When Howard Park Wines and winemaker Janice McDonald joined forces this year, the news sparked controversy and excitement. Having brewed some of the nation’s best beer, developed her own wine company and taken the reins at this Margaret River winery, we ask what comes next.
WORDS - MAX VEENHUYZEN
When word got around that Howard Park had appointed Janice McDonald as its new senior winemaker, it set tongues wagging. Part of the commotion was the communal rubbing of hands at the prospect of these two Margaret River long-time players joining forces for wine’s greater good. Yet there was disapproval in some sectors too, at least from those who felt Janice had done the wrong thing by Deep Woods Estate – where she had accepted a similar chief winemaking role only months earlier.
Is it right to jump ship only a few months into a new job? “Ultimately, it was a better job, the timing was just bad,” muses Janice between courses at the Court Wine Bar, an old journo haunt in Perth.
It’s been a long road, literally, to the top for Janice. She grew up in West Wyalong, the distinctly un-winey corner of Central West NSW in a family of four kids. An older sister and future brother-in-law first got a teenaged Janice excited about wine, but it wasn’t until she began studying science at Sydney’s Macquarie University that her interest in vino really blossomed – thanks largely to the city’s wealth of bottle shops, where an increasingly wine-smitten Janice would while away her non-contact hours browsing and learning.
She soon called Charles Sturt University about transferring into its wine course, only to be told she’d first have to study a bridging course and gain hands-on wine industry experience. She wasn’t deterred and worked a vintage that year at Arrowfield Estate in the Hunter Valley, but from the start of her wine journey she’s had to earn every step forward. She wasn’t born into wine, she’s had to fight her own way. And she’s been doing just that for the past 25 years.
It puts into context her following proviso: “Opportunities to work with a name like Howard Park are few and far between.” The same can also be said for talents like Janice McDonald.
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