By Tania Phillips
Life balance – it’s something we hear a lot about but Japanese teacher and winery employee Sharyn Fujie believes she’s found it.
These days the semi-retired Warwick High teacher divides her time between working at the school, at the cellar door at Bent Road Winery in Ballandean and running her picnic basket business Cheese Witch.
It’s the best of all worlds for Sharyn who’s idea of the perfect meal is eating beautiful local produce and drinking equally impressive local wine in the shadow of the vines.
“I just like cheese and I like doing interesting food and wine matching with cheese and making cheese even more delicious than it already is,” she said laughing as she explained the name of her business.
“I’m a teacher by trade but I also work at the Bent Road Winery Cellar Door.
“The picnic baskets are the way we provide food to the customers that come for wine tasting. They can taste wine and then also have a picnic basket and sit out amongst the vines. The can grab a bottle of wine and have a picnic out there.
“Basically, I source the contents of the picnic hampers from local artisans.”
The hampers include products from: Choose Dairy Free vegan cheeses; Stanthorpe Cheese Co; Premier Meats Tenterfield; Ballandean Bakery;
Jamworks Gourmet Foods as well as local fruits and greens.
“Premier Meats at Tenterfield do amazing smoked charceuteri,” she said.
“We’ve got Stanthorpe Cheese which is just the most delectable cheese, we have the whole range of their cheeses. We have condiments from Jamworks – sweet and savoury as well as bread baked by the local baker in Ballandean which is where the winery is. And then there are fresh organic greens from local gardens.”
So how did she go from teaching to Cheese witchery?
“I just saw that there was a real need,” Sharyn explained.
“We’ve got something like 55 wineries in the area – within a 40–50-kilometre radius -but really not enough places for people to eat. A vineyard to me is the perfect spot for a picnic, they’re gorgeous, they’re romantic and beautiful. The scenery is stunning and you’ve got the beautiful wines.
“If you’ve got a bottle of wine and you’re sitting under a grapevine with grapes on it that have been used to make the wine, you just can’t beat it.
“To sit there with a beautiful locally sourced picnic is my idea of heaven.
“It is just such a lovely way to relax. People don’t necessarily want to sit in a restaurant and have a formal meal. I just think on beautiful day when you are sitting outside under the vines just with one or two people, or a group it’s just so relaxing. You can lay on the ground, you’ve got your picnic basket, you’ve got your blanket, you’ve got everything you need. You don’t have to be sitting in a restaurant, you can enjoy the vineyard.”
Sharyn said her business was going pretty well.
“Well, enough,” she laughed.
“It’s only a very tiny thing. It’s more like a hobby really but it’s just something I think we really need in the area and people really do love it.”
And while you can usually mostly find Sharyn’s Cheese Witch baskets at the winery, she will be providing food for this year’s Shakespeare Under the Stars.
“Again, because that’s an outdoor event, it’s perfect,” she said.
“I really like supporting locally made products and I think if people are going to come and visit an area they should try the local produce and we’ve got some fantastic local produce.
“Everybody has been really supportive and their products are absolutely beautiful. I’m really glad to promote them. And also, because I’m based at a winery and I work at a winery, I know the wines really well, I can match them. I know they wines are perfectly matched for picnics.”