Twin contributors to art and wine

Simon Morrison-Deaker, left, and Timbo Deaker. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
Simon Morrison-Deaker, left, and Timbo Deaker. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
In terms of Queenstown’s art scene and Central Otago’s wine industry, artist Simon Morrison-Deaker and viticulturist Timbo Deaker have become increasingly influential figures.

To the surprise of many, they’re also twins who jointly celebrated their 50th birthdays this year.

Timbo, the older by 55 minutes, says "I always jokingly say those first 55 minutes of my life were the best".

"I always laugh looking at people’s facial expressions when I tell them I’m Simon’s twin brother, because he obviously looks about 15 years younger than I do."

Simon: "I think we’re very different, but then I think to the outsider we’re very much the same — the mannerisms are all there.

"[Timbo’s] always had about an inch on me, but then he’s also bald so I’ve grown the fringe out and got that inch back."

The brothers were brought up in Invercargill — their mum, Jocelyn Morrison, later became a well-known Queenstown interior designer and their dad, Michael Deaker, was formerly prominent in education and broadcasting and latterly a long-serving councillor on the Otago Regional Council.

The boys, whose parents subsequently split, moved to Queenstown at about 13 and attended Wakatipu High.

At that age, Timbo says he decided to become a grape grower.

"I was very lucky; the wine industry was just kickstarting."

Central Otago wine industry founder Alan Brady gave him a job at Gibbston Valley Wines when he was only about 18.

"I had to go and work three months in the kitchen as a dish pig before I was allowed into the vineyard.

"Later he wrote me this killer reference to get into my first viticulture course."

Originally Timothy, Timbo also owes Brady his nickname — "he called me ‘young Timbo’ and it just stuck".

After his first studies, he worked at Queenstown’s Chard Farm and also in California, England, Spain and Australia before gaining a postgraduate diploma in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln.

Subsequently, he and a business partner established Central Otago’s first viticulture brokerage, managing 30 vineyards — "about 29 more than I’d like" — and selling about 30% of Central’s wine production.

He also, with local Bayleys co-owner David Gibb, owns a vineyard near Lowburn and leases another four — "we farm about 60 hectares on our own".

Simon, meanwhile, says through his family he grew up in the art gallery world.

"I had a natural flair for drawing and enthusiasm for it back in the day, and then I was the only boy in the art class during high school, which was quite helpful, too."

Simon studied art at Victoria University, in Wellington, but initially worked for a multimedia company and did set designs for theatre before returning to Queenstown and becoming a full-time artist in 2002.

Calling himself a contemporary artist who often dabbles in political and social commentary, Simon says he quickly gained a following by word of mouth.

Local restaurants like Amisfield and Saffron would hang his works, "and people would sit around all night and get drunk and buy my art".

For a time he shared an Arrowtown studio with the late Graham Brinsley, "but then that was too much distraction; too many people popping through and talking so you didn’t actually get any work done".

Timbo’s in awe of how well his brother’s done.

"A lot of people work in the wine industry in different capacities, but I feel poor Simon has been pioneering and a foundation member of a very small art community for a long time."

Simon’s similarly rapt at how Timbo’s forged a reputation in the Central Otago wine industry that again, just last week, won praise for producing the world’s best pinot noir.

When turning 50, Simon says he reflected on how they were both self-employed "in the non-essential services".

Both are also married with an older son and younger daughter not that far apart.

They speak to each other at least four times a week and shared a big 50th party at Timbo’s Gibbston property that went to about 4am.

"I don’t expect we were the most popular people in Gibbston the next day," Timbo says.

"But then 99% of the neighbourhood was there, so it was OK."