Two Paddocks was established in 1993 by the actor, director, producer and screenwriter Sam Neill, who then became the proprietor of a vineyard. He was born in Northern Ireland. His army officer father was a third generation New Zealander and when Sam was 10 the family moved back to Dunedin on the South Island, where he ran the family wine and spirit business Neill & Co. (Sam's grandfather had been a wine merchant). Sam (actually named Nigel but at school there where several other Nigel's so he took to calling himself Sam) originally just wanted to produce wine for family and friends from his favourite Pinot Noir grape variety. However the inaugural 1997 vintage was so good, followed by an even more distinguished 1988 and an outstanding 1999, that after that he just wanted to “produce year after year the world's best Pinot Noir”. Two Paddocks focus on Pinot Noir, of which numerous clones on different rootstocks are cultivated, but Riesling has now been added to their stable. They are located in Central Otago and have four vineyards - one in Gibbson, two in Alexandria and one in Bannockburn, and this gives them fruit from all three major Central Valleys.
The First Paddock Vineyard acquired in the Gibbson Valley in 1993 was planted with 2 hectares of Pinot Noir. At the time Sam's friend, the film director Roger Donaldson, planted the land next door – hence the name Two Paddocks was coined. This vineyard was so successful that it was extended to 5 hectares in 2008.
The 2 hectare Last Chance Vineyard in Earnscleugh in Alexandria was planted in 1998 with Burgundian clones of Pinot Noir on a terrace above the Clutha River, in three separate blocks, each with its own individual characteristics. The soils vary, with differing depths of loess, gravel and gravelly loam, but all schist based. This is one of the most southerly vineyards in the world - a special site which the proprietor likes to call Grand Cru country. The name comes from an old gold-miners watercourse which runs through the site, dating from the 1860's.
The Red Bank Vineyard in Earnscleugh at the other end of the Alexandria Basin was planted in 2000 and 2001 with 5.6 hectares of mostly Pinot Noir, but with some Riesling on generally speaking, river deposited gravelly loams.
The Fusilier Vineyard in Bannockburn in the Cromwell Basin is named in honour of Sam's father, Major Dermot Neill, a soldier in the Royal Irish Fusiliers Regiment. It is situated next door to the esteemed Felton Road Vineyard at the foot of Mount Difficulty. Here 5.6h are under vine with Pinot Noir, on soils that consist of deep alluvial fans of varying depths of silt, sand and gravel layering, all derived from mountainous schist parent material. This vineyard was acquired in 2013 and is the only one that Two Paddocks have not developed themselves from scratch.
Two Paddocks farm holistically and organically under the BioGro programme, and craft wine in three ranges. The easy-drinking Picnic range features a depiction of Sam's wine merchant grandfather, Sidney Neill. The Two Paddocks wines are blended across vineyard sites and the pinnacle of the range, only made in the best years, are the exceptional single vineyard Two Paddocks Proprietors Reserve wines. This small portfolio of premium handcrafted wines are the ultimate expressions of their vineyards, modified by the influence of the vintage. These are some of the most elegant Pinot Noirs in New Zealand.