Good news for Gippy wine lovers

By Katrina Brandon

THE day has come.

Tinamba’s Glenmaggie Wines have finally opened their cellar doors after three years of development.

On December 9, owners Fleur and Tony Dawkins and their son Jack, opened the doors to their new shop to the public after building it with their own hands.

“We had a friend who is an architect tell us to look at a winery in Yarra Glen. We went up there and then designed what we wanted from there – The Scandinavian roof and the north-facing windows, and we made the rest ourselves,” Fleur said.

“We had always planned to build a cellar door; we thought we would have done it 10 years ago but didn’t have the time. COVID hit, and then we could start building,” Tony added.

The journey towards building the cellar door has been an emotional one for the family, as the journey helped reflect the skills transferred from Tony’s late brother and father.

“My father was a builder. My younger brother, Nigel, was an apprentice to my father. I used to work with them on university holidays. I had many skills, but I wasn’t a builder. I always envisioned them both to help, but unfortunately, they both died,” he said.

From furniture to the cellar door building itself, it is all made by the family.

“Tony and Jack made the big Cyprus tables, all the doors, the framing, the plastering, and the roof. The steel, looking out on the veranda, that amazing view we have, all those steel posts, Jack did that,” Fleur said.

“The wonderful thing that Tony did was with our son Jack, and it was wonderful for him and Tony. He learnt lots of things. It has been an emotional journey. It’s just not physical. It’s emotional for both of us in different ways.”

Tony Dawkins and Polly down at the vines in Tinamba. Photos: Katrina Brandon
Tony Dawkins and Polly down at the vines in Tinamba. Photos: Katrina Brandon

Fleur, Jack, and Tony have been making and selling their wine at festivals for many years. They have also done functions out of their own home.

People can now book and stay for more extended periods.

Tony told the Gippsland Farmer that people can now enjoy their time by staying for hours with wine, views, and food.

“They come here for a long lunch, and we offer them a long lunch. People are staying for two to three hours,” he said.

Fleur said, “We were terrified, but we have a lot of support. Jack has a really technical brain. He did the front of the house and the bar (in) the first three weekends, and it flourished, which was lovely.”

The winery sits uphill from Tony’s old family home where he grew up. Tony has gone from helping run the dairy farm with his parents to creating a vineyard next door and watching the dairy become a vegetable farm. It also overlooks the ranges that surround the area.”

“It is there, on that river, I fished, swam, and chased possums, trapped rabbits and everything, everywhere. The veggies are now where mum and dad used to have their dairy farm. We don’t own the farm anymore, but we still get our produce from there or a good amount from Kevin next door, ‘the veggie guy’. All the connections are still there,” Tony said.

Fleur and Tony have been making wine since 1995 when they planted the vineyard.

“We make and grow everything on-site and always have. We had our first vintages in 1998; since then, we have won many awards,” Fleur said.

The Glenmaggie Winery has a selection of wines for all tastes, including Shiraz, Chardonnay, Fizzy Lizzy sparkling mead, Fleur’s Sparkling, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Pinot and a Sauvignon Blanc.

“We have a sparkling Pinot Noir and the Fizzy Lizzy, a sparkling mead that is local honey and our Cabernet grapes. We have a great range, and it complements the food,” Fleur said.

Glenmaggie Wines has showcased its work across the region, regularly attending the Metung Food and Wine Festival, Inverloch Festival, and the Tinamba Food and Wine Festival (as event co-organisers).

“We have run (the Tinamba festival) for several years,” Tony said.

Always one of the main organisers, Tony said the festival is a great event.

“It’s just a fun day of celebrating the local wineries and locals. About two-thirds of the crowd is locals, and they book early. It’s just a party day,” he said.

“We also did the Metung Food and Wine Festival this year and the Inverloch Festival, which had 3500 people in December. I really want to do the Garfield one in March and the Loch Food and Wine. They are really nice people,” Fleur added.

With operations expanding, Tony said they would need to hire more help to man the winery and attend festivals simultaneously.

The Dawkins family have already committed to co-organising the Tinamba Food and Wine Festival on April 7, 2024.

In charge of entertainment, the Dawkins are looking for some local talent to grace the stage at the Tinamba festival.

Fleur and Tony will aim to support local artists in more ways than one, as the winery walls are adorned by some pieces donated by locals. They both wish to source more art to create a gallery of sorts.

Aiming to source produce and materials from Gippsland exclusively, Tony understands the value of keeping things local.

Recently, large amounts of water have been poured over the Wellington Shire.

Luckily, being on a hill, Tony said they weren’t as affected, but some of the vineyards had been waterlogged for a while.

“We had so much rain. It stopped eventually, but you can’t drive the tractor to spray things until a day or two, sometimes three. With all the rain, you get excess growth,” he said.

“There’s so much humidity. Grape vines are very delicate, especially when your grapes are developing early.

“We have had three really tough and wet years with small and not terribly good fruit. This year, we have got a humungous, super healthy-looking crop. Surprisingly, it’s so healthy. I have been throwing everything at it. We need a good crop.”

Hoping for warmer weather, Fleur and Tony are excited to be opening their doors to bookings only.

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.