Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Pivotal Pinot pioneer retires and new appointee

It's official. Paul Mason has been named as the new winemaker at Nga Waka winery and will take over in November this year from winemaker-founder, Roger Parkinson, who will retire after 32 impressive vintages.  

Mason is currently the head winemaker at Martinborough Vineyard where he has been for 20 years, building a reputation as an outstanding producer of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling over that time, along with other high quality wines such as Sauvignon Blanc.

Roger Parkinson’s retirement is bitter sweet for both the winery's new owners and for the New Zealand wine industry. Parkinson has made every Nga Waka wine since the first vintage in 1993 and he stands as a pioneer of the Martinborough wine industry. He has forged a long history for outstanding balanced Chardonnays that have successfully straddled body with purity and freshness for decades. Alongside that, the Pinot Noirs he has produced, particularly the stellar 2020 and 2021 wines, stand among the best produced in this country in the three decades that I have written about, judged and worked with wine. The least heralded but arguably the freshest wine that Parkinson has had a long history of making well is Riesling. His have always been dry, inspired by wines from South Australia that he purchased as a wine student in Adelaide, prior to founding Nga Waka. 

He and his wife, Carol, sold Nga Waka wines in 2015 Jay Short and Peg Dupey.

“When Roger announced his retirement, my first thought was 'how on earth would we find someone with the same depth of knowledge, passion and winemaking experience in Martinborough?' but when we met with Paul about the role, we knew instantly that he was the right person to continue the story of Nga Waka and expand on Roger’s legacy," says Nga Waka owner Jay Short. 

“I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that Roger and his wife Carol have put into Nga Waka and the wider Wairarapa wine industry over the past 30 years. He has made some exceptional Pinot Noirs and set the benchmark for Chardonnay in Martinborough.”

Mason studied science at Auckland University and winemaking at Lincoln University. He has worked vintages in New Zealand at Coopers Creek, de Redcliffe and Villa Maria as well as harvests in France, Italy, Chile, Australia and the United States. He came to Martinborough in 2004 and in 2007 was appointed winemaker at Martinborough Vineyard, following in the steps of Claire Mulholland (Burn Cottage) and Pinot Noir pioneer Larry McKenna.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay make up 90% of wine production at Nga Waka. 

  • The name of the winery comes from Nga Waka A Kupe, which translates from Maori to the Canoes of Kupe. Legend has it that the three hills which flank Martinborough's eastern side are the upturned canoes of the revered Polynesian explorer, Kupe, which were carried inland by a huge earthquake and came to rest in the valley behind Martinborough.