One of Marlborough’s earliest wine producers, Montana, had been advertising for contract grape growers in the region in the early 90s, and so with free draining land in a good climate, the Ibbotson family started their journey into the wine industry.
“I remember the soil being very light but also very stony, dusty and windy. There was a string going along the row which was marked out with points where we would place ice block sticks in the dirt … where the new vines were planted,” Julie recalls.
Like many teenagers in Marlborough, Julie worked in the vineyards during the school holidays or after school, completing arduous and monotonous tasks such as lifting wires, often for little reward.
“I do remember our pay wasn’t great. I recall Mum and Dad saying that if we could save half the money they would contribute the other towards a new computer … I didn’t even really want the computer – it was my brother Tony that convinced me!”
As the Saint Clair brand started to take off, Julie’s parents pushed her and her siblings to get out and chase their own dreams.
With this encouragement, Julie moved to Christchurch to become a registered nurse, a vocation which would take her overseas to the UK where she took on a variety of nursing jobs.
However after living in London for a few years she discovered a liking for wine, prompting her to move to Adelaide, where she completed a postgraduate Wine Business and Wine Marketing Course.
“This was awesome – I really enjoyed it,” she says.
After graduation, her experience in the wine industry ranged from roles as a Saint Clair brand ambassador in Perth to sales for a wine distributor company in Sydney. As much as she loved it, Julie discovered that the industry wasn’t without its challenges.
“I learnt that wine sales are not easy. You can’t simply knock on a door and expect them to buy your product. I did lots of sales training and managed to build up a good client base,” she says.
However after meeting and marrying her husband Dave, the couple had two boys of their own and made the natural decision to move home to Marlborough, where a marketing position at the winery which started it all, Saint Clair Family Estate, had come available; a role too hard to turn down.
These days, Julie is back living in her hometown of Blenheim, keeping busy with multiple roles both in and out of the office.
Not only does she share the positions of Saint Clair Marketing Manager and Director of the Vineyard Kitchen with her sister Sarina, but she also manages a team of staff including brand managers for Saint Clair’s associate wine brands.
Add into the mix two children at Rapaura School, the odd triathlon and a bit of swimming and you could say she certainly deserves to relax at the end of the day with her favourite glass of Saint Clair wine, the Omaka Reserve Chardonnay.