What’s your current role and title?
I am, and have been for the last 18 years, managing Director and Chief Winemaker at Margan Family Wines. We have 110 hectares of our own vineyards where we grow all of the grapes that are made into wine in our winery here in Broke. We then market and sell that wine through various channels including all states of Australia, 13 countries around the world, a cellar door, restaurant and a large mail order customer base. We have 26 full time staff to manage and operate 7 days a week. We have also purchased a bar/restaurant in Newcastle called The Landing and Lisa and I are busy working with the staff there to make it one of Honeysuckles prime locations.
Throughout your working life, what job have you enjoyed most?
From the age of 6 all I ever wanted to do in life was be a winemaker in the Hunter Valley. Apart from 6 years making wine in Europe it’s pretty well all I have ever done so I am lucky enough to have lived out my dream. Making wine is such a wonderful creative outlet for me and running our business fulfils my needs around being in control of my life. I was never great working for other people.
In business or personally who or what do you find inspiring?
I was lucky enough to be part of the Tyrrell family when I was growing up so I had a great mentor in Murray Tyrrell. He was a cantankerous task master without whom I would never have gotten to where I am today. I learnt to grow grapes in the harsh growing conditions of the Hunter Valley from Murray who always had the best vineyards in the Hunter and grew some of the best grapes in the world.
What advice would you give someone following in your professional shoes?
Learn from the bottom up so you have a full understanding of all of the facets of the business. Having a wine business that is fully self contained is the ultimate in vertical integration so ideally you have all the practical knowledge of how all the different areas work to allow you to make the right strategic decisions. As a winemaker you need to find your own formula and make sure you make wines that are true to yourself. If you don’t like your own wines then it will be hard to get others to like them.
When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
We are just getting the last of our 3 kids out of High School which has been time consuming but in winter I still play a bit of rugby with the Pokolbin Reds (hope my Mum doesn’t read this) and I love skiing. Summer is surfing and we are lucky enough to have a place on the beach at East Newcastle. Travel is our next chapter and whilst we have done a fair bit in our time we still have lots of places left on our bucket list.
How would you like to see our region develop over the next decade?
The vineyards are one of the most visited tourist destinations in NSW. They have developed a great product and the brand “Hunter Valley” has amazing recognition all over the developed world.
We need to keep working on that brand and keeping it fresh and interesting and then communicating that with a clear message. That takes money and hopefully the State Government will start to recognise the potential returns available for support takes a lot of money to get it right. Don’t start me on Newcastle. What an unbelievable gem waiting to be polished and served up. The potential of this city is so exciting.
Tell us something that most people wouldn’t know about you.
I do love my horses and I have been lucky enough to own a good one which has allowed me to indulge my passion in them with a small breeding hobby. Hopefully there are some more good ones to come. My perfect Saturday is a surf, a punt, and a long slow day of Test cricket on the TV.
Do you have a favourite sport or team? How committed are you, would you miss a game for your best friend’s wedding?
I have been playing rugby for nearly 45 years and I do love the Wallabies (at the moment it is love-hate). I have travelled to France to see them and New Zealand in World Cups and are going next year to the UK. Not sure I would miss my best friend’s wedding for them but my best friend would never get married when a test was on anyway.