On a wild winters day, Mary Cussen co-owner of Stringybark Winery & Restaurant is enjoying the good life, celebrating her first bottle of Verdelho/Chardonnay 2011.
If you think it’s all wine and lazy days, think again. In addition to managing a winery and producing 8,000 bottles a year. Mary and her team of local employees feed 20,000 people a year. Stringybark has earned an excellent reputation across the state for serving real food and man sized servings. The restaurant has a comfortable rustic feel and the natural wood and earthen floors are an enjoyable step back in time.
Stringybark was built in 1985 by a Victorian man who named the place after his home town, Stringybark Creek, the infamous home of Ned Kelly’s gang. Perhaps he had Ned Kelly’s last wish in mind (before he was hung in 1880), ‘Roast Lamb, Peas and a Bottle of Claret – Such is Life’.
Mary & Bruce Cussen acquired the winery in 1996. Running a hospitality business 7 days a week is hard work. Three years ago Mary took a couple of years off for time-out to tinker and enjoy more involvement in the winemaking part of the business. This gave her an opportunity to work closely with the contract winemaker Steve Murfit of Lilac Hill, who has been creating Stringybark wine for the last 10 years.
Mary celebrates 12 months back at the helm this month, and while the wine is what gives her a spring in her step, she has renewed passion and commitment to good food.
The passion for wine making is not lost on Bruce either. The Stringybark vineyard is one of the oldest in the Chittering Valley and the mantra is definitely quality not quantity for the 2.5 acres of vines.
Take a visit to the winery and you are likely to see Bruce out in the vineyards pruning the vines himself and living the moment as he carefully checks over each vine.
The vines in the vineyard are “Spur” pruned to maximise the intensity of the flavour in the grape by minimising the vegetative growth of the plant. Combined with the traditional method of non-irrigation this produces less grapes with a greater depth of flavour, and a superior drop. French Oak barrels enhance these flavours to achieve a quality wine.
Bruce’s passion has not been limited to Stringybark. He was the Chairman of the Flavours of Chittering Steering Committee, and has played a key role in building tourism within the region. Bruce and Mary’s commitment to supporting local business is demonstrated in the restaurant where you’ll only find local wines on the wine list.
They both get a buzz from meeting the customers and getting the great reactions of satisfaction from the good food and wine.