Celebrating Women in Wine: Liz Barnes of Star Lane
Liz Barnes may not quite have reached Wonder Woman status on a Marvel level, but she’s making her mark in the wine industry from her (and husband Brett’s) beautiful corner of Beechworth with Star Lane Winery. Words like magic, handmade and estate-grown are thrown around the vineyard - you can practically taste the TLC in each bottle.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
When I was a kid I either wanted to be Wonder Woman or a famous singer. Unfortunately I can’t hold a note - so singing was out - and golden magic lassoes and invisible planes are pretty hard to come by.
When did you realise winemaking was an actual thing you could do as a job?
We initially contracted a winemaker to make wine for us and then I decided to study winemaking so we could make the wine the way I wanted to make it. I also had the assistance of Rick Kinzbrunner from Giaconda when we first started making the wine, which was brilliant – it instilled confidence in me knowing that I could consult with Rick if I was at all unsure of anything. You’re constantly learning and growing in this occupation and that’s one of the fantastic things about it.
Did you choose to work in the region you’re in now for a specific reason?
Yes, we chose this region when we were looking for a property in which to grow vines. The Beechworth region has a fabulous reputation for producing quality cool-climate fruit, resulting in excellent ultra-premium wines. There are some fantastic boutique winemakers in the Beechworth region – some of which have achieved cult status in the industry. We hand-selected our site, which is our home: it’s a beautiful place to live, work and have a business.
What does winemaking mean to you?
Winemaking is more than just a job or a career – it’s a lifestyle and a passion. You can only make brilliant wine if you love what you do. Every drop of wine that you produce is a reflection of your vineyard site and you as a person. It’s reflective of your personality and the love and energy you put into your wine.
What’s been your proudest achievement and biggest fail?
One of my proudest achievements has been building our winery onsite in front of the vineyard overlooking the hills surrounding the valley in which we live. It’s a picturesque location and I’m really proud of the way it’s turned out.
Another thing that I’m really proud of is our blends. We have two blends – Quattro Vitigni, which is a blend of predominantly sangiovese and nebbiolo with some merlot and shiraz, and the other is our cantare – a blend of shiraz and sangiovese. They are fantastic food wines and compliment a really wide range of foods, which a lot of our customers have found brilliant when they are unsure of what food to match with wine when entertaining.
Biggest fail is a bit more tricky. I’ve tried some things that have worked out better than others. To be honest I’ve learnt from all of them so I don’t really consider them to be a fail as such because I’ve learnt and grown as a winemaker from them.
What’s your favourite music jam at the moment?
Tash Sultana – she is great – so easy to listen to; just sit back and chill.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why?
One of the winemakers who would be one of my biggest inspirations would be Louisa Rose – chief winemaker at Yalumba. She is super cool and kind of like a cool rock chick of the wine industry. She has achieved some amazing stuff but is still so grounded and down to earth and just a really nice bird.
According to Wine Australia, the number of women employed in wine has increased by just 3% since 2011, going from 35 to 38%. What’s your opinion on female influence in the Australian wine industry?
The wine industry is still very much male dominated but a lot of female winemakers are doing some fantastic stuff and really kicking arse and making a mark on the industry. Over the past few years there has been an increased awareness and publicity for female winemakers because of the work they are doing, and rightly so. This is on the increase and it’s creating a demand from both consumers and employers alike, which is fantastic for women in this industry and will probably slowly but surely increase the number of female winemakers.
What would you like to see happen next for women in the wine industry?
I’d like to see more recognition of female winemakers. This has commenced already to some degree with the Australian Women in Wine Awards which was held in London last year and I was fortunate enough to attend. Although it would be great if there was more of this type of thing, particularly for female winemakers to network and connect.
You’re relaxing on a Friday evening (or any evening) after a hard day’s work, what’s your wine of choice?
At the moment my vino of choice is nebbiolo – I love this varietal and it is so complex and interesting. I can drink a nebbiolo and switch off from everyday stresses and go on a journey and get caught up in its world.