Junction Wines | Family rules in this wine and farm business

Junction Wines | Family rules in this wine and farm business

The combination of farming and viticulture on John and Jo Ashworth’s rural property in Takapau, Central Hawke’s Bay, sounds like a Sunday roast. Beef, sheep, peas and wine are the main ingredients on their 364-hectare block, which they established more than 30 years ago.

The couple moved from Canterbury to Hawke’s Bay in the mid-1980s and seven years after arriving, decided to plant a vineyard. John, a former All Black front rower, discovered a love for Pinot Noir when served a glass on tour in France, describing it as having “gone to his toes”.

Located at the junction of State Highways 2 and 50 on the Takapau Plains, the 25-acre vineyard is marked with a roadside steel sculpture and is where the Ashworths grow Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer for their label, Junction Wines.

The Ashworth’s farm is very much a family affair, with John and Jo’s sons Leith, Shay and Tyler involved in the decision making and running of the business.

“It’s a very collaborative model, with everyone in the family making decisions collectively, whether it’s when to pick the grapes or what crop to plant. We operate very transparently, and everyone is open to each other’s suggestions and input,” says Jo.

Leith is a qualified winemaker, currently working at The Wine Portfolio in Maraekakaho and takes care of Junction’s winemaking. Tyler is a commercial banker in Hastings and Shay a rural banker in Palmerston North, both helping with the management of the farm and wine businesses.

Jo spends her mornings on the farm before opening Junction’s cellar door in the afternoon. “I do the stock management and John also helps if I need him. Mostly though, he’s involved with the vineyard jobs like spraying. And we both work in the cellar door.”

Jo says the Junction cellar door is “unique” as it is set in their home. “It’s friendly and relaxing – visitors really enjoy coming to a home rather than a winery. We sit them down and take them through a tasting tailored to their preferences. It’s a very personal approach.”

With John being a former All Black, with 24 tests under his belt, rugby references abound. There is a room full of his All Black memorabilia and the theme carries over to the wines, with references to the sport in their names – there’s ‘Corner Post Chardonnay’, ‘Side Step Gewurztraminer’ and even a ‘Red Card Pinot Gris’.

Working with the Ashworth family is Moore Markhams Hawke’s Bay director Ben Gilmour. “We needed someone who could work across the farm and the wine businesses and who could also help us with succession planning. Ben was that person and he is amazingly good,” says Jo.

While Ben oversees the family’s accounts in conjunction with Tyler, it is the business advisory Ben provides that Jo says is invaluable.

“We all have the confidence to ask Ben for advice – no question. He works with other customers in the wine industry and we feel that his broad knowledge helps our business. We have total faith in him.”

With Jo and John approaching retirement age, the conversation has begun about the future of the farm and the winery.

“We’re keeping an open mind and the family is receptive to all ideas on the table. We agree we would like to keep growing the business, whether that is expanding the wine or the farming side. We have more land available for farming or we have the option of buying more grapes or setting up our own winery. Whatever we do we will strive for quality rather than quantity.”