E-commerce transforms Waimate winery
Ann and Gary Dennison at Point Bush Ecosanctuary, which is funded through online sales from their business, Point Bush Wines.
Embracing the world of e-commerce has transformed boutique family-run business, Point Bush Wines, located in the Hunter Hills near Waimate.
For over a decade, Gary and Ann Dennison sold award-winning wine through a cellar door at their property. Following a “paddock to palate” approach, between 2002 and 2014 the vineyard was stocked with Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, producing hand-crafted vintages from 2006 to 2016.
As the couple approached retirement age, they considered how to continue selling the vast catalogue of wines in storage, while reducing the more demanding aspects of operating a cellar door.
With a background in design and marketing, daughter, Rose Tautari, began building a successful social media platform and e-commerce business which enabled Gary and Ann to close the cellar door, and, most importantly, to continue running the operation they valued so much.
“As a small family business, we weren’t in a position to manage a cellar door but were determined to keep the business flourishing. It’s really been awesome to embrace the modern approach,” Rose explains.
Closing the cellar door has also enabled the family to expand a large-scale conservation project which began with planting a 90-hectare hillside block 30 years ago.
The vision for Point Bush Ecosanctuary is to encourage native birds and flora to flourish in South Canterbury. Recently, Ann and Gary formed a trust to gift the forest and public trails for future generations to enjoy.
Rose describes the Ecosanctuary project as providing another point of difference for the transition process from winery to conservation guardianship of the land with all profits from online wine sales going towards the project.
“We’re really passionate about protecting the environment and our customers are too. It’s a good feeling when you buy quality wine and know that 100 per cent of the profit is going towards something positive to improve the environment.
“Our focus for the next two years includes removing invasive pest plants and animals, fencing and a predator trapping programme.”
Another point of difference for the business is their model of selling older vintages which follows the European style, where wines are sold for a lot longer than in the New Zealand wine market.
The winery focuses on the domestic market, because the costs of shipping overseas are too cost-prohibitive, with 75 per cent of orders coming from South Canterbury, and the rest from North Otago and further afield.
“We focus on being local. For smaller, boutique wineries it’s really challenging to compete with household names and supermarkets. We dipped our toe in the water supplying to bigger outlets but went away from that. We decided to create our own outlet via our e-commerce site.”
In the earlier days of the business, the winery set up a website, realising that an online presence was important considering their location, and a lot of time was spent attending regional events and farmers’ markets.
Thanks to a wireless connection via the Waimate Community Wireless Trust initiative, business and communication is more efficient now with higher speed internet and a reliable service.
Point Bush’s social media communication tells the brand story via Facebook and Instagram postings. Rose’s engaging posts are designed to drive traffic back to the website, which also features the “Point Bush Biome” a blog about everything from the Ecosanctuary biosphere.
Both Gary and Ann are still heavily involved in the operation, with Gary and Ann taking care of the in-person marketing and coordination of wine orders received online alongside being trust chair and secretary respectively. Rose is trust secretary and handles public relations for Point Bush alongside the website, online marketing and social media.
Sharing stories of the people behind the wine, progress updates on the Ecosanctuary and the scenic beauty of the local region remains the driving force behind the business.
“People buy from people at the end of the day, so we use a lot of photos of the surrounding area and focus on the people behind the brand.”