LIKE most Italian migrants who arrived in Western Australia in the 50s and 60s the 2017 winner of the Swan Valley Icon award Domenic Pinelli worked clearing land and on the railways.
Mr Pinelli had already been in WA for a few years after leaving his home in Roccamandolfi before his journey in the Swan Valley began.
He started working for Waldeck Wines in Caversham, which was located near the existing Pinelli winery.
Waldeck’s was owned by the late Mick Waldeck and later by his three sons – Barry, Robert and Phillip for whose businesses he planted shrubs and trees, worked with table grapes and as a cellar hand and vineyard manager.
While he enjoyed working for the Waldeck family his dream was to own his own vineyard.
In 1969 he was thrilled to be able to buy some land from the Waldecks but it also meant hard work, long hours and many challenges over the years for him and his wife of 58 years Yolanda.
Before the days of stainless steel most early wine makers used concrete tanks, which required regular waxing to prevent wine coming directly into contact with the concrete.
This was a risky job and involved getting inside the tank with wax block and gas burner in hand.
In 1977 Mr Pinelli was involved in an horrific work accident that resulted in him being hospitalised for many months after there was a gas explosion while he was lining a tank with wax.
This was a catalyst for change and in 1980 he established his own winery – Pinelli Wines.
When it started Pinelli Wines focused on bulk red and white wines – a European style of wine consumption, which was popular with other European immigrants.
His daughter Maria Mullins, who read Mr Pinelli’s acceptance speech at the Swan Valley Wine Show award evening on August 25 said she recalled going to the winery and seeing ‘ little Europe’ with people playing cards while chatting and enjoying a glass of wine under the grapevine –covered pergola.
In the 1980s the palates of WA wine drinkers started to change and the entrepreneurial Mr Pinelli decide to venture into the premium wine market.
His sons Robert and Daniel joined the business as qualified wine makers and started to experiment with grape varietals and modern-day wine making.
Maria also used to work for the winery in the cellar door.
The winery continued to grow, which led to buying more land adjacent to the initial Caversham vineyard and later the River Block in Middle Swan.
Maria Mullins said her dad would say his greatest wine achievements were his first medal – a bronze medal for his 1980 shiraz at the Perth Royal Show followed by his two trophies for Pinelli Estate also at the Perth Royal Show for the 1993 chenin blanc and the 2009 verdelho – the three varieties the Swan Valley does so well.
“Dad has been reflective in senior years and knows that his legacy is in good hands,’’ she said.
“He is proud of what the European migrants brought to the region through their knowledge of grape growing, food and culture and thankful that he was part of the success of the Swan Valley now and into the future.’’
She said he would like to thank Mick Waldeck, fellow icons Dorham Mann and John Kosovich who had been instrumental in his personal journey in the Swan Valley together with John Barrett-Lennard, Ernie Luisini and Paul Conti for their unlimited and welcoming advice over the years.
She said he accepted the award also on behalf of his wife in joint recognition of their life goals, commitment to the wine industry and the Swan Valley.