This family-owned and run winery has a long history in certified organic grape production.
Imagine seeing your name on a bottle of wine every time you reach for the good stuff. That’s the reality for Salena Muirden, whose parents Bob and Sylvia Franchitto named their Salena Estate wine brand after her in 1998. More than two decades later, Salena is part of the team and as marketing manager, helps run what is one of the largest producers of certified organic wine in Australia. She does so with her winemaker hubby James by her side. The young couple is proud to carry Salena Estate into the future and moved from Adelaide to the Riverland to do so. It is an honour they take seriously. Salena’s parents worked hard to build the business from the red dirt up. Bob and Sylvia are fruit growers from way back. They grew stone fruit before dipping their collective toe in vines and winemaking, which they started with just one barrel of wine for home consumption. That slowly grew to three, then 30, and now a jaw-dropping production of 150,000 cases of organic wine a year. Salena Estate’s recent $10 million winery expansion helps them do it.
The site, just out of Loxton, includes new storage and warehousing facilities, offices, meeting spaces and a shiny new cellar door and Italian restaurant called Cucina 837. The hospitality space opened in 2019 (just in time for the global pandemic). “We were open for five months then Covid lockdowns hit,” Salena says. “We were at capacity every night. It was wonderful. Then we suddenly had to close for 10 weeks.”
After surviving the Covid storm, the family is finally delighted to utilise the space in the way it was intended; functions for up to 120 people (standing) or 70 guests seated.
Cucina 837 is a tasty addition to the Riverland’s landscape. The menu is inspired by head chef Vincenzo Gallo’s Amalfi Coast home. Think pizza, pasta and hearty mains. “We are Italian so the servings are generous,” Salena says. Dinner is served from Tuesday to Saturday and lunch from Thursday to Sunday so there’s no excuse to go hungry.
When the time came to add limoncello as a restaurant aperitif, only the most authentic recipe would do. “We peeled so many Riverland lemons,” Salena laughs. “It was painful.”
The tender loving care and elbow grease paid off. The limoncello was a hit and is now bottled and sold under the 837Cello brand. The exciting line-up also includes Orangecello, Mandarincello, Citruscello and Limecello. “After using the citrus needed for the spirits, the rest goes to the kitchen to staff so nothing gets wasted.”
Salena is a bold woman. By the time she was in her early twenties, she was spruiking the fruits of her family’s labour across the globe. It wasn’t easy. Sexism and ageism were rife but the young powerhouse had confidence on her side. She knew she had a great story to tell. “We are the sixteenth largest winery in the country and we are one of the few that is still fully family owned,” Salena says. “We are devoted to sustainability and everything that encompasses. Sustainable vineyard practices and organic and vegan certification is important to us.”
The conversion of the family’s vineyards to certified organic started with 45 hectares in 2009 and now stands at an impressive 110 hectares. Salena Estate wines has also been vegan since 2020.
For their efforts, Salena Estate has accumulated more than 1,500 trophies, medals and awards. Salena, her brother Tyrone, and James haven’t been afraid to chase new brand dreams. The family’s Lock 4 Distillery brand (named after a lock across the road) is also produced onsite. The family’s own grape spirit is used in the Navy Strength Gin, Loxton Dry Gin, Chilli Vodka, a Triple Distilled Vodka, and a new organic gin.
Meanwhile, alternate grape varieties from Italy, Spain and France feature prominently in the wine offering. Vermentino, Sangiovese, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Touriga all form part of The Ink Series range. Other labels include Nature’s Source (everyday “quaffers”), the #genS range (defined by fun, colourful labels), es-PRESS-ion (region, variety and terroir-focussed), the Timekeeper Tawny, the Twisted Sticks, and the BFR (a limited release – Bob Franchitto’s Red, Big Friendly Red). Head spinning? Try them at cellar door where generous pours are accompanied by information on what’s in the glass and how it was grown.
“Dad has always been passionate about sustainability,” Salena says. “He believes that if we don’t look after what we’ve got, we won’t leave anything for future generations. He was always of the mindset that you don’t just plan for your kids, you plan for your grandkids as well.”
837 Bookpurnong Road, Bookpurnong SA 5333