 PM, Mar 20 2008

Like most Pinot Noir vintners, Sam Neill found his original inspiration in the red wines of Burgundy. But "we're hanging by our fingernails" in New Zealand's Central Otago region, he says. Rather than try to imitate Burgundy, Neill says he and the other pioneers in the world's southern-most wine region are finding Central Otago's marginal climate produces wines with "its own kind of excellence." In town for his day job as a Hollywood movie actor ("Jurassic Park", "The Piano" among his dozens of film credits), Neill sat down with me at the Four Seasons Hotel to talk about his passion for Pinot and his just-about-to-be-released line of "Picnic" wines. At $28, it's his "affordable" label.

Neill already was living in Central Otago when stone fruit trees started giving way to vineyards in the 1990s. He jumped on the bandwagon, planting 5 acres of Pinot Noir in Gibbston in 1993. He later added vineyards in the Alexandra District and is in the process of further expanding his vineyard acreage. For the 2007 vintage, he will make 1,400 cases of Two Paddocks wine. That's a "good year" in Central Otago, he says. An early frost can virtually wipe out a vintage, as it did in 2005.

"There will only ever be certain pockets for grapes in Central Otago," he says. Small producers will always dominate the local wine culture. That doesn't mean the ambitions are small, he says. "In our own modest way, we want to make the world's best Pinot Noir. And I'm completely delighted about the way things are going." The trick, Neill says, is to control crop yields to produce "concentrated" wines. But in this extremely cool climate, the alcohol levels on even blockbuster wines can be moderate, between 13% and 13.5%. "We're finding a style that is more or less unique to Central Otago," he says. "The tremendous clarity of expression in the Pinot Noir, the vividness of the fruit, I think, is connected to the utter clarity of the light in Central Otago."

The limited production, however, can make tracking down bottles of Two Paddocks a challenge in Los Angeles. That's part of the reason Neill started buying grapes from other New Zealand regions including Hawkes Bay and Marlborough to produce 2,000 to 3,000 cases a year of Picnic. In addition to Pinot Noir, he produces a Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling under the new label. The 2006 vintage of Picnic arrives in Los Angeles-area stores next month. The 2006 Two Paddocks will be released in June. Both labels, like the vast majority of New Zealand wines, are closed with screw caps. After losing 25% of his 1999 vintage to cork taint, Neill went screw cap and never looked back. Things are edgy enough on New Zealand's South Island, he says, without worrying about corked wine.


I recently acquired a bottle of Picnic Pinot Noir... What a better time to share this treasure welcoming our new neighbors to the area. This also gave me an opportunity to get another opinion... I'm kind of biased as I find Two Paddocks Pinot Noir a delight to the senses, but I digress...

We all agreed Picnic Pinot is top-notch in every way... The bouquet is very light, mingling with fruity flavors of red berries; perfect with a simple buffet, brunch, or as in our case, alone...

Cheers - Two Paddocks,
~Mary Ann Christoff

Sam Neill's family vineyard is located in Central Otago New Zealand...Dedication, skill, and climate has produced a grape of intense ripeness and flavor... Mr. Neill prefers a low yielding vineyard as compared to high yield... Low yield brings to the table a better quality grape with a more intense flavor...

Having been fortunate to have savored this top quality wine; with confidence I can give you my opinion...

Two Paddocks has a wonderful fruity flavor, earthy and full bodied; maybe that's where the maxim "Sex in a glass" comes from...

We all have different palates... So the next time you are looking for well balanced, elegant wine...

Two Paddocks should be at the top of the wine list...
~ Mary Ann

Sam Neill – Two Paddocks Pinot Noir
I have been enjoying Sam’s Two Paddocks pinot noir since 2002, when I purchased my first bottle of Two Paddocks pinot noir in 1998 at the Red Kangaroo in Scottsdale AZ. I’ve have the distinct pleasure of enjoying a 2001 Two Paddocks pinot noir this afternoon (May 6, 2007) with friends. It was just as impressive as the bottle I had years ago.

After allowing the pinot to breathe, allowing it to open and oxidize, it released its peppery, dark cherry bouquet, and the typical red wine acidity softened as time passed. Sam’s pinot began with a bold spicey bouquet and finished lively as the blackberry and earthy mineral flavors remained on our palette.

This gift from Sam Neill and Two Paddocks was an exceptional addition to our prime rib steak. Sam, thanks for making a good steak into an enjoyable meal with friends.
~ Pat Olstad. Phoenix, AZ.

Picnic Sauvignon Blanc 2006 by Two Paddocks-

You think at first taste, that it will be sweet...and you're waiting for it, but it's surprisingly dry and spicy, as it lightly smiles on the palate.

The sentiment on the label reads, "We regard picnics as the best of times. Family, friends, bacon and egg pie, the thermette and a little New Zealand scenery. What more has life to offer? This crisp, refreshing sauvignon blanc is meant for those days. Chill in the creek first. We wish you many happy times like these..."

...and the chill of a cold stream would indeed bring out the blend of all those crisp hints of pepper, ginger and light fruit.
Perfect for that warm, sunny afternoon, with a bit of cheese, crackers and fruit, or as a toast to the first blush of Spring, when the bottle has spent a few moments in the last of the melting Winter snow in the back yard, with a late afternoon salad.
~ Shy Fan

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This page created June 5, 2006 by M-A and Maureen.

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