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How Sam Neill

...became a dyed-in-the-wool enophile and a waggish purveyor of New Zealand wine

coverSam Neill. New Zealand actor formerly described as “media shy,” now as “outspoken.” Unable to describe how this change occurred. Born in Ireland of New Zealand stock. Still difficult to understand. Educated more or less. Passed Philosophy I courtesy of a long evening with friend John Clarke and some whisky. Awarded honorary doctorate in 2002. His friends still asking why. Disappointed he is unable to write prescriptions, but insists on being addressed as Doctor nevertheless. Can be seen on the screen on occasion between drinking bouts.

This is how Sam Neill describes himself on the Web site of his New Zealand film company. And if you want to crawl inside the guy’s head, it’s a pretty good indication of what you’ll find: a talented artist who takes himself and his fame with a grain of salt. But for someone who takes it all so casually, Sam Neill’s career has reached fantastical heights. Parlaying acting success in 1970s’ New Zealand into a film career that includes box office successes such as The Hunt for Red October, The Piano and Jurassic Park, Neill has kept his head and his sense of humor. And he uses both of those attributes to tackle his other career—that of a private winery owner.

Neill’s film success allowed him to start Two Paddocks, a winery near Queenstown, New Zealand, essentially so he could make wine for himself and his friends. The wine, however, wouldn’t cooperate and ended up being too good to keep at home. Neill’s American importer is completely out of the three Pinot Noirs that Two Paddocks exports to the United States. Three hundred and thirty three cases of the most recent release made it to the states, satisfy demand.

“We’d love to have more,” says Lisa Hayes, spokesperson for the importer.

“It’s a really good wine. If we had more, we could definitely sell it.”

Picking up that love of a good drink was no accident. His father’s business, Neill & Co., imported wine and liquor into New Zealand and Neill has said of his father that he “drank wine on a regular basis and lived well and happily as a result.”

As far as vineyard management, the winery is well on its way to an organic certification and Neill believes Mother Nature definitely knows what she’s doing. “We’re a great believer organic farming,” he says. “You don’t need a bunch of chemicals getting in your way.”

Despite his laid-back character, Neill seems quite committed to the winery and the wine. In fact, if you type in www.samneill.com, you won’t find a fan site, or a page loaded with pictures of the actor, or promotions for his new films. You get Two Paddocks.

“I’m an actor,” Neill told Wine Report on the phone from New Zealand, “but I’m totally committed to the winery. I’m extremely involved. It’s not like putting a name on a T-shirt or something. There’s nothing
ambivalent about it.”

© Copyright 2007, The Wine Report. Posted with the permission of the publisher.

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