Getting better with age: Oranje Tractor celebrating their 20th year of wine making

Owners of Oranje Tractor Pamela and Murray standing outside their cellar door with their dog Merlot.  (Hannah Turner)

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Hiding under a canopy of trees is a winery whose alternative way of farming has won them endless awards.

In 1996, Pamela Lincoln and Murray Gomm arrived on a bare cow paddock with not a tree in site and devoted their energies to developing the land into a luscious vineyard.

“We’ve got 20 acres of what was my parents’ beef and cattle farm,” Mr Gomm said.

“There was absolutely nothing here, we had a blank canvas.

“We built a shed, which is now the cellar door, a house, eight acres of vines and our first vintage was in 2001.”

Now the pair are toasting their 20th year of wine making and have been certified as organic since 2005.

“The idea of a bit more space, cooler summers and access to land to grow things was sort of that initial attraction,” Mr Gomm said.

“Being able to eat and pick spray-free fruit seemed to be a really good idea.

“Spraying chemicals over produce wasn’t part of the dream.”

The air smells fresh, birds chirp and their property is covered in a diversity of plants and antique items.

One of their buildings has a canopy of colourful vintage chairs hanging from above where the couple store their antique collection, which has become the base for a side hustle.

Oranje Tractor Treasures came about after they built their cellar door and home from second-hand materials, and now they hire out their impressive collection of vintage items to wedding goers. 

“The downside of doing what we’re doing is, like other small wineries, we’re price takers not price makers,” Ms Lincoln said.

“There is this mentality that wineries are owned by very rich people who have plenty of money to spend and give away.

“Whereas all farmers are at the mercy of being price takers.”

While named Oranje Tractor, the couple don’t actually own any working tractors but instead named the vineyard after Mr Gomm’s dad’s old orange tractor.

“The reason it has a ‘j’ is because Orange is a regional city and a distinct grape growing region so you can’t call your wine after a grape growing region,” Mr Gomm explained.

“A German couple told us the Dutch spelling was with a ‘j’ and we were getting a lot of Dutch visitors at that time.”

While the pair started off farming in a conventional way they soon switched to organic farming and are now focusing on regenerative agriculture.

“We’re not here to take down the planet, we’re here to make it better,” Mr Gomm said.

“We don’t want to degrade this environment by ploughing it up and spraying chemicals and removing the carbon in the soil.

“It’s about using natural systems to pull carbon from up there and put it underground so we can fight climate change.

Neither of the owners came from a wine background, and in Ms Lincoln’s case, even a farming background.

But they both shared a love for the land and were intrigued by the art of growing high-quality produce in an environmentally friendly way.

Ms Lincoln said despite having won a variety of awards, including the WA Rural Women’s Award, making high-quality produce is what she finds the most rewarding.

She was presented the prestigious award, which included a bursary of $10,000, for her contribution to the sustainability of rural industries via her role in establishing the Albany Farmers Market.

She launched her first book in 2014 This Tractor Life: A memoir of food, wine and woofers.

The winery was even host to Prince Charles and Camilla in 2015.

“The fact that they chose to visit us was major,” Ms Lincoln said.

The owners run wine tasting events, masterclasses, farm tours and dinner parties.

“We want to do things that are interesting to clients,” Mr Gomm said.

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