A STAR performer at this year's NSW Wine Awards and the Australian Sparkling Wine Show was a Tumbarumba wine produced by a family that once called Merewether home.
The $65 Courabyra 805 2001 Pinot Noir-Chardonnay-Pinot Meunier was judged Wine of the Show at the 2013 Australian Sparkling Show in October. It won against competition from about 200 entries from major companies and boutique producers from all over Australia.
In the NSW awards the Courabyra 805 2001 won a gold medal and claimed the best sparkling wine trophy for the second year running.
Courabyra, pronounced Koo-rah-by-ra, meaning "pleasant place" in Aboriginal, is the brand used by Cathy and Brian Gairn and Cathy's brother Stephen Morrison. They produce sparkling wine as well as pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris table wines, which are available at courabyrawines.com.au and at the cellar door at 805 Courabyra Road, Tumbarumba.
The grandparents and parents of Cathy and Stephen grew up and lived in Merewether.
Their father ran a Newcastle wire manufacturing business, before moving it and the family to Melbourne in 1959.
Cathy, 54, one of 11 Morrison children, was born in Melbourne and a teenage trip to Europe took her to a job in cut flower production in Aalsmeer, in the Netherlands.
Visits to French winegrowing areas also sparked an interest in wine, something that has now developed into a passion.
On her return to Melbourne she gained a Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture degree, and in 1983 she and husband Brian, a fitness and security industry worker, visited Tumbarumba.
They were enchanted by the alpine beauty of the place and in 1985 bought land at an altitude of 730 metres at 805 Courabyra Road, Tumbarumba.
In 1987, after regularly travelling back and forth from Melbourne, they settled permanently in Tumbarumba, working in a variety of jobs before establishing a plant nursery and cut flower and strawberry growing operation.
In 1993 the venture took a radical new turn when the Gairns and their children planted 1.4 hectares of pinot noir and followed up in 1994 and 1996 with a further two hectares of pinot noir, 1.2 hectares of pinot meunier and 3.5 hectares of chardonnay.
Their grapes found a ready buyer in star sparkling winemaker Ed Carr, who used them in the BRL Hardy Sir James wines, and they have since gone into Kamberra, Meeting Place and Eden Road brand wines.
The contact with Kamberra's then chief winemaker Alex McKay led to Alex using Courabyra grapes for his own Collector Wines label and to him making Courabyra brand wines.
Stephen Morrison, who had a career as an investment banker and property developer in Melbourne, was a regular vintage-time visitor to Courabyra and developed a love of Tumbarumba and an ambition to grow his own wine grapes there.
This dream was realised in 2010 when he saw a vineyard advertised for sale by the Foster's Group.
It just happened to be the vineyard planted in 1981 by former Lindeman's winemaker Ian Cowell and was at 157 Courabyra Road, only six kilometres from his sister's vineyard.
It had the extra virtue of having mature vines that allowed him to produce his own chardonnay and pinot noir wines almost immediately.
It was the first vineyard planted at Tumbarumba and was sold in 1994 to Foster's predecessor Southcorp by Ian Cowell, who went on to establish Tralee vineyard with a consortium of Sydney investors.
Stephen Morrison has renamed the 157 Courabyra Road vineyard Revee Estate, and has 30 hectares of vines of mainly pinot noir and chardonnay varieties with small plots of pinot meunier, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.
In the past the vineyard supplied fruit for the successful Seppelts Salinger sparkling wines and sparklers made by Charles Sturt University.
Today he and Cathy and Brian Gairn combine resources in producing Courabyra wines and he also supplies grapes to Treasury Wine Estates, McWilliam's, Eden Road, Collector Wines and Clonikilla.
The other nine Morrison siblings, some of whom now live in Tumbarumba, regularly provide willing hands at key times in the two vineyards.
Cathy, who is president of the Tumbarumba Vignerons' Association, said the area's cool climate posed many challenges.
"This requires good site selection and various growing techniques to minimise the extremes of nature," she said.
"Despite this the rewards from well-managed vineyards are well worth it!"
The area gained recognition as an Australian Geographic Indication wine region in 1998 and today has 265 hectares of vines, 20 operational vineyards an annual grape crush of 2000 tonnes.