New vintage . . . Paul and Alisa Nicholls, with 4-year-old Stella, outside the River-T Estate cellar door, which they took over last month. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Kurow is a familiar stomping ground for Alisa Nicholls, but she and husband Paul are venturing into unfamiliar territory by taking the reigns at River-T Estate.

“It’s a completely new industry for us. We’re just sort of taking it all in,” Mrs Nicholls said last week.

The pair took over the vineyard and cellar door from the original owners, Karen and Murray Turner, on January 21 and are easing themselves into their new lifestyle.

“We’re really lucky Karen and Murray are sticking around until February 8, so we’re just sort of learning from them, which is great … they’ve been very helpful.”

Mrs Nicholls, nee Paterson, grew up on the family farm in Kurow, which is now being run by her brother. Her return to the small town was driven by a desire to be closer to family, with 4-year-old daughter Stella.

“With Covid last year, it made us re-evaluate a couple of things. My husband is an aircraft engineer, and he was working in tourism as well, so that side of work just sort of slowed down a lot,” she said.

“So we just sort of re-evaluated things and thought, ‘why not?’. You’ve got to take risks in life, don’t you?

“I love Kurow. We’ve always been coming back here whenever we can. So yeah, it’s nice to be back.”

Mr Nicholls is from Yorkshire, England, and the couple met overseas. He happily moved to New Zealand, and is “absolutely in awe of the place”.

Before their move to Kurow, the couple lived in Bannockburn, where Mrs Nicholls was an occupational therapist.

“I’ll predominantly be in the cellar door, and doing a bit of OT [occupational therapy], and my husband, he’s also got a bit of aviation work in the area, and doing the vineyard and also cellar door. So, we’re just keeping things interesting.”

The biggest challenge for the pair would be the “unknown of Covid” and not knowing what sort of impact that would have on the business, and people on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, which generated a lot of visitors. But they were excited about continuing to build on the business the Turners had established.

“We’re not going to be changing anything. We’ll just carry on with what they’ve been doing,” Mrs Nicholls said.

The couple wanted to foster the community atmosphere, and were hoping to have live music gigs, and functions at the cellar door, too.

There would be a bit of wait and see before definite opening days were decided, but for the moment the Nicholls were aiming to be open seven days, with the probability of closing for a couple of months over winter.

“We need to see what happens with the people coming in.”

The wine-making team will remain the same, with award-winning winemakers Grant Taylor and Jen Parr, from Valli Wines, along with Antony Worch, of Twelfth Night Wines.

“They just make absolutely fantastic wine. So why change a good thing, you know?” Mrs Nicholls said.

“Myself and Paul, we’re wanting to learn as much as we can about the operations in the vineyard as well. So, we’re learning from the best, as well, for that.”