A Central Otago wine pioneer has bought an historic Queenstown woolshed to house his new history-inspired label.
Queenstowner Greg Hay - a co-founder of the well-known Chard Farm and Peregrine brands - has named his label Wet Jacket after an arm in Fiordland’s Dusky Sound.
Wet Jacket Arm was named by New Zealand’s first major Western explorer, Captain James Cook, in 1773.
Hay hadn’t remotely thought of opening a cellar door till three months ago - when he found a restored 1870s woolshed, off Queenstown’s Lake Hayes highway, was on the market.
Within a week, he bought The Woolshed at Bendemeer from England-based Kiwi Alistair Jeffery, whose high-end Bendemeer rural-residential subdivision lies just beyond.
Hay says: “As far as brand alignment goes, it was a no-brainer.
“The Wet Jacket brand probably wouldn’t feel quite at home in a modern facility, whereas for me it so niches in with an old historic building.”
Original Bendemeer developers Ross Allan and Richmond Paynter put a function venue into the woolshed in 2005, which Hay says is ideal as a cellar door.
“The bones of one of the most iconic cellar doors in NZ are already there.
“The big asset is it’s a discovery when you walk inside - it’s kind of like a Tardis, it’s not what you think.”
He hopes he’ll open for wine tastings with platters late next month or early February.
Eventually he hopes to have a small commercial kitchen serving the likes of crayfish, whitebait and venison.
Hay’s had a 28-year involvement with the local wine industry. He remains a Peregrine shareholder and director.
His new boutique label comprises a pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and rose sourced from three sites around Cromwell, and made by former Peregrine winemaker Peter Bartell.
Besides displaying his wines, he’s also stocking paintings and books from early Fiordland.
Hay’s co-owned a Fiordland charter boat for 14 years and has a keen interest in both the area’s history and its birdlife - a trustee of the Fiordland Conservation Trust, he says the region’s home to some of NZ’s rarest birds.
“A lot of people think that early NZ history was up in the North Island. It wasn’t at all, it was actually down in the south fiords.”
He admits it’s an irony naming a label after an area that’s probably 250 kilometres from any grapes.
“But it doesn’t have to be - it means something to me and what the story is.”