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Kiwi winemaker's tribute to Yarra Valley

A young New Zealand winemaker saw her dreams of furthering her career by working for a top Yarra Valley winery go up in smoke when the Black Saturday fires swept through Victoria.

The fires meant there was minimal work at Coldstream Hills for Renee Dale, and her stay in the Yarra Valley was cut short.

But Dale didn't let the experience get her down. Instead, inspired by the determination and gutsiness of the Victorian people, the 24-year-old has found a way of paying her own special tribute to the area.

Dale, a talented amateur photographer, has produced a poster featuring pictures of unique doors from many of the wineries in the region. It's the latest in a series of posters of winery doors she has created, and has special significance, given the devastation the Yarra Valley suffered.

"It's a way of celebrating the area and its wineries," says Dale. "I couldn't help fight the fires but hopefully this is a way of promoting the region."

Dale, who did a degree in wine science in New Zealand, arrived in the Yarra Valley on February 7, 2009 to start a temporary job as a cellar intern.

"A friend was driving me over from Geelong, where I'd been staying for a few days, and we didn't realise how bad the fires were. The closer we got, the hotter it got in the car. The heat was terrible."

Dale was shocked to see the destruction the fires had wrought, including swathes of blackened countryside and piles of bottles reduced to molten glass. While the flames did not make it as far as Coldstream Hills - thanks to a change in wind direction - some of the grapes were smoke damaged and could not be harvested.

"It was a terrible time for a seasonal worker like myself to be arriving," says Dale. "Normally they would have had us working 16-hour days but there was minimal work for us to do.

"It was a huge disappointment because it is such a premium pinot noir producer and I'd been so excited about working there."

Dale says missing out on the experience and also losing income - the trip to Australia ended up costing her money - was frustrating but it was nothing compared to the trauma the people of Victoria suffered. "People lost their homes, their businesses and in some cases family members and friends. It was heartbreaking to see."

But it was also heartening to witness the way people coped. "Everyone was just so resilient. They just got on with it. It was really inspiring."

Dale went on to find another seasonal job, this time in Napa Valley, California, but never forgot her time in Yarra Valley. She'd already produced posters of doors from wineries in several wine-growing regions at home in New Zealand, and a year later returned to Yarra to photograph doors of wineries there.

"The area was still in recovery mode but there was a great improvement from the year before. Going around the wineries taking photos was a good way to meet the owners and talk to them about what was happening in the industry."

Dale's love of photography is inherited from her father, award-winning Kiwi news photographer Geoff Dale, (who is the brother of actor Alan Dale).

"Growing up with my dad, it was hard not to be interested in photography and I kind of learned by osmosis. I've always enjoyed taking photos and it's a nice sideline to have."

She's also done posters of the Hunter and Barossa Valleys and McLaren Vale and Margaret River but the Yarra one will always be special. "I would love to go back and work there one day," says Dale, who is currently looking for work as an assistant wine maker. "It's a really beautiful region with some fantastic wineries."

For further information contact Renee Dale SKYPE +27218136002

Geoff Dale
Winery Doors Ltd
www.winerydoors.com

 

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