We are excited to introduce you to the six contestants who will be competing in the National Finals on Wednesday 25th August 2021.
Courtney Sang, Obsidian
Courtney is 28 years old and the Assistant Winemaker and Vineyard Supervisor at Obsidian Wines. Beginning her career with a Chemical Engineering degree, Courtney only began her studies in the wine industry in 2017, with a Post Graduate Diploma in Wine Science from the University of Auckland. Since then she has worked in both vineyards and wineries in Marlborough, Central Otago and Waiheke as well as overseas vintages in Oregon and the Rhône Valley. Courtney is passionate about providing value and recognition to Waiheke Island wines and in 2019 initiated a venture providing laboratory analysis for wineries on the island with her company Waiheke Island Oenology.
Sam Bain, Villa Maria
Sam Bain is 29 years old and is a vineyard manager for Villa Maria. He grew up in Hawkes Bay and has been working in the industry for the past 6 years. The wine industry was not on his radar until he completed a summer working for Sileni Estates. The experience ignited his passion for all things grapes, having spent time in both the cellar and the vineyard, Sam much prefers the viticulture aspect of the wine world. The variety of work and the people make it an exciting and evolving industry to be apart of.
Sam was Runner Up in the 2020 Young Vit National Final and is looking forward to competing again this year.
Albie Feary, Ata Rangi
Albie is 29 years old and is Ata Rangi’s vineyard and machinery operator. She’s passionate about regenerative agriculture and the role organic wine growers can play in caring for the land.
Jess Wilson, Whitehaven
Jess Wilson completed her Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University in 2013; this was followed by an Honours thesis (first class) on Grapevine Susceptibility to Eutypa Dieback, at the University of Adelaide. She settled in Marlborough in 2015 to take up technical roles in viticulture; Jess is now the Viticulturist at Whitehaven Wines Ltd. As a lifelong learner Jess has recently completed a Business Diploma majoring in Leadership and Management. When not in the vineyard you can find her at the hockey turf or tramping the hills with her husband, and this year she plans on mastering the art of fly fishing.
Tristan van Schalkwyk, The Bone Line
Tristan is a 21-year-old viticultural technician at The Bone Line, in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury. Originally from South Africa, he grew up in Auckland and Tauranga, before moving to Christchurch to study Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University. He finished his studies in 2020 and completed his practical work at the end of the 2021 vintage. Apart from 12 weeks practical work experience at Kumeu River in Auckland, he has mainly worked at Bone Line, as a student and in full time employment and has been given the opportunity to work in the vineyard as well as the winery. His reason for entering this competition is to learn from, and be exposed to leaders and thinkers in the industry and have a chance to discuss alternative methods to current mainstream vineyard practices. He and his family have recently planted a dry-farmed bush vines vineyard and he is looking forward to gather as much knowledge as possible from this experiment.
Katrina Jackson, Chard Farm
Katrina Jackson is 28 years and is the Assistant Vineyard Manager for Chard Farm. She originally hails from the United Kingdom, but has lived in New Zealand since she was 12 so definitely supports the All Blacks. Katrina completed a Bachelor’s of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University along with an exchange to UC Davis, which she loved. She originally wanted to become a winemaker but fell in love with vineyards in Central Otago in her first year out of uni. Katrina is passionate about Regenerative Viticulture, and loves the ‘Flower Power’ of interrow crops. She loves the great outdoors, in particular when she gets out with her trusty sidekick ‘Tui the vineyard dog’.