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Lisa McGuigan: Forging her own path


There are those among us who were born to march to the beat of their own drum. There are some who prefer to dance. And, then there are those who dance, and drum, and do it all while wearing bright red lipstick. 

Lisa McGuigan is one of these people. 

Lisa McGuigan

Her favourite quote, by Oscar Wilde, finds no fear in being talked about. She is comfortable surrounding herself with the colour black, and it’s not because she believes she’s a vampire, although she openly admits she’s not a morning person. 

The challenge, it seems, for those who choose to surround themselves with Lisa McGuigan is simply keeping up with her energy. 

The Hunter Valley winemaker has always had a unique take on the world around her. 

Following in the footsteps of her father Brian, grandfather Perc and great-grandfather Owen, Lisa has always been forging her own path in the industry. 

“I wanted to become the first woman to be a manager at a five-star hotel,” she says. 

After a long and successful hospitality career and studies in hotel management, she successfully became head wine buyer at a prestigious five-star hotel, before returning to her roots in the Hunter Valley. 

I’ve always wanted to play around with fashion, and wine is fashion. 

Now she is the face behind Vamp – a Pokolbin-based cellar door with a distinct rebelliously black take on an industry she is passionate about. 

Here, she is queen bee in a setting as unique as her character. 

“It took a bit of time for me to join the industry. I did a few various things and I can’t even remember, but I had learned a lot about wine growing up,” she said. 

“My dad was based here, and he was always working in the winery, so I’d be there with him, and things became familiar to me because I’d hear it spoken about. It wasn’t something new, it was something that I must have been soaking up.” 

A lot of the lessons she says she learned from one of her favourite brands – Penfolds. 

“In the Hunter, the vines that were the most established were varietals that were known for growing well in this type of soil and this temperature,” she explains. 

“Pinot Noir won’t grow here because it’ll ripen too quickly, and it won’t have the tannin that you need. It needs to ripen slowly; it needs a cooler climate. 

“It’s like you can’t grow bananas everywhere, you need a warm climate. If you grew them in a cooler climate, they’d probably be too bitter. 

“It’s the same with grapes. The Hunter is one of the warmer regions.” 

“And, so that’s why Penfolds have amazing wines, they’ve been blending their grapes. They worked out over time the best way to put these wines together, and they’ve put us on the map, the whole of Australia, for wine. 

“If you plant the vines and then you realise that, oh, ‘that doesn’t grow very well in this climate’, well, someone has to work that out and then pull them out. Then over time it becomes general knowledge about what grows well here and there and there.” 

Wine became instinctual to her. 

In the mid-1990’s Lisa had the idea to launch a new wine brand and destination cellar door, one which would ultimately become one of Australia’s most successful and recognisable wine brands – Tempus Two. 

By the time the brand turned 10 in 2007 it had sold more than 100,000 cases globally annually. 

The same year she decided to take a new direction, investing in a new venture, a retail wine business called Lisa’s Wine Vault, which she successfully ran for more than five years. 

Then in 2010 Lisa’s passion for wine was reignited and Lisa McGuigan Wines was born. 

Lisa McGuigan

The brand is a culmination of her experience and a new zest for creating on her own terms. 

Less than 12 months before a global pandemic would shock the planet, Lisa opened the doors to Vamp, a dream she says she’d held for longer than a decade. 

Within the walls of this unique space, she has created a cathedral for her creativity, a blend of both her love of wine, fashion and design, as well as her commitment to five-star hospitality. 

It’s such a nice day outside…I think I’ll wear black.”

Vamp stocks Lisa McGuigan’s Silver Collection for “everyday drinking”, The Platinum Collection and a Renaissance Collection. 

“Renaissance in Latin means rebirth,” she told the Newcastle Weekly

“This is my most ‘out there’ range, named because it includes varietals I previously would not have touched given their difference, and the extreme attention required in the winery. 

“This is my Renaissance period – a great new direction and inspiration.” 

Lisa McGuigan

Why ‘Vamp’? 

Did you know that a Vamp is a seductress, or femme fatale? I chose the name because I didn’t want it to be named after me, you know, so many people use their name, I had to be a bit different. And also, I thought ‘what about in the future when someone else takes over? They don’t want to be Lisa McGuigan Wines’, and in the middle of the night it came to me – ‘Vamp’. 

Where do you take your inspiration from?  

From Madonna. I’ve always been a huge Madonna fan, back when she was truly being herself. You know, she was creative, and innovative and trusted her instincts. 

I’d probably have to say Abba as well, and Marcia Hines. 

Can you describe your style in five words? 

Noir, Noir, Rouge, Noir, Noir. 

Is that five? I thought I’d break up the black with a bit of red, did that work? 


Do you have any favourite sayings? 

I have a few. 

  • “There is only one thing worse than being talked about…That is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde. 
  • “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” – Ernest Hemingway. 
  • “It’s such a nice day outside…I think I’ll wear black.” – Lisa McGuigan. 
  • (Incidentally, all these quotes feature on the walls of Vamp). 

Tell us your five favourite things: 

  • My Border Collie ‘Maggie’, and she sits at number one. 
  • Stationery. Oh, I’ve always loved stationery. I love the texture, the thickness, I love to paint, and I guess I’m old-fashioned in that I love a hand-written note. I think my brain works better when I’m writing things down on paper, too. 
  • The colour orange. I’m pretty sure that before there was black, there was orange. 
  • Fashion. As a kid I used to wear my grandfather’s shirts back to front, just to experiment with fashion. I’ve always wanted to play around with fashion, and wine is fashion. It can be as significant as fashion is. What you like in a wine you will grow out of as your tastes change, and it’s the same for fashion. 
  • Metal. I’m like a magpie, I love shiny things. What first drew me to this block (where Vamp is located on Broke Road, Pokolbin) was the metal structure at the front, at the roadside, which by the way often has a magpie sitting on it. We also host a sculpture trail with lots of metal sculptures and the cellar door is full of metal features, I just love it. 

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