Landmark winery and hospitality venue Ascension Wine Estate – on the market for sale by receivers.
Landmark winery and hospitality business in receivership sale
A pioneering winery and hospitality venue which went on to become one of New Zealand’s most award-winning wine and food businesses is on the market for sale by receivers.
Ascension Wine Estate at Matakana just north of Auckland was established in 1996 by husband and wife team Darryl and Bridget Soljan. Ascension was one of the earlier wineries planted in the valley – gateway to the upmarket coastal seaside resorts of Omaha and Leigh – and went onto become the biggest hospitality operator in the region.
Branching out from the original winery, Ascension quickly expanded to operate a large restaurant in 2000 before adding an additional 300-person function venue in the mid-2000s. Ascension’s various commercial activities employ 28 fulltime-equivalent staff – a number that swells to 45 employees over the Christmas/New Year holiday period when Omaha, Leigh, and Matakana holiday homes are at their peak occupancy levels.
The function centre and winery was originally marketed for sale in the middle of last year, but has subsequently been placed into receivership. The venue is still trading, with former owners Darryl and Bridget Soljan running the business under instructions from the receivers.
The Ascension Wine Estate land, buildings, hospitality business and winery/vineyard assets are is being marketed for sale through Bayleys Real Estate by Scott Kirk – with tenders closing on June 27.
Ascension Wine Estate is a four-time national winner at the Hospitality New Zealand Awards for Excellence, six-time winner at the local Manaakitanga Awards, awarded the New Zealand Beef & Lamb Hallmark of Excellence every year since 2004, and has received numerous other accolades in wine, food and lifestyle publications.
“To all intents and purposes, the business is running as usual, and is being sold with a substantial number of corporate and private function bookings already confirmed throughout the year and right up until Christmas and beyond,” Mr Kirk said.
“A number of concerts acts are also scheduled to perform at Ascension throughout the second half of 2013, and the receivers expectations are that those dates will be honoured should a new owner look to buy the business with that intention.”
Mr Kirk said the Ascension business benefitted from its diversity of multiple revenue streams – encompassing wine production, a restaurant operating all year round, a well-patronised wedding and function venue, corporate retreat amenities, and an entertainment venue which attracted huge crowds over the summer months.
“The wine production in particular benefits from being part of a vertically integrated business that sees Ascension booked virtually throughout the year. This business model ensures that Ascension’s events and wine production sell out directly to guests at the property or over the internet. The business has a special VIP database of more than 12,000 active customers,” he said.
“Ascension was a pioneer in Matakana in so many fields when it first opened, and as it subsequently grew and diversified. Over the past decade though, competition has sprung up on multiple fronts – there are now large concerts held at the Matakana showgrounds for example, other corporate retreats have opened up, and there are now far more dining options in the locality than ever before.
Ascension was a pioneer in Matakana in so many fields when it first opened, and it subsequently grew and diversified. It has been a successful and profitable business over most of the past decade, although in more recent times trading conditions have been tougher.
“ Many of the fundamentals are there for new owners to come in with a fresh set of eyes and new strategies for growing the intrinsically-linked strands of the brand – not only reinvigorating the existing service offering to a loyal database, but also looking toward new consumers.”
Ascension sits on 7.6 hectares of north-facing land on a highly prominent stretch of the main road into Matakana from Auckland. The land has four hectares planted in vines, surrounded by mature gardens and lawns.
Adjacent to the vines, the substantial restaurant and commercial kitchen are licensed for up to 120 guests – with additional open and covered courtyards allowing for several private functions to be catered for simultaneously. Entrance to the dining area is through the tasting room and retail shop.
The venue’s 710 square metre fully air-conditioned function centre, named The Belfry, can be configured into multiple spaces with the potential to host up to 300 guests in various seating styles, and features full audio-visual equipment. Within The Belfry is a VIP dining room suitable for intimate dining occasions of up to 20 people. Ascension’s total development comprises 2800 square metres.
Included in the land and business for sale is a small winemaker’s cottage set among the vines, and a large implement shed to house the equipment such as the tractor, vine trimmer, and mowers. The assets also include several hundred thousand dollars of wine stock from previous vintages, as well as this year’s harvest which is currently in tanks and vats.