A mutual love of wine can sometimes lead to perfect matrimony, just ask local winemaker Sarah McDougall.
The owner of the iconic Lake George Winery, who has been nominated for best winery operator/owner of the year at the 2019 Australian Women in Wine Awards, credits online dating as the instigator of her wine journey.
“Around 10 years ago, I came back to Canberra after living overseas, so went online dating, as you do,” Sarah said laughing. “I saw this guy’s profile, which said that he worked in IT, had a couple of kids, but he was currently studying winemaking.
“I thought it was really cool – he could make wine and then I could enjoy it. So we met on a blind date at King O’Malleys and talked about our passion for wine. The next date we went on a wine tour of Murrambateman and that was it really.”
Their love of wine blossomed into a beautiful journey, leading the couple down the aisle to tie the knot, and then down a different type of aisle – surrounded by grapevines – as Sarah and her husband Anthony looked for the perfect vineyard to start their new life together.
In 2012, the couple bought and operated the Summerhill Road Vineyard before purchasing the 113-hectare property on the shores of Lake George in July last year.
“We love Lake George and we kept driving past it,” Sarah shared. “Then one day we went in and it was for sale, so we started talking to the owners and 12 months later, we bought it.
“I think what is so special about Lake George Winery is that you live here on-site, which makes me feel like we are the keepers of the Lake and the winery.”
Balancing a family of five while running the iconic establishment, the McDougalls have spent the last year settling into their new life at Lake George, updating the brand and launching a new range of wines.
Their hard work has caught the eye – and the tastebuds – of the Australian Women in Wine Awards, which celebrate the work of women in the Australian wine community.
Lake George Winery is the only Canberra region winery nominated at the awards, providing Sarah with a 10-day trip to New York where the winners will be announced.
“I am a bit biased, but I think Canberra region wines are the top wines in Australia,” she said. “Each year, the Australian Women in Wine Awards are gaining momentum, and it is wonderful to showcase women in an industry which is male-dominated.
“I started to cry with joy when I found out I was nominated, to be honest. I was crying in the carpark as I was doing a wine delivery. How ironic is that?
“Being nominated in a national award as one of only three people is pretty massive for little old Canberra. I also get to go to New York now with no children and no husband for 10 days, which is a great prize!”