Simonetta Ferrari saw something special in the estate of ‘Gunyah’. The location and architecture of the homestead appealed to her. But when she bought the property, it had been neglected for many years. “I was after a heritage-type place. In the old days [Gunyah] was one of the real working farms. It had immense potential and I could use my skills here,” Simonetta said. She started to restore the historic homestead and country garden.
Simonetta in her beautiful kitchen at Gunyah Country Estate
Gunyah was established in 1912. It is set amongst 30 acres of land in the rolling foothills of the Southern Alps. Simonetta loved the self-contained estate with accomodation and all the old outbuildings: the original meat safe, granary, glass house and stables.
Simonetta came from a small town near Milan and finds the surroundings at Gunyah very familiar. “This looks a lot like where I came from originally. The first time it snowed, everything went really quiet. There was this sudden sense of being at home.”
Within the first three months of moving in, she decided that she would make preserves. “There was all this produce. The original orchard has plums, apples, pears, quinces and walnut trees. So I developed this range of preserves from heritage recipes. What goes in them is produce from heritage trees. Then either sugar, oil, vinegar or salt. It’s very simple.”
Traditional methods and organic produce are important to Simonetta. The range of European country-style spreads, chutneys, oil products, liqueurs and baked goods are sold under the label ‘Buoni Sapori’, which means ‘good flavours’. The products are handmade with fresh produce. Simonetta said the walnut pesto and pickled walnuts are popular.
Simonetta foraging in her orchid
“What is important to me is that I have done something that contributed to people’s lives. But also that there’s something left after, that helps the environment. I’ve got an eco-project down by the river. That’s my legacy,” Simonetta said.
She is developing a conservation area along the Hororata river that is a boundary to the property. The project aims to create a natural reserve in the wetland and dry bank which will serve as a feeding spot for native birds.