Congrats – Tai Nelson – Auckland Young Viticulturist of 2023

Congratulations to Tai Nelson, Vineyard Manager at Soljan’s Estate, who took out the title of Auckland/Northern Young Viticulturist of the Year 2023.

Tai Nelson, Auckland Young Viticulturist 2023
Tai Nelson, Auckland Young Viticulturist 2023

The first of the 2023 Young Vit regional finals was held at The Hunting Lodge in West Auckland on Thursday 8th June where contestants from across the large Auckland/Northern region competed for the title.

Congratulations also goes to Leon Henson from Vinetrak who came second and also Tobia Ficini from Stonyridge, who came third. The other contestants George Lewis and Nicole Reynolds also did themselves proud.

“It was great to see them giving it their all, wanting to stretch themselves as well as have some fun along the way.” Says Adam Yukich, Auckland/Northern Young Vit Chair. “It’s what Young Vit is all about”.

The contestants were tested on a wide range of viticultural skills including pruning, budgeting, biosecurity and public speaking. The challenging BioStart Hortisports was held at lunchtime followed by the Fruitfed Supplies BBQ and a quiz. The contestants delivered their speeches at the Awards Dinner tackling current issues for the New Zealand wine industry.

Tony Soljan from Soljans Estate was the guest speaker and captivated the audience as he spoke about the history and resilience of the West Auckland wine industry. It was inspiring to hear how early Dalmatian settlers paved the way for a successful New Zealand wine industry.

Auckland Viticulturist 2023 Tai Nelson
Leon Henson, (2nd place) Tai Nelson, Auckland Young Viticulturist 2023 & Tobia Ficini (3rd place)

“It was wonderful to bring together pioneers from both the past and the future in one room. It was very powerful and this passion over the decades is what has and will continue to make our industry very special.” says Nicky Grandorge, Leadership & Communities Manager at NZ Winegrowers.

Tai Nelson, 24, will represent Auckland in the National Final being held in Hawke’s Bay at the end of August. He will compete against other contestants from around the country, whose regional finals are being held over the coming weeks.

There were some great prizes won across the board including a Fruitfed Supplies Educational Trip and AEG power tools for Tai, who also scooped up the BioStart Hortisports and Ecotrellis section prizes. Leon Henson wan an NZSVO Educational Trip to Hawke’s Bay and Gareth Lewis won the Ormond Nurseries Professional Reputation Award.

Tai will now be in with the chance of winning even greater prizes at the National Final. These include a Hyundai Kona for a year, an Ecotrellis travel grant, a Leadership Week, Electrocoup electronic secateurs and AEG power tools and cash.

The competition is made possible thanks to all the sponsors involved: BioStart, Ecotrellis, Hyundai, Agritrade, Constellation Brands, Empak, Fruitfed Supplies, Fendt, Klima, Ormond Nurseries, Roots, Shoots & Fruits, Villa Maria-Indevin, Waterforce, AEG, NZSVO and Winejobsonline.

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