Like many Kiwis, when he was younger Cleighten chose to travel to Europe during his gap year. Fuelled by a desire to see what was on the other side of the world; and an innate sense of adventure and fun, Cleighten certainly made the most of his time. He had the salubrious honour of playing cricket for the Bunbury Cricket Club – the world’s number one celebrity cricket team. He lays claim to sharing bats with the likes of British Prime Minister John Major, Jamaican cricketer Michael Holding and European footballer Gary Lineker as well as meeting the last remaining Bee Gee.
Having discovered the joys of travelling, it was only fitting that when he returned to New Zealand to his university studies, he chose a career which would ensure more travel in the future. Cleighten completed his Bachelor in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University and again set off to the northern hemisphere to work vintages in France (Chambolle-Musigny), Germany (Rheingau) and Cyprus.
Returning to his hometown of Marlborough, with world class experience under his belt, Cleighten initially worked at Allan Scott as Winemaker, before joining the Mud House team in 2012.
After a decade of winemaking, Cleighten’s core focus remains unchanged, “to make the best wine possible!” He believes learning is the key, both experimentally and from others. Having a job where you only get one chance a year to perfect your art, means that winemaking remains challenging and a continual evolving process.
Cleighten and his wife Caroline are very proud of their young family (three daughters!). He spends his time enjoying the outdoor lifestyle which is synonymous with life in the South Island of New Zealand. Camping, fishing and playing cricket in a local “serious/social” club team, along with brewing craft beer and picking up the guitar when time permits. When you meet Cleighten you can still see the spark of the young traveller with a wicked sense of humour that once played cricket with the PM of the UK and other sporting legends.