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Construction begins on The Old Winery

An artist’s impression of The Old Winery development. IMAGE/SUPPLIED

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Construction has begun on The Old Winery development in Martinborough, employing more than 150 people.

Once completed, the development will house three of Foley Wines’ brands: Te Kairanga wines, Martinborough Vineyard wines, and Lighthouse Gin.

Foley Wines chief executive officer Mark Turnbull hoped the development would be “an icon in the region”.

The water used to make Lighthouse Gin was sourced from the springs at Wharekauhau.

Likewise, The Old Winery’s restaurant would focus on local produce. It was also looking for a chef who wanted to be a part of the community, Turnbull said.

The number of full-time staff would depend on whether the development would be open for evenings or only during the day.

It was also hard to estimate the number employed given the unpredictability of New Zealand’s tourism sector in the coming years, Turnbull said. However, Mount Difficulty – a Foley brand based in Central Otago – typically employed around 15 people at its cellar door and restaurant.

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen described Foley Wines as “a key contributor to our economy”.

Turnbull said the tourist numbers attracted by The Old Winery would spill over into the region, with accommodation providers benefiting.

“We sincerely hope that what we’re doing will give people more reasons to come and visit Wairarapa.”

Construction on The Old Winery has begun. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Construction would occur in three stages: an underground barrel facility was planned for completion in March, Lighthouse Gin’s new distillery would be fully operational in August, and The Old Winery’s cellar door and restaurant would open in December.

“Naturally, the gods can play a part,” Turnbull said. “But that’s certainly what we’re working towards.”

A December opening would mean Foley Wines could capitalise on the holiday season and the number of tourists that brought to Martinborough.

“Fingers crossed we have overseas tourists again,” Turnbull said.

German manufacturer CARL – one of the oldest still-makers in the world – would be sending a still to the new Lighthouse distillery in three large components. The distillery would be built with the still as its centrepiece.

“You can imagine going into the tasting area, looking through glass and seeing this beautiful piece of art…this copper and steel still sitting there.”

Those who hoped to get a peek at Lighthouse Gin’s award-winning recipe would be out of luck. Distiller Rachel Hall would have privacy around this process, with the still being set before The Old Winery opened for business each day.

Turnbull said they had already imported their new bottling system from Italy: “That’s a piece of art in itself.”

This still and bottling system would be the same as those used by Australian distillery Four Pillars, which won the 2019 International Gin Producer of the Year award.

Lighthouse won a gold medal for its Batch Distilled Gin in the London Dry Gin category at the International Wine and Spirits Competition earlier this year.

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