|Grapegrower & Winemaker||Wine & Viticulture Journal||Wine Industry Directory||
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Name: Suzie Muntz
SUZIE MUNTZ speaks of Xanadu much like Samuel Taylor Coleridge did in his famous poem Kubla Khan. An exotic, utopian place with sunny spots of greenery and miles of fertile land. Except in Muntz's version there's a touch less demon-lover and more Star Wars dress up days.
'There is never a dull moment,' Muntz said. 'Throughout the growing season and especially during vintage we have our famous dress up days, whether it's fun staff handpicks dressed in Drag, Christmas parties that are 'short film festivals', crunch time at lunch time for a bit of fitness, or Star Wars and 1980s theme days.'
Xanadu Wines has been Muntz's home for the better part of a decade. She said staff at the winery rarely move on because of the warm, family-feel vibe of the company.
'Xanadu wines is one of those fantastic companies that once you start working here and get a feel for the team camaraderie,' she said.
Growing up surrounded by big broad acre crops in Corrigin Western Australia, Muntz, also known as Muntzy, Minty, Munta, Muntza, Munted, Smuntz, and Suxie Muntx, developed a passion for all things outdoors at a young age. After finishing high school, she began studying a degree in agriculture at the University of Western Australia where the first two years paralleled that of a viticultural degree.
She worked in other fields of agriculture across Canada, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, before returning to Australia to pursue a career in the wine industry.
'I fell in love with the Margaret River region and developed a passion for growing grapes to make some amazing wines,' she said. 'The difference between growing broad acre crops and grapes is that you get to enjoy the end product and see the fruits of your hard work a lot earlier when it's in a bottle of wine on your table.'
Championing the importance of grapegrowers, Muntz said it's time to put viticulture on the map and unite the wine industry.
'My career plan is simple: continue implementing viticultural strategies that result in top quality winegrapes at the same time as increasing my ability to influence the wine industry and the Margaret River region,' she said. 'This includes getting the people in the vineyard who are often 'behind the scenes' out there and increasing public awareness.'
Muntz said there was too much segregation between grapegrowers and winemakers and placed the blame on the numerous different regional bodies representing each group.
'I believe this gap needs to bridged, so we can receive more funding as an industry from the government enabling us to take on the global market.'
Muntz proved her skills as a natural talking head when she was selected as one of 16 participants to take part in Wine Australia's 2015 Future Leaders program.
Pitched as a 'professional and personal development course that creates a network of confident, committed individuals who will 'be next' and contribute to the future success of the Australian wine community' Muntz described Future Leaders as a 'massive career highlight'.
'I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to enhance my leadership skills, whilst at the same time meeting my inspiring future leader colleagues, other professionals in the wine industry and networking with some really interesting speakers,' she said. 'Some of the most inspirational speakers were Toby Ralph, Ben Haslett from the Nuffield scholarship , Ashley Ratcliff, and Caroline Rhodes to name a few.
Muntz said she learned a lot from the program, but the most important concept was that leadership comes in many forms.
'On a personal level I learnt a lot about my own personality profile and that there are many different styles of leadership and one way isn't necessarily correct,' she said. 'Whilst on another level I feel really lucky to have met an inspiring network of amazing colleagues. We are going to be doing some wine swaps, where I can't wait to taste some different wines from across Australia.'
Now that Future Leaders has wrapped up, Muntz said she might be able to find some time to indulge in a few activities away from the vineyard.
'I enjoy playing my bagpipes, I love the outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing, gardening and cooking,' she said. 'I also meet up with my mates for 'art night' once a fortnight, where we tinker away at different projects, often whilst enjoying vino or two. Some of our projects have included upholstery, felting, resin art, pallet furniture, painting and mosaics.'
'My latest exciting hobby is making my own wine with friend Karen Holper, we will be bottling our 2015 Chardonnay very shortly. It is delectable.'
Although Muntz described her career to date as 'very exciting', she said there have been some rough spots where she's had to draw a line between business and friendships.
'One of my biggest challenges would be being involved in rejecting a grower's fruit after a heat event, where the grower didn't turn his irrigation on,' she said. 'This was a costly exercise for him and not a nice position to be in from a company angle.
'Another challenge has been maintaining a professional work balance and delineating friendships from profession to make hard decisions.'
Despite this, Muntz said she loves her day-to-day work which sees her growing premium grapes with her vineyard team for the winery to create some amazing wines.
'I work closely with our winemaker Glenn Goodall, trialling all sorts of different things in the vineyard, including different pruning styles, canopy management, foliar sprays, and then following these trials through to a finished wine, to see what worked best,' she said. 'I also coordinate the seasonal movements of my fearless team with my vineyard manager Steve Utting; from pruning, to canopy management, spraying, pest and disease monitoring, and finally through to harvest. All whilst being at the mercy of the weather.'
Muntz described the wine and grape game as ever changing and encouraged young grapegrowers and winemakers to get involved.
'It's an exciting industry to be in,' she said. 'There are many different facets and jobs that can be obtained within the Industry, as I found out on the Future Leaders course. The sixteen of us were all from different parts of the sector, growing the grapes, making wine, bottling it, blogging it, marketing it and finally selling it. What's not to love?'
After some challenging times for the winery, Muntz said the team at Xanadu were 'super excited' about the future.
'It's been a lot of hard work by everyone here, but our wine sales are on a healthy incline.'
So, what keeps Muntz and her team sane through the demanding hours of vintage? Well, probably mixing in just a touch of crazy.
'In the vineyard we have our own little Winemaker Voodoo Doll, pins and all, that was a gift from Glenn Goodall. This comes in handy when we are watching the weather like hawks and in the words of winemaker Glenn… 'Wait, wait, wait - go get it ALL' during vintage!'
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