Two things he loved and one that he loathed led Dom Maxwell to leave a desk job and pursue a winemaking one. The rest is, as they say, history.
Here is Dom Maxwell’s story.
Bored at his desk job and in love with being outside led Dom Maxwell to his consider a career in winemaking because he was kindling the first flames of his passion for wine, when living in the UK. He is now the winemaker at Greystone Winery in North Canterbury, a place he began work in October 2004, initially in the vineyards there.
Prior to that, he studied a one year post graduate viticulture and oenology degree at Lincoln University. His first degree, several years prior, was also at Lincoln University in commerce and management which he followed up with nearly five years in London. He was bitten by the wine bug when working at a friend’s market garden and gradually felt frustrated sitting behind a desk. This feeling was accentuated by his partner (now wife) being in a job she loved, which inspired Dom to test the waters of more enjoyable work than sitting behind a desk.
Dom made a small amount of wine in 2005, working alongside the highly experienced North Canterbury winemaker, Alan McCorkindale, for a couple of years. His guidance and advice were invaluable, says Dom, who was handed the winemaking reins in 2008.
This is the eighth interview on this website based on the famous Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886 – find out more here.
Wine of the week
2019 Greystone Chardonnay RRP $40
Thought provoking wine from a much under rated wine region; North Canterbury on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Greystone Chardonnay has a succulent dry taste of lime zest acidity which adds length and balance to this full bodied style of the world’s most popular white. Every sip shows depth of character and a range of spicy, deliciously bright flavours.
Dom Maxwell on the Proust questionnaire
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
To be able to tap into a side of myself that I never really knew existed when I was growing up; the artistic side.
In a winemaking sense, your palate, your olfactory experience and how they connects with your brain and enable you to make decisions and decipher things is an interesting state of mind. It allows me to sit back and absorb things more in lots of aspects of life whether it’s in the winery or with my children or my fruit trees. When I was growing up, I wasn’t in tune with that side of myself. I was into sport and numbers – being very good at maths.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Understanding how good I have it.
Gratitude about where I am and who I am with. My situation makes me realise – what more could I ask for? Happiness, for me, is more than just about a moment.
What is your current state of mind?
Really excited and because you’ve caught me right at the start of the growing season. There’s always so much anticipation going into the season and we feel as a team that quality is improving every year.
What is your favourite winemaking task?
Filling barrels. You’ve got this nice contented warm glow and you’re tucking the wines up into bed, so to speak.
The intoxicating aromatics that come out when the young wine goes into oak is what I look forward to. I love it.
What is your most treasured wine?
The 2015 Greystone Vineyard Ferment, which we never released. It was the first vintage we bottled, just to show people. I’ve still got a couple of bottles tucked away at home. We trial and experiment a lot with things that don’t always see the light of day and we were really heartened by the feedback.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Without a doubt my family. My two young daughters and Nadia. Without them I don’t think I would be who I am.
Where is your favourite wine region?
I’m sitting in it. I have other regions I love and a lot I need to get to but when you are so connected to a place, you learn to love it more and more. That’s just our patch of earth. I’m starting to get to know others’ vineyards as well.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m got a rubber arm and find it very hard to say no.
When and where were you the happiest?
In the bush or the ocean. Being surrounded by nature and being a part of it. Breathing in the air is intoxicating and good for the soul. When you come out from nature, you feel super relaxed.
What is it that you most dislike in wine?
Smoke and mirrors. Stories that aren’t real.
What is your greatest fear?
Finding no staff at harvest and having to do everything myself.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Wine. I would spend more on wine than I do on clothes. It’s very hard when I see wine that I love to not buy it.
What is your greatest regret?
Not listening in class. It’s such a long time ago but it’s so easy to be derailed by other people.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To play the drums.
Where would you like to live?
A Pacific Island would be quite nice. I like heat and water.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Plotting against other people. You’ve got to be in a pretty bad place to be fixated on adhering to the tall poppy syndrome.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Being a bit of a glutton. I pay the price for indulging.
What do you most value in your friends?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
One or two that are unprintable when rushing in the winery.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to be able to turn off more easily. To be able to flick from indepth mode to out mode.
What is your favourite meal?
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Coming back as a sea creature would be pretty good. Maybe a dolphin because they’re awesome swimmers but they’re up against it with over fishing.
What is your motto?
All know the way, but few actually take it.