It was a trip to Dusky Sound in 2014 that inspired Arrowtown local, Greg Hay, to name Wet Jacket Wines after a small Fiordland sound called Wet Jacket Arm.

The actual name Wet Jacket Arm, is attributed to Captain James Cook, who on his second trip to New Zealand in 1773, moored his ship The Resolution, in Dusky Sound Fiordland, after 133 days at sea.

“It was a special place but I kept thinking, could it work as a brand? Is there a story behind it and will people buy into the story?”, Greg recalls. He also wondered if the Wet Jacket brand could work when the grapes are grown in Central Otago, and the tasting room is in Queenstown.

A big believer that anything is possible, Greg went for it, and with the support of his tight-knit crew Wet Jacket now supplies Wet Jacket and Putangi wine brands to restaurants locally and across New Zealand.

Meet “Captain” Greg Hay

Growing up in Motueka, Tasman District, Greg studied a Bachelor of Commerce before starting a short corporate career in Auckland. After wearing a suit briefly Greg decided the South Island was home, where he could be close to wildlife and water.

He became a beekeeper on the West Coast for a year, frequenting nearby Fiordland before an opportunity came up in the 1980s with his brother Rob, to build up what is now Chard Farm Winery in Gibbston. It was here that Greg found his calling, beginning a successful career in wine making in Queenstown, eventually moving on to help found Peregrine Wines with some friends in 1998.

The New Zealand falcon (kārearea) is Greg’s family crest and gave early inspiration to Peregrine Wine’s falcon symbol. Passionate about conservation and birdlife, Greg has formed a strong connection to projects that ensure the survival of Aotearoa’s most endangered native and endemic birds. Supporting conservation, Greg worked with Wingspan Trust, DOC and Fiordland Conservation Trust.

In 2014 Greg started Wet Jacket Wines, focussing on serving customers directly and nurturing local relationships. This includes a partnership with RealNZ that continues today. $10 from every bottle of Putangi wine sold on RealNZ vessels goes towards conversation projects that protect New Zealand native birds.

Greg Hay from Wet Jacket Wines in a boat on the waterGreg Hay

Meet the Wet Jacket crew

“We create seriously good wine, we are serious about New Zealand, we are serious about working with like-minded people… but we aren’t serious!” is the Wet Jacket crew mantra.

Ali Caird 'First Mate', Dan Kral 'Bosun' and Jaime Horne 'Helmsman' support Greg in steering Wet Jacket through its growth and success.

Each has their own story about Queenstown and why they love it, common values include appreciation for the region’s beauty, a passion for connecting people with place, and importantly, sharing the story of the Wet Jacket brand.

Dan Kral, like all members of the crew, supports many aspects of the business and believes Wet Jacket’s point of difference is that the wine speaks for itself, allowing the crew to take customers on a journey of the brand. “It’s more than a wine tasting, it’s an experience. You could do five hundred wine tastings; one person will ask about the wine, and the rest want the story,” Dan says.

Ali Caird is Wet Jacket’s general manager and applies an ‘everything will work out’ attitude’ - a philosophy she says she’s adopted from like-minded Queenstown locals and the influence of the Wet Jacket crew. “We’re like a family. We take care of each other, but importantly we have fun”, Ali says.

Team from Wet Jacket Wines with wine bottles for a tastingWet Jacket Wines crew

A new home and next chapter

Wet Jacket’s new tasting room at Queenstown Marina was chosen for its incredible views of Lake Whakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range. Located on the main road between Frankton and Queenstown, it’s easily accessible from the Queenstown bike trail, by car, bus, and water taxi directly from Queenstown town centre.

The Wet Jacket crew agree the new location feels like home, another chapter in the story with its connection to water and the surrounding landscape.

“I love Queenstown for its feeling of freedom and space. You can never get tired of the changing landscape with clouds rolling in and out,” Ali says.

Greg prioritises team culture as much as the brand’s story and makes sure every crew member knows they’re appreciated.

“The Wet Jacket design on our wine label is a jacket the crew would wear when Captain Cook was exploring the area. It celebrates the people doing the hard work”, Greg says.

View of Lake Whakatipu from inside the Wet Jacket tasting room at Queenstown MarinaWet Jacket tasting room

Conservation projects with a focus on New Zealand’s rarest and most endangered birds continue to be a passion for Greg and the Wet Jacket crew. Watch the video below, or visit their website, to learn more about their ongoing efforts.