Hawke’s Bay Wine Company

Combining the love of wine and business

  • Rod-MacDonald-Wines-web

    Rod McDonald, fantastic contract winemaker; not so flash on spreadsheets!

Rod McDonald is a familiar face in the Hawke’s Bay wine industry and has been a central figure in the region’s wine story since he moved here from Hamilton in 1993.

Rod’s Hawke’s Bay wine career began in the cellar at Vidal, a winery he would remain with for the following 13 years until 2006, when he left to launch his own company, Rod McDonald Wines.

In 2012, Rod and business partner Mike Farrugia launched the Hawke’s Bay Wine Company (HBWC), a contract winemaking business.  By mid-2013, HBWC had outgrown its premises at the former Matariki winery in Hastings, and was looking for a new home.

“The Pernod Ricard winery in Pandora became available to purchase after the multi-national rationalised its Hawke’s Bay operations.  BLK Vintners purchased the site and HBWC was established to operate the winery and develop a much larger winemaking services business,” explains Rod.

The HBWC doesn’t own vineyards, nor does it own wine labels, instead focusing on its core business of contract winemaking to a range of clients, including Rod’s own brands Te Awanga Estate, Two Gates, Quarter Acre and One-Off, and others including Frizzell Wines and Osawa Wines.  A staff of eight swells to eighteen during vintage, with Rod as CEO and chief winemaker.

The Thames Street winery is impressively large.  It can hold 8.7 million litres of wine and has the capability to crush up to 10,000 tonnes of fruit.  “It’s a modern, specific-use facility.  Many potential buyers were daunted by its scale, but for us it was an opportunity to grow our business without having to worry about funding expansion later.  It was a challenge initially though, moving into the building in August 2013, and crushing our first vintage six months later!”

With a new facility and a new business to manage, it was clear the complexity of the business would need more robust financial management.

“Two years ago I spent lots of time grappling with spreadsheets – adding sheets and ‘copying and pasting’ as new clients came on board, but as the complexity and scale of HBWC grew, the reporting and planning needed to change,” says Rod.

That change was expedited by an introduction to Michael Ward and Dan Druzianic at Moore Stephens Markhams in 2013.

“We needed more comprehensive financial systems and more rigour around forecasting and the way we were reporting.  Taking on an external shareholder meant it was more important than ever to have excellent governance and systems,” explains Rod.

Michael is HBWC’s ‘virtual CFO’, taking care of the forecasting, monthly reports and preparation of the financials.  Although Rod and his team do their own GST, tax and payroll using Xero and other software systems, they rely on Michael for the bulk of their financial management.

“He’s brilliant,” says Rod.  “As a new start-up new business, the accuracy we now have with our monthly reporting and forecasting is fantastic.”

Moore Stephens Markhams Hawkes Bay director Dan Druzianic is also the Chairman of HBWC’s board, a position Rod says is proving to be incredibly valuable to the company.

“Anyone involved in a 50:50 shareholding knows there’s always the potential for tensions to develop.  Dan has a great manner along with the commercial experience to manage expectations with a healthy dose of pragmatism.”


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