Craig Erasmus, CEO at Amisfield
Craig, originally from Durban South Africa, has lived a high-flying life – well employed in the financial industry for many years out of London in the 90s and early 2000s, he and his wife travelled the world on ski and surf holidays. But the pull to have a more settled and sustainable lifestyle combined with their shared passion for wine, found the couple searching for the perfect destination. They landed in Queenstown, but the journey to get here was long and considered. For them, that journey isn’t over and now with three children they continually rediscover the people and places around them. Craig’s advice is that one should never settle with what you see – there’s always more to be seen, more to discover, and a reward for those that make that conscious effort.
We were living in Richmond, London in the late 90s, and having a great time – double income, no kids and travelling in Europe on weekends. But we knew it shouldn’t last. Eventually London would not hold our interest, so we started exploring our future, a future with wine in it!
After getting married we visited New Zealand and spent three months in a white van hiking, biking, surfing, fishing across the country, and researching the wine industry, gauging if this was somewhere we’d want to live. We actually came across a property in Waipara and started to negotiate to buy, but the deal fell through. In hindsight this was probably a good thing.
But it wasn’t only New Zealand we considered as a place to ultimately call home and bring up a family. The wine regions of Oregon, Washington State, Canada, Southern France and Western Australia all captured our interest. Naturally, we researched South Africa’s beautiful Cape Province and the wine regions of Tulbagh and Elgin, but like the others we found these to be a bit one-dimensional.
It was on beach in Thailand that we made our decision and hatched a plan – take a year or so off before settling in New Zealand. I found an old left-hand drive Toyota Landcruiser, fixed it up and shipped it to New York. Reunited with our truck we started our nine-month journey, driving first from New York to the top of the Alaska, and then back down the North American west coast to the bottom of Mexico. Unable to head further South we detoured via Miami on toward Lima, Peru and further south into South America. It was right at the bottom of the continent that we dumped the truck and flew directly to New Zealand. Not altogether the most direct route, but then the long way is sometimes the most interesting!
On arrival in New Zealand my wife and I completed our Post Graduate studies in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in Canterbury. This was a fantastic year that allowed us to grow our expertise while simultaneously integrate into New Zealand way of life and make life-long friends. Canterbury had mountains, culture, a large city, and the ocean.
My first position fresh out of university was at Wither Hills winery in Marlborough, where I earned minimum wage as a winery hand! It was all part of the plan, and with savings we were able to buy a house and fix it up. Luckily, I got to know the founder and owner of the business, and before long became the financial controller, and later commercial manager, while my wife worked as an assistant wine maker at a neighbouring winery.
Our three daughters were born in Marlborough where we had bought a vineyard and I had later joined a private equity fund that owned a number of brands in the region. But we followed new opportunities, and when the chance came to move to Central Otago 6 years ago to head up Amisfield, we took it. It was fantastic 10 years.
We are currently loving living in Queenstown by the mountains and the lake.
Just down the road from us is the beautiful Homestead Bay inlet of Lake Wakatipu, where in the hot months of January and February, the water is so clear it’s like swimming in gin. As well as swimming in the lake, we fish for our food, we mountain bike and walk around it, and my next ambition is to do more sailing on the lake. Lake Wakatipu is an expansive, beautiful, moody, ever-changing, plentiful and part of everything we do. I sometimes think we don’t engage enough with it in meaningful ways, but thankfully, it is the natural barrier that can’t be built on, so we’ll always have the views.
For me, I think it’s important to keep engaging, and keep discovering. The thing about New Zealand is that it takes time to travel to places. And that is what we need to do. Instead of relying on the immediate gratification, we should choose the less obvious, and make that conscious effort to search out the new, discover and explore.
That goes the same for any place you live in or travel too. What you see easily is not always the best. It’s the places you must travel far to get too, or make an extra effort to see, that provide the real reward. We’ve travelled all over the world, and here we are in the furthest place we could find, at the bottom of the South Island. We are still always discovering, finding the long way around to get to places, to enjoy the discovery.