BOUTIQUE winery Restdown Wines has snared its first award at the recent NSW Small Winemakers wine show.
The Deniliquin winemaker was awarded the bronze medal for its 2011 semillon.
Owners Jo and Don Hearn planted their first vines in 1996 and started selling their grapes to big wineries in 1999. "We were seeing other wineries win awards for wines they'd made with our grapes, so we decided to try making our own," Jo said. Now, Jo is Restdown's self-taught winemaker and Don is in charge of grape production.
"I've done a 12-month TAFE course and some short courses.
"But my passion mostly stemmed from living in France and falling in love with good food and wine," Jo said.
The farm was originally cattle, sheep and cropping, and Don still runs grazing cattle on the 445ha property.
Don and Jo went through succession planning a couple of years ago when Don's parents retired and his brother wanted to get out of farming.
The couple still sells 80 tonnes (90 per cent) of their produce to other wineries, keeping just five tonnes of six varieties to make their own wine - semillon, chardonnay, merlot, sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz - and on occasion, rose and verjuice.
"We produce approximately 5000 litres of our own wine each year - nearly 6000 bottles," Jo said.
The winery includes 7ha of grapes and a cellar door outlet. Customers are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch.
"Our merlot is our most consistent and popular wine, year to year, and we already have people on a waiting list for the next vintage," Jo said.
"We're at the point now where we're at capacity, so we ... just need to get better."
The Hearns phased out chemicals from production, and while not certified, run a totally organic operation.
"We have much better quality grapes now," Jo said.
She said sales have doubled in the past six months.