We were delighted to be profiled alongside families in Margaret River and the Tamar Valley as part of a feature on “vinechangers” – those who have taken the plunge and moved into winemaking, to reap the many rewards!
Red Hill, Victoria: The Sextons
Vinechangers Tim and Libby Sexton did the unthinkable: they bought the first place they saw. But Main Ridge Estate was everything the Melbourne couple had dreamt of: an idyllic bush setting, 3ha of old vines, a charming Tuscan-style tasting room. Not that making wine – let alone at the Mornington Peninsula’s first commercial vineyard – had been top of their bucket list.
Looking for new vocations after successful careers in catering, hospitality and travel, Libby, 62, and Tim, 63, thought about owning a boutique hotel, running a country B&B or starting a restaurant. “We had a ‘gap year’ in 2014 to think about what came next,” says Tim. “We wanted to live in this area but weren’t quite sure what to do. By chance, this place came up for sale in late 2014 and that was it.”
The former national head of Food Services at the Spotless Group, Tim was no dewy-eyed romantic. He knew nothing about winemaking, but running a cellar door operation was less of a mountain to climb. “We had good experience in business, hospitality and marketing; what we missed was the technical side of things.”
Their strategy: entice their son James, 31, to quit his job as a sommelier in Sydney and become the family’s winemaker – and convince Main Ridge Estate’s founder, Nat White, to stay on as adviser and mentor. This has been pivotal to the Sextons’ success in their first year, as has the support of local winemakers, vignerons and winery owners. The estate continues to produce 1000 cases of high-quality wine annually, most of it pinot noir and chardonnay selling for more than $70 a bottle.
“Every day is not like anything we expected,” says Tim. “I feel like this is heaven.”