Leadership in Wine #21 - Murray Cook
With Australian DNA and a New Zealand accent, Murray began working in the vineyards of Central Otago during the winter of 2003 while pursuing his other interest of snow sports. It was those in those frigid temperatures that his interest in wine as a career was solidified.
From there, it was off to the Australia’s Yarra Valley where he worked in the winery at Yering Station for five years while studying winemaking at Charles Sturt University. It was during this time at Yering Station that he was able to work abroad in Champagne and Burgundy. In 2008 he moved to Marlborough, to work as a winemaker at Villa Maria Estate before joining Dog Point Vineyard in late 2013.
How do you define leadership?
The ability to accumulate like minds to achieve a goal. The passing on of information, enthusiasm and vision, carried out with integrity, humility and a sense of humour.
What are the main challenges of being a leader in the wine industry today?
I’m not sure I qualify as a leader... I guess it’s uncomfortable having pressure put on oneself rather than just carrying on with your own goals. Managing people can sometimes be one of the most rewarding but also most challenging aspects of team work. I think one of the most important aspects of the NZ wine industry are the group workshops where everyone is on the same level, sharing experiences and stories. It’s not about being a leader, it’s about all of us raising the bar for New Zealand. Having no barriers to free flowing conversations and no egos is really important for knowledge sharing.
What are your major breakthroughs in your career to become the leader you are now?
Having the right mentors is critical. I feel really lucky to have been in the right place at the right time followed by many years of a lot of hard work.
For me, during my time at Yering Station, Tom Carson established my platform of beliefs and ideas on wine and quality. During my time at Villa Maria, I was surrounded by huge experience and knowledge of the Marlborough and New Zealand wine industry and this exposed me to many great people and opportunities to grow. It’s a great place to grow as Villa Maria is very proactive at furthering people’s skills and ability.
Most recently working alongside two Marlborough legends has provided the opportunity to hone in on where I really want to be, pushing to make some of the best wines in the region. James and Ivan established great foundations at Dog Point so it’s continuing to push onwards and upwards that drives me.
If you were starting your career in 2019 in the wine industry, what advice would you give to yourself to become successful and content?
Be passionate and driven to get where you want to go. Surround yourself with those who want to see you grow and are willing to share knowledge and experience. Drink as much good wine as you can!
There’s no overnight solution, wine has a long career path but it’s a brilliant global industry filled with awesome people that you’ll stay connected to for life. Don’t rush the journey.