Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


People, places and opportunities in wine

Mora is the Latin word for linger and it's hard to imagine a better place to take time out than Central Otago with its jaw dropping mountainous beauty, let alone the wine. In this interview, Catherine Douglas shares her inspiration for Mora Wines and Artisan Kitchen, for which she works as the direct sales manager, driving targets, operating the cellar door and wine club.   

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Most recently, it would be the part that my team and I played in launching the Mora wine brand and growing it in its first year. We are an old business but a new brand, so there was a lot in transition from the wine packaging, website (, signage, communications and software systems to starting our wine club from scratch, again. 

We recently celebrated one year since our launch and we feel really positive about how things have evolved in that relatively short time. 

What's your favourite thing about wine? 

People, opportunities and places. 

I have been in the wine industry since 2005 and have always enjoyed the types of people who work in wine. They are often very interesting and well rounded with a world view, very into food and wine the environment and travel. And they really enjoy what they do. You don’t get into the wine industry for the money. 

Wine is a vertically integrated industry and there are so many different ways into it from a career perspective. There is viticulture/vineyard management, winemaking on the production and value added side and everything from sales, marketing, finance, production management and logistics in the office, so there are a lot of opportunities. 

And have been fortunate enough to live and work in three remarkable wine growing regions: Central Otago in New Zealand, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, USA and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, which are all incredibly beautiful places. It is very hard to find an unsightly wine region.

Do you have a most treasured wine? 

My husband and I have kept special bottles from our sons’ birth years. We have a 2012 Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir and a 2015 Chehalem Ridgecrest Pinot Noir. We lived in Oregon for many years and have a special connection with the Willamette Valley and these two wine brands. We’re holding onto those bottles until the boys each turn 21. 

Where and when are you at your happiest?

When I’m with my family, ideally in nature by water or in the forest, with no cell coverage.

What do you most dislike in wine?

I could also discuss three points on this one as well, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to one: packaging innovation. 

Putting all wine into the same 750ml glass bottle format seems rigid and potentially detrimental to wine consumption overall. My husband and I often find ourselves hesitating to open a whole bottle unless we have people over. I might simply crave a single glass of wine, but opening an entire bottle for that purpose feels wasteful. Even if my husband joins me for a glass, we've only consumed half the bottle, leaving the rest on the bench for days until it inevitably goes to waste. Consequently, we tend to turn to other beverages instead, especially smaller format low and no alcohol drinks.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Travel, without a doubt. I’m not particularly into fashion, makeup or jewellery. Instead, I save my money for big international trips with my family, especially while our kids are still at an age where they want to spend time with us. My love of travel goes back to my teenage years, and I once aspired to work as a diplomat. As a parent now, I believe it’s crucial for our society and our future to expose our children to different cultures and ways of life, if your circumstances allow. I am an expatriate, and the experiences I've gained living abroad have taught me so much about myself and the place I grew up, much more than I could have ever learned by staying in one place.

What is your greatest regret? 

It probably sounds a bit cliché but I try not to have regrets because the decisions I have made in the past were what I wanted at the time. Life is full of different chapters, and I wouldn’t be in this current one with the people I’m with if I hadn’t made the decisions I’ve made. 

What talent would you most like to have? 

I would love to be a great storyteller and be one of those captivating people who can hold an audience. That is not me but I am in awe of it. I was just at the Wine Business Forum in Christchurch where the importance of storytelling in our industry came up from multiple speakers. Ali Adams, the CEO of ChristchurchNZ, specifically spoke about the power of storytelling and how storytellers rule the world. Stories are how we make sense of the world around us and our place in it. It’s also how we connect with brands and each other.  Consumers don’t buy products. They buy experiences. 

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 

“To be fair.” 

What is your favourite meal? 

The first thing that is coming to mind is twice-cooked potatoes, the ones cooked in duck fat. So good. Chef John Pickens at Mora Wines & Artisan Kitchen makes some amazing potatoes. Pair them with the lamb shoulder and a glass of Mora Pinot Noir and you have an amazing meal. I’ve never, ever been able to replicate these potatoes at home. I also adore John's halloumi dish for breakfast. It comes on ciabatta with pesto or avocado, with a poached egg on top. Divine every time. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what would it be? 

A multi-millionaire. Haha. Or a vineyard dog. They live the life out there, running around in beautiful places all day with their favourite person, chasing rabbits and taking naps by the ute or between the rows when they get tired. Bliss.