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Wine pioneer “a true leader”

By Hayley Gastmeier
[email protected]
Tributes have poured in for one of the pioneers of the Martinborough wine industry, Richard Riddiford, who died on Tuesday.
One of the early directors of Palliser Estate, Mr Riddiford died of cancer following a short illness, aged 65.
He has been described as the driving force behind the wine festival Toast Martinborough, which started in 1992.
Mr Riddford played a vital role in its success, only resigning from the board as chairman in 2013.
He stepped down as founding managing director of Palliser last September after 25 years.
The winery’s chief executive Pip Goodwin said Mr Riddiford was “a true leader, charismatic, and an uncompromising man”.
“He was an amazing man and a huge influence on Martinborough, the Martinborough wine industry, the New Zealand wine industry and obviously the driving force behind the success of Palliser Estate.
“He was a great mentor and friend to me and an incredibly loyal friend to many other people.”
Chairman of the Toast Martinborough Board Pete Monk said the success of the festival, which was now into its 25th year, was down to Mr Riddiford.
“The proven concept of Toast is very much to do with Richard’s vision and also the fact that he drove it for so many years.
“He was such a stalwart for making Toast happen and developing it and that’s done a lot for the district, in terms of the vineyards and the profile of Martinborough.”
Mr Monk said on behalf of the board he extended his condolences to Mr Riddiford’s family and “very long list of friends”.
“He will be fondly remembered in the wine community and by Toast Martinborough.”
Mr Riddiford was a regular at Cafe Medici, religiously dining there every day “at the same seat and same table”.
Owner and head chef Nick Arnold said the staff were “really quite sad” to hear the news.
“He came in everyday and had lamb’s kidneys with a potato rosti for five years, every single morning, seven days a week he would do that.”
Mr Arnold, who has had the cafe for nine years, said he had grown “quite close” to Mr Riddiford, having catered many of his events.
Yesterday morning Cafe Medici staff had “set his table up exactly the way he normally has it” as a tribute.
Larry McKenna of Escarpment Vineyard said “it was a very sad day” to hear of Mr Riddiford’s death so soon after his retirement.
“He certainly made a huge contribution to the district, not only the wine industry but wider than that, as I am sure other people will point out,” Mr McKenna said.
“One of the things I think that was perhaps less understood about Richard is that he was always one to put his hand up when times were tough for somebody else.
“He was always there for other people when the chips were down. He put his hand up very quickly to help out… that will be my lasting memory of Richard.”
Former Wairarapa MP Wyatt Creech who came in at the ground floor as a co-director of Palliser Estate with Mr Riddiford said his former co-director had been “a pretty important player in the wine industry in New Zealand”.
“He was very effective at what he did and over the years he ran Palliser very well.
“He and all of us involved in the early years felt we belonged to the Palliser family.”

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