Five minutes with Neil Culley

By Joelle Thomson

Latest wine profile news: Neill Culley, chief winemaker and co-owner of Cable Bay Vineyards, Waiheke Island, Auckland, MiNDFOOD reports.

MiNDFOOD: What came first – a passion for wine or a career in microbiology?

Definitely wine. I had already completed my post graduate studies in wine and needed a job, so briefly was a wine microbiologist.

When did you have your Waiheke Island epiphany?

When a friend many years back took me to her parents bach and it was on Waiheke. I then saw the opportunity to combine many of the good things in life, wine, food, the beach, and interesting people, all in one place. (I have never been one to live in a “wine” town).

What is your favourite wine region outside of New Zealand?

Burgundy, France. I like the smaller scale, the fact the winemakers are in touch with their vineyards, and I love the wines.

White or red wine on a desert island? Which one specifically?

White. Chardonnay. Either Sauzet, or Martinelli Russian River.

What is your biggest winemaking success?

Waiheke Chardonnay. I was confident that there was a good future for well grown and made Chardonnay from Waiheke when most other producers/critics remained focused on reds. Cable Bay Chardonnay has been a success from our first vintage in 2002, selling well in both domestic and international markets.

What is your aim for Waiheke Island’s wine scene?

Continued evolution of quality focused producers, making wines, which truly reflect their terroir.

What is your daily mantra?

You can have your cake and eat it too.

What is your favourite past time outside winemaking?




2002 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

Tasted from a magnum and the only wine present that was sealed with cork. Six years old, but still tasting fresh, big bodied and creamy with fresh grapefruit flavours.

2003 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

Fresh, more intense with full on apricot and oak aromas. This wine was from a difficult and relatively wet year, containing some botrytis (which accounts for that apricot taste). The least of the line-up.

2004 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

I like! More refined than the 2003 with cleaner, fresher, livelier flavours that linger at the end of each sip.

2005 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

Very consistent with the 2004, just tastes younger and fresher with a hint more flavour concentration. Really like it. My favourite of all.

2006 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

Fresher again, slightly lighter than the 2005 but beautifully rounded body. Too drinkable.

2007 Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island

At the risk of stating the obvious, this is the youngest – not only in actual terms but in taste too. It has yet to be released but is a finished wine. Needs a little time in bottle to round it out.


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