Using the Ascham values of collaboration, organisation and planning, sisters Sarah (Class of 2000), Edwina and Anna Yeates (Class of 2003) bring a unique skill set to their family’s business. Yeates Wines was founded in 2010 when the previous cattle farming family made the decision to move into an industry the entire family could take part in.
As the proud new owners of some of the oldest vines in the Mudgee region, the Yeates family had their work cut out for them when they took over the property. The first 10 years was a hard slog of regeneration. ‘When we took over the property it was like walking on Mars,’ Sarah said. It was evident that conventional practices weren’t working. The girls’ father, Sandy Yeates, has a background in agriculture science and Sarah’s interests lie in sustainability and permaculture. These factors, as well as the current global movement towards more ethical practices, led to the family’s decision to follow their moral compass and manage the vineyard organically. Sarah explained that there is more and more research showing that organic methods are the way forward, despite being initially more expensive and, at times, more challenging than conventional methods. The family’s conscious decision to focus on producing exceptional fruit rather than focusing on quantity of output has led to the popularity of their cellar door experience. Ninety per cent of Yeates Wines is direct to consumer via the newly renovated cellar door. Several local regional restaurants and bottle shops stock Yeates Wines, including the Lord Nelson in Bondi Junction, and they have a loyal online following. But the family ethos of ‘quality over quantity’ is strong, resulting in their conscious decision to sell direct to their customers.
This ethos is reflected in the fact that the three Yeates sisters are directly involved in the vineyard management and strategy. Harking back to their time at Ascham, and the values instilled in them during their boarding years, the girls prove that resilience, courage, collaboration and community are at the heart of their work. After their time at Ascham, both Sarah and Anna went on to earn MBAs whilst Edwina holds a Master of Communication. Edwina works at Yeates Wines full time, overseeing the management of the cellar door and the accommodation with their mother, Vicki. In order to ensure smooth operations, Edwina continues to create ‘To Do’ lists on a weekly basis that are perfectly handwritten and ticked off in true Dalton fashion. Anna manages accounts and utilises her design background, which has been indispensable to the look and feel of the relatively new accommodation space that has become a success since opening between the two major NSW COVID-19 lockdowns. This move proved to be both timely and challenging yet ultimately rewarding, as they have just received the 2022 Gourmet Traveller Award of Cellar Door with Best On Vine Accommodation in Mudgee. Sarah can be found working at the cellar door on weekends and is often in the vineyard with her father.
With plans for the future being discussed, the three Ascham Old Girl sisters are utilising their varying talents and interests to work together to create a truly collaborative and successful venture.
Madeleine Campbell (Stracey 2000)