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Fraser McKinley is carving his own innovative winemaking path with his Sami-Odi label among the traditions and heritage of the Barossa Valley.
There are two different paths that converge at a particular point and become the road to a great winemaking career. One is the direction laid out for those with wine in their DNA – those who are born among vineyards, with their names already emblazoned on labels. From here, great wines with great traditions can come.
The other path is the one found by those headed in another direction entirely until they fall under a spell and become inexorably pulled towards a life in wine. It is a circuitous route and can be full of detours and wrong turns, but the way forward is lit with high-voltage enthusiasm, curiosity and ambition. It’s the dust from this track you find on the boots of Fraser McKinley.
Fraser is the kind of person who would be capable of doing many things well, but we can all be thankful he was drawn to wine, now with his own label Sami-Odi. He brings a very distinctive sensibility to everything he does in the vineyard and the winery; every action is informed and shaped by deep thinking and that elusive thing we try to call ‘soul’.
He makes wines that can cleverly sit comfortably in the tradition of his adopted home in the Barossa Valley, yet at the same time they can be unlike anything else for miles around. He can seem a bit of a dag, but he’s really, as the kids would say, cool as f*ck.
So, how exactly did a young Kiwi with a name that merges an Australian prime minister with an American president end up making wine surrounded by old stone sheds out the back of Lyndoch? Like many people, Fraser’s initial interest in wine was handed down from his parents who clearly understood wine’s ability to evoke memories. They drank wine like a kind of vinous slideshow of holiday snaps and mementos of travels past. “Look kids, here’s a wine from Orvieto. Remember when we went to Orvieto?”
Wine was nothing serious, but something real and tangible, and it always stayed with Fraser, tucked away while most of his brain tackled a Spatial Design degree at Auckland University. His interest in wine was occasionally brought out and buffed as he did what so many students do – balanced study with hospitality work.
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