When a pop-up business outgrows the tricky, initial start-up stage and permanently sets up shop, it’s something to celebrate, preferably with a glass (or two). Lucky then, that pop-up winemaker Cake Wines is opening its first permanent post in Redfern tomorrow and there’ll be plenty of the good drop on hand.
Breaking tradition and setting up their cellar door, aptly named Cellar Door, in the heart of Sydney rather than out on a vineyard near the Adelaide Hills vineyard they source their grapes from, city folk will have direct access to their hugely popular bottles, as well as getting involved on the regular with the brand’s constantly innovative cultural partnerships: Cellar door will be part of both Art Month and Vivid.
We caught up with the leading label and discussed pinot noir being the ultimate relief for ‘writer’s block, the frustration of explaining your work to your parents and how two-minute noodles are the food of entrepreneurs.
What was your AHA moment with Cake Wines?
About 5 years ago, Mike and I knocked back a few to many rosés one night and went to the bottle shop to get more. We were standing in the shop joking around and saw 300 bottles on the shelf that all looked, sounded, felt exactly the same. We’d been talking about making our own wines for a while before that, but that was the moment we made the call to actually do it.
How would you describe the aesthetic of the brand?
The aesthetic of Cake has evolved quite a bit since we started 5 years ago. It’s a very “more is less” approach now, we’ve dialed things back a bit. We’re more confident in our ideas, I guess you could say.
Did you find the brand needed a lot of initial funding to get it off the ground?
Ha! We maxed out both our $5,000 limit on personal credit cards in the first few months and lived like students for the first couple of years. We became connoisseurs of two-minute noodles!
What were some of the initial obstacles you faced?
Debt, grapes, winemaking issues, labelling f*ck ups, council regulations, trying to explain Cake Wines to our parents! The list goes on! Cake Wines has been one big monumental challenge, I won’t lie, but we’ve come a long way by sticking to our guns.
With previous cool extensions such as the Archi-Bottle Prize, regular pop ups and #supportthesupport, what effect do you think these initiatives have had on the brand’s identity?
They’ve helped establish the brand as a “new kind of winery”. I think those kind of ideas have also shown people that we mean it when we say we want to support interesting, cultural things.
What have been some of the brand’s highlights in the last 12 months?
Finding some epic fruit for our reds, and nailing our Pinot Gris and Rosé. I guess also generally just being really proud of where the wines are at. We are also about to open Sydney’s first ever cellar door in a beautiful old warehouse in Redfern [that’s tomorrow, people!] and that will be a monumental time for the brand and for us personally. It’s been a crazy journey!
What runs through your head when the going gets tough?
If things get tough we just try to remember why we started Cake Wines, how we got ourselves here and stay confident in our ideas. There have been lots of tough times with Cake, but nothing good is easy, right?
Talk us through your new cellar door project launching tomorrow? How will this change the business landscape?
Our cellar door will be Sydney’s first and a chance for us to bring something really unique to the city. We’ll be running tastings, our school of wine, an Ideas Academy, exhibitions, talks, workshops, plus a host of live and DJ gigs showcasing our favourite local and international artists. The venue will be a key part of Art Month and we’ll be hosting a full calendar of events as part of Vivid. There’ll be a small meats and cheese deli to go with our wines, as well as a small selection of craft spirits, White Rabbit and Little Creature beers. This will certainly change our business significantly in many ways; we’re incredibly excited about it.
Some might say the artist community is pretty niche, how do you balance staying true to the brand’s mission versus scaling the brand?
We’ve found that Cake Wines has appeal well beyond the artist community, getting scale has not been mutually exclusive to the ‘cultural’ positioning of the brand.
With collaborations being a key component of the brand’s identity, what are your top 3 tips for effective collaboration?
Work with people you love and trust: ditch the rest, build long term relationships, not short term, ‘wham-bam, thank you ma’am’ style rapport and surround yourself with people who share the same values as you. Collaborative opportunities will organically come up and those are the ones that work best.
How do you overcome creative blocks? Have you had any previous concepts that have hit a standstill or made an impressive 360?
We’ve had free reign on Cake, we’ve basically done exactly what we’d envisaged and without compromise so we’ve always had a thousand ideas in the bank. If you stick to your guns new ideas will always come up, it’s just the way it works. Hot tip though, creative blocks are easily solved with pinot noir. The answer is always wine.
If you could host a dinner party with any guest of your choice, who would make the list?
Can we pick 3? Taras Ochota from Ochota Barrels, Elon Musk and Thom Yorke.
The Cellar Door is located at 16 Eveleigh Street, Redfern and will be open from March 10.