Lake House a winery of choice

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

It was the promise of a quiet life that first lured Leanne Rogers and Garry Capelli to Denmark and the Lake House Winery.

The couple had holidayed in the Great Southern for near-on a decade, and by 2005 had purchased a property flanked by the green rolling hills of Denmark.

Neither Leanne nor Garry had nurtured aspirations of owning a winery, but their new acquisition came with 5.2 hectares of vines.

"We thought that we'd just produce some grapes and get that happening and then once we had some grapes we had to make something out of them, so we made the wine, then we had to sell the wine - one thing has led to another," Leanne said.

It was from that point that two city slickers, with no background in food or wine, became successfully entrenched in the wine industry and headed up emerging food brand Vino Food.

Dreams of a quiet life soon evaporated.

"We just wanted to come on holidays. We wanted to still work in Perth and then have something to come down to," Leanne said.

"We were self-employed so we could come down for a month and then go back to Perth. When we started doing the vineyard, I was going to sit in my office and do my finance brokering and jump out and do a wine tasting, and then jump back into my office."

But word soon got out about the much-lauded He Said She Said, Lake House Denmark and Premium Reserve range of wines and the cellar door didn't stay quiet for long. Not that the couple would have it any other way.

While Gary focuses on their vineyard, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Leanne is no w full-time in the restaurant and cellar door, finding time here and there to coax Vino Food into a commercial success.

The concept of the brand is ingenious - grapes and wine are infused with more traditional ingredients to give condiments a modern twist. And punters love it.

Jars of seeded chardonnay mustard, fig, apple and chardonnay chutney and beetroot and shiraz relish are practically walking out the door.

Not bad for a couple who fell into wine making before the food industry.

"It started because we wanted our platters to be something a little bit different, so I made the chutneys and relishes to compliment the meats and things that we have on the platters," Leanne said.

"Then people would come in and say, 'Can we take some of that home?' So I then started looking at that.

"We started with six products and we've now got more than 20.

"Some things didn't work - it was a matter of trying a recipe and then thinking it needed more of that, or let's do this differently.

"We've made a huge amount of products too that just didn't pass the test. They didn't have enough flavour in them, or they couldn't be bottled."

Vino Food not only provides Leanne with an outlet for her creativity, it is a wider revenue base for the business to spread the risk.

"We try not to just have one thing, so if wine industry is down then we've still got the other," Leanne said.

"It's the same as the cellar door, we're not dependent on people coming through because we've got wine wholesale and we've got Vino Food wholesale.

"A lot of money goes into the wine, it's a lot of capital, whereas the Vino Food I can virtually make to order, so it doesn't have as much investment in it.

"The wine is our major focus because we've got so much capital tied up in it."

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