You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
He competed against five other regional finalists in practical and theory modules at Te Awa, Hawkes’ Bay, and was announced the winner at the Bragato dinner in Napier on August 29.
In addition to making a speech about what he thought vineyards would look like in 2050, he also submitted a project on biosecurity, which is considered good enough to be posted to the official website as an example of best practice.
Mr Gourley’s win makes him the second Central Otago national winner in a row.
Cromwell’s Annabel Bulk won the competition last year and Nick Paulin, also of Cromwell, won it in 2011.
Mr Gourley said he was delighted with the win and, while he was pleased with his performance, the more challenging module focused on chemicals, something he had not had much experience with as his vineyard is organic focused.
He arrived in Napier the Sunday before the competition, and competed in the practical competition on Monday, made his speech on Wednesday and attended the Bragato conference and formal dinner on Thursday evening.
Three weeks before the competition, he had to focus on preparing a speech and completing the AGMARDT project, which was to research and write a biosecurity plan for their vineyard.
He looked at possible incursions of brown marmorated stink bug, the Harlequin ladybird and Pierce’s disease, which stops vines getting water and they dry out.
‘‘We had to come up with a biosecurity plan about dealing with them,’’ he said.
‘‘I bounced a few ideas off other industry leaders around the biosecurity project and what they thought.
‘‘I had no idea how I did with the project until the results come out.
‘‘After I recovered from Thursday, I drove down to Martinborough with a couple of friends and drank some Martinborough wine.’’
He flew to Auckland last week to learn more about the Young Horticulturist of the Year Competition in November, in which he was to represent the wine industry, along with winners from competitions from four other industries.
‘‘I want to thank the sponsors and my employer,’’ he said.
New Zealand Winegrowers Biosecurity manager Dr Ed Massey judged the projects and said the reports were of an extremely high standard, containing valuable information which he planned to share with the industry.
‘‘Simon’s report highlighted the importance of biosecurity to protect the unique sense of place at his home vineyard Domaine Thomson,’’ Dr Massey said.
‘‘Simon’s focus on preparedness and pathway management could be vital to protect the organic status of the block.
‘‘Simon’s biosecurity plan also emphasised the importance of engaging with people across the vineyard supply chain on biosecurity matters.
‘‘To this end, Simon understood that biosecurity is about influencing hearts and minds rather than simple pest and disease management.
‘‘This is the first year the project has been related to biosecurity.
‘‘I am not sure if, in the past, projects have been held up as ‘best practice’ exemplars but in this case it is certainly justified,’’ Dr Massey said.
Ben Richards, from Indevin, in Marlborough, was second and George Bunnett, from Craggy Range, in Wairarapa, was third.