Charles Banks and his winery investment group Terroir Selections are expanding to New Zealand, acquiring a controlling share of Trinity Hill, a producer based in the Hawkes Bay region. The purchase price was not disclosed. “It’s an amazing place with amazing people. Why wouldn’t you want to do business [in New Zealand]?” asked Banks.
The California investor said he was approached two years ago by Trinity Hill founders Robert and Robyn Wilson, who were interested in reentering the U.S. market after a few years of absence. “After two years of discussions, getting to know the Wilsons, and making sure it was the right fit, what put it over the top for me was winemaker Warren Gibson,” said Banks. “He is absolutely one of the best I’ve ever been around.” The current winery team will stay intact.
Trinity Hill owns about 200 acres of vineyards, and was among the first to plant grapes in the Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels region in 1993. Its portfolio is diverse, but Banks is most excited about the potential of the Syrah. “I’m a cool-climate Syrah fan,” said Banks, who recently purchased Syrah-specialist Qupé in California. “I think Syrah has had a real rough patch, but the next 10 years will be great. It’s one of the most expressive wines in the world.”
Banks founded Terroir Selections in 2009, and has quickly built an impressive portfolio of winery and restaurant investments. The group owns high-profile producers in California, including Sandhi and Qupé (Banks co-owns Napa's Mayacamas in a separate partnership), Mulderbosch in South Africa and Burgundy’s Maison L’Orée. Banks is also a partner in Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Blackberry Farm restaurant in Tennessee and Mattei’s Tavern in Santa Barbara, Calif.
New Zealand is gaining attention with U.S. investors. This past week, Bill Foley announced he was expanding his portfolio in New Zealand with the addition of Martinborough Vineyard Estates. Banks is enthusiastic about the country's wine industry. “It’s an amazing place to grow grapes,” he said, pointing out that the wineries don’t face the same water concerns currently plaguing California, land is affordable and, as a relatively new wine industry, there is less tradition to fight as a new owner. “The potential for quality wines is very high, and it’s very early in the game in New Zealand.”