Meet the enterprising women behind some of the region’s best wineries.

From picking grapes to creating award-winning wines, women make immeasurable contributions to the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges wine scene. Here, three women share what makes this tightknit wine community so special.

Renata Morello, Lyons Vill Estate Wine. By Kim Selby
Renata Morello, Lyons Vill Estate Wine. By Kim Selby

Balancing Act

Renata Morello is a master multitasker. The physiotherapist, academic, mother, winemaker and president of the Macedon Ranges Vignerons Association created Lancefield’s Lyons Will Estate with her husband Oliver after moving from Melbourne ten years ago.

“There’s not many regions where you can manage a vineyard in the evening and go to work in the city during the day – which is what we did for years,” she explains.
First making wine onsite in 2016, Renata says that studying a PhD set her up to try winemaking.

“There’s science and chemistry behind it, but winemaking is like cooking. There’s real passion in it; to a degree, a part of you goes in it” says Renata, who learned the craft of winemaking by watching others, asking questions and tasting lots of different wines around the world.

“We have a parcel of land that produces high-quality fruit, which enables us to produce high-quality wines. We don’t have to work that hard, which is bloody lucky,” she says.

Renata believes that since the region’s wineries are mostly boutique, family-run businesses, there’s more collaboration and less competition.

“There’s definitely more young people and women in winemaking. A while back, it felt like an ‘old man’s club’ – not that they weren’t welcoming – but we’re in an era where everyone’s collaborative and supportive. Newcomers are welcomed and seen as beneficial to us all,” Renata says.

While the Macedon Ranges is known for producing top-notch pinot noir and chardonnay, Renata believes visitors should also have reisling high on their radar.

“Rieslings from this region punch above their weight. We won the Best Riesling trophy at the Victorian Wine Show last year, which I am immensely proud of,” says Renata, who gets much satisfaction from sharing her wines with cellar door guests.

“Pouring and sharing our wine and realising how happy it makes people, is a lovely feeling,” she says.

Jeni Kolkka, Curly Flat Vineyard. By Kim Selby
Jeni Kolkka, Curly Flat Vineyard. By Kim Selby

Pinot Pride

Also in Lancefield, Curly Flat Vineyard’s first vines were planted in 1992 when Jeni Kolkka and her then-husband selected the site.

“The combination of altitude and distance from the ocean makes the Macedon Ranges an ideal site for early ripening pinot, because the grapes ripen slowly and retain their natural acidity,” Jeni explains.

“With no external investors demanding short term dividends, there was no compromise – the vineyard and winery got whatever we decided was required to produce the best grapes and wine possible. Though we faced plenty of challenges, it is satisfying to be involved in the entire process, from vineyard to glass,” she says.

Jeni was offered the option to either sell her share of Curly Flat or purchase her former husband’s share. Jeni chose to be the sole owner of Curly Flat because she didn’t want it to lose its character, and she wanted it to be owned by someone who loved it.

Her corporate finance background (for years she commuted between New York and Australia) means running a business is in her blood. Beyond balancing the books and marketing the wine, Jeni is actively involved in vineyard operations. She even still picks grapes when she can.

A passionate pinot fan, Jeni is proud to fly the flag for Australian pinot production.

“Shiraz is like a weed – it prospers without much effort. But you really need to know what you’re doing when growing pinot grapes. When we planted ours, there weren’t many Australian pinot producers, but they’ve exploded over the years. Macedon Ranges pinot producers are now hitting their straps,” says Jeni, who is equally passionate about the region’s other charms.

“The villages and towns have got real character. Then there’s the beautiful scenery when driving through Mount Macedon. It’s magical,” she says.

Carolyn May, Captains Creek Organic Wine. By Kim Selby
Carolyn May, Captains Creek Organic Wine. By Kim Selby

A Family Affair

Carolyn May and her husband Doug live just 40 steps from their cellar door, so it’s unsurprising that their winery is very much all about family. Located in the bucolic pastoral district of Blampied, Captains Creek Organic Wines sits on a fourth-generation farm that’s been in the May family for more than a century.

From picking grapes during harvest to managing the cellar door and popular small-stay farmhouse accommodation that enables guests to stay onsite, Carolyn is involved in many different facets of the small vineyard that was added to the already-established organic farm in the 1990s.

“It was one of the first commercial farms in Australia to be certified organic. So, when Doug and I planted the vineyard in 1994, it made sense to continue the organic way of farming, growing our fruit without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides,” says Carolyn.

When you visit the cellar door, you might be greeted by Carolyn, Doug, their children, or even Carolyn’s octogenarian mother, Anne, who helps out on weekends.

“We really enjoy welcoming visitors to Captains Creek, sharing our story, our wines and delicious food, helping to create an amazing experience for guests to remember,” says Carolyn.

Captains Creek’s Sparkling Hepburn is incredibly popular, as are the cellar door’s grazing plates loaded with local delicacies such as house-made dips and pickles, Goldfields Farmhouse Cheese, charcuterie and sourdough from Le Péché Gourmand in Creswick.

Carolyn explains that there’s a great sense of camaraderie between the close-knit community of local producers who she often shares a story with at the Swiss Mountain Hotel. It’s this type of connection that makes the region so special to Carolyn.

“We live in such a beautiful part of the world. We’re so blessed,” she says.

Women In Wine by Kim Selby Lyons Vill Estate 2 e1686029100839 uai

About the author

Jo Stewart 2
Jo Stewart
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Jo Stewart is a freelance writer and book author who lives in a 100-year-old workers’ cottage in Kyneton. Her work has been published in Monocle, International Traveller, The Age and The Saturday Paper. She is also the author of That’s So 90s, an illustrated book dedicated to the pop cultural wonders of the 1990s. When not writing feature articles about food, music, travel, culture and sustainability, Jo likes listening to live music, spending time in nature, drinking good wine and beer, and hunting for vintage treasures in op shops.

Photography by Kim Selby
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Kim is a multi-award winning portrait and commercial photographer with over 15 years of experience. She is known for her warm and friendly approach, which helps her subjects feel at ease in front of the camera. Whether she is photographing families, businesses or beautiful Macedon Ranges landscapes, Kim's goal is to create images that will be cherished for a lifetime.