Phil and Viv Snowden’s retirement venture in the south-west of Western Australia has grown from a small winery into a successful cellar door renowned for its food.
Story By Sheridan Rogers
Going into the wine business and opening a cellar door is not everyone’s idea of retirement. But when Phil and Viv Snowden sold their successful Perth-based mining consultancy business in 2004, they couldn’t wait to get involved in tourism and start producing wines.
Having migrated from Zimbabwe via South Africa to Australia in the late 1980s, theirs has been a rather circuitous path to Denmark, a pretty, cool-climate area 420 kilometres south of Perth.
“This is our retirement project,” Viv says with a laugh. “Our cellar door is open seven days a week and we also look after the vineyard. Our aim is to produce award-winning wines because our production is so small, about 3000 cases a year. We produce two ranges of wine: the Singlefile is crafted to complement food and Run Free presents a selection of easy-drinking, great-value wines.”
The Snowdens found the property with help from Viv’s brother and sister-in-law who live next door. “When this block came up for sale in 2007, he told us chardonnay, merlot and shiraz grapes had been growing in the vineyard for 20 years, so we grabbed it,” Viv says. “We subsequently pulled out the merlot and plan to plant pinot noir because we were advised by one of our winemakers that we’d never make a great merlot as it prefers a warmer climate and is quite fickle.”
Son-in-law Patrick Corbett is chief executive officer and looks after wine production and the wholesale side of the business. In January 2010 the Snowdens opened a cellar door and the warm, buzzy space has become a roaring success. “We do comparison tastings with French wines and we knew we had to provide food with that,” Viv says. “But we didn’t realise what a fantastic response we’d get from the locals. There’s a gap in the market around here in terms of affordable lunches. Many also come from Albany and Perth and it’s a real mixture of grey nomads, backpackers and wine buffs. The food has been really essential and it has to be good, fresh, affordable and well presented. This surprised me because I thought people would come to taste the wines.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #84
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012