Building a business on the back of top-performing wines, Dan Barker appreciates the pluses of surrounding himself with a well-qualified team.
A passionate winemaker, Dan and wife Kaylea own Moana Park, a boutique winery with a reputation for its low allergen, environmentally friendly wines.
After gaining a Bachelor of Science (Computing), Dan ran restaurants in Auckland where he was always around wine. Wanting something more hands-on, he moved to what he dubs “the fine wine capital of New Zealand” – Hawke’s Bay.
Dan studied for his Bachelor of Wine Science degree at EIT while working vintages at wineries around the region. In 2003, he was awarded the Young Winemaker of the Year trophy at the Hawke’s Bay A & P Show and started work soon after at Moana Park.
Kaylea, who graduated from EIT with a Bachelor of Business Studies was already dating Dan when she joined the winery team. The pair married and bought the business in 2008.
Since then, production has increased tenfold, the winery has been extended to include a newly-purchased bottling line, planting is continuing apace and plans include building an accommodation for international visitors.
Dan is intolerant of sulphides, a common additive in the winemaking process. “I sneeze like a little girl,” he says, “and my eyes get itchy.” That’s one of the reasons Moana Park has gone down the low allergen pathway.
Handcrafting wines without the use of additives calls for a savvy team. As Dan points out: “It’s about making wine with grapes and only grapes.”
Moana Park employs 12 staff and most are EIT-educated. The winery is located in scenic Puketapu, and Dan says they are lucky to be only six kilometres “down the road” from the tertiary educator in Taradale.
“We have a really good relationship with EIT. Having been students there ourselves, we find it really easy to fill vacant or newly-created positions. We host wine science and viticulture student visits and every year we have at least one or two working vintage here.
“Our business couldn’t survive without EIT,” he says. “We wouldn’t have the skilled staff we need to achieve our growth targets.”