Published on August 5, 2020
On a picturesque property nestled on Hunter River sits Tranquil Vale Vineyard – a multi award-winning boutique winery managed and operated by past student Connie Griffiths (2007) and her family.
What have you been doing since graduating from HVGS in 2007?
I am a winemaker and the General Manager at Tranquil Vale Vineyard – but how I came to that job was a little complicated.
I went on a Rotary Exchange to Mexico for a year, then did an Arts Degree at Melbourne University (double major – English and Theatre Studies/Screen and Cultural Studies). I did some independent theatre production in Sydney before moving to Asia, where I completed a Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate and spent four years teaching English in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
It was during this time, I realised how much I loved home and that my passion really lay with food and wine. So, the decision was made to move back to the Hunter and take over my family’s business – Tranquil Vale Vineyard.
I am currently studying Oenology (the study of wines) while working as a winemaker with my father and managing our cellar door and accommodation business.
What is your favourite wine, and what do you enjoy pairing it with?
It is hard to choose a favourite wine; it is like choosing a favourite child! But I do love our 2019 Chardonnay paired with a cheese board and charcuterie. For the uninitiated, a charcuterie is the arrangement of cured meats, cheeses and finger foods on a platter or board.
The subtle nuttiness and the creaminess of the cheeses and meats beautifully complement the toasty, oak characters in the wine.
We are feeling a little hungry now! Tell us something we may not know about winemaking
People have so much varied knowledge about winemaking but many people may not know that the colour of most red wine comes purely from the skins of the grapes – so if you remove the skins from the juice quickly and do not let that colour bleed in, then you could make white wine from red grapes. In fact, Pinot Noir is one of the red wine grape varieties used in Champagne.
What’s been your career highlight?
So far… winning a trophy for our Semillon.
What trait did you learn at school that has helped you later in life?
I learnt so much at school, so many intangible things that are hard to pin down. What I would say is that I learnt about community, teamwork and respect for others. These traits have served me very well over the years and allowed me to engage with many communities, cultures and institutions all over the world.
You’re now a HVGS parent. Was it these traits that led you to the decision to enrol your son here too?
Yes, I wanted my son to have the same opportunities to thrive in an open-minded, supportive and diverse school community.
Favourite memory of your time at school?
Winning my first race at a rowing regatta, going to the state competition of Tournament of the Minds and more than anything, the drama productions – being onstage, backstage, rehearsals, the laugher the fun and the thrill. I just loved it!
Did you have a favourite HVGS teacher, and why?
I’m going to be greedy and choose two – Mrs White and Mr Fisher.
Mrs White was always so encouraging and passionate. Her love for drama was infectious, and she gave me my lifelong love of all things theatrical.
Mr Fisher was so energetic, honest and passionate. He was a wonderful English teacher and never seemed to get frustrated by our teenage enthusiasm issues. I still remember his first lesson on essay writing in Year 12, it was on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, and I couldn’t comprehend how he could get so much from one line of alliteration. Fast forward, and I grew to love the art of literary analysis so much that I ended up majoring in English and Theatre Studies.
Although I no longer work in the Arts, I am still delighted by the written word and the mastery of a well-crafted sentence.
What advice would you give current Year 12 students?
Study hard, but don’t forget to enjoy it! Take up every opportunity you can.
Sum up HVGS in 3 words
Success Through Endeavour! Just kidding – community, passion, support.
How has HVGS changed, and how is it the same?
The feel of the school, the sense of community and the passion of the teachers, hasn’t changed.
Do you stay in connect with school friends?
I lost touch with a lot of friends, but have reconnected mostly via Facebook, and I am so glad that I have. Such wonderful people and memories.