Moana a marriage of like minds
Next year, it will be a decade since Dan and Kaylea Barker took the leap and got married. That same year was momentous for other reasons as well – they bought Moana Park Winery at Puketapu Road, Napier.
However, vintner Dan’s association with Moana Park extends back four years earlier when he took up the role of head-winemaker at the estate.
“When I started back at the end of 2004 the vineyard was not producing fine wines.
My passion is to craft beautiful wine and when Kaylea and I bought the business that’s what we set about achieving,” Dan says.
Never interested in the mass-produced wine market, the couple have steadily evolved a range of red, white, and a rose wine available directly from the winery and specialist wine stores throughout the country.
“50 per cent of our volume goes offshore to China, United States, the UK, Canada and Australia.
China is our largest market with our Whale Islands Range made expressly in conjunction with the NZ seafood company ‘Future Cuisine’ to suit the Chinese palate to meet their insatiable demand for top New Zealand wine.”
The couple have deliberately developed a range of wines and expanded their grape growing operation beyond the original 15 hectare Puketapu site.
“We were fortunate to acquire land on Gimblett Road to increase our growing area and now have 30 hectares in vines.
This region grows superb quality grapes and our wine production methods are tuned around simply allowing the fruit to ferment naturally, with no added sugars or animal-derived fining agents.
As a result, our vintages reflect each specific season and harvest,” says Dan.
A key to success in the competitive wine producing industry, where per bottle margins are very small, is to create multiple income streams and the couple have set about doing this, by providing on-line purchasing options and a busy cellar door across their range of wines, including the Estate Series, Single Vineyard Reserve and Vintage Project.
When Business North Central spoke with Dan, the Vintage Project 2015 Viognier was just about to be bottled.
This wine is only made in tiny quantities each year from one varietal that has been outstanding in that vintage, in recognition of that “special” excellence. It carries a unique label.
This year Dan describes the 2015 wine as really creamy and high volume in terms of fruit content.
Weddings also help with the all important bottom line and are held, in the beautiful large gardens of the winery – limited to five a year they are tailored to individual requirements with customers being able to choose their own caterers, music, and exactly how they want it to be.
“We’re one of the busier cellars and we have achieved 5 stars with Trip Advisor every year since 2013 – I think that reflects our easy, laid back approach to presenting our wines to visitors,” Dan explains.
Before first working at Moana Park, then buying the business, he had several years overseas, working in wineries where he honed his craft and developed his passion.
Those years offered opportunities for Dan to experiment with grape varieties grown in different climates.
“You are always looking to improve on past performance and you are learning more and more about how plants behave with a view to optimising production yields.”
The couple are also serious about working in sustainable, nature-friendly ways when growing and managing their vines.
Dan calls it precision viticulture – using spray equipment for example that is directed specifically at the vine, rather than spraying out large volumes into the air and by planting the right varieties in the soil to attract the ‘good bugs’.
When asked about the vision propelling Moana Park forward Dan’s answer is disarmingly simple and focussed.
“We want to retain our integrity, our commitment to high quality and doing all we can to add value to the land.
We’re not interested in large-scale volumes and we look to source the best varieties from around New Zealand to ensure these grapes reflect the best varietal characteristics.”