Rising From the Ashes - Renegade CollectiveFriday, 1 August 2014
On 7 Feb 2009 home for Australian filmmaker David Laity and partner Ali was in Chum Creek, a beautiful, hilly, densely treed and sparsely populated township near Healesville in Victoria's Yarra Valley. They were in Melbourne that day, at separate wedding functions, when David took a phone call from Ali's sister with the chilling words: "We think your house is burning, you need to come home."
Before setting off for Melbourne that morning, knowing the extreme weather forecast, they had taken their dog Daisy to what they hoped was a safer place - a house they'd signed a lease on in nearby hamlet Toolangi, and which they were due to move into in two days' time. Twenty years of David's film reels were in his house, as were the back-ups he'd painstakingly made of his life's work and the third draft of his latest film. But as the bushfire tore through their property, it took everything in its path including those precious reels, which would have disintegrated in a matter of seconds. When asked about the fire, he says quite simply: " It reset me."
The region was thrown into chaos that day; hundreds of people were evacuated to nearby towns and forced to watch the dark orange sky in shock, homeless or in limbo, not knowing the fate of their properties, animals and in some cases, their loved ones. After two days of not knowing if their home had survived, David and Ali drove in towards it as far as they could, walking the last few metres along a smouldering, charred lane to find the burnt-out remains of their life.
A few days later, in shock and still separated from Daisy, they managed to get past police roadblocks and drove further into the fire zone, through flames on either side of the road, and passing tankers working to capacity.
They arrived at the Toolangi premises, where they found the owners putting out a shed fire. They had not seen the dog. As David and Ali got stuck in and helped their landlord extinguish the flames, Daisy came out from under a hedge where they suspect she'd been since the fire roared all around her, two days before. Their joy at being reunited was short lived, as fires had by now flared up all around them and they were suddenly trapped in an inferno with the only option to defend. Exhausted, traumatised and running on adrenalin, they put out spot fires and protected the property the best they could (Ali was a trained firefighter, David was not). He says the memory of the fear he felt when Ali told him they were in trouble will stay with him always.
Not knowing which direction the fires were travelling, how fast they were coming or how many fire fronts there were, David and Ali weren't the only ones to find themselves in the wrong place that day; other people made spur-of-the moment decisions at that time, many of which had horrific consequences.
Talking about it now, forehead furrowed with memories, exact timings and events have blurred for David - a common experience for survivors from the day that was quickly dubbed "Black Saturday" - but he knows all too well that their actions that weekend to find Daisy nearly cost them their lives. Now an active member of his local Country Fire Authority (he helped fight 44 fires last year), David regularly sees himself as he was in February 2009, staring back out from the eyes of people he's now saving; that look of fear and sheer horror at the knowledge they might not make it. He wasn't sure how he'd react when faced with fire again, but it's the faces, not the fires, that scare him the most.
And while David and Ali lost almost everything on Black Saturday, that fateful day did give them something new. With the $15,000 they received from the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal (money donated to the victims of the disaster by the Australian public), the pair established a social enterprise, Goodwill Wine.
It's a simple concept in which everyone wins, explains David. Goodwill Wine buys small parcels of premium wine from Australian vineyards (end of run, or tank samples), relabels them and sells them by the case to buyers like you and me. The purchaser can then select their favourite charity from the Goodwill Wine list of partners and a percentage of the proceeds from the wine sale are forwarded to that particular charity. Each charity has a unique bottle label, also designed by David. When a case of wine is sold and a charity chosen, he prints and sticks labels onto each bottle and personally delivers where possible.
Humbled by the outpouring of support they received after the bushfire, David and Ali decided to pay it forward. They both had sampled charity wine programs in the past and questioned why the actual wine had to be so bad. Light bulb moment - their concept was to bring good-quality wine to the tables of the masses while benefiting charities, in particular the Country Fire Authority whom so many people in Country Australia owe their lives and livelihoods to.
Not knowing how to start their own business, the couple took a three-month new-enterprise course where they fine-tuned a business plan and structure. To date, 200 charities have benefited from $135,000 raised by Goodwill Wine. Last year Goodwill Wine also sold 1500 cases, an amount most vineyards would be proud of.
While the vineyards' margins are large, however, Goodwill Wine is giving 65 per cent of its profit to charity. "I'm pretty particular about tracking stats, admits David. "I like to see that the business is growing. Currently drawing a modest wage from Goodwill Wine and living in his wine warehouse, he's far from materialistic.
But being altruistic doesn't put food on the table, so David has plans for a commercial venture, which he'll run in addition to Goodwill Wine; one which will pay his bills.
A major challenge is the perception that 'charity wine' is cheap and nasty. In fact wine lovers shudder when the words 'charity' and 'wine' are uttered in the same sentence. But David says he selects only the stand-out wines and many are top-shelf drops that he's "giving away" at between $12 and $16 a bottle.
With no formal wine training but a background in boutique beer making, he appreciates the complexities of making a fine wine: the techniques, the ingredients and treatment, and what's required for that end result. Getting people's heads around the simplistic concept also proved tricky. It was a new concept; a business model that hadn't been done before and it proved hard for people to grasp. It's ironic really - you come up with a business model, and you fine tune and simplify it, to the point that people question how it can be that simple!" David says the charities especially were searching for a hidden cost or catch they were missing, but it didn't exist.
When asked if he would do anything different if he had his time over again, David pauses thoughtfully. "Business partnerships are really messy when you don't choose your partner wisely," he says, referring to Ali, his partner of the time. "Some couples work well together because their skills and traits complement one anothers, but I should have identified the skills I needed in a business partner and then sought out that person and ensured they had the same level of energy and commitment to it as I did. Instead, I fell into business with my live-in partner after we'd both been through a trauma. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that was bound to bring with it additional stresses and challenges."
Looking back, the fire destroyed and regenerated David's life and career; just as fire destroys and regenerates the Australian bush and gum trees. It regenerated David Laity, from community filmmaker to altruistic entrepreneur •
Goodwill Xmas MixAll of these wines will be sure to impress and I'm including a $40 Method Traditional Sparkling in this mix for the next week only. Please read review about the Macedon Sparkling. A six pack includes.. 1 x Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay 2008 Demi Sec (Macedon Ranges) 1 x Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Coonawarra) 1 x Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley) 1 x Shiraz 2012 (Bendigo) 1 x Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Coonawarra) 1 x Merlot 2013 (Coonawarra) A 12 bottle case contains 2 of each variety. No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Sauvignon Blanc 2014Nose: Classic sauv blanc notes of grass, green bean, passionfruit and pineapple along with herbaceous aroma's of lantana. Palate: Crisp, dry fruit upfront with a grassy, green character. Fairly full on the palate with decent length and soft but supple acid. This is a lovely example of the variety and would pair well with salads, asparagus and barbecued vegetables. Notes: This cool climate Sauvignon Blanc has benefited from a very slow ripening window at the very end of the season, allowing intense citrus/tropical fruit characters to develop.
Sauvignon Blanc 2013Nose: A mix of subtle white florals, some gooseberry and grapefruit blossom. Classic Sauvignon Blanc with hints of freshly cut grass, followed by traces of smokey barrel fermentation and some struck match. Palate: Mirroring the nose, the palate is long and elegant, with refined fruit, flint and linear acid. Above all else, this wine is about texture. There is a delicacy to this wine, and it delivers in a way reminiscent of the French Sancere styles, which is echoed by the lower alcohol. It has crisp, dry acidity and minimal residual sugar. The small portion that was barrel aged gives the wine finesse and complexity. A perfect wine to match with fine elegant food. Methods: Wild Yeast fermentation, with whole-bunch pressing. A mixture of older oak to give mouthfeel and complexity, and tank fermentation for freshness. Fruit was handpicked in the morning and immediately whole bunch pressed. No enzymes were used, instead the juice was allowed to settle naturally. After 4 days the fruit was transferred to a combination of tank (65%) and older oak (35%) to generate mouth feel and give complexity. After three months on lees the wines were blended, cold stabalised, fined and filtered. Vintage: 2013 was near perfect conditions for growing and ripening Sauvignon Blanc in the Yarra Valley. The picking window was small, with flavours going from cut grass to tropical fruits in a matter of days. Constant monitoring enabled picking to be carried out at the herbaceous stage. The grapes came into the winery in perfect condition with no signs of disease and full of flavour. This Sauvignon Blanc was dry grown with the fruit hand pruned, shoot thinned, leaf plucked on the morning side and there was no need for bunch thinning. Crop level was 2.25 tonnes per acre. This wine is best enjoyed whilst young and vibrant, however it will drink well for up to four years. Single Vineyard - Healesville 12% Alc/Vol 7.7 standard drinks Pres. 220 added 750ml No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Riesling 2015Nose: Citrus blossom and passionfruit along with delicate perfume aromas. Palate: Bursting with lime, green apples and notes of white flowers, this wine finishes with a long, clean, dry, mineral finish balancing out any fruit sweetness. Notes: This Riesling shows the typical citrus and perfume aromas and wonderful length of flavour typical to this region and will cellar for the next 10 years. Single Vineyard - Limestone Coast 12.5% Alc/vol 7 standard drinks Pres. 220 added No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Nose: Blackberry, blackcurrant, french oak, licorice, mint and vanilla. Everything you would expect from a top quality Cabernet. Palate: Juicy dark blackberries and currants combine with rich tannins and long, linear acid to produce a soft, velvety palate of extraordinary elegance and superb length. Method: Handpicked Estate fruit from 30 year old vines, placed on French oak for 18months. No animal products were used for fining. Notes: Four years ago I was fortunate to be able to sell 10 cases of a Ladbroke Grove 2002 Cabernet. That cabernet was heralded as one of, if not the best examples of the variety to come out of Australia. It was subsequently placed in the London Wine Hall of fame. In my opinion this Bendigo cabernet is better. It is simply that good and for a bottle that will only get better over the next 15 years, at $17 is probably the best value wine I have sold to date. Bendigo 14.5% Alc/vol 8.6 standard drinks Preservative (220) added 750ml No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Merlot 2013Nose: Brooding aromas of blood plum and dark spices, with some raspberry, violets and subtle vanillin oak. Palate: Juicy and moreish, with some succulent acid. Raspberries, blackberries and fleshy blood plum flavours with some peppery spice on a long finish. Smooth, integrated tannins with hints of charred, vanillin oak help this wine deliver in a big way that still carries the agreeable seamlessness expected of Merlot. Decant for at least 15 mins, ideally 30 mins. This wine definitely benefits from some breathing time, opening up the bouquet and harmonising the palate. Method: Fruit sourced from a single vineyard. The wine was matured in a mix of 2nd use French barriques (225 litre) and hogsheads (300 litre) oak barrels for 22 months prior to bottling. Notes: I can't honestly say I have been a fan of many Merlots, finding a majority of them a little underwhelming. Often dubbed "the wine with a hole in it", Merlot often lacks presence on the middle palate, and as such can be an unrewarding quaff. It is most often used to blend in wines that need some taming. This Merlot made us really take notice of just what this varietal can offer, and still has the smooth tannin and long finish that makes Merlot such an easy drink. This wine is an excellent example of the varietal, and is versatile enough to accompany many dishes. This wine will further develop with careful cellaring over 2-5 years, or is ready to drink now. Single Vineyard - Central Coonawarra 13.5% Alc/vol 8.0 Standard drinks Pres. 220 added No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Shiraz 2013Nose: Rich plum and blackcurrants show through with pretty fragrance. Undertones of tobacco, vanilla and some barrel character. Palate: Sweet berry fruit without too much residual sugar and just a hint of cigar box from time in oak. Juicy with well integrated acid. Soft oak, Blackcurrant, Cranberry and some black pepper. This wine is light to medium-bodied with harmonious tannins, and will continue to develop in the bottle over the next few years. Method: Bendigo vineyards, hand-picked fruit, aged in French and American oak for 18 months. Minimal filtration was used. Notes: Cool climate Shiraz in its element is about fragrance and character, this is a light to medium-bodied wine, with structured acidity and fairly lean tannin. For this reason this Shiraz is very easy-drinking, without the mouth-puckering tastes that can result in hotter climates. It's aroma and palate show nuances of flavour that can be otherwise dominated by sugar and alcohol heat if grown in warmer conditions. This wine is good value at $11.00. Bendigo 14.5% Alc/vol 8.3 standard drinks Preservative (220) added 750ml No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Shiraz 2012Nose: An extraordinary nose revealing subtle nuances of dark cherries, candied rhubarb and roses along with undertones of vanilla and lovely barrel character. Palate: Beautiful mouth feel. Smooth dark cherry, chocolate and vanilla perfectly balanced with medium tannins and great acidity. A wine of considerable length and more than considerable interest. Method: Hand-picked fruit, aged in French and American oak for 18 months. Minimal filtration was used. Notes: This is a big wine akin to what we would expect from a Mclaren Vale Shiraz. Perfectly balanced tannins and acid demand another sip. At $17 a bottle this wine is seriously good value. Bendigo 14.5% Alc/Vol 8.6 standard drinks Pres. 220 added 750ml No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Shiraz 2014Nose: Red and black cherries. Rich Black Forest flavours with some stalky complexity. Spice and notes of white pepper behind subtle French oak. Palate: Cherries, cranberries, white pepper and some stalk up front. The fruit sweetness is balanced with mouth-watering acid and smooth, medium-bodied tannins to finish. Juicy but refined, this Shiraz is extremely moorish. Stock up because you will definitely be hoping you have a second bottle to follow it. Notes: This is a young Shiraz from one of my favourite vineyards in Coonawarra. The winemaker has supplied to Goodwill Wine in the past and his wines have always received wonderful feedback from my customers. At $15 a bottle this one is no different and will continue to improve if cellared for up to ten years. Coonawarra 14.5% Alc/Vol 8.6 standard drinks Pres. 220 added 750ml No animal products were used in the making of this wine.
Mixed Red (vegan)Below is a list of the wine we currently have on offer in our mixed red case. Should you wish to see the details on each of these wines, simply click on the individual bottles that we have for sale on this page. 6 Bottle Case Contains.. Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Coonawarra) x 1 Shiraz 2014 (Coonawara) x 1 Shiraz 2013 (Ballarat) x 1 Pinot 2013 (Ballarat) x 1 Merlot 2013 (Coonawarra) x 1 Merlot 2010 (Yarra Valley) x 1
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