Our Family

De Salis is named in honour of Charlie’s original Australian ancestor and great, great grandfather, Leopold Fabius Count Fane De Salis, an Englishman, born in Florence in the early 1800’s who emigrated to Australia and established a colonial home in the Cotter District, close to what is now Canberra in the mid 1800’s. The blocks of Lofty Vineyard bear the matriarchal names of the De Salis family.​​

Loretta Svenson+

Loretta Svenson, The Boss

Charlie Svenson+

Charlie Svenson, Executive Wine Maker

Mitch Svenson+

Mitch Svenson, Head Wine Maker

Ben Svenson+

Ben Svenson, Sales & Marketing

Lisa Halgren+

Lisa Halgren, Assistant Wine Maker

Cath Roden+

Cath Roden, Cellar Hand

Loretta Svenson

Loretta Svenson, The Boss

Queen Bee, earth mother, the power behind the throne, and, borrowing from Rumpole: ”She who must be obeyed”. Over the years, Loretta has run restaurants, ran the “mother ship” trawler in the Timor Sea, where she kept the troops fed and watered along with overseeing the below deck operations and packing crew, then after re-locating back in the Northern Beaches, set up an in-house child care facility. Loretta specialises in chaos management, the often unseen rudder keeping the boat on course, steering all under her protection to safe waters, and having a hell of a good time along the way. After all, just because there’s a job to do, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. But, if there’s a job that needs to be done, Loretta does what it takes to do it – buying a vineyard leads to a crash course in viticulture and vineyard management. Business to run – MYOB, payroll and more recently, wading through the unchartered territory that is COVID-19 red tape.
A committed environmentalist, Loretta has walked the vineyard, tended the vines, in all seasons at all stages of the grapes’ and the vines’ development. She knows the character of the fruit, the soil and weather that influences the factors that dictates style and substance. So that when it comes time to harvest, she leads the picking crew with the intimate knowledge that the wine Charlie and Mitch want to make, will be the very best that nature can provide. With a little help from Charlie and his thinking time on the tractor, of course.
Along with Ben, Loretta oversees the daily wine club business – emails, correspondence and orders, getting her head around new marketing and sales technology. And when not doing that, you’ll find her out in the garden, or jogging the periphery of the vineyard with Letty (not Tank anymore, he prefers riding shotgun in the forklift) the faithful hound, or with her nose buried in a book so she can keep up at book club, plan the eco friendly, self sufficient energy studio she’s going to get the boys to build her so she can pursue all her other passions that she has put off for way too long – pottery, furniture making, weaving, dark pagan rituals.
But for now, Loretta has chaos to sort out.

Loretta Svenson can be contacted at loretta@desaliswines.com.au.

 

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Charlie Svenson

Charlie Svenson, Executive Wine Maker

Leader of the pack, Charlie’s career pathway to ‘Wine legend’ has been a varied and diverse one, from cab driver, radio control operator through to Master Fishman running motherships and owning cray fishing boats in the Torres Strait, and somehow ending up in academia as a research scientist (see: Charles J. Svenson), lecturer in biotechnology at the University of NSW, where by fate, a mate gave him a barrel for his 40th birthday and urged him to use all his scientific knowledge for something more useful for the betterment of humankind – to make fine wine. Always the humanist, Charlie figured it was the least he could do, in fact he considered it his duty to expand the minds and palates of we lesser wine mortals. Being a Microbiolagist, he had the knowhow, and now all he needed was the where with all.

Ever resourceful, Charlie used what he had on hand, parked the cars out on the nature strip and turned the humble garage on the Northern Beaches into a garageistes winery, where the first De Salis wines were made in the collective known as ‘The Francateers’, being Charlie, Andrew Collins and Marty Ostrowski.

Given his competitive nature and meticulous attention to detail, he was always going to succeed. He started high, the first cab(franc) off the tank from the garage winning a Medal for this 1999 Cabernet Franc at the Cowra wine show.

Charlie’s association with Orange and the wine community came via Murray Smith’s vineyard, where Charlie initially sourced the grapes for his wines, but then would go on to find his spiritual home amongst the barrel stacks and fermenters and tanks of Murray’s Canobolas Smith Winery, Led Zeppelin providing the soundtrack, where Charlie thought to himself: ‘I gotta get me one of these’……”a stairway to heaven”.

Charlie doesn’t give up easily when he wants something, or wants to achieve something, so after dedicated years of cajoling, pestering, downright annoying (Charlie can be very annoying when he puts his mind to it), he eventually wore Nashdale vigneron and orchardist David Gartrell, down, convincing David that the ‘Lofty Vineyard’ would be safe in his, Charlie’s, hands.

De Salis Wines had a new home. And Charlie was happy. It came with a big shed where he could keep his bikes.

Charlie juggled his academic career with his fledgling winery, but the lure of the vines and the barrels were like a siren’s call, and he, ever the hapless sailor, really had no choice but to follow his heart and instincts, to leave the world of academia behind and commit to being a winemaker full time – and aren’t we all glad he did.

Charlie Svenson can be contacted at charlie@desaliswines.com.au.

 

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Mitch Svenson

Mitch Svenson, Head Wine Maker

Mitch is an artisan, a man of texture, nuances and senses, first illustrated through his degree in Fine Arts, where he specialised in ceramics, his metal and shopfitting work, crafting and welding furniture, some of which currently hold pride of place at the De Salis cellar door, and now, in his role as Head Winemaker at De Salis Wines. For Mitch, it’s all art. And art is the highest aspiration achievable.

Mitch lives and breaths everything food and wine. With a palette to match his technical prowess, Mitch is a force to be reckoned with. At home, he is a chef for the ultimate dinner party. Like Charlie, who had Mitch learning how to make wine at the age of 9 – making him the most popular kid with the School P & C – Mitch’s love of flavours and inventive techniques translates to his winemaking. With a firm base in the traditional winemaking methods, Mitch is also constantly experimenting, embracing the Pet Nat trend with the Olaf Knight Ancestral series, which will be coming your way…when Mitch thinks it’s ready. That’s the thing about our head winemaker, he won’t be rushed into releasing his wines until he knows the timing is right. He respects the science, the nature, the process, the time and energy that goes into making the wine he makes and the wine he wants to drink, free from mass industrial techniques, of interference from chemicals, and anything deemed bad juju. Nothing ruins wine like bad karma.

Mitch wears his ideals on his chest, via his array of eclectic t-shirts that lets all and sundry know where his heart and allegiances lie – mainly with the artists and craftsmen and women, the farmers, the nurturers, the risk takers who dare to see beyond what is deemed safe and a sure thing – if you put your heart into what you care about, you will always have Mitch’s back.

Having run many a restaurant and bar, nothing daunts Mitch, cool under pressure, he is the next generation face of De Salis, looking to the future with a foot firmly in the traditions of the past.

From 2012 Mitch has been working alongside some of the industries great wine makers, his father Charlie, his key influence and co-conspirator.

2020 has seen Mitch running the De Salis Winery, overseeing production, contract winemaking and our wine service work.

Mitch Svenson can be contacted at mitch@desaliswines.com.au.

 

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Ben Svenson

Ben Svenson, Sales & Marketing

Making fabulous wine is just one aspect of the wine business. Selling it, marketing it, promoting it is another, and this is where Ben comes in. Ben is a mover and shaker in the best possible, most positive of ways. He wrings joy and exuberance out of and into every aspect of life, and it’s this exuberance that he brings to his role as Head of Marketing and Sales with De Salis. The digital age of innovation and social media was made for people such as Ben, as never has there been a more sociable beast. He is a natural host at the many De Salis events, forming strong and lasting bonds with many of the attendees, wine club members and customers.

Ben’s success in sales is due to his belief in the product he sells, and his determination to use any and every opportunity to share and promote the family’s wines whether through networking online via the socials, or setting up tasting events with partner ventures, or old fashioned footwork, pounding pavements and knocking on doors. Due to Ben’s indefatigable efforts, De Salis wines can now be found in some of the country’s finest restaurant’s, The Boathouse in Canberra, Six Penny, Bennelong and Nomad to name just a few.

As De Salis grew, it became clear that someone dedicated to expanding the potential customer base was required, someone who had the skills to market and connect with the broader wine loving community.

But Ben is more than just sales and marketing. He is handier than a little saucepan – before Ben sold houses, he used to build them. His background in both residential and commercial construction means that any renovations or on site work that needs doing is well taken care of. This extends to landscaping and maintaining the grounds surrounding the cellar door (in fact, the cellar door itself was Ben’s doing… original shed notwithstanding), and never before has a happier lawnmower man been seen.

And then, come vintage, you’ll find Ben, up uncharacteristically early, leading the picking crew alongside Loretta.

Ben Svenson can be contacted at ben@desaliswines.com.au.

 

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Lisa Halgren

Lisa Halgren, Assistant Wine Maker

Lisa’s first foray into wine was via retail – initially with Vintage Cellars, then moving on to manage Camperdown Cellars then George’s Wine Store in Crows Nest, all the while extending and expanding her wine knowledge though the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) programme.

It was while working at George’s where she first encountered the Svenson family, the first point of contact being Ben, one of her regular customers. Anyway, they got to chatting, and one thing led to another and  Ben tells Lisa that his family make wine, and would she be interested in holding a tasting of De Salis wines in her store? Ever supportive of smaller producers and independent labels, Lisa agrees.

Needless to say, the wine tasting was a huge success, and it was also where Lisa also met Loretta, and was introduced to the non-interventionist, non-fining, non-filtered approach to wine making of Charlie and Mitch.

And a seed was sown in Lisa – the winemaker seed, a seed she was determined to germinate.

Lisa successfully applied to, and is currently undertaking, the Bachelor Of Arts degree in Winemaking through Charles Sturt University. One of the key requirements for this course is to be employed in the industry, to be attached to a winery. When she was first considering taking on the 6 year part time course, Lisa mentioned this requirement to Ben, to which Ben replied, “Why don’t you come and work with us.”

That may or may not have been the conversation that was had, but anyway, Lisa took the next step, and headed west and to an altitude of 1,050 metres to meet the rest of the De Salis team.

Forging a successful, cohesive working relationships is one of those magical, serendipitous meeting of like minded souls, and so it was when Lisa met Charlie, and she was brought into the De Salis fold as his and Mitch’s assistant, the one with whom they would entrust and share their wine knowledge and processes to, the one on whom they would rely for support and backup. Lisa has been like a sponge, absorbing all the lessons, all the tips taught her, willing and eager to tackle any and all new challenges thrown her way, because nothing daunts her, she gives everything a go, always with that cheeky grin and humour, a key aspect of working at De Salis, because laughter is never far away.

When she’s not up to her armpits in wine you can find her practicing yoga, indulging her passion for photography, and pretty much doing anything that looks like it’d be a bit of a hoot – ‘cause, according to Lisa, life’s too short to not give things a go.

Lisa Halgren can be contacted at admin@desaliswines.com.au.

 

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Cath Roden

Cath Roden, Cellar Hand

Like Lisa, Cath’s background in the wine industry was also through retail, being the Senior Sales Assistant for the Vintage Cellars’ Stanmore store for many years – firstly from 2005 – 2008 then, after dipping back into her previous life as a TV Director and Scriptwriter, from 2013 to 2019. She had also undertaken wine education courses, initially those run by Vintage Cellars, and then more in depth through the Sydney Wine Academy – Wine Studies in 2008, then Professional Sommelier and WSET Level 3 in 2016. As much as she loved these courses, she wanted to experience how wine was actually made.

On a couple of trips to Orange, Cath found herself at the De Salis cellar door, one time Charlie treating her to a barrel tasting. Then, one day another Svenson popped into her store, Mitch this time, and they got chatting and Cath got to thinking. Finding a De Salis business card from one of her visits, she made the call – could she come up and do vintage with them? To cut to the chase – Cath took four weeks leave from VC, and got thrown in the deep end.

As she writes: “I gotta say, whatever I thought winemaking was, it certainly wasn’t this. According to the magazines, wine was the picture of gentility, of sophistication. This was messy, sticky, robust (did I say sticky already?), bloody physical, and a helluva lot of fun. Never before had I worked in an environment that was so supportive, so gregarious, so embracing of life, with a group of people whose collective joie de vivre was an absolute joy to behold. I spent four of the best weeks of my life in this whirlwind getting my introduction to winemaking.”

So when Charlie rang Cath up a few weeks later asking her to come up and join the team, she didn’t hesitate.

So now Cath is the winery cellar hand, and cellar door assistant, doing whatever needs to be done – winery, cellar door, sometimes vineyard work, sometimes rounding up recalcitrant sheep. Life at De Salis is never boring.

Cath Roden can be contacted at admin@desaliswines.com.au.

 

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