Nikki in New Zealand – meet the Forrest team

The Forrest Team for the 2015 Vintage

The Team:
What has struck me most about the Forrest vintage winery team is the big smile stuck on everyone’s face. As John F said himself “They must love working for me!” I first met them in February, when I joined them to help out at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival.

wine fest2

Marlborough Food and Wine Festival is a colourful event that takes place every February

I returned 6 weeks later, hoping to learn how to be a useful cellarhand and all about vintage. The Forrest winery team is a very happy crew, clear on the job in hand and what needs doing and obviously inspired from the top. Here’s a micro-introduction to each of them:

Dr John

John looking uncharacteristically quiet!

John Forrest: needs no introduction really, but no list would be complete without him at the top. He is chief honcho, the man with a tumult of ideas, an endless flow – I don’t think they can stop accumulating in his sleep either. A molecular biologist by training, he applied this scientific training to winemaking first in 1988. Always at the forefront of innovation, his analytical brain allows him to continue with groundbreaking ideas, most recently being the first to pioneer low-alcohol wine and that really tastes good.

Brigid Forrest: Brigid is another scientist – they met first day at Otago university – and has a great understanding of wine and the marketplace. She is the one behind the scenes, quietly working, and key to the whole place, winery and cellar door, running smoothly. That is, as well as working 3 days a week as a GP/community geriatrician. Luckily both Forrests seem to have boundless energy, but don’t ask Brigid to do early … not John’s early anyway, which is currently 3am!


Dave’s family first go into wine in the 1880s, in the Clare Valley

Dave Knappstein: Dave’s family has been in wine for generations. His great grandfather, Joseph Knappstein, started the Stanley Wine Company in Clare Valley, SA, in the 1880s, his grandfather ran it until he died and his dad was winemaker for Tatachilla in South Australia, until they moved to New Zealand for work with McWilliams, then Auckland where his dad was show director for Air New Zealand Wine Show. Oh, and did I mention his Uncle Ray who is credited with linking a wine’s PH with stability? So, no wonder, Dave went into wine. He met John Forrest and was flatmate with him at university and has since worked all over New Zealand as a winemaker. He has been with Forrest 15 years and is the steadying influence on John’s enthusiastic innovation.

Beth Forrest

Beth filling the fuder – in a short time she has gained a great deal of experience and is now back working at Forrest

Beth Forrest: Beth is middle child of John and Brigid and shows strong personality traits of her dad. She first did a double degree at Otago university, in Geography and microbiology, before deciding to go into winemaking. She did her Masters at Adelaide University and has already made wine all over the world … Spain, France, Australia, Oregon, different parts of New Zealand, including Peregrine, plus Chapel Down in England … she even contemplated being the viticulturalist for the Queen’s Windsor estate. With plenty of experience under her belt, she is now ready to work with the team as a key winemaker.


Having trained as a lawyer, Dai threw all that away to become a winemaker

Dai: Dai is a lawyer from Japan, always has a huge smile on his face, never walks, always runs, so he’s difficult to catch. Despite his law training, he was so taken with wine when he came over to New Zealand that he’s been immersed in it ever since. As a winemaker, at this time of the year, he concentrates on sorting out the grapes on arrival – getting them through the press, the juice into tank, or destemming and pressing the handpicked batches. He has an air of Action Man about him … anything that Dai tightens is impossible to loosen by hand. That strong!


Chris isn’t looking after bees just doing a bit of cleaning!

Chris: Christchurch born and bred, Chris tends to be on night shift and is more concerned with the wine once it gets into tank or barrel. Where hasn’t he made wine? Mosel and Franken in Germany, Languedoc and Alsace in France, Oregon in US, Australia’s Coonawarra, Kiwi Hawke’s Bay (which is where he met John, working on the Forrest wines from Gimlett Gravels) and Austria, where he works two months every year for harvest. He has an Aussie winemaker wife, so at vintage time, as you can imagine, they barely see each other.


Guillaume, aka Gus, comes from Alsace

Guillaume: that’s quite a mouthful of a name for Kiwis (!), so the team have come to calling him Gus. Gus/Guillaume is a Frenchman from Alsace, at Forrest just for the vintage. His family are restaurateurs, but over the last seven years, he’s been part studying/ part working, culminating in a two years Masters degree in oenology in France. He has worked in France, New York State and now New Zealand. Why Forrest Estate for him? He wanted to make wine in a coolish climate, preferably Marlborough, in a smaller cellar, so he could directly to the winemaker and has a bit of a thing for Riesling. A perfect fit then.

Julia: Julia is at Forrest just for the vintage and has just completed her two-year diploma. She is from Indonesia, came to New Zealand for a holiday but would love to stay, so decided to learn how to become a winemaker. You will find her often taking samples, then testing them in the lab.

Johnny One Shoe

Johnny-one-shoe – not so keen on wine yet, but they’re working on him!

Johnny-one-shoe: Johnny has been with Forrest since October. Blenheim born and a bit of a boy racer (!), he is mostly found in the vineyards. However, this harvest he’s been brought in to help with vintage and is loving it.

Scott or Skiddy:
Skiddy (I haven’t asked!) has been a loyal employee at Forrest for a decade now, working mostly in the vineyard side, with maintenance of machinery. He has also been key in driving the harvesting machine. Firstly the old, less sophisticated one and now the super-duper monster machine, new this year. Having ridden up top with him on this huge giant machine, I am full of admiration. He said first week it was a bit nerve-racking – for him and for John.

Tim is vineyard manager and brother, too, of Skiddy. He’s on sick leave right now having had a double hip operation, but will hopefully back to full steam ahead shortly. He works closely with John on sustainability in the vineyard, trialling new grape varieties and organic methods.

The bird-scarer, handy with his noisy gun as he whizzes around the vines on a quad bike.

Scotty: Scotty is the man in the big truck, ready to receive all the grapes collected by Skiddy in the harvester. Dependable to the last, turning up to pick up those grapes, even with flu!

frankie merlot

Frankie is the most important member of the both the team and the family

Frankie: Frankie is the dog and Number One in the family. Nothing is too good for the lovely Frankie … we are all willing to donate the best pieces of breakfast, lunch, dinner to please the pleading doe-eyed look of Frankie. Frankie is technically Beth’s. She arrived as a puppy, but a little later Beth had a 10-month stint in Spain, so John and Brigid ‘babysat’. Since then they have had ‘joint custody’.

merlot and lizard

Best friend to Frankie the dog, Merlot is no friend to lizards!

Merlot: Merlot is Frankie’s best friend. A nippy hunter of a cat who snuggles up with Frankie whenever she’s given the opportunity and is very good at catching mice and lizards.

Laithwaites Wine

About Laithwaites Wine

Started in 1969, Laithwaite's Wine is still owned and run by Tony and Barbara Laithwaite and their family. We take around 40,000 wines each year to find just 800 that are good enough for our customers and are suitable for every occasion from everyday wines for dinner to celebration sparkling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *