ALISTAIR and Catherine Hicks’ dream of running their own vineyard might have remained just that if it wasn’t for the persistence of a dairy farmer keen for his daughter to come home.
“My Dad lured me home, really,” Catherine admits. “Alistair and I were living in Melbourne and we were looking for a lifestyle change. We were looking at wineries around Wagga Wagga and Albury and my father would say ‘No, no, I’ve got the perfect spot for you’. I’d just laugh and tell him I wasn’t coming home.”
In 2004, Catherine’s father, Keith (Mick) Hanratty, got his way when Alistair and Catherine planted the first grapevine on a north-facing slope on his dairy farm 20km west of Maffra in Gippsland. A decade later, Keith’s old turnout paddock is now home to Blue Gables Vineyard, with 2.8 hectares of wine grapes – 0.8 hectares each of shiraz, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris and 0.4 hectares of chardonnay.
“It was on the hill so it wasn’t irrigated and it wasn’t considered prime dairy land,” Catherine says. “Dad was always talking about ways to make it productive. None of us had a wine background so it has been a steep learning curve the whole way.”