Awatea takes its name from the historic ship SS Awatea (a Maori word meaning “Eye of the Dawn”) that sailed the Auckland - Sydney - Wellington route in the late 1930s. The Awatea was requisitioned as a troop transport in WWII and was sunk off Algeria in 1942.
Te Mata Estate was originally part of Te Mata Station, a large pastoral land-holding established by English immigrant, John Chambers, in 1854. A homestead and stables were built on the property in the early 1870’s.
After returning from France, John Chamber’s third son, Bernard, had the idea to plant vineyards on the north-facing hills around Havelock North. In 1892, Bernard Chambers planted vines on three parcels of hillside land above the homestead and began converting the original stables to ferment and mature these first Te Mata Estate Wines. Today, Te Mata Estate still uses those same three vineyards.
The Chambers family sold the property in 1919. Te Mata Vineyards (TMV) was established and the property had two other owners until it was acquired by the Buck and Morris families in 1974 - the two families behind the modern interpretation of this historic New Zealand estate.
John Buck had been working in the wine industry in London and previously in New Zealand with his own wine merchant businesses. Wellington accountant, Michael Morris, and John had become associates and began an eight-year search for a site with the qualities to produce the classic wines which John had experienced in Europe.
In 1975, the opportunity to purchase Te Mata Estate arose, with its brick cellars dating from 1874 and all its original vineyards. A twenty year development programme was commenced, beginning with the restoration and re-equipping of the winery buildings.
Peter Cowley joined as winemaker in 1984 and is now a Principal and Technical Director of the company. Under his direction, all our winemaking techniques are monitored and kept in tune with our policy of producing small lots of high-quality wine from our own winery-run properties a short distance from the cellars.
More land was acquired by ownership, lease and/or a management contract. All the original vineyards were replanted and viticulture underwent a further detailed review when Dr Richard Smart was engaged as a consultant in 1989. In 1994, Te Mata appointed as viticulturist Larry Morgan, a close associate of Dr Smart. Larry Morgan put in place monitoring and review systems to further enhance the quality of grapes and also steadily advance our move into sustainable viticulture.