Hitting the top notes over the hill

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By Lauren Hermon

A “moment of madness” and desire for a “tree change” found Cate and Nick Foskett not only living but working on 58 acres, surrounded by several varieties of planted vines in McLaren Vale.

It was a simple dream UK-born Nick had to “make some wine”, while wife Cate always wanted to have an orchard veggie garden.

So, they set out on an adventure to do just that.

“We ended up buying a massive commercial vineyard of many varieties that didn’t have any contracts on it… so, we went back to university to learn what to do with it,” Cate laughs.

Now with their Adelaide Hills ‘cool-climate’ vineyard and wine business, Top Note, the couple has opened a cottage cellar door.

“It’s just the two of us. I do the viticulture, and manage the vineyard and harvest, while Nick does the winemaking, selling and finance,” Cate says.

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Top Note is a duo effort for wife and husband, Cate and Nick Foskett

The cooler weather means Cate and Nick are able to grow varieties like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and its rare Red Semillon, as well as producing Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Top Note sells grapes under contract to wineries including Kangarilla Road and Sidewood, while parcels of hand-selected fruit are picked to make wine under the Top Note label.

Nick arrived in South Australia from the UK when he was 11-years-old, moving to Silicon Valley for 13 years soon after.

“I basically woke up one morning and decided it’s time to go back to South Australia,” Nick says.

Cate has her own story to tell, having lived in London for 12 years to pursue her singing career before also heading back to South Australia.

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With just the two of them, Cate and Nick have their own jobs around the vineyard

Before settling for their piece of paradise “just over the hill”, the couple studied potential properties.

“I imagine it had to be something extra special to make us go quite so mad,” Cate says.

“It’s not just vineyards, we also have very large eucalyptus and back paddocks,” she adds.

Surprisingly, their “humble” cellar door complements the amazingly chic home they have built.

Set away from the vines with a gorgeous view over a dam, their stylish “leaf-shaped” home featured on Lifestyle channel’s Grand Designs Australia last year.

With most of the home remaining open plan, a wall acts as the spine of the residence, dividing the common areas from the cinema, study and bedroom suites.

There’s also a two-storey song tower, which houses a library and a rehearsal space for Cate.

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Set away from the vines is their “leaf-shaped” home which featured on Lifestyle channel’s Grand Designs Australia

As an opera singer, Cate explains the name ‘Top Note’ is very much musically inspired.

“At some point we definitely plan to incorporate my love for music with the cellar door… but for now we create great wine, and that has to be our main focus,” she says.

In fact, they have little to no interest in competing with commercial wineries.

“Cate and I just want to maintain our standard of products; it’s more important for us,” Nick says.

“It’s about meeting the people, rather than becoming a corporate cellar door that doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘meet and greets’ of the business,” Cate adds.

“We’re just starting very small, and currently expanding our portfolio up to six or seven vines by the end of the year.”

It’s something Cate still finds hard to believe.

“I still occasionally have to look around me and think to myself what am I doing driving a tractor around vineyards?” she laughs.

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