“The fire on the 3rd was heading towards our vineyard, but the wind turned and it didn’t get there. But on the night of the 9th it was completely lost. Every bit of the 300-hectare property went up. Eleven hectares of vines gone. The vineyard shed and all the equipment were completely destroyed, along with the offices, the lab, the toilet block and the four-bedroom house on the property. The winery shed is the only thing that survived, but sustained significant damage. It was a massive undertaking and we didn’t know where to start. A day or two after, Yale started making a list of what needed to happen; no power, no water, it wasn’t really even safe to be there with all of the fallen and burning gum trees. The clean-up took months as there was so much wire and melted irrigation pipes. Forty kilometres of fencing and over 260,000 metres of vineyard wires needed to be removed. 55,000 vines and each vine had 6 wires, so to get all the wire off and irrigation out took ages and was where Yale spent months. We had the help of great friends plus BlaizeAid, Team Rubicon and the ADF. Mum was over from the States and this is how she spent her six-week-trip. Once the clean-up was done, it was time to address the vines—are they completely dead? Or will they come back? Three of the 11 hectares of vines were just gone – burnt up; the radiant heat got the rest. They went from nice little grapes to crunchy nothing overnight. Yale had consultants and viticulturists come over and assess. It was decided the best option for their survival was to cut off all the vines down to 4cm. Team Rubicon were amazing and helped with the cut down; but it was really emotional to see it all cut to nothing. Then we waited. They had expected the vines to reshoot by August but nothing happened. With the late rain in October, there is now some regrowth. We just wait and see through summer. If they do come back, it would still be two to three years before there are grapes to harvest.
It makes you look at everything in a different way; you reassess what’s important. Along with the vineyard burning, we evacuated multiple times from our home during all of this. After all the nights of fearing for our safety and family and friends, you realise the material stuff doesn’t matter. As a family unit, we probably are stronger now. I never had to deal with anything remotely close to this, and have never experienced a fire before. It’s a learning curve and you learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of. That you can get through things and be happy again.”