Since Jim and Sue Lawson planted their first block of Shiraz vines at their property along the banks of the Loddon River in 1997, Black Wallaby Wines has been a family affair of hard work, passion and love.
This family winery has continued to the next generation with Jim and Sue’s son Dave Lawson and his wife Jayne taking on the business and the vineyard.
Dave is Black Wallaby Wines winemaker, having grown up on the property in Bridgewater and helped his Dad plant the vineyard.
“Originally Jim and Sue planted 10 acres of Shiraz vines and then found that the soil and climate was quite perfect for this particular grape variety and this type of horticulture,” says Jayne.
“So in response to this they planted a further 10 acres in 2003 and another 15 in 2004. Dave and I were both a part of this establishment.”
The vineyard’s location in Bridgewater on Loddon, along the banks of the Loddon River, was the inspiration behind the wine label’s name.
“Our part of the river has many black wallabies living along it, and so it only seemed fitting to name the wine label after our native locals that bring us all so much joy to live among,” adds Jayne.
The label name was also a fun, lovable way for Jim and Sue to share their wine with family and friends.
Jim originally sold some of the wine into the local IGA and some pubs and restaurants in Bendigo, but was mainly focused on the viticultural/farming side of it.
“After 10 years of living away, travelling throughout Europe around Australia working in the wine industry, it was Dave’s dream to come home and take on the family farm – continuing to build his Dad's dream,” says Jayne.
“Dave has been able to bring home a wealth of knowledge and experience and implement these into his own winemaking practices.”
Additionally, Dave and Jayne are very focused on Black Wallaby Wines being a sustainable farm, and producing fruit and wines of the highest quality with little intervention.
“Our vineyard is free from any pesticides or herbicides and we choose to run our sheep in under the vines to chew down the weeds rather than using sprays,” adds Jayne.
“We have also placed a big focus on rejuvenation of our river frontage and other areas throughout the property in the past 20 years.”
The love of family and home also shines through in the naming of the Black Wallaby Wines’ varieties.
“The wines are named as a tribute to our home and our life that we are building out here with our family on our farm,” adds Jayne.
“Our gorgeous girls Ruby-Sue, Madelyn and Sylvie are obviously our greatest achievement so they each have a wine named after them.
“Ruby-Sue has the Ruby Rosé named after her, Madelyn has the Sparkling Rosé and Sylvie will have the new Sangiovese named after her once that is released in 2021.
“The Joey Shiraz was named because it is the baby of the two Black Wallaby Shiraz wines and the Albino was named after the white wallaby that can sometimes be seen along the banks of our river.”
Like numerous businesses, Black Wallaby Wines was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Dave and Jayne changed the way they did business, including establishing a drive-through cellar door.
“We started the drive-through during the first lockdown in response to losing so much business through the restaurants and outlets that sold our wines,” explains Jayne.
“We also know that people were looking to shop local and stay safe, so the idea of a contactless way to purchase our wines might appeal to our locals.”
The drive-through was a great success among people around the Loddon and Bendigo regions.
“Customers enjoyed the ease of ordering through email or phone and then coming for a drive to get out of the house,” adds Jayne.
“We also offered a 20 per cent COVID discount to help out our local customers as we knew times were tough for us all.”
In addition, Black Wallaby Wines has an eshop on its website and has also connected the store with The Loddon Shed.
“The online store has been a project in the making for the last 12 months, but we couldn't have timed the opening of this better than during the second wave that we went through in Victoria,” says Jayne.
“It has been very well received by people all over Australia and has allowed us to offer our wines to a wider variety of people.
“The Loddon Shed has also been an incredible incentive, created and developed by Loddon Valley Tourism that has allowed us to be a part of a fantastic group of local producers and again gain exposure to a whole new customer base,” adds Jayne.
“Online shopping is the way of the future, especially in the current climate, so any positive exposure or connection you can make through this is of huge benefit.
“It's also just so lovely to be on show with such an incredible calibre of local produce from our region!”