When we bought Moores Hill in 2008, there was a vineyard and cellar door but nowhere to crush grapes and make wine. The previous owners had the wine made under contract at an off site winery, a common practice throughout the industry and very common in Tasmania.
But after years of sharing winery space and having wine made under contract, it was time for winemaker Julian Allport to build his own winery.
A false start
Not only did we want to become independent, there is also significant cost in contract winemaking year after year. In 2015 we embarked on building our own winery. We prepared the site- there’s not a lot of flat ground at Moores Hill so substantial excavation was needed. We poured a slab, a big slab. And we ordered a shed, just a simple shed from a local shed company.
But after months of delays, alarm bells started ringing. A news report alerted us to the fact that the shed company had gone into liquidation. We discovered there were hundreds of customers like us who had paid for sheds that hadn’t been delivered. It was a scam. We felt sick, there were tears but there was nothing to be done. We lodged claim documents, went to creditor meetings but it became clear that we wouldn't be getting our money back.
A new chapter for Moores Hill
We’d known Tim and Sheena High of Native Point Wines as we’d been buying some fruit from them for several years. They had planted 5 hectares of vines at Swan Bay on the eastern bank of the Tamar River in 1999. They were living overseas at the time and planned to retire permanently to Tasmania and run their wine business. Sheena was a trained viticulturist and oversaw the vineyard which had plantings of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Tim’s corporate career had taken him all over the world and his retirement plans kept being deferred. Like us, they were frustrated by high costs of being a small producer in Tasmania, always reliant on others to process and bottle wine.
As two small producers, it made sense to collaborate. We eventually agreed they would purchase a share of Moores Hill and we would join forces on fruit production, sales & marketing and two significant projects: a bottling line and a winery.
The Winery Project Revived
While a kit shed would provide a more than adequate winery, we decided that a custom designed building would not only deliver a superior aesthetic result but provide an opportunity to showcase our wines in a more engaging way, beyond a cellar door experience.
We engaged Joel Fletcher of Simplicity Studio to design the winery building. Joel’s ethos appealed to us- beautiful buildings that function well and have minimal environmental impact.
The brief was to create a functional building with the flexibility to run a 100 tonne capacity winery. The winery is the first built structure visitors see when they approach at Moores Hill so it needed to impress. We liked the idea of using simple and authentic materials in keeping with the rural surrounds.
We also wanted a building that could open out onto a public space so that visitors could see and experience the inner workings of the winery.
Our bottling line and wine storage are located at the Native Point site at Swan Bay making the Moores Hill site entirely devoted to fruit processing and barrel storage.
The silvery tones of zincalume are used throughout the building with touches of Tasmanian Oak. There is a focus on natural lighting with translucent polycarbonate on the upper walls and open timber screens on three enormous sliding steel framed doors. The doors let in light & air whilst allowing visitors to peer in. We wanted to expose the inner workings of winemaking.
Our builders, d2 Spaces worked with us to select materials and create the important finishing details.
The ceiling is high enough to accommodate tanks and barrel stacks, giving the winery an almost cathedral-like feel. Big buildings can look monolithic so the design resolves this by exposing all of the structural elements which breaks the scale of the building down.
An 11 metre long timber deck takes advantage of the elevated aspect over the vineyard with views out to Mount Barrow in the distance. A timber slatted awning overhead relates the building back to a more human scale and provides a stage for group tastings, winery tours, functions and events.
Tasmania’s first off grid, solar powered winery
Energy supply and renewable energy is a hot topic of discussion these days. Rising energy costs for business, ageing infrastructure and Tasmania’s 2016 energy crisis were in our minds when considering power options for our new winery.
Winery equipment requires three phase power which meant we needed to upgrade the existing single phase electricity connection to the property. We explored the conventional option which involved digging a trench and laying cable through the vineyard, under the cellar door and through the car park to provide power to the winery. Yes, it is as expensive as it sounds.
A solar powered solution, while 20% more expensive to install, was far cheaper to run year after year with the added satisfaction of using a renewable energy source to power our business.
The winery has an intensive power need at vintage time when equipment like a press, pressure washer and pumps are being used heavily for 3-4 months. Processing fruit quickly and temperature control are important. Could solar power deliver the energy and the reliability required?
We engaged Mode Electrical, a renewable energy specialist based in Launceston to design and implement the solution. Mode had a solid track record in delivering solar powered systems. Most impressive was a project completed in remote South Sudan where a large hospital that previously had unreliable power was connected with solar by Mode Electrical. The system could be monitored and managed from Australia.
Our winery system uses a 28kW solar array, comprised of 108 solar panels. The panels cover the winery roof. We have the ability to store power with a total battery capacity of 81kW hours using high-performance gel batteries.
Outside of vintage time, surplus solar power generated at the winery can be fed to the cellar door where we run fridges, glass washer, lighting etc.
Beyond the winery, solar is also used to power the bottling line and storage area at the Swan Bay site. The on site residence at Moores Hill also uses solar power.
Should the sun fail to shine or problems with the system arise that can’t be fixed quickly, we have the option to plug in a 3 phase diesel generator to power the winery. Hopefully we don’t need to use it. We're looking forward to making wine powered by the sun.
Watch this space and our social media channels for updates. There’s plenty Moore to come!