10 Aug 2016
Meet our friend Leanne Rogers and find out why we love her, and her West Australian-made Vinofood products.
WORDS: Jessica Zoiti
Eleven years ago, Leanne Rogers and her partner Garry Capelli made a life-changing trade – the hum-drum streets of suburbia for a stunning 100-acre property in Denmark.
A self-employed finance broker at the time, Leanne found she was mostly communicating with clients via email or phone, so why not do so from somewhere more inspiring? But the allure of the property’s lake, vineyards and clean country air was too strong and it wasn’t long before calculators were abandoned and The Lakehouse Winery and Vinofood were born.
The Lakehouse Denmark produced its first vintage in 2006 and today, makes 22 wines. But more than a winery, the property is also one of the region’s top tourist stops, popular for its lake-side cellar door, restaurant, café and food store.
“We’ve got a really picturesque winery here, right on the lake. It’s a really lovely setting and when we opened the cellar door, people would sit with their glass of wine and want something to eat,” says Leanne.
“We started offering cheese platters but then we needed something to go with the cheeses.”
It wasn’t long before Leanne realised she could make condiments equal to those she was buying in. Starting with her famous Fig, Apple and Chardonnay Chutney, she created Vinofoods – a hand-made range that now includes mustards, jams, jellies, chutneys, relishes, sauces, vinegars, dressings, sweet sauces, and sweet treats. She also has a natural skincare range called WineSpa.
“People started asking if they could buy some of the condiments to take home,” she recalls. “That led to the products being put in a jar, labelled and sold in the cellar door. As we got busier and busier people started asking if they could sell the products in their own shops and what started as about six products has grown to around 28 now.”
Leanne acknowledges there’s plenty of condiment competition out there – much of it cheaper – but her range has a very solid point of difference.
“Every Vinofood product has wine or grapeseed oil in it, and I don’t think there’s anyone else doing that to this extent,” she says.
“Every product is hand-made onsite, and we try and source as much local produce as we can. For example, our beetroot relish is made from hand-grated local beetroots. I have a friend who has a pear tree and this year she’s given me truckloads of pears for our pickled pears. We obviously can’t get everything local but we try to as much possible.
“Also, we don’t use any artificial colours and flavours. Everything is naturally preserved –there are no nasties in them, just everyday, honest food.”
You can truly taste this quality in the Vinofood products. The Sparkling Strawberry Jam isn’t sickly sweet and instead, sings with pure berry flavour. And the Onion, Thyme and Red Wine Jam is chunky and savoury with just a hint of red wine acidity (it’s INCREDIBLE with goat’s cheese too).
“You can go into the supermarket and buy an IXL jam for about $3 that’s been mass produced. Our (strawberry jam) is just under $10 but it’s full of fresh strawberries,” says Leanne, adding, “It has no artificial flavours or colours, and we put the bare minimum amount of sugar into it to simply ensure it has a long shelf life. You really can taste the freshness of the product.
“Some people value that taste and some don’t – and that’s fine – but at the end of the day you’re also supporting a local, West Australian business. I employ about 15 people here and they’re all local.”
It’s a no-brainer if you ask us!
TRY IT FOR YOURSELF
Looking to wow guests with a truly tasty cheese platter? The following Vinofood products, stocker at The Black Truffle, are sure to do the trick. All retail for $9.95ea.
BEETROOT & SHIRAZ RELISH “Our beetroot relish is made from hand-grated local beetroots,” says Leanne proudly adding that the product is incredible on toast with cheese and takes a simple sandwich to the next level.
ONION, THYME & RED WINE JAM A pantry essential, this jam perfect with bacon and eggs at breakfast, or combined with goat’s cheese to make a delicious tart.
TOMATO & RIESLING RELISH Use this relish to spice up sausages, in sandwiches or as a tasty twist on a pizza base.
FIG, APPLE & CHARDONNAY CHUTNEY Vinofood’s original product is still on of Leanne’s favourites. “if it’s really busy in the cellar door and I’m starving I can just grab a slice of bread and spread the chutney on it with a bit of butter and it’s really satisfying,” she says. “I can’t eat cheese without it either.”
SPARKLING STRAWBERRY JAM Serve generously with fresh bread or slathered onto homemade scones with (or without) cream.
SOON TO COME: Leanne says she’s always thinking of new and improved products to add to her Vinofood range. Keep your eyes peeled for her selection of four new rocky roads, made using her own merlot jelly. MMMMM!