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Kitchen Tips

Meet the 23 year-old bringing millennial savvy to her family's Hawke's Bay winery

When opportunity knocked on her family’s cellar door, Beatrix Ham answered. The third generation of the Ham family to play a part in the Alpha Domus story, Beatrix brings a refreshing effervescence to the Hawke's Bay winery, in more ways than one.

By Fiona Fraser
Her email signature proudly bears her familial status and heritage: "Beatrix Ham. Third Generation."
Since arriving home in November 2017, following a stint living in London, 23-year-old Beatrix has been a firm fixture – and a friendly face – at the Alpha Domus cellar door. She's the one fetching cool pitchers of water for weary cyclists peddling the Hawke's Bay wine trails, welcoming international visitors who arrive via the pretty limestone driveway, and inviting local families to pop in with their picnic baskets and find a shady spot overlooking the vines.
Latterly, she's also been the inspiration for one of the winery's liveliest drops – the sprightly, spritzy Beatrix Sparkling Rosé – and helped lead a branding overhaul that recently saw Alpha Domus' traditional wine labels make way for a fresh colour palette and refined logo.
And while Beatrix concedes that it wasn't always part of the life plan to end up in the family business in Hastings' fertile Bridge Pa Triangle – sleeves well and truly rolled up – she's enjoying the experience.
"I have fond memories of growing up in this place," begins Beatrix, gazing across the vast fields of grapes as her beloved 10-year old dog, Alfie, keeps a close watch on the cellar-door comings and goings. "As a child, I loved helping pick the grapes, watching for the change of seasons, the lushness of new growth, and enjoying the really distinctive smell of the dew dropping. For me, that's the scent of Hawke's Bay and of my home."
The entirely family-owned winery was born 30 years ago – a labour of love for its founders, Anthonius and the late Leonarda Ham, and their three sons, one of whom is Beatrix's father, Paul. He's currently the managing director, working closely alongside wife Kathryn, and now Beatrix.
"I was helping out from the time I was three or four," recalls Beatrix. "In fact, we still use the same shovel today that I used as a child to shovel grape skins at harvest."
Showing little interest in following her family into the wine-growing and wine-making business, Beatrix took a circuitous path. "I couldn't stand sciences at school," she laughs, "so I definitely wasn't interested in viticulture or horticulture. I was more into history, music and classics. And I wasn't sure I was keen on university, actually, until my final year of school, when I was lucky enough to go on a World Challenge trip to Vietnam. That changed everything for me."
Volunteering in homeless shelters and facilities for disabled children, including those suffering from the genetic effects of Agent Orange, was "eye-opening".
"I realised that my life was full of opportunities while, for some, there were very few."
She came home and enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in media and sociology. Finishing up her studies and heading to London was fun, she says, but after six months away, the pull of home was strong. "I literally stepped off the plane on a Friday night, jet-lagged as anything, and worked the cellar door on the Saturday, during one of the busiest days the winery had ever had," she smiles.
"And I never really left. My friends all think I'm a workaholic, but I'm committed because of my love for the place and the people, and the fact I've seen the hard work Mum, Dad and the wider family have put in over so many years. People often romanticise what it's like to work in wine. It's not glamorous – well, sometimes it can be, but more often than not it's competitive and challenging and fast-paced."
Now, Beatrix says, she's passionate about taking the brand "to the next level". For her, that means using her sociology background to tailor wine experiences to each customer walking through the door, putting her busy millennial mind to use in the promotional and logistical work the winery does, and getting back to the books – this time studying towards a globally recognised wine qualification through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
It also means thinking creatively about what might encourage her contemporaries to try Alpha Domus wines, love them and buy them.
"That's how I dreamed up the sparkling rosé," Beatrix says, somewhat shyly. "I'm a bubbles person, I know my friends love bubbles, especially pink ones, and our winemaker Barry Riwai has crafted an amazing rosé. I just thought we might work on combining the two somehow.
"Yes, it was a risk, but it's delicious! And while I never intended to have my name on the bottle, it evolved that way. People like its label, its story, and those who visit the cellar door, especially, connect with the wine through me."
Then there's her handwritten notes. Order a box of wine and you might spy a little message from Beatrix tucked into your order. "I love writing them," she says. "I think about the enjoyment someone will get from that purchase and the personal touch that goes with it. I believe a wee note is one of the loveliest ways of genuinely looking after each customer."
Beatrix's trusty colleague Alfie.
While her peers are kicking up their heels in larger cities, Beatrix is content in the cosy Hastings flat she shares with a close friend, enjoys a relaxed social life and plenty of the gigs, music and cultural festivals Hawke's Bay is known for, and is making a real difference to the future of the winery that has given her career a start.
"Mum and Dad are fabulous bosses, so it's nice to be here with them," she says. "We communicate well, we make decisions together, and there are struggles at times. The constant and demanding work certainly isn't always as idyllic as it seems, but," she concludes with a smile, "there are some great perks!"
Opening hours: Wednesday - Tuesday, 10am - 5pm**
Alpha Domus Winery
1829 Maraekakaho Rd,
Hastings
alphadomus.co.nz

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