Finding magical experiences and sharing them with the world. Meet Elise Cook, a photographer, blogger and the creative brains behind the wine label Down the Rabbit Hole. She and her husband travel Australia in their Kombi showcasing their wine whilst inviting others to join them on amazing nights of adventures filled with food, wine, music and good friends. Sharing their adventures through her photography, blog and Instagram page, Elise brings inspiration by showing that a life filled with adventure, happiness and imagination can be lived. Take a journey Down the Rabbit Hole as we interview Elise to learn more about her adventurous life and how we can all create a life of passion and adventure.
What is your 'profession'/ what do you do?
My husband and I have a small winery / wine brand called Down The Rabbit Hole in McLaren Vale, South Australia. I am the creative brains of our business, which means I get to do all the fun stuff!
I am also a photographer and blogger. I write blogs for our website and occasionally for others. And I love taking photos that tell a story. We travel in our van as much as possible, sometimes for months on end, and while we're on the road we sell our wine, and I take photos and write.
What inspired you to get into this?
My husband grew up making wine with his Italian grandparents. I guess wine is in his blood and wine has always been part of our story. For us wine is all about the experience. You can have an ordinary day, crack a good bottle of wine with friends or lovers, and your day can transform into something pretty special. You’re going down the rabbit hole...
How did you get to where you are today? Quickly walk us through some of the major steps in your journey.
We both had totally different career aspirations when we met eight years ago, I wanted to be a travel journalist, studied journalism and photography, and Dom wanted to own a wine bar or a hotel or some kind of business. So, I think it’s totally amazing that we have been able to bring those aspirations, skills, and passions together to form one business. It’s also a business that allows great work/life balance, which was definitely intentional. I feel very blessed and even more blessed to be doing it with my favourite person.
One of South Australia’s best wine makers, Walter Clappis, who is our head winemaker, took Dom under his wing, taught him so much, and encouraged him to start his own wine brand. We wanted to create a Shiraz that was what we wanted in a Shiraz. It seems it was exactly what other people were on the hunt for because that first vintage completely sold out and won us a few awards.
We have since released another three varietals, a Rosè, a Tempranillo, and very recently, a Sangiovese Cabernet. All the grapes are from the vineyard, and we may be biased, but they are all darn delicious. :)
While we don’t have a cellar door open yet (we want to get a heap of travel done first) we decided it would be fun to do something really different and bring the cellar door to the city. We have found different locations each time, transformed empty or old venues, and built a rabbit hole that people enter through. We take people ‘down the rabbit hole’ on these amazing adventures with nights of food, wine, cellar door tastings, music, dancing, performances, and more. The first one we did was a Secret Garden Party, and then we took people to Boho Barcelona, and our latest event was themed Gypsy Land. I also run a night market over Summer which has food trucks, live music, a market with all sorts of stalls, a wine bar (of course!), and lots of kids entertainment too.
These events have played a big role in our journey. The first one we threw we were just hoping people would rock up. We had a venue that fit 300 and after a few hours of it going up on FaceBook, we had over two and a half thousand people click attending. I quit my job that weekend!
My work life is all about creating wonderful experiences for people, and hopefully, for those experiences to be connected to our wines.
My desire to travel and write has also played into the sense of adventure around our brand. Since we bought our Kombi (a miraculous story for another time) we started exploring Australia more and more, and naturally we always have a few bottles of wine with us. Our outlook and our way of living really has shaped the brand, but more surprisingly, has opened even more doors for us. Once people started following our adventures I started getting opportunities to do a lot more travel writing, which kind of, totally, blew me away. My dream leaving uni was to work on Getaway or to write for a travel journal - now I am fulfilling those dreams by just living our life. I truly believe you can manifest anything you want in life. It may not be exactly how you imagined, but it may turn out even better.
How did social media play into this and how have you used it to your advantage?
Social media has been instrumental to how my own career path has taken shape, and our ability to have such a great work / life balance. It has allowed me to use my love of photography to benefit and grow our business. In the same way that I aim to create amazing experiences for people in a tangible sense, I like to use photos as a way of creating an experience, a way of telling our story, inspiring others, and capturing a little bit of magic.
Do you have any tips for working while you are traveling?
Arise and shine.
I have never been an early riser, but living in the van has meant that we are often parked in spots with amazing views, and incredible sunrises. Which means I had to start waking up for the sunrise (too good to miss). As soon as this became a habit I realised how much more productive my day became because of that time in the morning. We would wake before the sun rose every day, pop on the kettle and sit with our cuppa and watch it. Then go for a run together and we'd be ready to start the day by 7am. Morning became the most productive time, and it also meant that you can have way more down time and explore every day - which is essential when travelling!
Walk us through a day in the life of @elisecook
What does a typical day look like? The truth is, I don't have a typical day - and I love it that way!
What is constant is that I am always exploring, and outside as much as possible.
If you only had one minute to give your best advice, what would it be?
Take at least ten minutes each day to watch the sunrise or the sunset, there is something incredibly grounding and inspiring about watching the day begin or end.
Days and weeks can so quickly blur together. People get up, go to work, come home, make dinner, sit on the couch, go to bed. I know because I did that most week days for years. You're busy, and you just want to sink into the couch and flick the tv on. But nothing memorable happens throughout your whole day. Sometimes that's unavoidable, and its ok.
But I guarantee, that if instead of sitting on the couch after dinner, you take ten minutes, walk outside (even in winter, just rug up and take a cuppa) and watch the sun go down and the sky light up, it changes your day. Something memorable happens and it's more calming than your favourite show - trust me.
What does the future hold for @elisecook? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time and what will you be working on?
The future! Who knows... We have decided to move out of our house at the beginning of next year and move into our van full time. We loved life on the road so much, especially the simplicity of it. We have a big house full of so much stuff... and on the road we were more happy than we've ever been with one pot, one fry pan, the clothes we had, and an ever changing horizon, so we decided to get rid of as much as we can and spend the next year exploring and living simply.
Because of the way we have built our business, we can work very well on the move. We can visit restaurants, bars and bottle shops as we travel and show them our wines, and I can write and take photos.
I'm not sure how long we'll be in the van, but it will be at least a year. In five years I imagine we'll be running our cellar door in McLaren Vale, starting a family, and doing road trips every weekend with the kids in the Kombi!
Anything else you would like to add or share?
You colour your reality with your expectations. Expect great things, and happy things for your life.
You can follow Elise's adventures on Instagram here.