The Grape Escape

The desire for a tree change took Sydneysider Anne Greenway on an unexpected journey that led to a burgeoning boutique winery, Greenway Wines.

Digging her hands into the rich, fertile soil overlooked by the majesty of the Brokenback Range, Anne Greenway knew she had come to the right place.

Like many Sydneysiders before them, the respected architect and her family were searching for that elusive tree change oasis, away from the business of city life. And after chancing upon the 30 acre property in the peaceful Lower Hunter village of Broke it didn’t take Anne long to know
this was the one; with its bubbling brook, large tracts of native bushland and row upon row of established grapevines. “When we found this, we were looking for a holiday house – my husband’s got a building background, I’m an architect, so we were looking for somewhere to build a holiday home,” Anne said. “In a roundabout way we found this property and I just fell in love with it, particularly down the lower brook area right beside the creek. I thought, ‘this is magic’. I put my hands into the soil, literally, because both my parents were horticulturalists and I knew what I was looking for. I felt the soil and its richness and knew there was something special here.”

“When you stand out in the middle paddock and see you’re surrounded by mountains and you’ve got this gorgeous buffering of the casuarinas and the brook at the back, it’s so pretty and we just thought it was a great place to escape to.”

Bearing fruit

But while their original Hunter Valley dream might have been to build a weekender surrounded by the tranquillity of nature, the Sydneysiders have instead spent the past nine years laying the foundations of a burgeoning boutique wine label born out of the fruits of their very own vines.

The long journey to the establishment of Greenway Wines began with the careful nurturing of the existing 6.5 acres of vines, which had been planted in the early 1990s. The crop was predominantly Merlot, with a sprinkling of Shiraz and the more exotic white wine variety, Gewürztraminer. Over time the vineyard was boosted by both Fiano and Pinot Grigio plantings, as well as additional Merlot and Shiraz vines. Anne went from simply crop farming to sowing the seed of an idea to use her own grapes to create her own brand of wines.

While overseeing a vineyard and creating a wine label may sit at the opposite end of the relaxation spectrum to having a weekend retreat, once you actually speak to Anne it’s easy to understand how the detour occurred. Passionate and driven, with a lifelong love of horticulture and an ingrained appreciation of wine, Anne’s enthusiasm for the venture is palpable. “When I was on the other side of the counter, in my 30s I suppose, I loved wine,” Anne said.

“I’ve always had a passion for wine and I had an awesome palate too. I could tell you what the grape was, the barrel oak, the age; without even looking at the tasting notes I could tell so much. Also, as a young woman, part of me wanted to own a bar and I’m sure that these two passions have merged together in some form with our cellar door.”

“Sometimes I stop and take a breath and think, ‘am I doing the right thing?’ But I’ve yet to hear ‘no’. It still feels like I’m in the right place and I’m doing the right thing for me.”

Strictly home grown

Utilising two contract winemakers from the nearby Lovedale region, Daniel Binet and Michael McManus, Anne took on the role of “wine stylist”, working with them and designing how she wanted the wine to taste and look whilst relying on their expertise in terms of what the grapes could actually do.

Several vintages down the track Greenway Wines now has 11 different varieties on offer, from the supple and fleshy mid-palate ‘momento’ Merlot, to the ‘favoloso’ Fiano, a dry, crisp white wine exhibiting nectarine and citrus characters and a smooth lemon biscuit finish. There are also two sparkling varieties – a Merlot and a Fiano – the latter of which is quite a rare type of wine in the Hunter.

Typical of the growing number of micro-wineries in the industry, Greenway Wines only uses fruit grown on site, meaning that the maximum number of cases that could be produced, in a good year, would total around 850. As such, you won’t find Greenway Wines in your local bottle shops, with the wines only sold in the cellar door or via their online store – a fact that greatly appeals to Anne. “That’s another thing I’m really clear on … it’s my little soapbox story,” she said. “But I think if you’ve come all this way and found this little red barn in the middle of Broke I’m not going to insult you by offering you wine where I bought the grapes from Orange, or South Australia or somewhere else. It just seems wrong to me. I’m also not going to tell you that you can buy it at your local Dan Murphy’s or Vintage Cellars or whatever it is – we only sell through our cellar door. I think if I’m going to be serious about being a boutique vineyard, I have to come across like that.”

Authentic charm

However, a visit to the cellar door isn’t just about tasting new wine varieties, it’s also about soaking up the overall atmosphere that Anne has so carefully crafted. Housed in what was a tumbledown old barn when they first bought the property, the transformed cellar door is a celebration of Anne’s favourite architectural and design elements. Stylish yet rustic, with an authenticity that was of upmost importance to Anne, the charming red barn is a visual delight, styled in what Anne calls ‘Hamptons meets Queenslander’. From the soaring raked ceiling with its V-joined lining boards to the stacked stone fireplace, timber topped bar, stunning spiral staircase and vintage leather armchairs, the cellar door exudes an ambience of luxurious comfort, with a chic country style that is both elegant and timeless.

A charming white timber pergola and handsome travertine stone pavers out the front provide the perfect spot to sit back and relax with a glass of Anne’s wine as you watch the insects buzz lazily around the fragrant lavender blooms and rich red tulips bursting from the garden beds.

Social drinking

The cellar door has been open for the past 18 months and is starting to gain some real traction with wine connoisseurs looking for something a little different. Running it has certainly been a labour of love for Anne, with 5am rises and a two-and-a-half hour trip north from Sydney to prepare the ‘big red barn’ for a weekend of trade. Despite the demands on her time, Anne says the joy she gets from introducing customers to something she has created makes it all worthwhile. “The ‘best of’ at the cellar door is when great people drop in to taste our wines. I love the interaction in meeting like-minded ‘wine souls’ or ‘wine-minded’ souls,” she says. “It makes for fun, sometimes in-depth conversations and keeps you on your toes. When I arrive home after a weekend at the cellar door, my boys will often ask ‘how I did’ and my first response is just how many great people rocked in to the red barn and wine tasted with me, and I share their stories.“

Anne finds real satisfaction in meeting interesting and fun people. “After all, I’m a growing business and we’re all about relationships. We continue to add to the wonderful group people who come out of their way to pay us a visit, or who recommend us to their friends,” she says. ¯

Story and photographs by Michelle Meehan