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Susy Atkins | Decanter: Sam Neill & Two Paddocks

A world-famous actor he may be, but Sam Neill is not to be dismissed as just another celebrity winemaker, given his dedication to ‘Lord Pinot’, and the quality of his wines from Central Otago on New Zealand’s South Island.

It’s ironic that when I go to interview actor and wine producer Sam Neill at his Central Otago farm, HQ for his Two Paddocks wines, he isn’t there. Because as well as being famous for his roles in, among others, The Piano and the Jurassic Park franchise, and TV’s Peaky Blinders, Neill has a reputation as the most hands-on of celebrity winemakers; when he’s not travelling for work, he lives at the farm, where he’s known affectionately as ‘The Proprietor’ or simply ‘The Prop’.

He built a house there, in among the vines, and it’s very much his base, to the extent that when he received a devastating blood cancer diagnosis two years ago, he told the specialist (in Australia) ‘that I wouldn’t come back for a few days, that I hadn’t been to my farm for months and I needed to sleep in my own bed… plant something, be a farmer and a wine producer, even if it was only for a few days. I really needed to do that.’

He wrote this in his engaging memoir Did I Ever Tell You This? (paperback, £10.99 Penguin, March 2024), penned during treatment that has proved largely successful – he’s now in full metabolic remission, though still taking preventative drugs.
The book devotes two full chapters to his life in wine and the pages might as well have red wine sploshes all over them, so clear is Neill’s love for the subject, and for Pinot Noir in particular.

I didn’t meet Neill that day; he had been called abroad hurriedly due to a changed film schedule. But I spent an afternoon with his close teammates, winemaker Dean Shaw (who has worked with Two Paddocks since 1999) and viticulturist Mike Wing (joined in 2004). And a full tasting of Two Paddocks’ releases later, I got to scratch the bristly head of Neill’s beloved
kunekune pig Angelica, which is actually a boar, so that was some compensation.

We schedule a Zoom interview, me back in the UK with a bottle of Two Paddocks Riesling open on my desk as it’s 8pm, and Neill apologising for his jet lag at 9am NZ time back on the farm. He has just flown in from the US, where he has been
publicising his new TV drama Apples Never Fall, co-starring Annette Bening. He perks up the moment we start to talk about wine and we move quickly to his favourite subject, ‘Lord Pinot’.

View the full article here.

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