Operating a winery during a pandemic: a new goat helps!

A new goat, a bumper grape season, the promise of more visitation and the possibility of finally holding an opening party is keeping a Ballarat winery and vineyard moving through the pandemic.

ANIMAL LOVE: Michael Unwin, owner and winemaker at Michael Unwin Wines, has a new friend on site and a mascot for his One Goat wine label. Pictures: Jeremy Bannister

ANIMAL LOVE: Michael Unwin, owner and winemaker at Michael Unwin Wines, has a new friend on site and a mascot for his One Goat wine label. Pictures: Jeremy Bannister

Michael Unwin Wines experienced its quietest week at its Windemere cellar door during Ballarat's snap COVID-19 lockdown.

Owner and winemaker Michael Unwin said it was challenging operating the winery throughout the pandemic with reduced visitors and drops in wholesale orders to restaurants.

This year was an additional challenge without JobKeeper payments, but the winemaking side of the business continued unaffected, boosted by a bumper grape season.

How lucky am I that I have a job I love so much?

Michael Unwin

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Mr Unwin opened his new winery and cellar door on Remembrance Drive in January 2020, just months before the pandemic hit, after 20 years at his prominent Beaufort site.

The team has not yet had the chance to hold its official opening party, but Mr Unwin said this was something they all looked forward to.

Mr Unwin said the new winery home was feeling more complete, with the addition of a new goat, the mascot for his One Goat wine label.

"She has arrived, she is happy, she has taught the dogs who is boss and she has been useful eating weeds," he said.

"She walks around like a dog on a lead, she is very very funny."

Mr Unwin had a goat on the Beaufort site for 14 years, which died just before the business moved to Windemere.

It was how the name for the wine label originally came about.

The new goat is from the same man who produced their first one 16 years ago.

Mr Unwin has also brought sheep and lambs onto the 40 hectare property, six of which is covered in grape vines.

Despite the pandemic halting plans for visitation to the winery, Mr Unwin has hope for big numbers when travel is allowed again.

"When we haven't been locked down, Australians are travelling when they can," he said.

"When people are able to move around, Australians are very good wine customers. They love coming to a winery."

It would follow a successful high volume and high quality crop year that is producing lots of wine.

"We made as much as we could. Nothing got left on the vine," he said.

"We had enough rain but not too much. There were not heatwaves last summer and we didn't have any harsh extreme weather.

"We grow grapes where it is good to grow grapes and generally good grapes grow well, but it went particularly well this year."

The team is now working to stabilise and bottle older wines and mind new wines.

It follows a busy autumn period of harvesting and fermentation.

"Fermentation is really intense," Mr Unwin said.

"Our job is to make sure the grapes ferment well and we have to be incredibly attentive to it. We look after them the best we can.

"When they finish fermenting we can relax again and concentrate on the older wines."

Mr Unwin said it was delightful having his winery and vineyard on the one site and he would continue to work to offer a good wine experience for visitors.

"We are always optimistic. We are so relieved we have been unlocked," he said.

"We will keep planting vines and moving ahead because that is what we do.

"We are managing more and more vineyard and recently acquired a beautiful vineyard in the Pyrenees.

"When I have a holiday I drive to another vineyard and work on it.

"How lucky am I that I have a job I love so much?"

This story Operating a winery during a pandemic: a new goat helps! first appeared on The Courier.