Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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New era for Dry River Wines

One of Martinborough's oldest wineries has a new lease of life now that Dry River Wines has been purchased by Charlie Zheng, a Wellington businessman who also owns Luna Estate and Parehua Resort. Zheng has appointed a new winemaker to Dry River Wines with Ben McNab taking up the role. 

McNab's most recent role was at Palliser Estate where he was named the 2021 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year. He will work alongside Dry River and Luna Estate's head winemaker, Joel Watson.

“This is an exciting opportunity and I’m conscious of the responsibility that comes with taking over one of the country’s heritage brands in one of our premier wine regions. Martinborough doesn’t make bulk wine – it’s low yield, high quality, fine wine. You don’t make these sort of quality wines from behind a desk – it’s a high touch approach based on a very close relationship with the wine," says McNab.

“We’re taking over as the vineyard comes into flowering which is a great time to get to know the land, the vines and the fruit.”

Charlie Zheng built the Luna Estate brand when he purchased and combined both the Blue Rock Vineyard and Eclipse Vineyard, in Martinborough.

Dry River and Luna Estate head winemaker Joel Watson says protecting the historic Dry River Wines brand was a driving motivation for Zheng.

“Dry River has been returned to New Zealand ownership and Charlie is committed to Martinborough as he has spent the past decade establishing Luna Estate and more recently adding accommodation with Parehua Resort."

Dry River Wines was one of the first four wineries in Martinborough when it was established in the late 1970s by Dr Neil McCallum. It was then owned by the late Julian and Josie Robertson and was purchased in November this year by Charlie Zheng,