Denman's Small Forest Wines owner Atsuko Radcliffe finds many positives after drought-ravaged season

DESPITE a hot and dry year, Small Forest Wines has still managed to produce a high-quality and quantity of crops, according to owner Atsuko Radcliffe.

The Denman-based winery managed to fight off the drought conditions with the help of irrigation and has already seen its white wine grapes harvested, with the Shiraz vines set to be harvested as early as this week.

“It’s very early, very, very early, but the fruit is beautiful, so I’m still very excited,” she said. 

She also noted that while there have been plenty of challenges in 2018-19, there were plenty of positives to be found in any given year.

“It’s been wonderful, it’s been dry and I find the sun rays have been quite severe this year,” Ms Radcliffe said.

“So, dry means we have to control the watering a little bit differently. 

“But, also because it’s dry, we have much less risk of diseases.”

As far as business goes, she admitted it was a struggle to promote the winery with so much going on, but is confident she will make Small Forest a household name in the area.

“Obviously for the first few years not many people knew I was here,” Ms Radcliffe said.

“And, still, people is Muswellbrook don’t really know I’m here, while some people in Denman also probably don’t know I’m here.

“It’s really hard to tell people I am here and what I’m doing, because I do everything by myself – making wine, running the business, marketing, but slowly I’m getting there.”

In an attempt to draw in more customers and develop a niche within the community, she is renovating the cellar door and is beginning to display art exhibitions too, revealing she is already booked until March 2020 with “creative” keen to display their talents at Small Forest.

But, perhaps, the most unique display available is that of her dog Muku, and the pup’s unlikely friendship with a magpie, which has now been named Toni, with the two playing on a near-daily basis.

While she may have only been running her own business for five years, Ms Radcliffe boasts plenty of experience having been involved in the region’s wine industry since 1999.

She claims this has given her a good insight into how things work locally, but stressed the importance of individuality when it comes to wine making.

“This is my brand so I have to create my style basically from scratch,” she explained.

“Fruit is fruit but I have to express character, so that’s my job.”

Despite not having been here long, the winery and its owner seem to be on the up-and-up, especially after having successfully navigated a difficult growing season and still coming out of it smiling.

This story The fruit is beautiful, so I’m still very excited | PHOTOS first appeared on Hunter Valley News.