Diane Rae: Grandvewe Cheeses & Hartshorn Distillery
From psychologist to financial planner to Tasmanian cheese maker, Diane Rae's life is anything but ordinary.
When Diane moved from Queensland to Tasmania in 2001, her first challenge was how to make a living. These days the innovative cheese maker and director of Grandvewe Cheeses is an international dairy sheep breeding consultant, in a career that has featured everything from birthing sheep to vodka distilling.
Diane fell in love with Tasmania after coming for a holiday. After moving here and purchasing a 40 acre property at Birchs Bay, 40 minutes’ drive south of Hobart, her initial plan was to grow grapes. Some seven thousand vines were planted and Diane decided sheep would be excellent ‘mowers’ between the vines and could also be milked.
“I had to teach myself about dairy sheep. I joined the British Sheep Dairy Association and bought all of their journals, reading one a night,” explains Diane.
“We applied for the New Industry Development Program grant for innovative agriculture, which allowed us to build the cellar door and factory,” says Diane.
“The cellar door was fundamental in educating people about sheep milk, but now there is a lot more information out there about it being one of the lowest allergen milks.”
Diane has practiced organic farming ever since, developing her sheep cheese making expertise through the University of Melbourne. In 2004 she won the Tasmanian Rural Woman of the Year Award and in 2006 the Telstra Business Women’s Innovation Award.
Diane’s son Ryan Hartshorn (Grandvewe co-director and marketing guru) also moved to Tasmania in the early years of the business, followed by her daughter Nicole Gilliver.
Ryan is the founder and head distiller of Hartshorn Distillery, an opportunity he identified by using the by-product of the cheese making process. Ryan’s spirits range has rewarded him with Young Innovator of the Year for Tasmania as well as Champion Vodka of Australia (2017) and Best Vodka (2018) at the World Vodka Awards in London.
“It’s quite incredible to think that one of the smallest distilleries in Australia, making small batch spirits, could be named among the world’s best,” says Diane. “Ryan hand paints every bottle. His range is exported to Japan and beyond from his micro distillery.”
Nicole is also a co-director at Grandvewe, bringing international experience from her time in Europe to the cheese making process. She joined the family business in 2005 and is regarded amongst her peers as having one of the finest ‘wine educated’ palates for her age. She is also regarded as one of the best cheese makers in Australia.
Today the tight-knit family team work alongside 20 full time staff, with two at the Brooke Street Pier on Hobart’s waterfront where visitors can sample sheep’s cheese and Ryan’s acclaimed sheep’s whey vodka and gin.
The farm is open to visitors daily where Grandvewe’s cellar door and café overlook the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and sheep milking demonstrations occur from 3pm between October and March. The cheeses are available for tastings and visitors are welcome to meet the sheep, referred to fondly as ‘the girls’.
“We just love living here. Waking up on the farm overlooking the water, it feeds our soul. Being an island too, there’s a strong sense of empowerment, a feeling that we can do what we set our minds to,” concludes Diane. “We’re excited to see what the future holds.”
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.