Vale Colin Campbell
This letter is a story, a story of sadness and a story of happiness, as I have reason to look back into the last 35 years.
Many of you who are “Pfriends of Pfeiffers” will also be friends of Campbells Wines of Rutherglen. Those who are, will already know the sad news that has rocked Rutherglen. For those who don’t know already, Rutherglen and the Australian Wine Industry as a whole, lost a great friend and ally with the sudden and unexpected death of Colin Campbell on the 10th of May, just a few months ago.
For us, the Pfeiffer Family, we have lost a long-time friend and industry colleague. For Rutherglen and the broader winery community, we have lost a quiet activist, a man who knew what needed to be done and just got on with doing it. Some say, Colin knew his way around Parliament House more that the “Pollies” themselves. He had worked for years in a voluntary capacity to protect many aspects of our industry through the Winemakers Federation of Australia, (WFA) recently renamed Australian Grape and Wine. A Winemakers of Rutherglen meeting never finished without Colin imploring our members to become Members of WFA “Woofa”. Col always “barked” (very gently) to support those who support us, which leads me to the happy stories.
Can you imagine what it felt like, 35 years ago, sitting on a wooden bench, shaking in trepidation while my cool, calm and collected husband, Chris, put his hand up at the Seppelts auction and successfully bought our two original properties; the old Distillery, (now our winery and Cellardoor), and the experimental Seppelts vineyard, over the other side of the creek, (now our Sunday Creek Vineyard). There were many feelings I experienced that had me shaking like a leaf, but one was quickly allayed, when Colin Campbell, stood up, clapped Chris on the back, pumped his hand up and down and said, “Welcome to the district, what can we do to help”? My feeling of being welcomed with a genuine offer to help was enormous. Colin’s welcome to us guided us to do the same for those who came into Rutherglen after we were established. True to his word, we were offered the Campbells wine making facility for that very first Vintage. Our buildings had been emptied out 5 years before, so we had purchased potential but needed that very practical help immediately.
Once we started sandblasting back the original hand-made bricks, (so beautiful now within the Cellardoor tasting and sales room), Col called in, worried our place was on fire, when he saw the plumes of sand and brick dust billowing out of every crevice of our then, 150 year old building. Having checked out our safety, he happily left us to get on with the job...a job that took way, way longer to achieve than we anticipated.
Col was always checking on our safety. One night, after he and Prue had been dining in the original Tuileries Restaurant when it was in the vineyard next door to our place, Col noticed our light on within the winery at about midnight. There, we were, Chris and I that is, syphoning Fortified wines directly from the casks, bottling, hammering the corks in place, and washing the drips off the bottles so they would be clean and dry the next day for capping and labelling and selling. Col said, “You both are SO lucky. I remember when Prue and I would do this sort of thing in our business”. Chris and I were SO tired we felt we needed match sticks to hold open our eyes and wished we could have been lucky enough to have just enjoyed a beautiful meal, cooked by Anna, the original chef of the Tuileries.
Time marched on. We were allowed to bottle our wines at Campbells before the mobile bottling service was invented and came on site to little wineries like ours. Before we had a FAX machine, Campbells allowed us to have faxes sent to us via their machine. The story of Chris riding the pony, Laura, between our place and Campbells is for another time, but always causes a lot of laughter and smiles.
Chris was instrumental in establishing our local organisation, the Winemakers of Rutherglen, and through that, the original Destination Rutherglen and our Rutherglen Wine Experience which houses the Visitor Information Centre as well being involved in many other winery bodies further afield. Colin never missed an opportunity to publicly thank Chris for his tireless contributions on behalf of Rutherglen wineries and the district as a whole.
When Jen came home in 2000, Colin took Jen under his wing, alongside her other mentors, her Dad, David Morris and James Godfrey and instilled in her, the love and the importance of the treasures held for her with our famous and world class Rutherglen fortified wines. It gave Jen enormous pleasure, be it all tinged with huge sadness, to be part of the Guard of Honour at Col’s funeral.
And I have never forgotten way back in the 1990’s, when Col told me the actual cost of making his Merchant Prince Muscat. It confirmed to me then and now, that these Grand and Rare wines that we, the Muscat Makers of Rutherglen, grow, make, mature and nurture, are true gifts to the wine drinkers and appreciators of Rutherglen Muscats within the world.
So, it is on that happy note that we all remember with fondness and grateful thanks, our friend and colleague, Colin Bruce Campbell. We are thankful for his kindness, his help, his encouragement, his guidance and his unfailing belief in his much loved Rutherglen.