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ELISE COOK

“When you need a little timeout, or a getaway,
go some place you can see the stars.”

WITH
ELISE COOK

BEAR
INTERVIEW

Words

Zoe Cuthbertson

Photography

@elisecook

Australia’s golden girl, Elise Cook has spent the last two years at the wheel of Kombi van ‘Scout’ on a journey around our beautiful country and towards a slower, more conscious way of life. Together with her husband Dom, the free-spirited photographer and storyteller has explored almost every corner of Australia; from our home in Byron Bay to the sunburnt land of Uluru, all while running their business, Down the Rabbit Hole Wines, from the road. With unfiltered generosity, Elise has shared the triumphs and disasters of van life on her blog, Wandering Home, including a serendipitous breakdown that led to the discovery of their dream property, and a place to call home. We caught up with Elise on the cusp of their cellar door opening, to discuss her morning rituals, the freedom of being on the road, and how the nomadic duo turned their dreams into a reality.

Residence
McLaren Vale, South Australia

We are early risers and I start my morning with warm water and a squeeze of lemon (off our big lemon tree) and then coffee sitting someplace calm; outside watching the sunrise or in bed. Dom and I then do a ten to fifteen minute stretch together, a ten minute meditation, followed by whatever movement we feel. Sometimes he’ll run while I do a little mat workout, or we’ll do both together. That’s my favourite way to spend the first hour of the day. In the late morning I’ll have a smoothie, always with BEAR NOURISH Essential Daily Superpowder. I use BEAR WONDER Essential Daily Face Oil as a base in the mornings for my face and my neck and then after I do my makeup, I’ll use a tiny dab of it on my cheek bones as a natural highlighter.

A few years ago we slowed things down a little when we pressed pause on our cellar door plans and moved into our Kombi van, taking a bit of a sabbatical to take some time to think about how we wanted to live, to give, and how we wanted our business to work as a tool for that. We kept showing our wines around the country as we travelled, but it was definitely life in the slow lane for two years. It was during that time-out that our dreams and plans really took shape, with a clear vision of how we want to use Down The Rabbit Hole as an engine for love. We feel so happy to have returned home to the Fleurieu to bring those dreams to life. We’ve been very busy building it together the past eight months and we are so happy and excited to be standing in the doorway of this new chapter of our life. The build is done and we are just about to open our doors.

Dom grew up making and enjoying wine with his Italian grandparents. It was family, homestyle wine; Dom always says that he learnt to make wine in the most natural and sustainable form. When Dom’s mentor, Walter Clappis, took him under his wing he began learning more about organic and biodynamic practices, which now play an integral role in our business and in our approach to life. Eight years ago they began making a special wine together — a wine that Dom had a strong vision for and had always wanted to create, a wine he’d always wanted to drink. Essentially, that is how and why Down The Rabbit Hole is here today. We gave it a name and went out with a very small batch of that first vintage and it went bonkers. Everyone else loved it too. So he made a little more, and a little more, and we realised that this passion project could be a thing. People loved what we were creating. That first wine was our Shiraz, which is still our flagship wine, and eight years in we now have five on offer, with some special cellar door releases coming soon. We only put into bottle what we absolutely believe in.

Originality means telling your own story with whatever it is you’re creating, and creating an experience for people through that. Whether it’s a photograph, a bottle of wine, or a place and space we’ve created for people, my goal is always to tell a story, and invite people have a certain type of experience with and through it.

We both have a wide lens on when we look at life, and rather than getting caught up with focussing on small career and business goals, although they are important along the way, we have spent a lot of time defining and deciding what our life goals are. What do we want to experience in our lifetime? Both together and on a personal level. And then how can we use our business, or our careers, or whatever work we are doing at any given time, as a tool for that experience. Whenever one of us gets a little caught up or stressed out in the day to day craziness that can come with running businesses — and it does get crazy — we like to remind each other to zoom out, to take it one step at a time, and to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. I like to think of our marriage and our partnership like a triangle; with one central goal and commitment, and both of us always moving through our days and our life in the same, central direction.

When you need a little timeout, or a getaway, go some place you can see the stars. Somewhere away from noise and business and artificial light. Somewhere that allows and encourages you to go within. I’m a big believer that carving out space and time like this in your life will have an incredible outflow, and it will look different for everyone. I know that when you’re working hard towards a goal, when life is really busy, creating that space and that time can be really hard. Before we went full-time on the road we had two years of Sunday getaways. They were wildly busy years and, more often than not, when Sunday came around there was a million other things we thought we needed to do, or the idea of sitting on the couch in front of the telly was more appealing. But when we did it, when we broke away, even for just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, that’s when we disconnected and reconnected — with ourselves and with each other.

I’d have to say the one destination everyone should visit in Australia is The Kimberley. It’s the place that had the greatest effect on us. Either that or The Fleurieu Peninsula, there’s a reason that even after going the whole way round we’re so happy to call it home. Closely followed by Esperance, Karanjini, and East Coast Tasmania.

Right now we are looking forward to opening our cellar door, being present here, interacting with people and sharing our space. Then, creating time each week for little getaways in our van, someplace we can sit under the stars with a bottle of wine.

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