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A sweet collaboration: Canberra district wine and chocolate makers team up just in time for Mother's Day

By Megan Doherty
Stephanie Helm (Vintner's Daughter Winery), Yasmin Coe (Sweet Pea and Poppy), Sarah Collingwood (Four Winds Vineyard) and Sarah MacDougall (Lake George Winery) in Murrumbateman on Friday. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Four talented businesswomen - all busy mums - have joined forces while welcoming one of them to the world of life in the country.

Yasmin Coe and her husband Alistair, the former ACT opposition leader, last year bought a rural property near Murrumbateman, that included the long-running business Robyn Rowe Chocolates.

Some of the new range of chocolates. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Yasmin has kept the winning formula of Robyn Rowe Chocolates, while adding her own boutique chocolate brand Sweet Pea and Poppy to the business.

Also wanting to expand the range, she has added a little drop of the region to a new line of chocolates.

She has used fortified shiraz from Sarah McDougall's Lake George Winery, sparkling chardonnay from Stephanie Helm's Vintner's Daughter Winery and gin from Four Winds Vineyard to make the series of chocolates.

"I really admire both the Sarahs and Steph, the quality of their product, the way they manage their business alongside their family and they are women I've looked up to as the benchmark in this region for doing things really well," Yasmin said.

"We had the idea to put more local products into our offerings so I just asked if they were open to us using their products and, thankfully, they were.

Yasmin Coe has made chocolates from Sarah Collingwood's gin from Four Winds Winery, sparking shiraz from Stephanie Helm's Vintner's Daughter Winery and fortified shiraz from Sarah McDougall's Lake George Winery. Picture: Keegan Carroll

"Sarah's hand-made gin is one I've been enjoying for a while. The story of her gin is that when they lost their crop to smoke taint in 2020, they were able to salvage some of the riesling grapes for gin. I really like the citrus and fruity flavours with that, so we've paired it with chocolate that has underlying fruity flavours.

"I've also really enjoyed Steph's sparking wine. We tried to draw out the white peach and citrus notes by adding peach puree and citrus to the mix."

The gin from Four Winds Vineyard was put into the Sweet Pea and Poppy chocolates. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The idea to use Sarah's fortified shiraz in chocolate was sparked by a quick discussion they had ages ago in the local post office.

"We were both doing the same thing, kids in the car, dropping off our parcels in lockdown, trying to meet the post office deadlines, both laughing at being in the exact same situation," Yasmin said.

She then approached the other women and the idea was set, with three differently-flavoured chocolates created.

"I thought the three varieties complemented each other in that they each pair a wine with chocolate but they're each distinctly different, so you're not having the same flavours," Yasmin said.

Sparkling shiraz from Stephanie Helm's Vintner's Daughter Winery went into more chocolates. Picture: Keegan Carroll

The four women all run their businesses to the north of Canberra.

The Lake George Winery is just off the Federal Highway, while the Vintner's Daughter and Four Winds winery are also in the Murrumbateman area.

"The community is really great which is another reason we've been able to do this collaboration," Yasmin said.

"The business community and the neighbourhood community have all been warm and welcoming. I think there's a lot of mutural support among the businesses. We've found there's a real sense of businesses wanting to share information and help each other out. They genuinely want each other to succeed."

Sarah Collingwood, the CEO of Four Winds Vineyard, said they had always seen their neighbours as collaborators rather than competitiors.

"But always just helping each other when you need it. I've always said if a tractor ever broke down, there's any one of 20 people who would come with a tractor to help with a harvest. Yasmin and her family are so lovely and have fitted right in so the collaboration is so natural," she said.

Fortified shiraz from Sarah McDougall's Lake George Winery went into more Sweet Pea and Poppy chocolates, creating another taste sensation. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Sarah McDougall, owner and operator of the Lake George Winery, said it was natural to help promote the district.

"I'm sure this is the start of many more collaborations," she said.

"We're plotting the next exciting activity coming up in the next few weeks. And I think because we're all members of Canberra District Wine, there is stuff we can all band together as a region and promote what we do here."

And because all the women are involved in businesses perfect for spoiling mum, they will all likely be working on Sunday, Mother's Day.

"For Mother's Day we're doing an event in the cellar door, so I'm leaving my kids with my mum and recruiting my dad to come help me in the cellar door," Sarah Collingwood said.

What mum doesn't love choccies? A selection of the Sweet Pea and Poppy range. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Stephanie Helm was hoping to get a bit of a rest.

"I think I have Mother's Day off but I have a lamb marking workshop on Saturday," she said, with a laugh. "I'm a sheep breeder, wine maker, bit of everything at the moment."

Sarah McDougall was heading off on Saturday for a quick jaunt to the coast with her kids but returning on Mother's Day to help run two lunch sittings and music at the Lwinery.

"I'll be driving back at stupid o'clock," she said, with a laugh.

Yasmin also had the popular chocolate shop open on Sunday.

"We expect it to be a busy day. We've got lots of people who want to treat their mums," she said.

"I think I long ago ruled out having Mother's Day off so my mum and I have a tradition of lunch together after Mother's Day."

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