Have a wine with Jon Helmer, from Geelong Cellar Door
Jon Helmer is the brain (and the main man) at Geelong Cellar Door. As soon as you walk in the door, you’re likely to be met by Jon who is such a huge asset to Geelong’s wine community.
Geelong Cellar Door is a truly local wine bar and store, located in the heart of Geelong’s vibrant inner CBD conveying an ‘old world’ charm, look and feel with the ambience of a smart, sophisticated, wine savvy cellar door-retail/wine bar space. Geelong Cellar Door proudly showcases a fantastic array of premium cool climate wines produced within the Greater Geelong wine region.
We had a wine with Jon and picked his brain about how (and why) he started such a booming business and his wine tips for any wine enthusiasts.
Why did you choose to set up in Geelong? Did you grow up in or around the region?
I had been working in Torquay at Corkscrew for 10 years and before that at Bannockburn Cellars for 23 years, so have always had an interest in wine. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to own my own business and wine retail was my passion. With too many ideas brewing, I registered the Geelong Cellar Door name in 2009 in the hope I could one day make something of it. When looking for a venue, I had three main criteria to tick off; 1) a building which boasted incredible architecture 2) an old, cosy fireplace and 3) the venue had to be located in a happening part of town. So, when this venue came up I knew I could make it into something people would want to visit, time and time again.
I am Geelong born and bred into a family full of teachers, so the idea of educating people about wine in a non-intimating way was integral to the story and philosophy at Geelong Cellar Door.
Once I had met the landlord and told him my idea, his first word was perfect so I knew I had a good concept on my hands. Then, by chance I met with our interior designer, Terri Shannon who brought my vision to life perfectly. For the get-go she was able to create my vision.
We heard a rumour that you first discovered your passion for wine while backpacking through Italy! AMAZING! Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, that’s true! I grew up in a family that didn’t drink much wine so it wasn’t until I was 21 that I really found my passion. The penny dropped when I was in Tuscany in Italy with those incredible vineyard views and the romantic in me fell in love with the history and idea of wine.
What’s your number one piece of advice for someone thinking about a career in the wine industry?
Persevering always comes to mind and sticking to your vision and plan. For anyone interested in wine, not just those within the industry it’s to be open-minded, try lots of different wines and styles or varietals that you wouldn’t necessarily be your go-to. The surprise and delight that comes with finding a new style that you love is priceless.
Where did the idea for the Geelong Cellar Door come from? And how hard was it to get off the ground? Any “hiccups” along the way?
The hardest part was to take that initial risk, to sacrifice everything in the hope it will work. I’ll always be thankful to my family, particularly my wife for taking the plunge with me. What’s worked so well at Cellar Door the atmosphere, it’s all about wine and conversations.
Tell us about your own label – Domaine D’Esterre…
My own label, Domaine d’Esterre came about prior to opening Geelong Cellar Door. Surrounded by French wine during my time at Bannockburn Cellars, I was eager to create my own French style of Rosé using Grenache. The name Lalou’ took inspiration from a French businesswoman and winery owner from Burgundy called Lalou Bize-Leroy.
To support Jon and Geelong Cellar Door, book a table or pop in to buy a bottle of local Geelong Wine.
03 5229 9568