“Our unofficial family motto has always been “good wine, good food, good friends” – I think it’s a pretty good formula.”
Leanne De Bortoli’s childhood playground was the winery established by her granddad Vittorio. With the family living opposite the winery, work and play blended seamlessly. One day Leanne and her three brothers would be rollerskating or skateboarding through the winery, weaving around looming wine vats and vast bottling lines, the next they’d be helping out on those same bottling lines, in the winery’s Cellar Door or in the vineyards. At other times they’d be yabbying in one of the irrigation canals surrounding the estate or climbing the fruit and olive trees that their grandparents had planted around the house, “picking oranges and stuffing our faces full of figs”.
“Thinking back on it, it was pretty cool having a winery as a playground when you are a kid,” says Leanne.
Living on a winery is in the blood. Leanne and her winemaker husband Steve Webber now run the De Bortoli winery in the Yarra Valley, living and working on the estate. It’s where they raised two beautiful daughters Sally and Kate who, like their mum and uncles, grew up helping out in the winery and playing amongst the vines.
It’s a busy life in the Yarra Valley. Leanne looks after the winery’s cellar door, cheese shop and renowned restaurant Locale while also helping to promote the winery and the region, tending a thriving veggie patch and, as a self-confessed social media tragic, capturing and posting all the goings on at the estate – from the changing of the seasons in the vineyard to a bumper tomato crop or new dishes on the Locale menu – on her Instagram feed.
Leanne’s a great cook and often treats friends, family and colleagues from the wine industry to delicious meals using recipes handed down to her from her mother and grandmother and produce picked straight from her veggie garden. The meals, usually served on the back terrace of her home and are accompanied by beautiful views over vines and, inevitably, the family dogs.
Leanne and Steve regularly retreat to the Mornington Peninsula where they have a second home and the business of winemaking is replaced by paddle boarding, pilates and yoga.
“Something about the sound and smell of the sea is very relaxing,” says Leanne. “Also, there’s not a vine in sight!”
Of course good food and wine in the company of family and friends is still central even away from the winery. It may be a vine-free break from a busy life, but the family motto still holds sway.
“Don’t be frightened to try new wine styles – even if you can’t pronounce the names, half the time neither can the winemakers!"
Leanne completed a Wine Marketing degree from Roseworthy Agricultural College, as did Steve Webber, just not at the same time. However through mutual friends from College, they first met.