Living Well In Australia's Outback

The Smith family's Isolation Ridge label reflects Frankland River Region's remote location.

By Lorraine Raguseo
Photography courtesy of Quintessential Wines and Robert Firth, Acorn Photography


Most of us in St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs live in very close proximity to our neighbors – some of us cheek by jowl and others a large, hopefully green, lawn away.  This is a far cry from the outermost reaches of Western Australia. The Smith family, most of whom were born among the vines are living in a remote, pristine environment in the Frankland River region of Western Australia -- just north of the largest protected wilderness area in the country. Barrie Smith, the patriarch who was raised on a farm with vineyards in South Australia, moved to the West with his family as a young teen. After he married Judi Cullam, another Western Australia transplant, they bought the land that is now Frankland Estate Winery and Farm just near the town of Frankland River. It is where their two children (now part-owners) Hunter and Elizabeth, as well as their children, still live. 

The tiny town of Frankland River, population of only a few hundred people, is nearly a four-hour drive south to Perth, which stands as one of the most remote cities on earth. The family makes a certified organic Riesling and Shiraz under the label, Isolation Ridge – purposefully announcing the region’s away-from-it-all location.

Life for the Smith family at Frankland Estate is an outdoor life, whether it’s tending to the 2,000 sheep they own or the treks they often make through the wilderness to Southwestern Australia’s strikingly clean and clear beaches, where summertime activities like surfing, camping and fishing are always on the agenda. 

Being largely isolated doesn’t mean the Smiths lack for gracious living. The family often prepares meals together that, in summer, are eaten outside at a long, beautifully set table with a rustic theme that complements their surroundings. For instance, an old oak barrel once used to age the winery’s Shiraz is partially buried in the earth at the right height for a serving table.

Fruit trees of every stripe – figs, pears, peaches – are plentiful, and Judi has a large vegetable garden that meets the needs of most meals. A few of the farm’s lambs will eventually find their way to the outdoor grill, and the 1,000 hectares of farmland also yield wheat and canola crops alongside the vines.

Summer evenings in Frankland River are usually dry and cool, perfect for a dish that’s a Smith family favorite…tomato and onion soup topped with mozzarella and basil, with all ingredients either coming from their garden or from other farmers in the area.  It is followed by slow-roasted lamb, a fresh salad of whichever vegetables are at their ripest, topped by figs and pears in balsamic vinegar, homemade bread, and Frankland Estate’s Rocky Gully Riesling and Shiraz. It’s a locavore paradise that anyone can get a taste of when recreating their dishes and sipping their wines.