Young couple uncorks fruitful winemaking career with First Start Loan

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How a wine tasting, concessional loan and burst of courage led Caitlin and Nick Roberts to ditch their Central London office jobs for rewarding careers in the wine industry as the new owners of a Southern Queensland vineyard.

Nick and Caitlin Roberts

As they sipped their way through idyllic wineries dotting the Granite Belt, London residents Caitlin and Nick Roberts were about to have a conversation with a renowned local winemaker that would change the course of their lives.   

“We came across from London and we were visiting family. We happened to come out and do a wine tasting and met Mark Ravenscroft who is a well-known winemaker in the region,” Nick said.

“He told us he was selling his vineyard and we thought it was a unique opportunity to actually have a real-life change from living in Central London.” 

Drawn to the allure of a change of pace and the flexibility to raise a family, Caitlin and Nick quickly fell in love with the idea of swapping their cramped London city lifestyles for a new beginning in Southern Queensland’s wine capital of Stanthorpe. 

“We’ve always loved food and wine, and it was important for us to have a business where we could work from home and spend time with our daughter,” Caitlin said.

“I grew up on the Gold Coast and moved abroad in 2016. While I was living in London, the thought of having a baby in the future and having to commute an hour to work, working all day, commute an hour back home, get home in the dark – that wasn’t really appealing to us.”

Following further conversations with winemaker Mark Ravenscroft and business advisers, the couple applied for a First Start Loan from the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) to help fund their purchase of Ravenscroft Vineyard. 

“I found QRIDA on a Google search and we got the First Start Loan in 2021,” Nick said.

Caitlin said QRIDA Regional Area Officer Emily Mayer made her feel at ease during the application process with her familiarity of the Roberts’ individual situation and expertise about QRIDA’s First Start Loans. 

“Emily, she was on hand all the time and we would call her constantly if we were stuck on something, when we were doing our cashflow modelling, when we were doing our business plans,” Caitlin said. 

“Having that one person, that continuity, was really good because we didn’t have to then explain our situation again to different people throughout the process.”   

With three vintages completed, and several winery and cellar door renovations ticked off the Roberts' to-do list, the couple is busy planning their next business improvements.   

“We want to increase our output of grapes,” Nick said. 

“What’s also really important to us is to build a business that is a family legacy for our baby.”

Taking over Ravenscroft Vineyard has proved a big learning curve for the first-generation farmers, nevertheless, a worthwhile career. 

“I think there has been a lot of colourful language over the last couple of years. I’ve never driven a tractor or a forklift before and we’ve acquired loads of new skills,” Nick said.

“You’ve got to be adaptable, you’ve got to have that mindset that things can change very quickly, and you’ve got to think on your feet, but ultimately it’s a really rewarding life.”

Caitlin and Nick wouldn’t have been able to succeed without the support of their close-knit community.   

“We’ve definitely had a lot of help from fellow winemakers, from neighbours, people that we’ve met around here and when things go wrong, we have people to call up,” Caitlin said. 

“If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that I’d be out here in Stanthorpe owning a vineyard and a winery I just never would’ve believed you, never, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of QRIDA.”

To find out how a First Start Loan could help you establish your Queensland primary production business, visit QRIDA’s First Start Loan page

Nick, Caitlin and Lily Roberts.

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Last updated: 31 January 2024