Andrew Pattison and Heather McCormack have trouble deciding what to write when they fill in the small space allocated to ‘Occupation’ on forms of all sorts. Andrew’s complete entry should include winemaker, music festival director, music promoter, tour manager, event promoter, and writer. And that’s really only half his story. Heather’s entry would include painter, sculptor, vineyard manager, festival organiser, and chef.
Andrew has been a mainstay of the folk music scene in Australia for many years, establishing the Troubadour Cafe in Melbourne in 1978. For the past eighteen years he has been running the mobile Troubadour Wine Bar and Stage at some of Australia’s largest music festivals: Port Fairy; Woodford in Queensland; the National Folk Festival in Canberra; the Maldon Folk Festival; Newstead Live!; The Troubadour Weekend at Campaspe Downs near Kyneton; and the Burke and Wills Folk Festival at the Burke & Wills Winery in early March. Queensland’s Woodford Festival was where he first met Heather. They finally retired from that one two years ago, so they could enjoy Christmas at home at the winery.
Andrew’s ongoing contribution to Australia’s music scene was recognised by his peers when he received ‘The Folk Achievement Award’ in 2009. This award is given ‘to an individual, group or organisation showing a history of long-time contribution or commitment to the folk community. In other words, someone who has inspired us, taught us and marked us with their presence.’
In accepting this award, Andrew said, “I accept on behalf of all the hard working anonymous music-loving small folk clubs and festival organisers without whom there would be almost nowhere for the vast majority of folk performers and song writers to find an audience.”
The Burke & Wills Winery has become a significant venue on the touring circuit of major artists, including John Williamson and Eric Bogle. Andrew does not see his concerts as providing background music for a noisy audience. “We provide music for people who really want to listen. When world class performers are playing live, the least the audience can do is appreciate their talent, get their money’s worth, and listen,” says Andrew. “Over the past five years, we’ve had an average of one thousand people each year attend our events. About ninety percent of these people come from Melbourne, but we are gradually building up the numbers of music-loving people from Central Victoria.”
Andrew wins awards for his wine as well as for his contribution to the music industry. His 2007 Cabernet Merlot won the top cabernet or cabernet blend at the 2009 Macedon Ranges Wine Exhibition, making him the most decorated Macedon Ranges cabernet producer. His shiraz and pinot noir have also won trophies.
All this is a long way from the farming community in the middle of England where Andrew was born, an area not far from Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon. With no family-owned farm to inherit, the young Andrew’s first job choice was in rural estate management as a trainee chartered surveyor. The lure of entertainment and bright lights led him to London. His rural heart was not made for city property management, so he thought he’d try for a job in the BBC. Then a friend talked him into travelling overland to Australia.
They embarked on the long journey in an old London taxi and made it as far as Madras in India. From there they took a train to Colombo and a ship to Australia, landing in Perth in 1974 with no money and no job. Andrew took a job on a wheat farm near Kalgoorlie and then drove across the Nullabor to visit a friend in Melbourne. That was the end of his travel adventures. “Australia was different to the UK. People here are prepared to take you on face value and give you a go,” he says. “I started a mobile discotheque, and made some good contacts. I got a contract at the Fitzroy Football Club, running one of the first late-night nightclubs in Melbourne. It was such a success that I used my earnings to start the Troubadour Music Cafe in 1978, as a gentle folk music antidote to the disco. I ran it for ten years and was then ready to move to the country.”
In 1986 Andrew bought a young vineyard and a tin shed at Lancefield. “My first hands on winemaking was in 1989, using merlot grapes from Tisdalls in Echuca which I blended with cabernet sauvignon from Granite Hills in Baynton. The winemaking for the first eight years was mostly done by Llew Knight or John Ellis. In ‘95 and ‘96 I was between wineries and leased eight acres of vines at Pipers Creek from Barry Murphy of O’Shea and Murphy. We learned about winemaking together, in the old dairy, experimenting and listening to the neighbours. Nowadays I make ninety percent of our wines. One of life’s critical skills is knowing where to go for advice and assistance,” says Andrew. “It’s one of my few acquired skills.”
Heather, an artist living in Brisbane, worked on horse studs and for polocross establishments around Australia for ten years, before returning home to focus on her sculpture. An artist friend suggested she join her in the signwriting department at the Woodford Folk Festival. She first met Andrew there in 1995 but it was 2001 before she moved to Victoria. She has retained her sculptor’s studio deep in the mountains of the Great Divide between Brisbane and Toowoomba. She has exhibited her paintings at several venues in Central Victoria, and organises art shows at the Mia Mia Hall.
Seven years ago, Heather’s birthday present was a Clydesdale, officially Mr. Burke but Clomp to his friends. She now has two more horses. Mr Burke has a column in Andrew and Heather’s newsletter. Heather’s interests in art, horses, pruning the vineyard, assisting Andrew with the winemaking, and participating in community events keeps her busy.
Their Burke & Wills Winery property was purchased in June 2004 and has four acres under vines. “The attraction of the property was the red volcanic soil, and a good bore water supply. It is very rocky, but the basalt soil in between the rocks is perfect for growing good grapes. I’d driven the Burke & Wills Track. Each time I’d think Burke & Wills would be a great winery name,” says Andrew. “When our current property came on the market it seemed like the right move, particularly with Heathcote’s reputation for red wine.
“In the five years we have been here we’ve realised that we made a great choice. Not only can we grow great grapes here, but we’ve found the Mia Mia community to be most welcoming. We are both operational firefighters with the Mia Mia CFA.
“We have a wonderful life of wine and music which fortunately complement each other very well, both in business and in life. It seems idyllic from the outside, and probably is. But it has its stresses, like everyone’s life. Living on the land keeps you poor in terms of cashflow, but we feel very rich in terms of lifestyle. I gave up any chance of financial riches many years ago, in exchange for freedom of time and choice in my everyday life. It was a good swap.”