We are so lucky to be able to attract such passionate and dedicated wine professionals to our team. It's a testament to the quality of the wines produced by our wine partners and the standard of experiences our team delivers in every tasting, every meal, every stay. Each team member has their own story and is on their own wine journey that we are proud to play a part in. Next time you visit us, you'll be handed into the capable hands of one of these fine folk, so we thought we would take some time to give you a little background into their worlds.

Luli Bonifetto, Cellar Door Manager, Sommelier

Where are you from: Buenos Aires, Argentina

What skills and qualifications do you bring to the team: I am a certified Sommelier, and I am also a qualified chef. There is no food without wine and there is no wine without food!

What brought you to Gibbston: The wine obviously, the story of the place blows my mind. Gibbston is one of the only places in the world that you can sit down and have a glass of wine with the person who planted the first vines in the region!

Where did your love of wine begin? Wine was always on my family table… but it was on my second year of the Chef school, while studying for the “Beverage and service” subject, when I realized that I wanted to be a sommelier as well.

Favourite wine at our cellar door: This question is like asking a mother which one is her favourite child. I love all the wines, I always choose a wine depending on what I am doing, eating or who I am with. 

Bucket-list wine holiday destination: Italy- La Toscana. 

Tips for visitors to our region:  Visit all the vineyards/ wineries, especially the small ones. Try to do it in 2- 3 days so you can spend a good amount of time in each one.

Ivonne Cisneros, Senior Wine Advisor

Where are you from: Guadalajara, México

What skills and qualifications do you bring to the team: I am a qualified designer and am WSET 2 Qualified. I like the creative side of things and thinking outside of the box. 

What brought you to Gibbston: I was looking for a change, coming from Auckland, and of course learning more about wine.

Where did your love of wine begin? My wine journey started in Auckland (almost 6 years ago) but I fell in love with it through all of the wonderful people I have met along the way, especially here in Gibbston. How lucky am I?

Favourite wine at our cellar door: At the moment I have 2 favourites: Kinross Discovery Series Cox’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016. I just LOVE how expressive of the Gibbston region this wine is and it is drinking beautifully at the moment. My other favourite is Taimana Waitaki Pinot Noir 2013. I have always been a fan of Waitaki region. LOVE LOVE the Waitaki Pinot Noir! But It really depends on the day and my mood. Ask me again tomorrow…

Bucket-list wine holiday destination:  Everywhere!  Can’t wait to get out there and visit them all! First on the list will be back home, North of Mexico (Valle de Guadalupe).

Tips for visitors to our region:  You will fall in love with Central Otago, wherever you go and whichever season you choose... But if you choose to come during winter, we will go snowboarding together!

central otago wine

Kendal Orosz, Senior Wine Advisor

Where are you from: Niagara Region, Canada

What skills and qualifications do you bring to the team: WSET Diploma Student. Also a great sense of humour and positive mindset.

What brought you to Gibbston: Wine and Adventure (mostly wine 😉)

Where did your love of wine begin? University, I took an introductory course and fell in love with learning about wine, it almost feels like you're traveling when you study.

Favourite wine at our cellar door: I am a seasonal drinker and I like to try new things so sometimes it is hard to pick a favourite. But, I'm a super fan of Coal Pit ‘The Harry’ Pinot Noir 2018 at the moment… expensive taste.

Bucket-list wine holiday destination:  Portugal, I'm obsessed with port.

Tips for visitors to our region: Rent a bike from Arrowtown and bike to the wineries, it's literally one of the best things to do on a nice day.

David Giannuzzi, Wine Advisor

Where are you from: Sydney, Australia

What skills and qualifications do you bring to the team: Certainly not classical wine knowledge! Before I gained my WSET Level 2, I was much more of a wine lover and enthusiast. My previous professional experience has predominantly been in media, sales and management.

What brought you to Gibbston: My better half is a Kiwi and grew up in South Otago. We moved here from Sydney in January 2021 to start the next chapter and adventure in our lives. Ending up at Kinross is a bit of a dream come true really.

Where did your love of wine begin?: My family is Italian, and my grandparents immigrated to Sydney from Italy in the 1950s. I grew up seeing wine on the table every lunch and dinner time. Along with family and food, wine is a big part of Italian culture. Outside of that, my Dad is probably the biggest influence in turning my familiarity with wine into a passion.

Favourite wine at our cellar door: Now that is a tough question. I would have to say that the Kinross Discovery Series – Cox’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 just narrowly beats the Taimana Waitaki Pinot Noir 2013 for me. 

Bucket-list wine holiday destination: I was fortunate enough to visit that destination in 2019 when I explored the Chianti region in Italy. Chianti produces my favourite styles of wine and it was an absolute joy to experience when I was there. Following that I would have to say Argentina. 

Tips for visitors to our region: Make sure to take some time to sit somewhere, relax, sip some beautiful Central Otago wine and enjoy the phenomenal views on offer nearly everywhere you look. There is so much to see and do in Queenstown at any time of year, and it can be really easy to spend all of your time running around trying to fit everything in to an itinerary. 

central otago wine

Gerald León, Wine Advisor

Where are you from? I grew up in the greater Valparaíso area, which is pretty close to Santiago, the capital of Chile.

What skills and qualifications to you bring to the team? I come from a finance and economics background. I started taking WSET's certifications in order to start getting closer to the wine industry. I passed WSET Level 3 before moving to New Zealand to pursue a career in the wine industry.

What brought you to Gibbston?  Whilst studying my Graduate Diploma in Tourism & Hospitality Management at Queenstown Resort College, I needed a part-time job and Kinross was hiring! 

Where did your love of wine begin? It all started with a food blog I ran for nearly 5 years at my home city. As I learned more about food and restaurant formats, I started feeling the need to know more about wine in order to start evaluating pairings and wine lists. It grew from there!

Favourite wine at our cellar door: Can I pick two? Valli Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2019 is an intriguing wine. The second is Wild Irishman Alexandra 2020. That wine just blew my mind in the new vintage release tasting with Alan Brady. 

Bucket-list wine holiday destination: Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Provence. I can't wait to visit all these historic and bucolic villages, drink beautiful red blends and rosé, visit lavender fields in Provence, and spend few days enjoying the French Riviera.

Tips for visitors to our region: It all depends on your time availability. For one day, I would suggest to visit a few wineries in Gibbston and then head to Bannockburn, which allows you to compare two subregions that despite are very close, they are very different styles of wines (and landscapes too!). 

Martial Passignat, Wine Advisor

Where are you from: Paris, France

What skills and qualifications to you bring to the team: Hospitality diploma, 22 years experience in field including Restaurant Manager for some of NZ's highest regarded restaurants, and Michelin starred restaurants in France.

What brought you to Gibbston: I came to NZ to explore with my girlfriend. Queenstown became our favourite place - the wine, the landscape, the lifestyle!

Where did your love of wine begin? I trained and learned more about wine in Burgundy and Loire Valley. It was amazing to live and breathe wine in an area that is so famous for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Favourite wine at our cellar door: Valli - all the Pinot Noirs! Wild Irishman Kinross and Macushla, and Kinross 'Holy Schist' Sauvignon Blanc.

Bucket-list wine holiday destination: Hawkes Bay, Waiheke island. Hopefully soon!

Tips for visitors to our region: Get onto the Queenstown trail and explore our beautiful region, you can cycle straight to so many lovely wineries and cafés. This is what I do with friends when they visit everytime!

central otago wine

Neil Kapadia, Bistro Wine Host

Where are you from: India

What skills and qualifications to you bring to the team: Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Enology from Lincoln University and a good knowledge about New Zealand wines.  Successfully gained WSET 1 and WSET 2, currently studying for WSET 3. Aspire to become a Certified Sommelier.

What brought you to Gibbston: The love affair with Pinot Noir and to explore great wines from great winemakers.  I do feel that best Pinot Noir in New Zealand comes from Gibbston!

Where did your love of wine begin? It began when I started my career in Hospitality, where I realised my love of wine. This passion lead me to studying Wines professionally.

Favourite wine at our cellar door: Valli 'Out of the shadows' Pinot Noir 2012

Bucket-list wine holiday destination: Florence, Italy

Tips for visitors to our region:  Be ready to explore, there are some of the best examples of Pinot noir you'll find all within a few kms of Kinross!