Sustainability is at the core of everything we do at Creation Wines, and this extends to having a happy, motivated and – yes – sustainable team.

This week we shine the spotlight on several team members who are celebrating milestone work anniversaries in 2024. Their inspiring journeys reflect their own drive and commitment, as well as the mentoring, training opportunities and personal development programmes they have been offered at Creation, helping them to realise their inherent potential and achieve excellence in ways they may never have imagined possible.

Take Mandy Gardiner, who celebrates her 16th anniversary at Creation this year. She had been working at the Gansbaai Marine fish factory for 18 years when she happened to meet Carolyn Martin, who was busy establishing Creation with her husband, cellarmaster Jean-Claude (JC), while raising their two children, Emma and Glenn. ‘I was their nanny for two and a half years,’ says Mandy. ‘In 2008 Carolyn took me to work at the farm. The tasting room opened in November 2008. I started there, cleaning glasses in the bar, and now I’m a bar manager and supervisor.’

Over the years, many thousands of visitors to Creation have met Pamela Gordon, who joined our fledgling team in 2009 and is now our exports and logistics manager, liaising with key importers. ‘I started in the tasting room, doing wine tastings, barrel tastings, cellar tours and food and wine pairings, and then I also started representing the farm at trade shows and wine festivals,’ says Pam. ‘At Creation we have this very rare opportunity to get involved in all aspects of the business – there are no limits in the learning culture. But it’s my colleagues who keep me here – we are like family.’

Another staff member celebrating her 15th anniversary this year is Salomé Geldenhuys, who joined the team as Carolyn’s PA, assisting with public relations and marketing as well as human resources. ‘As the company grew, the HR needs grew as well, and today this is my main focus,’ she says. ‘I have also taken on the co-ordination of our Sustainability efforts, which include environmental, social, ethical and corporate governance. Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, and for me it is a life-long commitment to the team as well as to the business and our environment.’

Alongside Creation’s hands-on founders and owners, Carolyn and JC Martin, Mandy, Pam and Salomé are usually the first people to welcome new staff members. In fact, Mandy recruited one of her own neighbours in 2012! ‘Mandy needed assistance with the labelling,’ recalls Jenean Booysen. ‘I still remember the long drive on the dirt road, not knowing what a beautiful little piece of paradise waited ahead!’

With a ‘massive’ order of wines needing to be labelled in time for shipping by the end of the week, it was a baptism of fire for Jenean. But she was up to the challenge, and she has proved herself over and over again since then, securing her promotions from labelling assistant to bar assistant to tasting room assistant and now junior sommelier, all thanks to ‘being part of an awesome team I can call family that makes me feel at home’.

In 2012, Pam was the first person to welcome Monique Solomons. ‘They told me to look for the pregnant lady,’ laughs Monique, describing her first impression of Creation as ‘walking into Paradise’ and admitting that she knew nothing about wine or hospitality. Having started as an ‘allrounder’, she is now a salesperson with a South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) qualification. ‘I love the way I grow with Creation,’ she says. ‘There is always something new to learn, and Creation provides you with all the training and opportunities.’

For Monique and her colleague and close friend Desirene Phillips, who also celebrates her 12th anniversary this year, the beauty of the farm continues to amaze and inspire. ‘On a Sunday, Dezi and I love taking a walk to the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blocks to enjoy the views,’ says Monique. ‘The garden is the most beautiful, peaceful place ever,’ says Dezi, who started at Creation as a runner and now introduces visitors to Creation’s wines. ‘All my life I wanted to be a teacher, and today I have become one, explaining the wines to guests. Seeing guests walk out with the biggest smiles makes me very happy; it means I have done something good in somebody else’s life. My colleagues are always there when I need a friend, and Carolyn and JC are always supporting staff members, no matter how big or small the situation is.’

Urle Hansen arrived at Creation as a cellar hand in 2013. ‘I remember the date exactly,’ he says. ‘28 October 2013.’

Somewhat disillusioned with life at the time, with financial pressures having forced him to drop out of studying towards a diploma in electrical engineering at Boland College, Urle soon proved himself at Creation thanks to his head for meticulous calculations and problem-solving. ‘Call Urle’ is what everyone started saying whenever anything broke down or needed figuring out.

After completing his SKOP 3 Senior Cellar Worker Training (with 100% in mathematics!), Urle landed a place on the 2018 Burgundy Exchange Programme, as one of only six out of 200 applicants chosen by the Western Cape Departure of Agriculture. The winemaker he worked for in France said he would have hired him full-time, were it not such a bureaucratic nightmare to do so, but Urle was happy to return home to his family – and to Creation, where cellarmaster JC and winemaker Gerhard Smith immediately gave him the opportunity to make his own wine. Named in memory of a child that he and his wife had lost, Urle’s Emily Pinot Noir 2019 was selected in the top five of the 2023 Mosaic Top 5 Pinot Noir Awards.

‘When I first joined Creation, I had no knowledge or experience in winemaking,’ says Urle. ‘Through the support of Creation and my own dedication, I have been able to achieve success, and I am excited to continue my journey in winemaking, constantly learning and evolving.’

Thanks to Urle, a similar path opened up to Kirsten Myburgh 11 years ago, while he was working at the HIK Abalone Farm. ‘One day, after playing rugby together, Urle said to me that they needed someone in the winery, and I thought why not. I was a bit nervous on my first day, not knowing anything about winemaking or vineyards, but I kept going, and today I’m one of the assistant winemakers. My proudest moment was when Creation sent me to New Zealand to go and make wine there, and I’m now making my own wine here. I love my job.’

Remarkably, there are no fewer than five staff members celebrating 10 years at Creation in 2024. For Nomvula Ngqolwa, being appointed as front of house assistant was a complete change from her previous career, working with special needs people of all ages. Just two years later, with focused training from Braam West at the SABA International Butler Academy, she became a hospitality host. ‘I still “take care” of people,’ she says. ‘I especially look for those who need a special something, who may feel a bit out of place…’

Apart from the opportunities for personal growth at Creation, Nomvula says what she loves most about her job is her colleagues. ‘We have fun. We enjoy our day. When you have that kind of love, energy and positivity with your colleagues, it leads directly to how you deal with guests.’

When Brenda Nceka started at Creation as a waitron in October 2014, she says it was her new colleagues who got her through her first weekend, which happened to coincide with the annual Hermanus Whale Festival. ‘The tasting room was packed! I had to quickly learn the Creation standard. Luckily my colleagues held my hand until I was able to stand on my own.’

Brenda is now a junior sommelier with a Level 2 qualification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). ‘Being recognised as a senior staff member is my proudest moment, but I still want to grow more with Creation, I feel there’s still a lot that I can do here…’

Kenneth Munemo says he can still clearly remember the ‘combination of excitement and curiosity with a high degree of hope’ that he felt when he joined Creation 10 years ago: ‘I was sure I was in a better place than before.’

Having never tasted wines previously, he is now proud of the knowledge he has about wine. ‘This is a great working environment,’ he says. ‘An award-winning winery with great team spirit, always striving to be the best. It is highly motivating.’

Daniela Messina-Hugo agrees. ‘If you ever find yourself bored at Creation, it’s your fault, as in the 10 years I’ve been here, I’ve never had one dull day. I love knowing that every day at work will bring a new challenge for us to resolve and innovate.’

Having joined Creation intending to work part-time in the tasting room while studying for her B Ed degree in teaching, Daniela soon found herself assisting Carolyn as her marketing assistant and PA. ‘Fast forward 10 years, and I think it is best to say that a job description is unnecessary! Creation has a learning culture, and being someone who loves to educate and discover new things, Creation has given me a career I did not know I wanted. Guests always say I am lucky to work in such a beautiful place, and my answer is that I don’t think I could ever find a better office view than this!’

Caring deeply about everyone who works at Creation in her HR capacity, Salomé easily sums up her favourite part of the job: ‘Seeing someone who did not necessarily have a purpose in life suddenly find it, thereby changing not only their own destiny but also that of their family.’