By Melissa Sheil
BOUTIQUE wining, dining and reclining is what The Packing Shed @ Lawnbrook owner operator Rebekah Wilson says will be in store for visitors to her winery during the Bickley Harvest Festival this year.
Though the festival is now in its 23rd year, Ms Wilson has only been a registered venue since 2017, the same year her and her husband Bruce opened the winery/restaurant.
“We bought the property in 2014 and spent four years learning, changing, adapting and renovating until we felt ready to open,” she said.
“We knew it had a vineyard that had been operational since the 1980’s and it had been an orchard since the late 1890’s, but we weren’t quite sure what we wanted to do with it.
“But in the first three weeks we moved in, we had to continue the vine pruning upkeep so we at least had the option of using the vineyard – the vines sort of chose for us.
“We don’t have any regrets at all though.”
As with many restaurants, COVID-19 proved tough for Ms Wilson, though she says there was a silver lining.
“We were in shock when everything was first announced, we really thought that that was it for us and we wouldn’t ever reopen – we even put up a post on Facebook thanking our customers for their loyalty over the years,” she said.
“We found ourselves with steel tanks of wine, already crushed, that we were unable to bottle or label because suddenly, we couldn’t pay the bill.
“Luckily we got a fundraising campaign going and asked people to pre-order wines to help us and then I had to drive around Perth delivering them.
“As the restrictions lifted, so did our faith that we’d be ok, and we started to rethink how we did things, use the time off to reinvigorate our focus and find joy in our business again.
“Generally you can’t stop midstream to reinvent but we saw the opportunity and took it.”
The Packing Shed @ Lawnbrook is now operating a gin distillery on site and will be ready to distribute two or three gin based products by mid 2021.
“We hoped we would have them ready in time for Harvest Festival but I’m quite particular and wanted to make sure we got it right, using plants endemic to the region,” she said
“We are extremely busy during the festival and are exhausted afterwards but it’s worth it to introduce people to this beautiful area and see non-locals enjoy the huge amount of lovely family run businesses available.
“The Perth Hills region deserves a much higher profile than it has.
“Locals are often protective and want to keep it a hidden secret but I think we should share our wonderful hills and forests.”
As one of 19 registered venues in the festival, visitors to The Packing Shed @ Lawnbrook can enjoy a casual menu, platters, musical entertainment and a selection of wines grown from the vineyard over the festivals two days.
The Bickley Harvest Festival runs on May 1 and 2 and is a non-ticketed event, though some venues may require prior bookings.
Visit www.bickleyharvestfestival.com for more information.