Tell us about your background and what led you to becoming a producer on the Central Coast
My background is in tourism and events. I grew up on the Central Coast and was one of the first students to study at Newcastle University’s Ourimbah campus. After graduating, I worked in events and lived overseas for nine years before returning to Australia for a refreshing sea change. My husband and I had always dreamed about living an interesting and alternative lifestyle, farming organically on the Central Coast. We discovered Firescreek Winery and fell in love with its potential straight away.
What do you enjoy most about connecting with visitors to your business?
When people visit our Central Coast winery, I enjoy their delight and surprise as they taste our wines. I love listening to their interpretation of the taste and smell and hearing them wowing over flavour sensations they have never tried before in wine. Our visitors’ enthusiasm encourages me to make even more unique and interesting wines to delight everyone and anyone’s inner foodie.
What makes your products unique?
Many of the wines made on our Central Coast winery are not made anywhere else in the whole world. In fact, they are sometimes made from ingredients that have never been used for winemaking before. However, it isn’t just about being unique. First and foremost, our wines need to taste good. One of our latest wines is made from Blackcurrants, Coffee and Chocolate. The initial batch didn’t contain chocolate, but I could taste chocolate tones, so I enriched those cocoa flavours with actual organic cocoa beans. That is how a wine’s story develops. Winemaking is both an art and a science.
We organically grow flowers, such as roses, violets and elderflower, on our farm. People are so surprised that you can use flowers in winemaking, but it is another touch that makes our wines unique. We are also growing indigenous plants and starting to investigate making wines out of plants such as lemon myrtle and mountain pepper.
What do you think makes the Central Coast such a great place for people to establish artisan businesses?
The Central Coast feels rural and idyllic, but it is close enough to the city to have good infrastructure, customer reach and conveniences. The Central Coast also has a large population of its own that appreciates artisan products, so we are not completely reliant on tourists. There is also a great network of other world-class proud artisans who love nothing more than to tell the story of the delicious foodie experiences that you can have here on the Central Coast.
Why do you think there’s so many amazing producers on the Central Coast?
Central Coast producers and makers have the big food bowl of Mangrove Mountain and Somersby with good rainfall and soil. I think there are amazing artisan producers all around the world, but due to mass production, small artisan producers need to be amazing to compete. We have to innovate and create something really delicious along with memorable customer experiences, and we have to make an impression. Our proximity to Sydney and Newcastle means that if we can appeal to foodies and provide wonderful escapism, they tell their friends, and we grow our businesses. Sustainability and organic farming are attractive to people in the cities, which is also a drawcard.
What do you think is the best kept secret on the Central Coast?
Apart from Firescreek Winery (said with humour!)? It’s amazing how you can be so close to a populated area and yet escape to a quiet bushwalk and maybe not see a soul. The bushwalk out to Box Head is stunning. Bouddi and Putty Beach are lovely. It is so easy to visit the Central Coast for a few hours or a weekend and get away from the busy-ness of life.
What’s your favourite thing to do on the Central Coast when you get a day off?
There is so much to do on the Central Coast. I like to head to the beach and go for a walk or a surf. The kids love to bodysurf and play at the beach. Spoon Bay has a lovely nature walk, a look-out, and it drops down to the beach where there are lovely pools to explore. Once, we saw 40 dolphins playing at sunset. That was pretty special.
We might have an impromptu picnic on a day off. Hardys Bay and Toowoon Bay are great for a day trip. With more people moving to and visiting the Central Coast, little villages are opening quirky cafes and interesting shops.