Born in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, winemaker Stu Marfell grew up next door to the Vavasour vineyards, helping at the winery at nine years of age. Chief Winemaker at Vavasour since 2007, Stu was recognized as the Winemaker of the Show at the 2018 New Zealand International Wine Show. As Chief Winemaker, Stu oversees winemaking for all of Foley New Zealand’s Marlborough wine brands.
Stu Marfell grew up on a 2,000-acre farm a few miles from Vavasour in Marlborough. “There were always things to be done on the farm from hand carting hay to drenching and shearing sheep.” When not drenching and shearing sheep, Stu and his three brothers could be found swimming and fishing in the Awatere River.
“The first vineyard was planted in the Awatere Valley in 1985. Prior to that wine was only for special occasions, but good food was always on the menu. We were very lucky to spend holidays down at the Marlborough Sounds where we would enjoy scallops, mussels, blue cod, butterfish, moki, and other seafood treats all gathered by my father and cooked expertly by my mother.”
In 2003, after earning his degree in Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, Stu landed the assistant winemaker’s position at Vavasour Winery. He became winemaker in 2007.
“The Awatere Valley is a stunning place. We have Tapaue-o-Uenuku—the highest mountain out of the Southern Alps at 2,885 meters—watching over the valley. We have a dry, windy, temperate climate with beautiful autumns. Our cool nights help retain acid and flavor which is so important for Sauvignon Blanc. The soils are more ancient than those of the Wairau Valley and lower in fertility. They impart a signature mineral character to all of our wines.”
Stu met his wife Emily through the Wairau Rowing Club in Marlborough. Both are exercise and outdoor fanatics and travel junkies. Stu also plays a mean ukulele