A Day in the Life of Andrew Donaldson, Founder and Owner of Akitu

Andrew Donaldson

14 July 2021

We sat down with Andrew Donaldson, a Pinot Noir specialist from New Zealand's Central Otago and the Founder of Akitu winery.

Akitu's 2018 Akitu Pinot Noir has a well-deserved spot in our Merchant's Collection. From what time Andrew gets up to his typical or perhaps not so typical day running Akitu, we discussed what daily life is like for him.

Akitu Winery
My alarm goes off at...

My alarm goes off at 0630, but I tend not to use the alarm, so earlier in the summer, later in the winter. Then some reflective time, the weather forecast (not that it's very reliable here!), breakfast then overnight emails, visit ageing mother for coffee, chat with the viticulturist on work plans and the perpetually unsatisfactory weather (it’s in their genes I think). Then whatever is screaming loudest, usually sales and distribution issues.

My commute is...

My commute is short! My office is in the house, and the house is beside the vineyard. I came back to Wanaka to live here – so that’s what I am doing. It's where God kissed the earth – or that’s what I believe anyway

I'm responsible for...

I’m responsible for Sales and Marketing. I’m not allowed to drive my tractor, although I am allowed to mow grass, including now the inter-rows so things are looking up for me! My brother and I share rabbit control duties, and I’m OK on a weedeater. I have tastings in the house and I love showing people around the vineyard – it is beautiful and it’s all alone looking at the alps – quite magnificent, come visit!

My typical day...

I’m doing this so that I don’t have a typical day, I had those for about 35 years and I don’t need any more of them. I love doing deliveries actually, chatting to clients and shops and restaurants – we’re a small community and you learn the best stuff from those you least expect it from.

Akitu Wine Range
My most memorable moment

Great Question. I have a very good friend from university days who happens to be an MW, he knew of my project for many years but I’d never shown him the wines until our first vintage the 2012 Black Label, we were having lunch at Angelus off Hyde Park and I surprised him with my first labelled wine. I was exceptionally nervous – 14 years’ work and now this. He has been a serious wine judge for many years, he tasted the wine and put the glass back on the table. He said that he didn’t know if what he was about to say would offend or please me, I waited with bated breath “I doubt very much if any of my panel judges would pick this as Central Otago pinot, they’d probably say premier cru Chambolle-Musigny”. I bought lunch!

What I am most proud of

I don’t really do pride but I guess to have wandered the world looking for a dream to carry me home and then finding such an interesting one is something to regard as an achievement. Happiness is inside all of us, and I think it took me a long time to find a balance between place, vocation and constant stimulation. I love nature even more now that I am a farmer of sorts. I’m pretty happy now too.

What would your Plan B have been?

This is Plan B – I was the world’s worst engineer!

Read our other producer interviews here.