HOLLYWOOD came to Whiteabbey this week as critically acclaimed actor Sam Neill visited the Bureau by the Lough bar and restaurant to launch his wine range in Northern Ireland.
The actor - best known for his role as reluctant hero Dr Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park films - paid a visit to the award winning bar and restaurant to pop the cork on his Two Paddocks wine range at a special tasting lunch for its launch.
The award winning wine range will be stocked in both the Bureau by the Lough’s bar and restaurant and its nearby sister business the Light House Wine Store.
New Zealander Neill, who was born in Omagh, flew in especially to launch the wine.
The star of numerous films and television shows, including The Piano and Alcatraz, started his winery in 1993 in the Otago region of New Zealand.
Although his great-grandfather worked in the wine trade in Belfast, Neill is the first of his family to grow the grape.
He said he was very proud of the wine and told the Times about his joy of bringing his wine range “home”.
“There is nothing more enjoyable than opening a bottle of your own red wine with friends. However, we produce over 7,000 cases a year and I don’t have that many friends,” said Neill, “so it is nice to be able to liberate those bottles and bring them to Northern Ireland.
“I used to be a person who drank red wine from a cardboard box, but then a friend bought me a fantastic Burgundy and I was amazed at the taste.”
The wine range includes the premium Two Paddocks pinot noir and the Picnic wines pinot noir and riesling.
The riesling was a concession Sam made to appease his wife who does not drink red wine. Although the 65 year old openly admits the concession “did not work” with his wife but the wine came out a success.
He went on: “Because I am away so often I am only on the farm for about four or five months a year, but I am very involved with the production of the wine. Although I am not a fan of pruning at all.
“In fact on our website I have produced a number of small films, Microdoodles as I call them, that go through all the difficulties we encounter.
“The pinot grape is very difficult to produce because you need a colder climate, but then that brings along many more difficulties like wind, rain and snow which you have to deal with, so you can get a very low yield.
“We don’t live in the south of France, but that makes it all the more satisfying when we can produce a good wine.”
Neill, is currently filming BBC drama Peaky Blinders with Cillian Murphy in England in which he plays the part of a ruthless police chief from Northern Ireland.
He told the Times he was getting a lot of help from Jimmy Nesbitt and Liam Neeson on mastering the accent. Next year he will also be starring in the blockbuster Mariah Mundi & the Midas Box and a big screen adaptation of Nick Hornby’s Long Way Down.
He added: “As I was born in Omagh and spent a lot of time in County Down I try to get back to Northern Ireland as often as I can and I do enjoy it.
“Tyrella Beach is a beautiful part of the world and somewhere I really enjoy returning to.
“I’ve got a lot of things coming up, I’m always very busy.
“I am very fortunate to be allowed to do something I love and travel the world with it and there is the bonus of being able to branch out with my own wine range.”
The Bureau by the Lough’s management are billing the new addition to its wine cellar as a “star” attraction for visitors.
Owner Damien Curran said: “We were delighted Sam poured the very first drop of his own wine with us here at Bureau by the Lough, which is a terrific endorsement for us.
“It can be difficult to compete with the supermarkets and their promotions. So, as well as breaking the myth that supermarkets are cheaper, our strategy is to capitalise on our independence to source diverse, interesting, quality-led wines at great prices.
“Sam Neill’s award-winning Two Paddocks wines fit that profile exactly.”
More coverage in this week’s Times...