Meet your Maker - our cider master, Campbell Meeks.
Here at The Apple Thief, we’re blessed with a few things that give our fruit the edge – our generous sub-alpine climate, great soils and generally consistent rainfall. But it’s after the harvest when the real magic begins. And that’s where our production manager steps right up. Meet Campbell Meeks – equal parts technologist, gourmand, alchemist and magician – the perfect qualifications for The Apple Thief cider maker.
Campbell’s long journey to Batlow started in Sydney where his love of food led him to study commercial cookery. An apprenticeship as Commis Chef with Sheraton on the Park, Sydney began 15 years in various food service roles – from menu planning and cooking in hotels, cafes and restaurants to working with a national award-winning caterer in the Southern Highlands.
A few years after qualifying as a chef, Campbell made the decision to leave the big smoke behind and enrolled at Charles Sturt University (CSU), Wagga Wagga to study Wine Science. Working a couple of vintages as a casual worker at the renowned Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley confirmed to Campbell he was on the right path.
“A career in wine combined both a love of science and food…and I’ve never looked back.”
After graduating, Campbell joined the CSU’s National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) as a technical officer and assistant winemaker in the experimental winery. Working with PhD students, researchers and wine scientists, Campbells passion for laboratory analysis, viticulture field work, sensory testing and production automation was unleashed. It was just the start of many years of engagement with CSU.
With vintage internships at wineries in the McLaren Vale South Australia and in the Southern Rhone region of France, Campbell retuned to CSU to soon head up all commercial wine and cider making activities. He played a key role in establishing a boutique wine brand and oversaw production of 13 commercial wines and ciders in addition to creating small batch research wines.
Over the years, Campbell somehow found time to pursue another passion that also brings together food and science, not to mention the perfect complement for wine and cider: cheese. His studies in Victoria, South Australia and Sydney included a course in sensory analysis and judging.
After CSU, Campbell moved to the Canberra district where he was head winemaker for two family owned wineries, each producing 6,000 - 8,000 cases of various wines including sparkling. His responsibilities for forecasting, product development, packaging, and tastings is providing valuable insight for The Apple Thief as we work to expand our product range and our on-site visitor hospitality.
Campbells extensive skills, his educated nose and cultivated palate are already making a delicious impact at The Apple Thief. This year we created three heritage ciders crafted from small pockets of old and rare cider apples growing in our orchards. They’ve already received acclaim (and medals) at this year’s national Cider Awards. Campbell promises there’s much more experimentation, science and magic ahead. We’ll drink to that.