OWNZ Executive & Conference committee co-chair Bart Arnst began his vineyard journey in Canterbury before relocating to Marlborough to manage vineyards for Montana Wines. Around 1996 he began experimenting with organic techniques, and after significant successful outcomes he joined the Seresin Estate team to lead their vineyards through organic conversion. In 2005 Bart ventured out on his own, providing viticultural consultancy, which he continues to do for growers and wineries throughout New Zealand. In 2007 he teamed up with Chris Darling to produce a range of certified organic wines under the label The Darling. Bart is a founding member of OWNZ and remains an active member of the organisation’s executive board.
OWNZ Executive & Conference committee Mike Saunders started his career as a winegrower in the cellar, completing vintages for Esk Valley Estate in Hawkes Bay and Mount Pleasant in the Hunter Valley, Australia. He returned to help run the iconic Esk Valley Terraces Vineyard, eventually taking over management of the block. Combining this with the grower liaison role for Villa Maria broadened his exposure to many different viticultural growing systems while being supported by the fantastic viticultural team there. Moving to Neudorf in Nelson as Company Viticulturist gave a totally different exposure to the region and also scale. Growing the Moutere Chardonnay was a huge privilege and a massive learning curve. The draw of returning home to Canterbury and eventually earning the role of Company Viticulturist for North Canterbury’s Greystone and Muddy Water Wines has been another amazing opportunity. Mike also enjoys his roles with the Young Viticulturist Competition, OWNZ and North Canterbury Winegrowers.
OWNZ Treasurer & Conference committee Originally from Nelson, Helen gained a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University. Her first job after qualifying was at Forrest Estate in Marlborough, which provided the invaluable experience of being hands-on wherever she was needed across the business. Helen then took on a winemaker role at Indevin, which gave her experience with client winemaking before becoming Senior Winemaker at Villa Maria. There she enjoyed being back in a family-owned business, with all the passion and quality expectations that that bought, and with the added benefit of largescale efficiencies. Helen has just joined Booster Wine Group as Chief Winemaker. Booster Wine is part of a KiwiSaver fund and encompasses several brands, including Awatere River, Sileni, Waimea, and Bannock Brae as well as the BioGro-accredited organic Gravity winery.
OWNZ Executive & Conference committee co-chair Nick’s interest in organic winegrowing grew as he worked for several companies around the world who were converting or practicing organic grape growing and winemaking. His passion was further ignited and continues in his current role as winemaker at Seresin Estate, where he was worked since 2020. Nick has been part of the OWNZ executive team since 2021 and is the co-chair of the Organic & Biodynamic Winegrowing Conference committee.
OWNZ Executive & Conference committee Erica is a veteran of the New Zealand Wine industry. She co-founded Kim Crawford Wines in 1996, introducing a groundbreaking business model (virtual winery) and selling the brand in an extraordinary sale that did not include any land or bricks and mortar. Loveblock represents her deeply personal journey to organics and living values. Making a 180 degree turn in approach, the Crawford family now owns all the vineyard land that supplies the Loveblock brand, with a deep focus organic farming and sustainability. She describes this experience as both “humbling and a steep learning curve”, propelling her to complete a degree in viticulture from EIT. Erica has been a member of NZ Winegrowers Marketing Committee and overseas marketing in her role on the OWNZ executive. She holds a number of directorships, both in the wine industry and in other sectors.
OWNZ NZ Marketing, Events & Administration Naomi joined OWNZ in late 2020 to assist with marketing, events, and administration. Her role at has since expanded in response to the strong growth the organic sector is experiencing. Naomi originally completed a Diploma in Viticulture and Wine Production at NMIT and went on to work vintages in Marlborough, the Hunter Valley, and Puligny-Montrachet before settling into various marketing roles at several local wineries including Clos Henri, and most recently Two Rivers. Naomi has challenged the status quo and advocated for organics and biodiversity at all the wineries she has worked at over the years. She has been instrumental in putting together native planting projects on vineyards and is on the board as treasurer of Forest & Bird Marlborough.