Ewen and Elissa founded Symphony Hill Wines along with Ewen’s parents Bob and Jill Macpherson in 1996. After a decade computer programming in Brisbane, Ewen was restless and ready for a radical change. Ewen recalls, “I had grown up on acreage on the Sunshine Coast and absolutely loved that childhood experience. My first son was newly born and I had grown to find city life too crowded and restricting. I need space around me and wanted my kids to experience country life like I did. I also felt a great desire to go back to Uni and study something completely different to Computer Science. My computer programming business was very successful and had managed to form a joint venture with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, however I was still ready for my eventual rock change.”
It is with this emotions and mindset that Ewen, Elissa, Bob and Jill came out to the Granite Belt in 1996 to celebrate Ewen’s 30th birthday. They had heard of a wine industry in its infancy on the Granite Belt and came out to have a look.
“There were only 11 wineries at that stage and most of the wines were ‘interesting’ but there were a couple of great wines as well. We met with some of the owners and winemakers to discuss costs and to pick their brains on their thoughts of the future of the Granite Belt wine region. Over the course of the long weekend Dad and I calculated some rough costs and reasoned that it would be financially moronic to get involved.”
“The next morning after mulling it over I decided that I still needed to do this. Although it made no financial sense, I had fallen head over heels with the concept of where the next chapter of my life would take me. I had also fallen in love with the rough beauty that is the Granite Belt – magnificent granite boulders as big as a house, grass trees and soil that looks like the beach. Before we left to go back to Brisbane, we had met with a real estate agent and left her with the task of finding us a suitable property. Upon returning to Brisbane I enrolled in Charles Sturt University to commence a Bachelor of Applied Science – Viticulture degree. Knowing zero, I reasoned that I had best start learning about the engine room of any winery, being the vineyard.”
“We had purchased the first 40 acres, now the site where the Pinot Noir is now planted, within 3 months of visiting the Granite Belt. One of the first subjects at Uni was studying vineyard site assessment. It was a great subject that taught how to assess a potential vineyard site for suitability for premium wine grape growing. I remember reading the opening paragraph which stated that the number one mistake most grape growers make is planting their vineyard where they live, rather than where they should grow their grapes. It was with great relief that after assessing my 40 acres I discovered that I had accidentally purchased one of the best vineyard sites on the Granite Belt! Within 12 months I had therefore purchased the neighbouring 160 acres where most of the vines were subsequently planted.”
“The success of Symphony Hill wines has been exhilarating and satisfying and born out of a decade of working harder than I had ever worked in my life. The success is due to the team behind the wines, being the 4 members of the Macpherson family and their 5th member, Mike Hayes, viticulturist and winemaker extraodinaire. All 5 people were essential ingredients for Symphony Hill to exist and flourish. Every gold medal and trophy and 5 star rating bears the fingerprints of all 5 individuals.”
AS CEO, Ewen has been responsible for the overall running of the business and manager of marketing. “Marketing is so much more than simply selling bottles of wine at the cellar door. It is about knowing your brand and in our case being an extension of your brand. The manicured vineyard and the modern, sophisticated cellar door are part of our marketing. I consider all activities we do as a company as marketing – whether it be tending the vineyard, making the wine or making visitors to our cellar door feel like coming home. Our wines are designed to excite and enamour. A great wine is an experience you never forget and we proudly seek to give that experience to our visitors.”
“We are wine tragics and love to have fun with what we are doing. I planted over 40 varieties in a research and development vineyard to investigate how alternative varieties would respond to our unique terroir. It is lessons learnt from that experience that has lead to extending our range into weird and wonderful varieties like Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo, Lagrein, Viognier and Gewurztraminer.”
Ewen was voted by the editors of Australian Wine Business Magazine as being in the top 50 stars of the Australian wine industry after featuring Symphony Hill Wines on their front cover. His hyperactive marketing efforts have resulted in their wines being listed in over 100 restaurants in South East Queensland including QPAC, Aria, Il Centro, Esquire and Cha Cha Char. Their wine club has over 1000 members, each of whom are spoilt with $65 wines included in their automatic deliveries for just $25 per bottle. Their ‘Danying’ Cabernet Sauvignon named after their daughter adopted from China is now sold in China with 10% of sales supporting Asian orphans. Ewen’s humourous and informative wine presentations can be enjoyed at wine dinners at fine restaurants as well as various festivals around Queensland like Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers and Brisbane Good Food and Wine Show. And their cellar door is a hive of activity in the winter months as many people come up to 1000m to enjoy log fires and warming reds.
Elissa is responsible for the visual marketing of our brand from cellar door to wine labels. Her love of vintage before it was trendy has resulted in simply fabulous furniture adorning the cellar door including a spectacular 1960s ‘whistler’ lounge re-upholstered in bright red and their vibrant red chandelier.