What do you get when you cross a GP with a designer? Well, in this case, one of Swan Valley’s most renowned vineyards. Establishe­d in 1998, Sittella is a small operation but that hasn’t stopped it from making its mark on the Australian wine scene.

Founders Simon and Maaike Berns first planted vines in 1993, inspired by their travels through Europe and particular­ly France. French food, French wine and the famous French savoir vivre – the couple found it all irresistib­le. Simon’s chance meeting with fellow GP Kevin Cullen, founder of Cullen Wines, as a young doctor also piqued his interest, while a monthly wine club later establishe­d with a group of friends was further motivation for the couple.

“Each of us had a basic knowledge and interest in wine, of course, and we rotated once a month to someone else’s house,” says Maaike. “It was up to the host to come up with a wine region and … we were just tasting blind and describing to each other what we thought it was.

“This was also the era – the late ’80s and ’90s – our generation, the baby boomers wanted to do something different. Everyone was adventurou­s.”

The vineyard was a weekend hobby at first and has since grown to include a winery, tasting studio, restaurant and cellar door. Maaike put her designer career on hold to work for Sittella and has been a particular­ly important force in the restaurant. Simon is still a GP and also lends a hand to the Sittella team of winemakers, headed by Colby Quirk. Simon and Maaike’s son Yuri is also part of the winemaking team, which has been rewarding for his parents.

“We didn’t think about succession at all but eventually [Yuri] showed interest and wanted to work with us,” says Maaike. “It was actually a crown on all our efforts for all those years so it hopefully stays in the family.”

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