In this column, the first in a series about women who work in the wine industry, I want to introduce you to Trudy Shield, the winemaker at Waimea Family Estate Wines.
Back in 2011, just over a year after Trudy was appointed as the head of the winemaking team at Waimea Estates I wrote that “.. the skill of Ben in the vineyards and attention to detail of Trudy in the winery is a winemaking partnership worth keeping an eye on” and I have been doing just that.
While I had known Trudy as the assistant winemaker for some time and have always liked her as a person it was the first sauvignon blanc she was in charge of producing winning the Regional Trophy at The Decanter World Wine Awards that made me pay more attention to her winemaking skills.
The a daughter of a Hawke’s Bay sheep farmer, Trudy relates very well to the owners of Waimea Estates, the Bolitho family, who she says “are also people of the land, good old fashioned country people”, however she also brings plenty of experience to the winemaking role. Trudy was very happy being away from the limelight but she has always had a quiet, understated self-confidence in her ability.
As a young woman Trudy, from a relatively sheltered Kiwi rural background, hadn’t travelled a lot and she says that wine gave her the opportunity to do that, “meet people, eat their food, go to beautiful places you wouldn’t otherwise go to” and these experiences have moulded the person she is today.
While using her BSc degree working for six years in the medical microbiology field Trudy had not been a big wine drinker but like many people in the industry had a ‘wine moment’. In her case it was a bottle of Montana gewurztraminer that got her hooked and it was off to Lincoln University in 2001 to complete a post-grad degree in wine science.
With degree in hand she headed to the Hunter Valley and worked for Monarch Wines, a vast wine processing centre, for a vintage. Then it was on to Waiheke Island, back to Monarch then a vintage with Stonier in the Mornington Peninsula followed by a vintage in the Alto Adige region of North-East Italy.
After Italy she contacted her old study and travel buddy, Wietske Van der Pol who was working at Waimea Estates, to see if there was any work available. There was a role for someone to work the nightshift for vintage so many hours were spent loading grapes into presses and lugging hoses around the cold winery during the night for a couple of months.
After that 2003 vintage Trudy completed a research essay on yeast autolysis before returning to Waimea for a daytime harvest job in 2004 and that resulted in fulltime employment as a cellar hand and lab technician. In ‘07 Trudy became Assistant Winemaker and at the end of ’09 and she was offered the head winemaker role.
When main man Trevor Bolitho and new GM Ben Bolitho offered her the job Trudy’s first response was “are you sure?” Uncertain what to do she went home for Christmas and talked to dad in his workshop down at the woolshed and he said ‘Trude, don’t be a wuss, just do it” Trudy says “If I didn’t do it I would always be wondering and because I had worked in the winery doing everything from the most basic jobs to this role I was confident I could do the job justice.”
Since she took over the reins as head winemaker many Gold medals and Trophies have been awarded to wines she has produced from fruit grown by Ben, this is a truly remarkable woman working with a very talented viticulturist and is a wine producing partnership that will continue to thrive.
I will leave the last word to the Waimea Estates web site “The finesse with which Trudy finishes her wines and her exceptional palate has seen Waimea continue to roll in the accolades thick and fast.”