Hawke’s Bay winemaker Kate Radburnd was preparing for her 41st consecutive vintage when Cyclone Gabrielle struck.
The cyclone flooded and severely damaged her winery, Radburnd Cellars in Bay View, and has meant the experienced winemaker won’t be making wine this season.
“This last month has been chaotic, and lots of dealings with insurance,” Radburnd said.
“For me, a priority is to try and work out where we are going to find a new home for the winery.”
Amid the losses, the support people had shown her business had been astounding.
Radburnd now has a pop-up cellar door for her wines at the Hastings i-Site, with the backing of Hastings District Council, from Wednesdays to Saturdays through to the end of April.
Fortunately, much of her wine was stored off-site and able to be sold.
“With the winery, all our packaging, the wine stock that was there, and all our equipment and refrigeration plant was under water.”
Other wineries in areas like Esk Valley, Bay View and Puketapu - well-known chardonnay regions - suffered similar devastation and face a mammoth task to recover and rebuild.
Radburnd said one of the best ways to support wineries hit hard was simply buying their wine, which can also be done online.
The wider Hawke’s Bay wine industry is also trying to help its own, and a Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Charitable Trust Relief Fund has raised over $160,000.
Before the cyclone, winemakers were already facing a challenging 2023 wine season, as a wet and cool summer preceded the grape harvest, which is now in full swing.
Radburnd said it was difficult to say exactly how that weather would impact this year’s vintage, but some companies may decide against releasing top-end wines.
“I would not be surprised if some wines weren’t made and that is purely because of the season,” she said. “But each winery will make their own decision on that.”
Experienced Hawke’s Bay winemaker John Hancock, from Hancock and Sons, is helping Radburnd at the i-Site pop-up.
“It’s been a difficult season anyway without the cyclone,” he said.
“It was a damp summer and you really need that heat to pull things through.”
The cyclone’s arrival before the grape harvest was “about the worst possible time” for wineries, but the industry was resilient.
“It will make life difficult for people but the wine industry is a funny industry.
“People have to be dragged out kicking and screaming - people very rarely leave the industry.
“Probably, if it was other industries, people would walk away, but for whatever reason, people just love being in the wine industry.”
Hancock and Sons wines are also available at the pop-up store in Hastings i-Site.
Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers chair Sally Duncan said the majority of vineyards were busy picking grapes.
“We want to assure wine lovers that Hawke’s Bay is open for business and invite you to come and visit our beautiful region and enjoy the distinctive varieties and wines you know and love.”
Radburnd Cellars was established in 2018 but Radburnd has worked at various wineries in the Bay for decades.