Atsuko now calls Denman home

Passion for the local wine industry is key for Denman winemaker Atsuko Radcliffe.

Small Forest By Atsuko, on the Denman end of the Golden Highway, is a boutique winery with passion and stories to tell.

Atsuko Radcliffe is not a new name or face in the Denman area, in 1999 she came here for what was originally planned as a 12-month winemaking stint at Rosemount Wines.

“I had a great time, and I thought maybe I shouldn’t go home, maybe I should stay here,” Mrs Radcliffe said of getting an opportunity with what was the fifth largest winery in Australia.

“That kind of experience you can’t have in Japan.

“I was thinking I was working hard and I was busy, but I like it here so I decided not to go home.”

When Rosemount stopped feeling right for Mrs Radcliffe, she made the decision to step away, and at this time was offered an opportunity to get back to her home country and heritage with saki making in Japan.

She moved back for 18 months to cover two seasons learning from hands-on experience. This jaunt has helped land her a position as a saki judge with the International Wine Challenge.

In 2013 she took up the winemakers position at the winery on the same Golden Highway property she now operates and not long after that she was offered the opportunity to create her own label.

“It would be nice if we had more vineyards like 20 years ago, but that is not going to happen quickly, at least we can keep this vineyard,” she said.

“When we had Rosemount in Denman there were more wineries, more Cellar doors, people in Denman were so proud of what we had here.”

Mrs Radcliffe has observed a number of changes to growing fruits locally over the 20 years since she started at Rosemount including the need to harvest earlier due to the drought.

“The climate is very different so we have to watch the vines to know what the condition is, sometimes getting ripe too quick so have to make sure picking on right time that effects the quality.”

Then at the start of this year bushfires in the area tainted the grapes and Mrs Radcliffe made the decision not to produce a vintage with them.

The Small Forest By Atsuko Cellar Door was closed from March to June due to covid, and now the focus has turned to getting back to a bit more normality, which includes weekend tastings and when permitted more of the cultural and music events they host.

Mrs Radcliffe runs workshops to share different elements of her Japanese culture that in the past have been well received, as well as an annual concert by members of the Australian Ballet Opera Orchestra that sadly have had to be put on hold for 2020.

Local artists are also invited to contact her about displaying their work in the Cellar Door area, just a small gesture to show her appreciation for the place Mrs Radcliffe has called home for 20 years.

“This cellar door is not that busy so people can relax and we can talk a lot. You meet amazing people here, so I am very lucky,” she said.

Small Forest By Atsuko is located at 5052 Golden Hwy, Denman and the cellar door is open from 10am to 2pm on Saturday and Sundays, bookings are preferred and can be made by calling 6547 2699.