Written by WARREN ROBERTSON | ORIGINAL POST – LEISURELY
Visitors to Iona Wine Farm often speak of the road to get there. A long, dusty, rumble strip of winding curves, it carves its way through the Elgin valley, and up a hillside 420 metres to eventually reach the front door of a wine farm that by all rights should probably not even be there.
Known as the coolest wine farm in the valley, there is little doubt Iona has the climate for wine, but the story of how the acres of now established vineyard took shape among the fruit farms of the region is one of a rare kind of tenacity that perhaps not everyone can lay claim to.
Standing now in front of the fully refurbished Herbert Baker whitewashed homestead, Andrew Gunn can feel rightly proud of his achievements since he first arrived in this part of the world in 1997. Back then the Elgin Valley was all apple and pear orchards, where the rich fruits hanging thickly off the trees hid the dark secret that the farmers of the region were struggling.
"I was convinced I could make a living farming fruit," says Gunn who explains the remoteness, and views of the Atlantic on the property had already convinced him that this was where he could make a life for himself, far from the bustle of big business in Gauteng where he had previously made a successful living.
"Little did I know the industry was approaching a severe downturn, interest rates were 23%, the market had been deregulated and British supermarkets were putting unrealistic quality pressure to bear on sellers and farmers alike. I faced the prospect of losing everything I had worked for," he says.