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Wine, Food and Music at Tirohana

Tirohana Estate is a boutique winery set against the scenic backdrop of the Martinborough Hills in the heart of the beautiful Wairarapa valley, about one hour drive from Wellington, New Zealand.
It’s hard not to like Tirohana estate. The long driveway off the quiet country road transports you metaphorically to another place. The tasting room and restaurant (more about that later) are located in a colonial style building and as you step out of the car nature is complemented by the sounds of peaceful music playing over the vines.alt

This is how to welcome customers and make them feel at home, but it doesn’t stop there. You will be greeted by one of the Tiohana team, or I should say family. This is a family business and whether it’s the ever friendly and helpful Toby, Ray the owner or anyone else, you will likely be met at the door and as you step around or over ‘Bob the Dog’ you walk into the tasting area and reception area.

Man these guys are good! I haven’t even tasted the wine yet and I already know I will enjoy it. This article isn’t about wine, it’s about the business, but suffice to say, Tirohana estate deserve their accolades for magnificent boutique wines, particularly in the Pinot Noir range.

The Tirohana experience builds as Toby or Ray walk you through the range of wines with entertaining anecdotes, experiences and tangents that complement the tasting experience. This is no place for wine snobs, but if you are so inclined, the wines certainly won’t disappoint.

Tirohana Estate is owned by a British-born screenwriter, Ray Thompson who spent much of his life in Canada and then Australia and was once labeled as illiterate. He realized his life-long dream by purchasing Tirohana Estate. Born into poverty, Ray became the classic rags to riches success story when he was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his accomplishments in the television, motion picture and entertainment industry. As the founder of Wellington based television studio, Cloud 9, Ray built a multimillion dollar global company, but these days he is said to be happiest sitting on a tractor in his beloved vineyard.

My experience with Ray and everyone at Tirohana supports my theory that passion builds business, listening to Ray talk about the vines, the earth, the wine making process, it’s clear that he is a spiritual man and believes that growing grapes and wine making is more than science and artistic endeavor, he considers it to have a spiritual affinity. I’m sure this same passion and belief served him in his previous business successes. Despite his time spent amongst the glamour of Hollywood life, Ray believes that he is no more than a custodian of the land, and has a great respect and love of nature – and his beloved vines. Yet he has also interwoven science (there is a weather system linked to satellites with an automatic voice that will telephone the vineyard staff in the middle of the night to alert them to fluctuating temperatures).

People visit Tirohana to taste and maybe purchase wine or to have a meal, the Tirohana team work like a symphony to welcome, serve and create an experience, as a result you and your guests are made to feel welcome and relaxed. This is how a customer facing business should work, let the experience sell the product or service and customers become advocates.

The restaurant at Tirohana is an extension of the wine tasting experience whether it’s in the main dining area or on the balcony overlooking the vines. Food is crafted from local ingredients and of course complemented throughout by their wines.

The Estate also features a photogenic and beautiful colonial home which is luxuriously furnished and available as a vinestay. The tasting area, in the cellar door, is full of character and dressed with some unusual artefacts including props such as cannons from cloud 9 productions and a pair of thrones.

I hope to bring you an interview with someone from Tirohana soon – Stay tuned. In the meantime, you can visit Tirohana estate at