His early training and experience was as a sommelier where he studied, amongst others, under the tutelage of Dr Reiner Eschenbruch of the DSIR – Te Kauwhata research station. After a brief flirtation with the restaurant wine lists and stroppy chefs Jeff then moved to Melbourne where he established a fine wine retail business called the Melbourne Wine Gallery.
Following five years experience and sensing the impending late 80’s recession he packed himself off to University where he applied himself to the more scientific aspects of grape and wine production. It was in Adelaide, under the watchful eyes of Drs Patrick Iland & Peter Dry, Jeff realized that wine really was made in the vineyard and that if the wine community was to advance then it was with improved viticulture that this would happen. So after spending several vintages working in the Adelaide Hills & at The Millton Vineyard in Gisborne he graduated as dux of the viticulture stream of the B.App SC- Wine Science. He was immediately swooped up to re-develop the Wine Industry Certificate training program at Tairawhiti Polytechnic, a course that continues to grow from strength to strength today.
From there he shifted his young family to establish a small winery in Marlborough known as Isabel Estate. Success came more or less immediately as the first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc (the 1998) carried off the trophy for best Sauvignon Blanc at the International Wine Challenge London. While based at Isabel he also spent time working in California for Au Bon Climat winery with the irrepressible Jim Clendennen who above all showed him how a New World wine culture based on old world values could be developed.
Working with the importer of Isabel, Jasper Morris MW, Jeff began to understand the subtleties and nuances of Burgundy and more particularly, Pinot Noir that eventually led to him co-founding a small family vineyard called Ostler on the Limestone slopes overlooking the Waitaki Valley. Realizing that one’s children can’t eat a pretty view he took on the role of general manager at Amisfield, a substantial property in the Cromwell basin in Central Otago. An acute allergy to spreadsheets, accountants and bank managers quickly led to him restructuring his position as Winemaker & Viticulturist, a position he still consults to today. What began as a short term proposition suddenly morphed into one of the more significant wine production and tourism developments in Otago and it was from here that the idea of a full time career in consultancy began to emerge.
Jeff now has a small but immensely loyal client base with whom he works. With vineyard managers quietly fine tuning their vineyards; with winemakers determinedly developing their wine styles and with marketing personnel assisting with positioning clients brands in key markets around the globe. Now with those same children moving through the school system Jeff has a little more time to dedicate to helping other wine industry professionals develop their businesses and preparing the New Zealand wine community for the next great millennium.