Marl­bor­ough viti­cul­tur­ist bound for Napa Val­ley

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - NEWCHALLENGE - JEF­FREY KITT

Ol­lie Davidson dis­cov­ered it is a dif­fi­cult task to pack 30 years of liv­ing in Marl­bor­ough into 272 kilo­grams of air freight, destined for the United States.

The viti­cul­tur­ist is say­ing good­bye to the re­gion as he de­parts for a new role in the US’ most fa­mous wine re­gion, the Napa Val­ley in Cal­i­for­nia, on Fri­day.

‘‘It’s amaz­ing how much you ac­cu­mu­late af­ter liv­ing in the same house for 10 years,’’ he says.

Fol­low­ing sev­eral months of plan­ning and nu­mer­ous farewell par­ties, he and wife Brid­get say they are over­whelmed to be on the move.

Ol­lie will de­part Con­stel­la­tion Brands New Zealand for a pro­mo­tion with its par­ent com­pany as the vice pres­i­dent of global viti­cul­ture. The job will see him over­see the op­er­a­tion of vine­yards in New Zealand, Italy and the United States.

‘‘The op­por­tu­nity to work across three coun­tries is unique and pretty at­trac­tive.’’

Ol­lie has seen Marl­bor­ough de­velop into an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed wine re­gion in his three decades grow­ing grapes, which he has done for Dog Point Vine­yards, Cloudy Bay and, for the past 15 years, Con­stel­la­tion.

‘‘Brand Marl­bor­ough is strong. It’s very ex­cit­ing to see New Zealand sauvi­gnon dom­i­nate the mar­ket and we still have room to grow,’’ he said.

The Kiwi can-do at­ti­tude is one as­pect Ol­lie is ex­cited to bring to his new job, and he is look­ing for­ward to in­tro­duc­ing new tech­niques to global vine­yards.

The cou­ple will make their new home in St He­lena, a town of 6000. Ol­lie says he is hoping the town will not be too dis­sim­i­lar to Blen­heim. ‘‘We have loved mak­ing our home here and love Blen­heim. I’ll miss the Marl­bor­ough Sounds,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s a great place to raise kids and I think it is very un­der-rated. It’s the kind of place where you feel safe walk­ing down the street and know ev­ery­one.’’

The cou­ple have two sons, Wil­liam, 24 and Ja­cob, 21, who are also work­ing in the Marl­bor­ough wine in­dus­try, and plan to stay put, for now. Ol­lie’s wife Brid­get will join him on the ad­ven­ture and says she is look­ing for­ward to a new chal­lenge in life.

‘‘We’re young enough and silly enough to do it. It is sink­ing in and I’m go­ing to miss the kids but we’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting over there.’’

Con­stel­la­tion Brands New Zealand man­ag­ing direc­tor Si­mon Towns says he wishes Davidson well in the new job.

‘‘I have en­joyed work­ing with Ol­lie and am glad that we will con­tinue to ben­e­fit from his knowl­edge and ex­per­tise.’’

Ol­lie’s role in New Zealand will be split in two, with James Nightin­gale and David Sheard tak­ing on new po­si­tions.

The David­sons says they aimed to re­turn to Marl­bor­ough at least an­nu­ally.

PHOTO: RICKY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Brid­get and Ol­lie Davidson will now call St He­lena, in the Napa Val­ley, home.

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