Winery, music venue, brewery, picnic spot with a view: in the three years since brother and sister team Jamie and Carly Smith took over Tilba Valley Winery & Alehouse – a 30 acre property tucked five kilometres north of Central Tilba – the pair has managed to achieve the delicate balancing act of becoming many different things to many people.
For some, the live music that now features every Saturday and Sunday is a big draw, whether it comes from local musicians (there are plenty to choose from) or the bigger, ticketed acts.
“Carly and I both love live music, so when we took over the property in 2018 we knew we wanted to make it a venue where people could come out and picnic, have a drink and listen to a band. Locals often drive an hour and a half for our daytime events, so I like to give people different experiences,” says Jamie.
Different might mean jazz one week, a local acoustic duo the next, and then – just because, why not? – a performance from a world champion whip cracker who happens to be in the area. There are also outdoor cinema events and, coming up, a comedy night.
Food is part of the experience – Tilba Valley is particularly well known for its Ploughman’s Lunch. However, Jamie is very comfortable knowing they also attract plenty of visitors with no plans to dine.
“People come for the atmosphere. You don’t have to have lunch here to come out and enjoy the place. A lot of people just bring a picnic blanket with the kids and sit around on a rug to watch the music while they have a couple of drinks and a cheese platter,” he says.
While the venue has been a winery since the 1980s, Jamie notes that beer is a newer addition.
“We started brewing beer in Easter 2019. Previously we just had bottled beer. We are very small-scale so we kept running out; people were very understanding,” he laughs.
To keep up with demand, particularly for the perennially popular Tilba Valley Pale Ale, they’re scaling up.
“Right now I’m building a new barn to put a larger scale brewery in. That will probably help us maintain the demand we have at the moment. We’ll also be able to sell a bit of a takeaway, as everyone wants to take away the beers in cans,” Jamie says.
Between music and events, the winery, the restaurant and the alehouse, it’s no wonder that for Jamie and Carly running Tilba Valley Winery & Alehouse is a seven-day affair.
Although there’s no visitor accommodation on site (those holding events like weddings are often paired up with an onsite glamping option), the property came with two houses, so both the siblings live on the property.
This means that for Jamie, when he does get a rare afternoon off, he’s got plenty of ways to fill his free time.
“I might go out for a paddle on the lake or take the dog out for a fish. But it’s actually just nice to sit back and have a drink and relax just like our customers do. I enjoy looking across the property and thinking about everything we’ve done since we’ve been here.”