Meet Cellr’s weekly crushes Joel and Adam Garbin, the brothers working in their family’s multi-award winning Swan Valley winery, Garbin Estate. Beyond being down to earth and great to chat with, the wine making and marketing duo have a lot of insight to shed on what it means to craft wine and create an engaging experience for customers.
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Send us some photos of yourself in action at the winery and tell us the story behind them
Left: This is one of my many jobs during vintage, driving the harvester. Purchased back in 2016 from another local winery, we now have the luxury of picking our fruit exactly when we want. I have also been able to observe the fruit quality and quantity first hand which is always an impressive sight. This is my 5th vintage as driver now and I’m still learning something new every year. At first it was a little daunting all the buttons and noises and driving straight, but I was lucky to have a couple of lessons from the previous owner and learned how to take the fruit off clean. Each year brings new challenges, but we’re always able to work together to overcome them.
Right: This image was caught during a regular task at Garbin Estate which is our barrel monitor and top up day. Pictured in the photo is me (Adam) having a look over our 2020 vintages of Merlot (sparkling base), Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Oak is porous therefore we do observe some ullage which requires topping up but before that is done we will re-test each wine to make sure all is safe and preserved for the coming months spent in barrel. If there is anything of utmost importance in my craft of winemaking it is don’t work with ullages. All three varieties are coming to the end of their contact with French oak, and will be bottled later this year including the sparkling merlot for tirage. I truly enjoy the subtleness with French oak maturation and the fine balance of the varietal, upon smell and taste.
Do you have a winery cat or dog?
This is Froy the Border Collie. He’s a very laid back dog when at home, but is always ready to go when it’s time for a walk around the vineyard or to visit customers at the cellar. In vintage he can be seen running between the vines checking on the grape pickers at our estate block and always comes out to help supervise clean down after a day of crushing. This photo was taken at vintage when Adam stopped the tractor with a fruit bin on the back, I picked up Froy and placed him on the driver’s seat. As you can tell he was very happy to watch the action and catch his breath.
As the 3rd generation of upcoming winemakers at Garbin Estate, what is it that has inspired you to both pursue wine and follow in your family’s footsteps?
Joel – I have lived on the vineyard my whole life and helped when I was young with jobs like lifting and dropping wires, tractor driving, planting vineyards and vine maintenance. At a young age it was hard to appreciate wine, all I knew was that it was a drink for adults with an acquired taste. However, I did see value in working hard in the vineyard to get a job done and the satisfaction of doing it right.
Now, as the years roll on, I continue to develop an appreciation for vineyards, the art of winemaking and it’s rich history. I’ve also developed an interest in horticulture through growing chilli, and have started to pursue wine courses completing my level 2 WSET recently. I would say my inspiration grows stronger as I continue to learn and challenge myself, it would be a shame not to continue and contribute where I can to the family tradition.
Adam – Initially, from a young age, I would always take pride in being neat and tidy which looking back, I can’t quite believe I would want from a young age. The beauty is that it has resonated into our vineyards. I do believe my efforts for a well maintained neat vineyard would give the family every chance for exciting and rewarding wine vintages to follow. This was my initial ideal to pursue and follow in our family’s footsteps.
The continual satisfaction of reward for effort when presenting wines which are loved and enjoyed by loyal clients, customers is another big motivation which I observed through Mum and Dad at the cellar door. Our 2018 Reserve Chardonnay was the first wine I could truly appreciate as a wine that I spent the most hours spent on and enjoyed the most. Dad always dedicates our Gingin clone Chardonnay for Reserve series, and with clear objectives for this wine. Tasks such as lees stirring in barrels once a month for 9 months gave us great anticipation prior to bottling, and now we are being rewarded for the effort as it has become a vintage to remember.
What is it that each of you hope to bring to Garbin Estates and the wine industry as a whole in your respective roles at the winery?
Joel – As a family of 4 working in the business we all wear many hats, I believe one of my best hats is in marketing. I hope to lift the exposure of Garbin Wines to the public in Western Australia, with aspirations of international recognition through export. I also hope to show the wine industry innovative ways to promote wine and the industry through any new advancement in technology, I’m usually the go to in the family when it comes to tech related questions.
Adam – Becoming the assistant winemaker to Peter. My role currently is to continue learning from Dad and what each vintage will produce from vineyards, and further improving our craft in the winery. The hands on experience is 1st class and I am more motivated than ever to continue the opportunity for Garbin Estate being generational wine making. One role that I feel Dad has appreciated me taking full control of is our wine records. We do want to uphold the integrity of the region we are in, therefore records from grape to bottle are essential. I am generally patient with that job and it is a great avenue to look back on and remember our efforts especially if wine lovers continue to talk about a particular vintage.
I do believe Australians are spoilt for choice with exceptional wine regions and sub-regions right across the country. I hope to continue assisting and eventually making quality and drinkable wines from the Swan Valley, Western Australia.
When you’re not at the winery, what are you both getting up to?
Joel – When not at the winery, I like to go out with friends to different restaurants or bars and try something I haven’t had before. There is so much variety and I try to keep an open mind or palate, you never know when you might find something new you like!
Adam – We are big supporters of our nation’s game, AFL. Every second week in season Dad and I will head off to watch The Fremantle Dockers. Given our busy Saturday and Sundays at the cellar door, we do really hope for more night games. Having fun at the cellar door during the day and footy and night.
Tell us about what you think makes an exceptional cellar door and online experience for customers?
Joel – A great online experience for customers usually begins with a visit to your social media pages, and hopefully ends with a visit to the website or cellar door for wine purchases. We like to document what we are working on, new wine releases or special events coming up. Where possible it’s always a good idea to ask a question to get people chatting in the comments. Not only does it help the post’s interaction, but also asking the right question can give you real insights or a different perspective on what your customers really care about.
Adam – I have great pleasure being able to present wines I have helped work from harvest to bottling at our cellar door. The ability and opportunity to stimulate all human sensors in a positive way contributes to a memorable cellar door experience. To see neat vineyards when visiting Garbin Estate, to hear tank lids opening from a distance, hoses rustling, and most importantly smell and taste our wines is greatly appreciated. Making customers feel welcome, comfortable and safe allows them to feel more invested in our services and products. The ability to appreciate knowledge of wine from both ends of the spectrum is also important. Everyone’s palate is different and we respect every unique individual who visits and casts their sensors over our wines.
When you interact with your consumers, what is it that gets them excited about Garbin Estates and wine in general? What is your approach to interacting with them?
Joel – One of the reasons I believe people get excited about Garbin Wines and purchasing wine from our online store is our post purchase experience. Adam or myself will be notified of an order and take turns in front of the camera sending a personal thank you video to our customers. This can be achieved with apps or simply sent straight to the customers email. Keep us accountable and try it for yourself!
Adam – Another is knowing that you will always be served by a member of the Garbin family at the cellar door, it’s not every day you may have the chance to talk to the winemaker and not pay for the experience. Lots of customers have become friends of ours, it’s not uncommon to get regular visits not only for wine but for a nice catch up too.
What other channels do you use to engage customers to buy your wine outside the cellar door? What consumer engagement activities do you do in these channels?
Joel & Adam – One of our main channels used to engage customers is our email newsletter. I write them myself (Joel), and release them once a month or so. I try to keep it light and chatty notifying customers what the family is up to, upcoming special events, new wines and promotions. We have had lots of compliments about the newsletter and how it’s presented, if you’re interested in how our family owned and run winery operates I would suggest heading over to our website and signing up.
In what ways do you feel it is challenging to engage with customers?
Joel & Adam – In the cellar it’s always a challenge to balance interaction time with customers, in a short space of time you have to form a connection and convince people your product is worthy of their purchase. It can also be difficult at times to keep the conversation fresh, knowing your story inside and out, it might feel your reading a script at times so mixing it up and telling it in a way that might be more relatable to the customer is key. One of the harder topics is to answer specifics about the wine or to go back and comment on a particular vintage, it can be a struggle to recall the last month on the fly, so we keep notes on previous vintages and because the family work behind the bar, one of us will know the answer.
Talk to us about your supply chain, do you currently have visibility of your products after they leave the winery? What impact would having detailed data showing you where (in the world) and when your wine is being opened by the consumer?
Joel & Adam – Currently we have no visibility of our wines after they leave the winery. The benefit of having data showing where the wine is and being opened would give us insights recognising new and current hot spots for our wine. We can then focus marketing budget and strategies directly into highly interested locations increasing effectiveness while reducing or experimenting with a lower budget in other potential locations.
With the global explosion of wine fraud pushing into the mid/premium brackets due to sheer volume, how important is it for wine consumers to be able to identify your (legitimate) products via anti-counterfeit measures?
Joel & Adam – It’s always of high importance to protect your brand integrity. With ever advancing technology and more news of label copying, you need to make sure your label and product quality aren’t being compromised. New innovations with NFC and QR codes have now hit the market allowing wineries to protect their labels with built in chips, stickers or codes that make copying increasingly difficult or not possible.
What are you looking forward to about your V21 wines, and what have been the challenges you have faced this year? How have you worked to overcome these?
Joel & Adam – First off we are looking forward to actually having stock again, as some varieties of our 2020 vintage have sold out- or are very close to being sold before bottling this May. We are also excited about the quality of wine to come through this year as we have made changes to our vineyard through soil management, different pruning techniques and water scheduling that should start to see results this year and next.
Some of the challenges we have faced this year have been labour shortages especially fruit pickers and travel lockdowns, both due to the pandemic. In addition, unexpected summer rain, which has extended ripening time and prolonged vintage, and neighbouring fires. We have always worked out ways to carry on through the many challenges that pop up. The majority of our fruit is now machine harvested which has allowed us to decide exactly when we want the fruit to come off the vine, thus not relying heavily on picking teams to get the job done, were possible. Luckily for us the summer rain and fires didn’t affect the grapes.
Let’s see how well you know each other! If you were to take the other one out for the day- your shout- where would you go, what would you do, what would you eat and who’s wine would you drink? (other than Garbin Estate!)
Joel – Adam has always been a long time AFL football fan, supporting Fremantle Dockers. I would have to say going to watch the game with a pie in hand and a “cup” of wine (no matter how high the cost), by choice it would probably be a Cabernet Sauvignon or any red that’s available at the footy.
Adam – Joel and I had a great experience in Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia. We Would definitely get to Restaurant Caleb and its Rooftop bar enjoying a Chef’s platter and Garbin Estate 2019 Sangiovese.