Like a lot of husband and wife producers, Paracombe co-founders Kathy and Paul Drogemuller are driven by a passion for what they do and a love of sharing the fruits of their labour.
However, without the suggestion of a couple of friends, it might not have happened at all.
‘We never set out to be this great,” says Kathy Drogemuller tongue-in-cheek when we meet her and her Paracombe team at the beautiful Adelaide Hills property they call home.
“There was no big strategic plan in the beginning, no detailed business model. It has all just kind of happened.”
It’s the type of self-effacing humour that those who know Kathy and Paul might expect, but it’s also a statement that belies the graft they’ve put into Paracombe Wines over the last 37 years.
That’s how long it has been since they bought the property they now live and work on in the aftermath of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.
“We both had other jobs, I was a dental nurse, Paul was driving trucks, and the opportunity to buy the property came up,” says Kathy.
“We’re both from the country, I’m a Lobethal girl, and we both love getting our hands dirty. We just decided to go for it.”
Soon convinced ‘over a pork pie and a beer’ to plant vineyards by a prominent local winemaker (one who saw the potential of the Adelaide Hills), the couple started selling grapes as something of a side-hustle. Paul was running a grain and fodder business in Gumeracha, and Kathy was forging a second career in public relations.
Then, after a sunset dinner that included some expensive champagne, procured by one of Yalumba’s former chief winemakers, their taste for the grape finally matured.
“There was something about that night, drinking Laurent Perrier from those old fashioned Marie-Antoinette champagne glasses with the sun going down. Paul and I both looked at each other and went ’how do you make that?’”
Around the same time, the couple discovered a history of winemaking in the area that dated back to the mid-1800s. Turns out that some of the first vintages of Penfold’s Grange had come from Paracombe, so the seed was sown to bring that history to life.
‘We had a friend help us make a basket press, we bought some second-hand milk tanks and a crusher, and we started making wine in our shed.”
Officially launching in 1992, when Kathy was still pregnant with second child, Sarah, she remembers the early days of the business with fondness.
Delivering their first batches of Cabernet Franc to hotels and restaurants from the back of their car, Kathy didn’t dare imagine the success it would lead to.
Still relishing those early relationships now, she says the business has grown organically since then. From modest beginnings, Paracombe now ships to ten different markets around the world.
“It is amazing, and it all came from a place of adversity,” she says.
“Our story has been about making the most of the opportunities that came our way when they did. We didn’t know about grapes when we started, we weren’t from a family of winemakers, but it’s grown and grown and grown.”
Proud of their vine to glass philosophy — Paracombe grows, bottles and ships all of its’ own product (son Ben handles logistics) — Kathy says it’s an important part of their ecological approach to winemaking.
“We rely on the environment for our livelihood, so what we do out here is respect it, and think about the future.”
Blessed with soils that are over 1.7 billion years old — that’s not a typo — according to Kathy, it is this aspect of their land that sets Paracombe’s award-winning wines apart.
“These are some of the oldest soils in the world, so if you think about it, there are ancient mineral characteristics that influence the aroma and flavours of our wines. It’s what makes them different from those in other regions.“
Well aware of the support they’ve received along the way, especially from the Adelaide Hills community, Kathy and Paul are happy to give back wherever they can.
As supporters of local charities and a Masaai tribe in Kenya, combined with Kathy’s role as a leading woman in South Australian business, the pair have become much-loved community pillars.
At the heart of it all is a pride in what they do and a passion for bringing people together through their product.
“Wine is a connector, but it’s also about being adventurous,” says Kathy, as she takes us through her premium range.
“At the end of the day Paracombe is all about family, fun and making wines that smell and taste amazing.”
“If you’d asked me in 1983 if I’d still be doing this today, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But looking back now, with the benefit of time, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Find Paracombe at 294B Paracombe Rd.
SPECIAL CHRISTMAS DEAL
Summer Day Lunch – Adelaide Hills Crush Festival
23 & 24 January 2021, 12 – 4.30pm
Join a Summery table of deliciousness at Paracombe for the Adelaide Hills Crush Festival. Enjoy a welcome glass of wine on arrival and be treated to a superb three course lunch.
Crusty Charcoal & Turmeric Bruschetta, Fresh Basil & Parmesan
Then Choose From….
Slow Cooked Lamb, Greek Salad & Rosemary Infused Rice
Vietnamese Inspired Charcoal Chicken Bun Salad
Homemade Vegetarian Lasagne, Fresh Garden Salad
Persian Love Cake
Lemon Curd Tartlet, Summer Berries.
Included with your lunch is a glass of wine on arrival. Extensive selection of wines available by the glass and bottle to pair perfectly with your lunch.(Gluten Free & Vegan Options available – Please advise dietary requirements at time of booking)
Price $80.00 per person. Bookings with payment required to secure your spot. Phone (08) 8380 5058 or email [email protected]
Location: Paracombe Cellar Door, 294B Paracombe Road, Paracombe.
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