The risk-takers: The realities of buying a vineyard

Giving up the daily grind to make wine in idyllic surroundings sounds like living the dream, but what are the realities? Anne Krebiehl MW meets several 'renegades' who halted other careers to pursue winemaking...

Kutch vineyards in Sonoma. Credit: Kutch
Kutch vineyards in Sonoma. Credit: Kutch

They risked it all in order to make wine; they made sacrifices and struggled through. They are living proof that change is possible.

Each is as different as they come – the only thing they all have in common is energy, imagination and an appetite for risk and hard work.

Ray Nadeson, Lethbridge Wines, Victoria, Australia

Former scientists Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson in the barrel room at Lethbridge Wines.
Former scientists Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson in the barrel room at Lethbridge Wines.

Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson, Lethbridge Wines

Former scientists Maree Collis and Ray Nadeson in the barrel room at Lethbridge Wines.

Ray Nadeson, 52, has a PhD in neuroscience, then tasting countless wines had piqued his interest.

‘But I wasn’t going to be a doctor one moment and then a winemaker, with no transition, so my wife and I got a degree in winemaking [while continuing to work]. Not because you need it to make wine, you don’t, but we wanted to have street cred.’

Nadeson continued in his day job for eight years while they were establishing the winery.

‘I wanted to do every aspect of what it takes, and the last thing I wanted was to employ a winemaker. But I couldn’t do both jobs. So 14 years ago I decided to become a full-time winemaker. It was a huge decision. You leave a job that is secure and well-paid to do something you have no track record in at all.’

But Nadeson is honest: ‘Lethbridge didn’t make any money for years. I had to make contract wine, consult and do other things to smooth out the cash flow. We didn’t come into the business with a whole heap of money. But even though we didn’t make a lot, we existed.’

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