Despite choosing a career in winemaking, David Foes never thought he would end up in Marlborough.
“I was a bit of a naysayer about Blenheim, but I love it,” says the Marisco Vineyards winemaker, seven years after moving to the region. “I’m like the town crier – always telling people to come here.”
After gaining a post-graduate diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University, David spent years working in Central Otago, alternating vintages with work in Burgundy and Oregon, as well as in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley. “I was chasing Pinot,” he says. “When I left uni and worked in Central Otago for those years, you sort of can’t help but fall in love with Pinot.”
Marlborough “wasn’t high on the to-do list,” he says. “But eventually, after slaving away for four years in Central as a cellar hand, you realise there’s only probably half a dozen assistant winemaker jobs in the region and a lot of people are trying to vie for them.”
David found himself in Marlborough, working for New Zealand Wineries, Yealands Estate then Marisco Vineyards. “My career has really accelerated since I have been here,” he says. Since moving to the region, David has developed a passion for other wine varieties, including Marlborough’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc, but Chardonnay in particular. “There’s such a diverse range of wine here. I still have a huge passion for Pinot as well, but you sort of have to see a bigger picture when you move to Marlborough.”
David’s father was an oil engineer, and the family lived in New Zealand, Singapore and Melbourne. “I actually grew up in Singapore so I’m a Kiwi, but not too Kiwi,” he says. “I’m from nowhere. I moved around my entire life and I didn’t think I would ever be in the same place for so long.”
After college, David returned to study environmental management at Otago University, before a change of heart saw him graduate with a Bachelor of Science.
During his studies, David worked in hospitality and spent many nights hosting wine tasting events. “I figured [environmental management] wasn’t my passion or what I wanted to do in life.”
The Lincoln course confirmed David’s passion for wine, and his career as a cellar hand and later a winemaker began. He feels lucky to be working Marisco Vineyards, a company with a strong connection to the region, he says. “It’s a growing company that is ingrained in Marlborough history,” David says. “The winery is also fantastically built… It’s easily the best thought-out winery that I have ever worked in.”
Living in Marlborough has also opened career opportunities for his wife Kirstin, a teacher. Two years ago they welcomed their daughter, Hadley into their lives, and the pair now consider the region home, says David. “You wouldn’t think it with the pattern of my life – you would think we would be moving away. But now we are here to stay.”
This article was first published in issue 304 of Winepress Magazine.