A lot has changed at Mimosa Wines since Gail and Glenn Butson bought 23o acres of coastal bushland midway along Tathra-Bermagui Road in the late 1970s.
“It was a beef farm with a fibro shack on it back then,” smiles Gail.
Now Gail and Glenn are ready to sell up, but the sprawling property will stay in the family, with their daughter, Tilly Grand, and her husband, Aymeric, in the process of taking over management of the business and aiming to soon buy the property.
“We hope the official handover will take place in the first half of next year,” says Aymeric. “Tilly’s parents have done amazing things here. You have to give them credit for what they built in their 50s. They built the restaurant only 12 years ago.”
Aymeric, who grew up in France and has previously worked in sports media in Sydney, is learning the ropes managing the restaurant, while Glenn continues to tend the vines, the first of which were planted in 1999.
Although the change from corporate life and an apartment in Bondi has been big for Aymeric and Tilly, they came to Mimosa fresh from a year-long trip around the world, which ended abruptly when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
“Travel definitely changed the way we saw our lives,” explains Aymeric. “The life we had in Sydney was fun but during our trip, we were beginning to think, ‘What’s the point? Is this really where we want to live and raise a family?'”
With their first child due in early 2021 and bushfires and COVID-19 shutdowns fresh in everyone’s memories, Tilly and Aymeric have high hopes and big plans for this summer, making it the perfect time to visit if you haven’t before.
No matter which direction you’re coming from, leave plenty of time to drive to the winery – you won’t want to be rushed as you take in the gentle curves of the narrow road, which winds along the NSW South Coast through graceful spotted gum forests in Mimosa Rocks National Park.
The winery and restaurant has onsite accommodation and because it is 19.6km from Bermagui, 30.3km from Tathra and 36km from Bega via Dr George Mountain Road and Tathra-Bermagui Road, you might well want to stay the night and take full advantage of the wine list, which has recently had an overhaul by Aymeric, who is focused on small, boutique wineries and aims to serve wines you won’t easily find in bottle shops.
It’s the drive that sets the scene for a long, languid lunch on the restaurant’s balcony, which overlooks dams full of rosy water lilies, the vineyard and, in the distance, miles of miraculously unburnt forest.
“The fire stopped about 5km away so we feel very, very, lucky,” says Aymeric.
The view is a sight for sore eyes, as are the qualifications of the current chef and kitchen staff. Far from being mere backpackers, the travellers keeping chef Glen Simpson company this summer are Dominic Mannel and Jan Semmelhack, who have enough fine-dining experience between them to attract serious foodies.
Dominic hails from Britain and has worked at Petersham Nurseries Cafe and Roast Restaurant in London before he came to Australia for a job at high-end Italian restaurant Rosetta in Melbourne. Jan, a Berlin native, was head pastry chef at Michelin Star restaurant Tim Raue in Berlin and helped start CODA, a dessert-only restaurant, also in Berlin and awarded two Michelin Stars.
Although both chefs have suffered setbacks while travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, they appear at ease at Mimosa.
“We are happy to be in paradise,” enthuses Jan.
You might also find paradise in Jan’s take on a lamington.
A perfect square of moist cake with a layer of jam is drenched in ganache and finished with roasted coriander seeds and a pool of blood-oranges in syrup – there’s no coconut to be seen but you won’t miss it as you devour this well-balanced dessert.
Glen has worked at the restaurant for four years and has a particular passion for local seafood, changing at least one dish every week according to what’s available.
“I live just down the road and fish all the lakes,” he says. “With the produce we get to work with, I’m always excited.”
For more information about food, wine, accommodation and securing the winery as a wedding venue, visit Mimosa Wines.