A New Life in South Australian Wine

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Dudley Brown and Irina Santiago-Brown are mid-life converts to winegrowing and winemaking. After leaving overseas careers in high tech and government to move to Australia they’ve since become fanatical wine industry participants.  

Owners of Inkwell Wines in McLaren Vale, Irina and Dudley have further expanded from viticulture and winemaking to building and running bespoke luxury accommodation on their vineyard, winning the 2019 Best of Wine Tourism Award for accommodation in South Australia. We asked them what made them transition to a new life in wine.

GWC: What did you do before your career in wine?

Dudley: I owned a specialist executive search firm that helped venture capital firms quickly grow successful software and communications startups in California.

Irina: I used to work in Government in departments related to foreign investment attraction and international trade.  In the last six years before moving to Australia I was the Special Advisor of two different Governors of the State of Bahia, in Brazil.

GWC: Why wine? What lured you?

Dudley: I worked out that wine was my third largest expense (after my house and cars) and that if I sold my house in California and bought a vineyard in McLaren Vale, I could eliminate all three of my largest expenses simultaneously and get a ski condo in Utah in the bargain. As a result, I wouldn’t require much income to live a pretty nice life. This experience highlights the difference between business plans and reality! But, still the best decision I’ve made in my business career. 

Irina: I was searching for a career change when I chose wine and Australia. I wanted to be part of producing something that I could be involved in the entire cycle of production with a final product that I loved and I knew I was never going to be tired of. Wine is magic as every vintage brings a new challenge. You have to be fine tune with nature, your senses and your customers.  It’s great when you find people that share the enjoyment of a great bottle of wine we produce.

GWC: What’s your favourite thing about being part of the wine industry?

Dudley and Irina: We both enjoy the continual process of learning and perfecting the (many) arts and sciences of organic wine grape growing and single site winemaking; from pruning all the way through to physically seeing customers discover and fall in love with our wine in our tasting rooms. 


Photo: Milton Wordley