Life On The Job


Life on the Job

Winemaker: WILLIAM RIKARD-BELL

William Rikard-Bell
(Source: Newcastle Herald)


Introduction

In 2008 winemaker William Rikard-Bell was involved in a terrible accident.

A vat of ethanol exploded inside the processing shed at a Hunter Valley winery, killing winemaker Trevor Drayton and welder Eddie Orgo. Will was knocked off his feet by the blast, but he managed to crawl out of the shed, jump over a barbed wire fence and plunge into a nearby dam.

He had burns to 70% of his body, and as part of his recovery he needed many painful skin grafts.

Will says the accident altered his attitude to risk. Will and his wife, Kimberley, now operate Australia's highest altitude vineyard Rikard Wines, based in Nashdale on the outskirts of Orange, in NSW. She’s the business manager and very much drives its success, on top of her veterinary work. They have two daughters Adelaide was born in 2014 and Olivia in 2016.

Will and Kimberley
Will and Kimberley Rikard-Bell
(Source: SMH 7 February 2020)

Early Life

Will was born and raised in West Wyalong. He is the son of a doctor and a pharmacist.

Education

"While at uni, I worked in a bottle shop. I’d been exposed to great wine but never thought of it as a career. At the end of 2000, I took a break from uni and travelled around Australia. I met some wonderful people at wine tastings. By 2001, I was studying winemaking at Wagga Wagga’s Charles Sturt University. I loved how it combined the academic, the physical and the creative."

2001 - 2005 - BA Applied Science (Wine Science) Charles Sturt University

Employment & Training

"After uni, Kimberley worked as a vet in Singleton, north-west of Sydney, and I was assistant winemaker at nearby Drayton’s winery. We were thrilled to get jobs in the same place."

Subsequent years were spent working in Mudgee, Orange, Yarra Valley, Bordeaux and the Hunter Valley as well as judging in many regional and national wine shows.

Experiences & Opportunities

Rikard-Bell and his veterinarian wife Kimberley have also bought a 10 hectare-block at an elevation of 1050 metres near Mount Canobolas where they will raise their two daughters and nurture their business. A plan has been submitted to council to build a cellar door and winery so Rikard-Bell can continue his bread and butter as a contract winemaker for about 16 labels. He founded the contract business Chill Wine Co with winemaker Charlie Svenson of respected vineyard De Salis before buying him out.

The land acquisition will allow him to plant several clones of their pinot and chardonnay, and later some riesling - so he can build on the success of Rikard Wines.

The vineyard will be going in in November [2018] and it’s three years before we get a crop and up to seven before we get a decent crop, so I am trying to source fruit of similar growing conditions [in the interim] so that when we do finally transition across to our own fruit it is not a huge jump in style,” he says. “I’m not here to make wine for other people, even though I rely on them liking it and buying it, I make it because that’s what I like to drink and I kind of hope that people like what I make."

The future is looking pretty rosy: we’ve just had a really good vintage.”

Kimberley Rikard-Bell says her husband’s “one mindedness” has allowed him to achieve a dream he has held since switching from a medical degree to wine-making degree in his mid-20s (he’s now 41 in 2021).

If you asked him at the start of his degree what he wanted to do it would have been building his own label, he wouldn’t have otherwise been satisfied,” she says of his pluck. “The way he makes wine – every grape that comes in is handpicked and put in a 10-kilogram basket and everyone thinks we are crazy because it costs three times as much compared to [traditional] machine picking, but the quality is so much better..”

The single-mindedness that has led to singularity in winemaking also stood the young winemaker in good stead when tragedy struck at Hunter winery Draytons on a rainy summer’s day in January, 2008. An assistant winemaker under leading vigneron Trevor Drayton, Rikard-Bell arrived on site and was standing inside the main processing shed when an explosion ripped through it. "I’d worked two vintages at Drayton’s before this accident."

Trevor Drayton, mere footsteps from Rikard-Bell at the time of the explosion, was killed alongside Eddie Orgo, a contract worker who was welding near near a metal wine vat, unaware that it contained flammable liquid before he began working.
 
I remember it very clearly, it’s amazing how slow everything is when that sort of thing happens, I remember everything except the noise,” says Rikard-Bell, who was blown off his feet. Protected by an empty wine vat that nonetheless toppled, he was set alight but managed to crawl out of the shed and run to a dam, where he waited for paramedics to arrive.

It was ‘I’m on fire, let’s get out of the building, got to get to water, there’s the dam, that’ll do, no um-ing and ah-ing,” he says. “I had no idea, I thought I would be back at work a couple of weeks later … I thought ‘I am missing some skin, I have some burns, I didn’t realise the full extent of it. Burns are funny, it hurts but everything else works – your mind, your breathing, you don’t feel injured. “It was only once I was in the dam waiting for the helicopter that I started to swell up and get stiff and sore and once the paramedics said ‘we are not coming in to get you, you have to walk out’ when I went, ‘Oh, this isn’t good’.

Moving on
(Source: Daily Telegraph 4 May 2008)



Flown to the John Hunter Hospital with burns to 70 per cent of his body – his chest, face and feet untouched – he was transferred to the burns unit in Concord Hospital. “I got an infection a couple of weeks in, I mean you are lying there with no skin for weeks and it’s near impossible to keep the bugs out,” Rikard-Bell says.

Finding it tough not to be able to have hugs from family, he was determined not to let his injuries “define” him, as he saw other burns victims allow themselves to do. “It was ‘Right, focus, this [recovery] is your job for the next two years,” he recalls. “I like that sort of challenge; I was always the one vomiting at the end of the day at footy training because I tried so hard. “I was very lucky to have a medical family that took care of absolutely everything around me and so all I had to focus on was getting up, physio and so on.”

Rikard-Bell endured multiple skin grafting operations over two months in hospital and spent another two months as an out patient in Sydney before returning to Singleton. Eleven months later, he wed Kimberley, who says her training as a vet allowed her to assist him with the constant and lengthy dressing changes.

You don’t panic, there’s no ‘Woe is me’,” she says, while conceding it was difficult to see the man she met as a student at 22 at Sydney University in such pain. “We are both country people and that has something to do with it. When bad things happen you just deal with it and keep going.”

Rikard-Bell returned to Draytons to assume the role of chief winemaker – the first person not directed related to the family to do so – something he said he feels proud to have done to honour his late boss. “They were very supportive, just to give me a job back and have the faith in me after five generations of family wine-making,” he says.

Rikard-Bell did vintages in 2009 and 2010 before heading to Orange, where he planned to buy winemaker Murray Smith’s operation Canobolas-Smith. When the deal fell over (“It was just a business decision, Murray and I are still fine”), he set up his contract business with Svenson before making his own first Rikard vintage – a pinot – in 2015. “I had been making a barrel each year since 2012 that was drunk by family and friends but the first commercial vintage was 2015 and we didn’t release that until the 2016 vintage was ready so we had a ‘range’,” he says with a grin.

Rikard-Bell’s winemaking philosophy focuses on highlighting flavour, complexity, balance, texture and length. It’s all about gentleness – hand-picking grapes, minimal intervention, a bit “old world”, ventures the man behind the wine.

 

William is also a Chief Steward for Wine Tasting at the Orange Wine Show.


Wine Show 2018
Chair of the 2018 Orange Wine Show committee Justin Byrne and Chief Steward William Rikard-Bell
(Source: Central Western Daily)

Awards

2018: Named one of the Top 50 Young Guns of Wine

Links 

Rikard Wines

Rikard Wines

 

Newcastle Herald 19 June 2018

Newcastle Herald


Conversations with Richard Fidler [47m]

The force of Will
 

 


Activities

Ripped from the Headlines? A Community of Inquiry

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Ethical Understanding Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical Understanding

PhilosophyPhilosophy

 

1. As a class, you are going to conduct a Community of Inquiry.

 

 TeacherTeacher Process:

2. Get the students to form a circle with their chairs or directly on the floor. Everyone is to be in the circle including the Teacher.

3. Using the stimulus material below, read the story by asking the students to take turns to read out loud each paragraph.  

4. Set up a Question Quadrant on the floor or on a whiteboard:

Question Quadrant

5. Get the students, in pairs, to come up with 4 questions - one for each quadrant about the stimulus material.

The Questions for Thinking are the hardest to come up with – but that is what we are aiming for.

6. List all the questions on the board from this 4th Quadrant "Questions for Thinking" and put the students' names next to their question.

7. Ask the students to think about grouping the questions - the ones that are the same or similar - together.

8. Start the discussion with the most asked question.

9. Make sure the students follow the rules of Philosophy in Schools:

  • Only one person speaks at a time
  • Pay attention to the person who is speaking
  • Give other people a chance to speak
  • Build upon other people's ideas
  • No put-downs
    (Source: Associate Prof. Phil Cam)

10. Discussion should involve students in critical, creative and caring thinking:

Critical Creative Caring
give reasons
explore
disagreement
consider implications
apply criteria
weigh evidence
generate questions
raise suggestions
imagine alternatives
formulate criteria
make connections
build on ideas
listen to other's points of view
consider other's reasons
explore disagreements considerately
build on other's ideas
explore other's opinions
help to synthesise suggestions
 

11. Provide Closure: wrap up the discussion but leave the questions on the board or copy them so that the other unanswered questions can be used in the next lessons.

 

Let's Start the CoI:

As a class, read the following article:

TV Tonight
5 April 2009


Ripped from the Headlines


Last week Hunter Valley winemaker Trevor Drayton and William Rikard-Bell had no idea a chapter in their lives was about to be reflected in an episode of All Saints.

Over twelve months ago Drayton and Rikard-Bell were left fighting for their lives following an explosion at Drayton’s Family Wines at Pokolbin.

“I certainly don’t intend on seeing it tomorrow on telly,” Mr Rikard-Bell said last week.

It’s commonly known in the industry as ‘ripped from the headlines’. Real-life stories in the newspapers become the inspiration for television screenplays. But what about those whose lives are set to unfold as prime-time entertainment? They can relive unwelcome memories. There’s no compunction on the part of producers to advise them, let alone compensate, of what they may unwittingly view.

All Saints was promoted “one heart-stopping hour”, showing a man with burns to 70 per cent of his body found writhing in a pool of water. They were the same extensive burns suffered by Mr Rikard-Bell, who was found in a dam after the Drayton blast.

“It is inappropriate, especially if there is a coronial inquiry going on and it’s still fresh in the minds of the family,” Mr Rikard-Bell said.

John Drayton said he was upset the program’s producers did not tell him or his family they were using the blast that killed his brother for inspiration.

“I didn’t know anything about it until this morning . . . a friend told me,” Mr Drayton said yesterday. “They [producers] didn’t tell us anything about it. My parents don’t know and I don’t want them to, for obvious reasons.”

Last month an episode of City Homicide involved the shooting of a suburban mother by criminals who bungled the address, not dissimilar to a famous case of what police believe was mistaken identity some years ago in Melbourne.

Last year SBS pulled an episode of Swift and Shift Couriers after complaints from the family of Private Jake Kovco an episode with the accidental death of “Soldier David Cobbgrove” was too similar.

The series is currently in repeat but SBS looks set to skip the two part storyline this time round.

And what of the journalists who may have put in hours of work in reporting the original story? One US journo says an episode of Law and Order: SVU wasn’t so much ripped from the headlines as ‘ripped off the headlines.’ It took him three years to investigate his original story about violent police who had served in the Army Reserve unit in Afghanistan.

“No, I did not get a dime,” he later noted. “And no one from NBC even called to say how truly inspiring my work was, or how the truth really can be stranger than fiction — or even that the damn episode existed. Instead, my dad saw a commercial for it on TV and sent me an e-mail.”

In 2004 a Manhattan lawyer, filed a lawsuit in 2004 against Dick Wolf arguing that a Law and Order plot defamed him by including an unsavory character which was modelled on him. He filed his lawsuit under a doctrine known as libel-in-fiction. To win his case, he had to demonstrate that the identities of the real and fictional characters “must be so complete that the defamatory material” becomes a “plausible aspect” of the plaintiff’s real life.

He lost.

But producers defend their right to use newspapers and real-life incidents as drama. Episodes are careful to clarify that similarities are coincidental.

All Saints producer Bill Hughes, said his episode was based on the idea of the winery explosion and characters did not relate to Drayton blast victims.

“We googled in ‘unusual explosion’ and from that we got ‘wine factory explosion’. We thought OK, let’s do a wine factory explosion and that’s about it,” Mr Hughes said.

But the show has been criticised for depicting a real-life incident that is still raw for those who lived through it.

Hughes said he hoped it did not offend the Draytons or Mr Rikard-Bell.

“I suppose in a way the Drayton’s explosion is closer to this episode than most of our research usually is. We usually pull out things that happened many, many years ago.

“But if we were to steer away from every single thing that’s ever happened so we didn’t offend someone, we wouldn’t have a show.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Material sourced from
Conversations with Richard Fidler

Newcastle Herald 19 June 2018
Daily Telegraph 4 May 2008
Sydney Morning Herald 7 February 2020

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