Boutique Auckland wine tour businesses

6:24 PM Friday September 28, 2018 Paul Charman

Assets include a 10-seat-van certified for passenger use. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland-based wine-tour business offers the perfect lifestyle to a buyer who enjoys both the fruit of the grape and the great outdoors.

Auckland Wine Trail Tours is a boutique operation with a near 20-year track record of showing small groups of wine fanciers around the province.

It integrates food, wine and sight-seeing into a satisfying experience for tourists possessing limited time here, says business broker Darcy Snowden, of Christopher Brown & Associates Ltd, who is selling the business.

Auckland Wine Trail Tours has an asking price of $115,000. Assets include a 10-seat, late model Toyota van certified to comply with NZTA passenger vehicle regulations; company website, extensive contacts and goodwill built up over many years.

“I have seen many well-run tourist operations but in my view this one achieves a special level of customer service and satisfaction,” says Snowden.

He puts this down to the efforts of former advertising creative John Meadows, “who has run Auckland Wine Trail Tours with warmth, professionalism and loads of imagination since 1999.

“John has tapped into a first-rate network of vineyards, restaurants and fellow hospitality operations. He’s made friends all over the world and had great times meeting people. But now aged in his mid-60s, John is ready to pass on the baton to a new owner coming in with plenty of energy and fresh ideas.”

For an indication of what he has been achieved, Snowden points to comments regarding the business on Trip Advisor. Glowing reviews show why the business has received ‘TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence’ each year since 2012. The New Zealand tourism web site Rankers has named it ‘Best Wine Tour in New Zealand’ five times since 2010.

“My vendor does not get involved in vineyard presentations himself; this is left to staff of the winery concerned, however, he does enjoy talking to guests afterwards about their experience.

“In the early days John’s main focus was on some of the oldest vineyards in the West Auckland/Kumeu area. These, and vineyards visited in other parts of New Zealand, were sometimes run by a third, or even fourth-generation of family owners. But it wasn’t long before some of the newer wineries in the Matakana region were also included in Auckland Wine Trail Tours.

“When John started talking to people, he realised that some guests were only able to fit in a half day while others have a full day. This knowledge created efficiencies in tailoring tours of various lengths, which a new owner can now take full advantage of.

“This is a tourism business, predominantly catering to overseas guests. John extends the experience to include additional activities and places of interest, such as cheese tasting at Puhoi; a visit to a chocolate maker; a honey operation and the famous Morris & James Pottery.

“With minimal distance between west and east coasts of Auckland, this operation takes full advantage of our varied geography, offering a range of fascinating tours.

“Many tourists are amazed to see black ‘iron sand’ beaches on the west coast in the morning, take in the Waitakere rain forests and then arrive at a white sandy east coast beaches in the afternoon.

“Generally there’s time to include a visit to the Muriwai Gannet Colony as well.”

Snowden says winery vineyard restaurant lunch is included, and top quality (often gold medal) wines are served.

“Opportunities to expand seem obvious,” he maintains.

“John has chosen to work only nine-to-10 months of the year. During the busy months — which are about October to April — he works anything from three-to-eight hours a day. During summer he tries to have one day off per-week.

“However, John is first to admit that if someone wanted they could operate all year round, they could do so easily.”

The website provides comprehensive information on types of tours available, and has a secure booking and payment facility, says Snowden.

“Over the years John has also built an excellent reputation with hotels, motels, backpackers and travel agents and enjoys numerous referrals from these places. Cruise ships are an excellent source of business.

“Above all, this business provides a great experiences to the burgeoning tourist market — while managing to stay small and intimate.

“It will appeal to those who are keen to operate the way John has; parking the company vehicle at home and having a home office in which to take care of the administration.

“Right now is the perfect time for someone new to take over before the busy summer season starts and next year’s America’s Cup fills Auckland with visitors.

Snowden says his vendor has not needed to employ staff; when a large group is booked he will hire a larger vehicle and a contract driver.