The enterprising journey of Paracombe Wines’ Kathy Drogemuller in helping to transform a burnt-out dairy farm into an award-winning winery has seen her named a finalist in the ‘Entrepreneur’ category of the 2016 Telstra SA Business Women’s Awards.
Responding to the news, Ms Drogemuller said it was an incredible feeling to reflect on the path she had travelled and the successes she has achieved since establishing Paracombe Wines, quite literally, in the ashes of the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires that swept through the Adelaide Hills in early 1983.
As co-owner and general manager, Ms Drogemuller directly manages the South Australian wholesale market, is responsible for building a strong and successful brand in Australia and works with international agents to grow the global market.
“But it was all so different back then,” she recalled.
“With zero experience in grape growing or winemaking but filled with the exuberance of relative youth and an abundance of passion, my husband Paul and I planted a vineyard and made our first wines in a tin shed, using second-hand milk tanks, a crusher and a homebuilt basket press.
“The pretty basic nature of the business extended to my marketing and sales role that had me travelling around Adelaide selling and delivering our first batches of wine from my car, young children in tow, to restaurants and bottle shops.
“On reflection, it was also one of my most important life lessons as I learnt that if you really want something in business, you need to intersperse perseverance and determination with your passion.”
Today, Paracombe Wines retains its unique approach, with all wines grown, produced, bottled and packaged on site and distributed direct from the winery.
This authentic style of management has helped Paracombe harness an identity and reputation for producing ecologically crafted premium wines which – thanks largely to Ms Drogemuller’s entrepreneurial acumen – are now sold throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, with China the dominant destination.
In addition, they’ve scooped numerous awards and accolades, most notably when its 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was selected as one of just three wines for across the globe to be served at the Swedish Royal Family’s annual ‘Sverigemiddag’ – or Sweden Dinner – at the Royal Palace in Stockholm in September 2015.
More recently, its 2011 Shiraz Viognier trumped hundreds of premium wines from around the world to win two major trophies at the 2016 Sydney International Wine Competition earlier this year and, in June, two of its wines made it onto Qantas’ prestigious inflight wine program.
The Qantas Wine Program chose Paracombe Wines’ 2011 Shiraz and 2015 Pinot Gris as worthy drops for its discerning business class passengers, with the Shiraz being served on international routes and the Pinot Gris on local flights.
Ms Drogemuller, who disarmingly describes herself as “a simple country girl” hopes her success in being shortlisted as a finalist will resonate with other women in business as, she says, “the world needs women leaders with purpose, those who lead by example and make a positive contribution to people and the planet.”
“I was a finalist in a different category back in 2014 and hope to go a few steps further this time and help to lead the charge for the empowerment and recognition of women in business, many of whom run incredible businesses that are the backbone of our economy,” she added.
Paul and Kathy Drogemuller established Paracombe Wines in 1983. Their vineyard and winery is uniquely located high on a plateau at Paracombe in the Adelaide Hills and enjoys spectacular views of the Mount Lofty ranges. The award-winning Paracombe Wines range includes a selection of reds (among them pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz), a rosé and whites (comprising a riesling, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay).
For more information visit www.paracombewines.com