Sarah Collingwood, Four Winds Vineyard
Sarah Collingwood, Four Winds Vineyard

It doesn’t get much better than sitting amongst the vines drinking good wine and eating delicious wood-fired pizzas.

You can do just that at Four Winds Vineyard – a 33 acre winery with a cellar door on site – located to the north of Canberra, just east of Murrumbateman, NSW.

Twenty years ago, Graeme and Suzanne Lunney had a dream to grow and make wine. One of Australia's largest wine companies was offering 10 year grape contracts and the vineyard was planted on the back of one of these contracts. 

Now an inter-generational family business, Graeme and Suzanne have been joined by their daughter Sarah and her husband John Collingwood.

Sarah and the team are dedicated to making the best wines possible. Each year they hand prune 29,000 vines to ensure each plant has the best start to the season, and at harvest time they handpick the grapes so they arrive at the winery in the best condition. 

One of the challenges of running a family business is trying to balance work life and family life.

“Living and working on the farm, it is difficult to separate work and family life. While it would be nice sometimes to have a clearer delineation, it is also an excellent opportunity to involve our kids in the daily operations of the business; doing deliveries, cleaning, harvesting and cellar door operations,” said Sarah.

Sarah feels a bigger challenge for the business is meeting the high level of regulation that comes with running a small business. She also believes staffing is an ongoing challenge as the business continues to grow. 

One of the perks of the job for Sarah is the opportunity to experiment with different events and products. 

Sarah’s love for her job was recognised in 2017 when she was named owner/operator of the year at the Australian Women in Wine Awards. 

“I was excited to receive the award, but I was particularly excited to be a part of the 60 Australian women in the wine industry that got together in London to celebrate the awards. It was a great chance to get to know women in the industry who were geographically separated, but doing similar roles,” said Sarah.

The awards were established in 2015 to address gender imbalance in the industry; females make up just 10% of the Australian wine industry. Sarah is hopeful this will improve in the coming years.

“I think the number of women in the wine industry will continue to increase. There is such a big move in the industry to recognise the amazing wine women are making, the great grapes they are growing and the fabulous businesses they are heading up,” said Sarah.

“It also seems the message that diversity is one of the keys to success is encouraging businesses to ensure women are a part of high-performing teams.”

Sarah’s advice to other family businesses is to be prepared for the future.

“We are currently going through a process of succession planning and ensuring the business structure is the right framework for the future of the business. We couldn't have done this without some excellent external advisors,” said Sarah.

“We are continually working hard on better communications between the shareholders (family), our staff and our customers. 

“It is a farming business so things will inevitably go wrong or we will have some tough years, but being able to talk amongst ourselves and our wider team has helped us come up with solutions for these challenges.”