New Zealand Vintner Samples Life in Edina

Meet Nigel Avery of Sileni Estates.
Nigel Avery toasts to Edina with a glass from his family’s own New Zealand vineyard, Sileni Estates.

When Nigel and Shelley Avery and their three daughters, Blaise, 11, and 7-year-old twins Hunter and Neve, moved from New Zealand to Edina in 2013, they were unsure what to expect. Like many new homeowners, Nigel and Shelley hoped to connect with their neighbors, so they invited a few over to sample some wine. The wine was from Sileni Estates, a New Zealand winery owned by Nigel Avery’s family. Avery is CEO of Sileni Estates USA.

It seems the worldwide wine business is going well for Sileni Estates, a vineyard located near Hawke’s Bay and named after a mythical being often associated with wine and merriment. Avery’s father developed Sileni Estates in 1997. The brand has since grown its exports to over 80 countries around the world and now seeks to expand its presence to the United States.

That’s where Avery comes in—a man with an interesting back story in his own right. Avery was first recognized for his accomplishments as a competitive triple-jumper. But an injury prevented him from advancing in track and field. Undeterred, Avery would later join the New Zealand bobsled team. While training as a bobsledder, he met a group of weight-lifters at the gym and became interested in that sport. The interest would lead Avery to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and medals in the Commonwealth Games in both 1998 and 2002 as a competitive weight-lifter.

The athlete would eventually become an accountant. And in 2008, his father invited him to join the team at Sileni Estates and prepare to one day take over the business. The transition led Avery and his wife (also an accomplished triple-jumper) to Minnesota where the company’s U.S. importer and distributer are located. “I kept asking people where in the Twin Cities we should live,” says Avery. The city on everybody’s list was Edina.

“Edina has been very supportive,” Avery says. New Zealand wines are currently booming in the United States and the idea of a family-owned business resonates with Edina wine drinkers.

Sileni Estates offers several wine varieties, but the best seller is their sauvignon blanc. Edina Magazine’s expert sommelier Leslee Miller says, “When I think fresh, fun and zippy in the wine world, I think of sauvignon blanc. Often erupting with notes of bright grapefruit and cut green grass, New Zealand’s sauvis are fresh, inviting and explosive.” Avery says the Sileni Estates sauvignon blanc is a refreshing summer drink. “It’s fresh, fruity and crisp. It pairs really well with seafood, sushi and light cheeses. Even those who aren’t wine experts ‘get it,’ ” Avery says.

Another cool product for summer is the Sileni Estates Nano, a single serving of wine in a recyclable plastic bottle, complete with its own cup. They are easy to pack and perfect for picnics or camping trips. Ask for them the next time you’re wine shopping.

The Avery family might soon head back home to New Zealand, but they’ve loved their time getting to know the people of Edina. “Sileni Estates is about celebrating with good food and good wine with good people,” says Avery. Given that, we’d have to say the Averys picked the perfect place to live these past three years.


Look for Sileni Estates wines at Edina Liquor or on wine lists at local restaurants such as Pittsburgh Blue.