Jonathan Hambrook – another local who’s “doing”
An IT professional who grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Jonathan Hambrook seems an unlikely candidate to become a vigneron, but he hasn’t regretted trading in the North Sydney office for farm life and a place in our growing local wine industry.
Jonathan began his Stockman’s Ridge wine label on a property he bought north of Bathurst in 2002.
“I just had this interest in agriculture and growing things, I like a lot of open space and you come up with a crazy idea to do something,” said Jonathan, who’s first taste of farming was planting 40 cherry trees, simply because he liked cherries.
“It was a relatively wet year, so they all survived and I thought, gee this is easy! Little did I know that whenever you grow anything on scale it becomes a lot more interesting. It was the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ pretty much. I had some failures, had some big successes and but I’ve loved the journey. That's the most important thing with anything like this. If you get in this business for the short term, it's just not going to work.”
Seven years ago, Jonathan made he decision to relocate to Orange to be part of our booming tourist region. And since setting up his picturesque cellar door on the Cargo Road Wine Trail, he has watched the rapid growth of Orange as a wine region and the number of punters through his Cellar Door increase month to month.
“In the past few years we’ve seen Orange really start to grow,” said Jonathan. “We’ve been tracking everyone that walks in the Cellar Door, just the number of groups we get and how many people in those groups, it just gives us an idea of when our peak months are of visitation. What we’ve noticed is the past two years have seen a really big increase in visitation through the Cellar Door.”
The Stockman’s Ridge cellar door recently underwent a complete overhaul, largely to cater to the growing number of thirsty patrons.
And Jonathan has even bigger plans, including more development and landscaping to better handle weddings and functions, and he is even in the process of building his own micro winery on site.
“So yeah, we've got plans to start to expand that side of the business, just for some smaller batch wine and to get a little bit creative,” he said.
“And maybe a little bit of cider because we planted cider apples and cider pears and we also have cherries on the property.”
Jonathan is far from alone in seeing the growth in the local industry and he is confident of big things still to come.
“I’m hearing from a lot of lot of guys that are really doing well. You can see that by the opening of other wineries in town - even out on the Cargo Road we've got some new additions. There are some refurbishments being done to other Cellar Doors, there's expansion going on everywhere,” he said.
“I've seen another vineyard just being planted on the Pinnacle Road. I mean you can just see the growth in Montoro’s brand-new winery, the work that Heifer Station are doing providing more than just a cellar door experience, which is great to see.”
More investment means more attractions and more reasons for people to keep on coming back to Orange, said Jonathan.
“If we're able to provide those new visitors additional activities, then they're going to stay that extra day and that extra money comes into the region and obviously helps us all. Now, I think there must be at least 30 Cellar Doors at least 80 odd Vineyards, you know, there are reasons for people to keep visiting and if you come once, you're going to walk away with that feeling that you didn’t get to do everything and that's what we want.
“That's why we need a critical mass of tourist attractions, of wineries, cellar doors and everything else for us to keep bringing people in and then they buy local, go shopping and visit these really cool unique shops we have in town.
“We want people to come in and go ‘Awesome, there's still so much to do’ and then they're going to come back.”