Named after Wet Jacket Arm in Dusky Sound, Fiordland National Park, the boutique label will have four varieties – pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and rosé – sourced from grapes grown around Cromwell and made by winemaker Peter Bartell from Vinpro.
Hay bought the Woolshed from Bendemeer developers Mount Farm Ventures Limited in October 2015. The Woolshed is one of the Wakatipu’s oldest farm buildings and is positioned at the gateway to the rural residential development. Built in the mid-1800s as a Scottish croft, and later added to to create a 1950s shearing quarters, it was converted to an elegant space for private functions, events, conferences and meetings in 2005 by Bendemeer’s former developers.
Hay, who has a strong connection with Fiordland National Park as a skipper for Fiordland Charters and is a member of the Fiordland Conservation Trust, had been planning to create the new label and release it to retail, trade and restaurants. But when the sale of The Woolshed came up, the concept of a cellar door became apparent.
“It’s always nice for a wine to have a home, and as far as brand alignment goes, it was a no-brainer for me to buy the Bendemeer Woolshed,” Hay explains.
“Wet Jacket Arm and Dusky Sound is a place of true early New Zealand history. It was discovered by Captain Cook in 1773. Dusky Sound is where the first house in NZ was built, and where the first beer was made. Wet Jacket Arm is also the last place the elusive moose was seen in this area.
“There is so much synergy between the Wet Jacket wine label concept and the Bendemeer Woolshed. The building is a beautiful juxtaposition of history with contemporary elements. The brand just wouldn’t fit in harmony in a modern facility,” Hay says.
Hay plans to open the Wet Jacket Cellar Door in late January or early February. He hopes to eventually have a small commercial kitchen to support his vision of serving modern, casual cuisine that fits with his “hunter-gatherer” interests – including serving crayfish, whitebait and venison.
Mount Farm Ventures Ltd project manager Sarah Cairns says: “We are delighted to see The Woolshed pass into the hands of someone who is such an integral part of the Wakatipu basin, who is passionate about not only the property but also the surrounding land and what Bendemeer represents. I know Greg will be warmly welcomed by the friends and residents of Bendemeer as a pivotal part of the property.”
“We felt that the timing was right to put the Woolshed on the market, and to see someone take over this beautiful property and deliver a strong business model for was important to us. We have had strong interest in the Woolshed over the years and we are delighted to see the Wet Jacket Cellar Door become an integral part of Bendemeer and making it the destination it has always deserved to be.”
There will be minimal work required to convert the building into a cellar door, Hay says. “The bones of one of the most iconic cellar doors in New Zealand are already there. I don’t have to do too much to the facility – I just have to put my stamp on it.”
Wet Jacket’s first release is just under 2000 cases across the four varieties. The pinot noir and chardonnay are a 2014 vintage and the pinot gris and rosé are from a 2015 vintage.
Hay, a trained viticulturist who has spent the latter part of his 28 years in the industry in wine sales and marketing, remains a shareholder and director of Peregrine for the time being.
“I’m really excited about getting outside and getting my hands dirty again,” he says. “It’s great to have been involved with two iconic Central Otago wine brands but I feel now it’s time for me to do my own thing. I’m going to have a lot of fun.”
The sale of The Woolshed is one of several sales in 2015 at Bendemeer, Queenstown’s premier rural residential lifestyle development. Rapid sales over the past year mean only eight sites currently remain available out of the original 42 lots, which sit within 130 hectares of rolling pastureland.