Fiona Weller and Julian Allport didn’t set out to create a solar-powered winery.
But as they picked and processed their first vintages of the season last week, that’s exactly what they’ve achieved.
It was a journey that began in 2015, Ms Weller said.
Since the couple bought the West Tamar vineyard in 2008, their final product was made via contract at an off-site winery.
It’s a common practice in Tasmania, Ms Weller said.
“But we got to a stage where we really wanted to be independent, and it’s also quite costly to have your wine made under contract.”
They began clearing their undulating site, preparing to erect a shed that would eventually become their winery’s home.
However, the company that they brought the shed from “went bust”, resulting in them losing their shed and their money.
The project was on hold for 12 months, but it turned out to be a fortuitous outcome.
They found new business partners in Sheena and Tim High, of Native Point Wines, on the other side of the Tamar River.
Like Moores Hill, Native Point Wines was producing its wine under contract.
It also had an excess of fruit. Moores Hill had a shortage of land on which to grow more fruit.
“They were looking for a winemaker, they didn’t have a cellar door … There were all these synergies were we could work together,” Ms Weller said.
The Highs bought out Ms Weller’s father’s part of the estate, and came on board as partners.
The project was back on.
In September last year, construction was in full swing.
"We got to a stage where we really wanted to be independent
While the winery was built and installed at Moores Hill, Native Point Wines at Swan Bay was the new home of a bottling line and storage area.
Ms Weller said there were “really limited” options when it came to the bottling process in Tasmania’s wine industry, with few companies offering the services.
“It’s literally a bottleneck,” she said.
The off-grid aspect of the project came as the team began to look at powering the winery, which would require three-phase power.
Initial discussions and quotes showed that it would be expensive, no matter which way they looked at it.
But the most appealing appearance was solar, especially after they spoke to other like-sized wineries about their out-going power costs.
Ms Weller said that while the initial output to install solar power was more expensive, it would pay for itself after five years.
The winery now boasts 108 solar panels, which produce 28 kilowatt solar array, and batteries that can store up to 81 kilowatts of surplus power, some of which will go on to power the cellar door at times.
Now that the infrastructure is in place, it’s time get down to the real business – making wine.
“We just started vintage, and have had two parcels of fruit come in,” Ms Weller said.
“We had the kids in the winery yesterday, they got to see how it’s all done.”
That experiential element to a cellar door is something that Ms Weller said she was looking forward to exploring and sharing with visitors.
The winery’s shed was designed to be open, and full of light, with sliding, wooden-slatted doors that will still allow visitors to see what’s going on, even if they’re closed.
“We’re looking at how to design a tourism product around that,” Ms Weller said.
Behind the doors, Mr Allport is finally practicing his craft in his own space.
A winemaker for 15 years, Mr Allport said the on-site equipment allowed him to have “more control” over the process.
“We just want to stay boutique, maxing out at 100 tonnes [a season],” he said.
The estate’s move to an on-site, off-grid winery has not gone unnoticed.
Ms Weller said they had already received phone calls from vineyards and wineries interstate, who were keen to know how their project was coming along.
She said that while many wineries had solar power, it was usually just supplementary – not self-sustaining.
It’s also the wine drinkers who are responding warmly.
“The response from customers has been really positive,” Ms Weller said.
“There is frustration that we’re [as a country] are not using more renewable energy in Australia. So there are customers who are happy that they can buy a product that uses renewable energy.”
While the partners are happy with what they’ve achieved so far, they’re still looking to the future.
“We’re looking into what we need to do to achieve certification… [There are a lot of things] you can do to become carbon neutral.” Ms Weller said.