1. Our Story
  2. People
  3. Our Winemakers

The Winemakers…

Gordon Russell, Senior Winemaker

Gordon Russell has established himself as one of New Zealand's most recognised winemaking identities with his passionate approach to winemaking, and the enormous success he has achieved with his wines in tastings and competitions.

Gordon was born in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Following University, Gordon's desire to travel took him to England and Europe for three years.

Gordon had always been interested in different flavours and trying new foods, and during his time abroad he also developed an appreciation for fine wine.

In 1986 Gordon returned to New Zealand, just when the wine styles for which New Zealand has become highly regarded were beginning to emerge.

Gordon was appointed as Esk Valley winemaker in 1993, after working for Villa Maria in Auckland as a cellar hand from 1987 and then as assistant winemaker to Grant Edmonds at Esk Valley from 1990.

Gordon believes that the concept of 'texture' in a wine is as important as the aromas and flavours of the wine. By 'texture' he means the balance and harmony of the wine, together with complexity and palate interest.

He aims to produce premium hand-crafted wines that are both elegant and sophisticated, and which truly reflect the character of the individual vineyards.

PIERRE SIMONET, assistant winemaker 

Pierre began work at Esk Valley as a Cellar hand in February 2012 and was seconded to the Assistant Winemaker position in February 2014.

“I am originally from the Basque Country (south west of France, close to the Spanish border) and grew up with strong tannic red wines which we enjoyed with amazing local food.Simonet P.png

I love wine in all its aspects, the soil, the climate, the technique and believe that the people and the culture that surround it and the way it is enjoyed are a fundamental part of the wine experience.

This is why I have travelled after my winemaking and viticulture study in the Medoc, north of Bordeaux. As well as working in France (mainly around Bordeaux and in the Languedoc region), I have also worked in wineries in Chile, Argentina, Australia and Hawke’s Bay.

I fell in love with New Zealand and came back to settle here in 2012. That was my first vintage at Esk Valley and I never left. I felt straight away at home here, working in a historic building, with a small dedicated team. For me Esk Valley is the right mix between old world winemaking and new world techniques. I am glad to be part of it!”