Celebrating the Side Hustles – Chateau Garage

This story was written by Sophie Preece, for the April / May 2024 edition of New Zealand Winegrower.

An eye watering amount of work goes into starting, growing and balancing New Zealand’s myriad side hustle wine labels. In this Focus feature we marvel at some of the many passion projects forged in the moonlit margins of busy lives. Chateau Garage, with its ficus-covered turrets, is a hive of side hustle industry.

Beyond rustic barn doors, thick brick walls are stacked with barrels of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and Syrah, each born of foraged fruit, opportunistic harvests, and a workforce of nearest and dearest. The Hawke’s Bay wine label is a family affair for consultant viticulturist Ollie Powrie and his wife Rebecca Moses, who’ve been making wine in their garage since handpicking an abandoned row of Chardonnay at the turn of the century.

Their hobby turned hustle in 2020, when Two Terraces grape grower Ian Quinn called about a beautiful parcel of Syrah orphaned by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Ollie – then viticulturist at Villa Maria – knew they were sorted for Syrah in his day job, and that the complexities of a pandemic vintage meant few people were likely to adopt more fruit. “So we agreed that I would take half of it and the other half he would make into wine at another winery.”


The result was the “amazing” Two Terraces 2020 Wild Ferment Syrah, and the creation of a label that juxtaposes seriously good wines with their modest abode – humble in all but its curious turrets. The next year Ollie got another call, this time from Bob Newton at the iconic Cornerstone Vineyard on Gimblett Road. “Within 30 seconds of tasting it, I rang Rebecca and explained that we needed some Cabernet in the garage this year.” The wine was the first commercial release for Chateau Garage and brought attention to the nascent label with extraordinary wines. The on-trade are increasingly devoted and enjoy being part of the garage-industry story, Ollie says, wondering whether this and other moonlighting wine projects provide something of a contrast to commercial winemaking.


Ollie and Rebecca’s first foray into foraged fruit and garage winemaking was in 2000, with handpicked Chardonnay and seasoned oak barrels in their Napier Hill garage while Ollie was studying at EIT. They went on to make small batches of wine every year the opportunity arose, with “dark brooding reds, a fragrant Cabernet Franc, and even a noble botrytis Viognier”. Ollie’s studies “hooked” him on managing vineyards and growing grapes, and by 2007 he was Chief Viticulturist for Villa Maria, where he occasionally lamented the handover of his grapes at harvest. The garage projects were a perfect opportunity to “complete the cycle” and make the wines he wanted.


Ollie left Villa Maria in 2022 and later that year the family moved to Italy for seven months, where he did a harvest in Chianti “and had so many cool experiences in wineries”, returning home with a bolstered sense of adventure. On the day we talk he is walking down row of Hawke’s Bay Montepulciano, somewhat distracted by garage possibilities. These grapes, sitting pretty on the edge of veraison, could be one of the four Italian reds he plans to pick in one day this vintage, then co-ferment in the amphora that recently arrived from Hungary, sitting quietly in a corner of the garage.


He’s also thinking of Albariño, with the new collaborative Albariño Brothers project – a side hustle to the side hustle – delving into four versions of the variety. It’s all part of reaching for the potential of Chateau Garage while remaining within the confines of its thick brick walls. “I guess there are lots of little opportunities out there,” Ollie says. “And if you are open to them, it makes it a lot of fun.”

Chateau Garage Ollie Powrie
Photo Ollie Powrie at Chateau Garage.
Photo Richard Brimer

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