Karin Adcock isn’t one to do things by halves. So when the Sydney-based businesswoman and her partner John Winstanley purchased the former Pooles Rock estate in 2016, it didn’t take long before their dreams of owning a country weekender where they could gather with family and friends turned into a mission to reinvigorate the Broke vineyard as a wine and tourism destination.
The project was a perfect fit for the Sydney couple, whose combined backgrounds as executives and entrepreneurs were complemented by their varied experience in managing large properties and the wine industry.
Karin is best known for bringing Pandora jewellery from her native Denmark to Australia, transforming a business she started in her Northern Beaches garage into the world’s most successful Pandora entity.
Prior to that, she spent a decade as a project manager, revitalising scores of large properties in Denmark and offshore, ranging from educational facilities to what was at the time the world’s largest mango farm.
John’s interest in the wine industry began during his early 20's when he invested in his first vineyard in South Africa. He moved to Australia in 1995 to become CEO of Rugby NSW, where he worked with prominent wine figures, including the late David Clarke, the Macquarie Bank founder and original owner of Pooles Rock.
John then spent three years as the CEO of The Wine Society (from 2005 to 2008), expanding his commercial understanding of the Australian wine landscape and fuelling his passion for the industry.
While the couple never intended to buy a vineyard, Karin said it only took one look at the 113-acre property at Broke before they were sold.
“When we came up to have a look at it, we literally came in through the gate, and we were both absolutely blown away and decided that we really would like to buy this property,” she said.
“We came up with a good offer and also asked for a very fast settlement… suddenly within a week, well actually within an hour of really not intending to buy a vineyard, we were owners of a vineyard. That was quite exciting.
"In my past when I was in Denmark I worked with some very large properties, and I’ve also worked on some large farm properties, so when I came into this place I just thought ‘Oh my god this is just such a stunning property and there’s so much opportunity, we’ve got to do this."
“We had talked a bit about how it would be nice to have a place where we could bring all our daughters and have some time out, and be in the country. So that’s where it started, and then it really has become a little bit bigger than Ben Hur I think with one thing leading to the other. One of my challenges is I’m not good at doing things by halves… when we get an idea, we’ve got to do it properly.”
Doing it properly meant restoring and replanting the property’s 28 acres of once fertile vines, some of which had withered and died in the five years before Karin and John took over. This included replacing about 10 acres of ailing Verdelho with a new Chardonnay clone from Burgundy.
This was done under the advice of celebrated viticulturalist Liz Riley, and vineyard manager Dave Grosser, who literally grew up amongst the vines at Pooles Rock as his parents both worked on the estate for many years.
After years of careful nurturing and several harvests of increasing yield, Karin said they had finally got to the stage where they were ready to produce their first batch of Chardonnay under the estate’s new brand, Winmark Wines.
The Pooles Rock label was not sold to Karin and John as part of the property purchase, however, the new brand offers a thoroughly suitable alternative, combining John’s surname, Winstanley, with Karin’s maiden name, Enemark, while also translating to “field of wines” in Karin’s native Danish.
Visitors to this year’s A Little Bit of Italy in Broke, a two-day event involving 12 of the Broke Fordwich wine region’s vineyards and producers, will be among the first to taste the inaugural Winmark Chardonnay.
Karin said the event, which will be held on April 13-14, will also give them a chance to showcase the latest addition to their accommodation offering, Mio Monte, which was originally part of the Pooles Rock estate before being sold off in 2004.
The stunning and sophisticated home features open-plan dining and living areas framed by full-length windows and sliding doors that open on to a long verandah, with views of the private tennis court and the vineyard.
A stone fireplace, library and sitting room, two barbecue areas, seven bedrooms and three bathrooms provide ample space for up to 14 guests, while a new art gallery space has also been created within the home for the enjoyment of guests and visitors by private appointment.
Mio Monte will play host to Winmark’s A Little Bit of Italy in Broke offerings, which will include tastings of their wine, delicious antipasto platters prepared by Italian chef Bruno Giagu from Wollombi’s Panino Café & Restaurant, as well as traditional Italian sweet treats, barista coffee and gelato.
Families will also be able to compete in the giant lawn games, visit the gallery, which will display the work of talented Sydney artist Rebecca Pierce, or explore the various ‘landmarks’ located around the picturesque Winmark Wines estate, most notably the iconic ‘Pooles Rock’, for which the estate was originally named. A large hollow in the rock was reportedly used as a sleeping place by former English convict Richard Poole in the early days of the colony.
Other landmarks have been carefully added around the property by Karin and John, who wanted to create a multi-layered experience for visitors to enjoy. These include the fire pit entertaining area that makes the most of a natural vantage point next to the dam ideal for watching the sun go down, and 'Karin’s Koppie', a formal stand of 40 deciduous trees overlooked by the ancient Yellow Rock escarpment.
The couple also commissioned one of Australia’s most outstanding landscape architects, Paul Bangay OAM, to create and link the gorgeous perennial and rose garden with the gazebo, 12.5m pool and tennis court. Then they engaged relatively unknown sculptor David Ball, just before he won the 2017 Bondi Sculpture by the Sea major prize, to build 'Biosis', a massive steel structure that is perched above the vines.
“It makes me really happy to be surrounded by something beautiful and when you then are a part of creating that yourself, there’s real satisfaction in seeing how it's all growing and coming together and how you can form it and change it, and then just continuously enjoy it,” Karin said.
“We could also just have left it all as it was, but you know, the enjoyment is just nowhere near the same, and I really love that sense of wow, we have created this, and it's so beautiful, and it's here to be enjoyed and shared with friends and guests.”
Another major landmark in the works is Windmark’s new cellar door, which is being designed by Karin’s sister, award-winning international architect Fong Chan Zeuthen.
The council is currently assessing plans for the building, and once approved Karin hopes construction will be completed later this year.
The new building will be located on the site of the original Pooles Rock cellar door, surrounded by five towering gum trees, and has been designed with an earthy, stylish, yet unpretentious character that honours the history of the property and the beauty of the landscape.
“We love art, and I think this place really lends itself to present beautiful art. So we wanted the cellar door to be almost like a sculpture in its own right, sitting in the landscape.
“That’s why we have created it so it sits in among the gum trees, and then we’re incorporating the gum trees by putting a big deck around it. In that way, it will almost become a landmark in its own right, just as we have Pooles Rock as being a stunning landmark, and Biosis our sculpture and the perennial garden.
“We are trying to create different, unique spaces on the property where, when you go there, you sort of feel that you really connect with the beauty around you, and the nature, and you therefore also connect better with the people you’re with, and you also somewhat connect better with yourself because you have that peace around you.
“I think it is important that when you meet people or facilitate that they can be somewhere, which we are responsible for, that they’ve got to have a really outstanding experience.
“They’ve got to feel, ‘Wow this was really a special weekend, I would love to come back’ because we made them feel connected to the place. So that's what we are trying to achieve in lots of little ways and also through the three houses we have here for accommodation.”
Aside from Mio Monte, that accommodation includes Winmark Private Residence, a luxury two-storey home, styled and appointed for an indulgent weekend getaway or executive rental, as well as the more intimate Rock Cottage, a cosy four-bedroom bungalow nestled next to the vegetable garden behind Pooles Rock, with both offering panoramic views of the vineyards and mountain ranges.
With a vast collection of artefacts, antiques and artwork sourced from around the world, Karin has lavished her passion for interiors into renovating and revamping the accommodation to create the ultimate indulgent getaway destination. Karin said she has loved every minute she has spent working on the various aspects of the property and can’t wait to see what else the future brings.
“I love every day I'm here,” she said.
“There’s so many exciting things, and so many opportunities to get ideas of what we could do in the future… for me it's actually the journey which is exciting, not the end game, and there really is so much scope to what we can do.”
A LITTLE BIT OF ITALY at Winmark Wines, April 13+14
Enjoy a morning of traditional Italian Cornetti, Cannoli and barista coffee. Delicious antipasto platters will be available for lunch followed by tiramisu and gelato, prepared by Bruno Giagu – Italian chef of Panino Restaurant & Café in Wollombi.
WINE LAUNCH + ACTIVITIES
Try the brand new release of the Winmark Chardonnay 2018. Families can enjoy giant lawn games and kids can have fun on the play equipment. A pop-up Gallery will be open, plus visit the beautiful Perennial Garden designed by Paul Bangay, see David Ball’s amazing sculpture ‘Biosis’ and have your picture by the legendary ‘Poole’s Rock’. Live music by Paul Eagle both days.
Visit www.italyinbroke.com.au for tickets and more details.