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Women in Wine – Judy Finn 1st May 2015

Written for and published in Admire Magazine

I have known Judy Finn since I first started visiting Neudorf Vineyards in the mid 1980’s and it has been a delight to watch this winery become one of the leading wineries in the New Zealand industry.

Judy and her husband Tim joined the wine industry when they panted the first vines at their Upper Moutere vineyard in 1978 and have gone on to develop a brand based on excellence. Many people look at any successful business with a certain amount of jealousy but these people either don’t know or have forgotten about the early days packed with stress and incredibly hard work, especially when you are following your dreams in a very young industry.

Judy says “1978 and the New Zealand fine wine industry was almost non-existent. We (Tim and I) were fresh from the ‘back to the land’ movement of the late sixties. We wanted to make beautiful wine. We figured Tim’s Masters in Animal Behaviour along with my journalism career would be beneficial. Wrong.  However we did have youth, self-belief and friends. At one stage we had four mortgages and three jobs each. The old house at Neudorf had electricity in two rooms, an outside long drop, an inefficient wood stove and no hot water. I look back with no regrets.”

Starting with a mere two hectares of vineyard that was developed with the help of an old tractor and plenty of hard work at weekends and after working at their day jobs of the time Neudorf Vineyards is now a remarkably picturesque vineyard, the old villa has been restored to its former glory and land not planted in vines has been delightfully landscaped in a manner it can host regular concerts.

Judy’s role in the development of Neudorf Vineyards has been hugely significant; while Tim and his winemaking team hand craft exceptional wines Judy has been running the business side of the operation, developing local and international markets from selling their first wines at the cellar door, then through restaurants and liquor stores nationally followed by tentative steps into the international market place.

She has also played a significant role in shaping the current wine industry both locally and nationally, as a member of the group that organized the 2nd, third and fourth Pinot NZ Celebration, an event that has gone on to attract international media and become arguably the most significant wine event in New Zealand. She was also instrumental in bringing together other family owned wine producers from around New Zealand resulting in the formation of The Family of Twelve, a joint marketing group for premium producers. Her contribution to the local winemaker’s organization where she is the first to question why they do things and ask should they be trying something else, challenging the status quo so everyone tries just a little bit harder to improve with the aim of Nelson being the best wine region it can be.

While the big businesses are vital to the New Zealand wine industry the sparkle of the industry is supported by smaller, high quality wineries and at Neudorf Vineyards Tim and Judy Finn have created an internationally recognized boutique winery which produces cult wines, the quality of which reflects on everyone in the Nelson industry. They market Nelson wine on an international basis, not just their own wines.

Judy Finn has been a Trustee of the Bishop Suter Trust, has been a director of Radio New Zealand and has been a huge supporter of her local Upper Moutere community – all while developing and running one of New Zealand’s finest wineries with her husband Tim.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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