In the Hunter Valley of Australia, a few hours drive to the north east of the city of Sydney, Robyn Drayton runs a winery that she took over after her parents were killed in an airline accident more than fifteen years ago.
“It’s quite a challenge because it is a male dominated industry. But I like a challenge so I can handle it. At the end of the day we’re all equal. I don’t look at myself as being any different. Yeah. Just one of the boys, I suppose. People like to test you out. I remember one year, after my divorce, it was the first year of really going solo by myself, a lot of people spread a little rumor around that I wouldn’t survive. I thought, yeah, see me. They’ve had to bite their words since. And that’s now seven years. I’m the only one who drives a truck here for the vineyard, and also the forklift. That’s part of my job among many other things.
“I’ve grown up with challenges all my life. I suppose the challenges every year are different. People go home to the city and I still get to look at this wonderful view on a daily basis. My favorite time is early in the morning when I get up, 6.00, 6.30, and get the vineyard workers going. It’s a very peaceful time. The air and the skies, it’s just very pretty. It’s clean. It’s before the kids get out of bed and I can reflect on the day with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea.
“Every year’s a challenge because you never know what Mother Nature is going to give you. I mean good or bad. The last three years have been very tough because of the weather conditions. We’ve had rain. Two years ago we had amazing big floods here in the Hunter and I lost a lot of money as well as some crop because I had done some capital work on the property. One of them was a bridge. It literally only went in a week before the flood, and it actually got washed down the creek. Twenty thousand dollars just disappeared. Unfortunately insurance companies are not so obliging to reimburse you. I’ve finally got around to replacing that bridge this year. That was a challenge. Different challenges. It’s ongoing.
“There’s lots of wasted night’s sleep because I don’t have a partner so I take on 100 percent responsibility myself. It can be quite nerve wracking. There’s a lot of pressure on. Leading up to vintage it’s always nail biting. You never know what you’re going to end up with. I had to sell a property that had been in the family for 150 years. Now I just have this one property, which is 43 acres.
“I’m not a city girl. So it’s the country life and open space. Being a business owner is hard. It’s certainly easier to work for someone else than for yourself. There’s always something new coming out, something that has to be done. You’re never bored. There’s always the list. You’re in charge, which is good or bad or indifferent. I’m not sure sometimes. I’m very lucky. I’ve always had very good staff, but staff can be one of the major problems at any business.
“Mum and Dad were killed 15 years ago in a plane crash. The plane was never recovered. So I put up a little plaque down in the vineyard. I chose that spot because Dad can look over the vineyard. Hopefully he would have been very proud. Because I’ve continued on. That’s the most important thing.”