Going above and beyond for customer service: making wine with a real story

A note left in a winery guestbook inspired a years-long friendship and a Kiwi wine named after an American traveller. Journalist Eleanor Danenberg talked to the key players involved, Geoff Weston and Courtney Windju, to learn more.

New Zealander Geoff Weston owns the world’s most southern winery. It’s even authenticated by the Guinness book of world records. Dunedin’s Weston Winery (est. 1990) has another remarkable story behind it: the time winemaker Geoff Weston named a wine after a stranger. Why? Because she had left a note in the winery guestbook asking him to. You can’t make this stuff up.

Courtney Windju is from Sandpoint, Idaho. She studied abroad in New Zealand and ended up living there for a year-and-a-half. Windju visited Weston Winery one evening in September 2014 with a group and left a note in the guestbook saying, “Hi! My name is Courtney Windju. Name a wine after me, please! I will change the world one day”. Windju looks back and laughs, “talk about bold; I must’ve been feeling it with a little liquid courage on my side!”

Weston says upon meeting Windju that evening, she was instantly a memorable person: “so positive, so bloody nice and full of raw enthusiasm”. He discovered the note in the guestbook the following morning and decided to oblige, unbeknown to Windju. She was so struck with Weston Winery that she brought her mother and sister to visit when they joined her in New Zealand a few months later. Windju and Weston kept in touch after she left New Zealand and travelled through Europe before returning home to the States.

Eight months after that fateful winery visit, Weston surprised the American with the Courtney Windju Pinot Noir, a 2014 vintage. Weston says the story is a crowd-pleaser, as winery visitors enquire about the unique name of the wine or ask who the face on the label belongs to.

“The moment they have it in their hand, you tell the story and soon enough the wine was selling.”

Windju returned for another trip to New Zealand in late 2018 and she and Weston caught up. They enjoyed many chats and of course a few glasses of the Courtney Windju Pinot.

Windju says living in New Zealand was an “incredibly transformational and liberating time” in her life, and therefore it’s important for her to remain connected with her Kiwi community.

Windju maintains what’s more important and special than having a bottle of wine named after her is the importance of human connection: she lives by the ethos of “live each day with an open heart, a smile on your face and exuding goodness to others. Going (and returning to) the place(s) where we feel at home. Bringing a constant flow of gratitude to those people and places”.

Weston wanted to bottle a bit of that message and share it with the world.


Geoff Weston and Courtney Windju.


This article was originally published in the April issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker magazine. To subscribe, click here.