A DEFUNCT Griffith winery will be brought back to life by early next year, creating at least 40 jobs for locals.
The Wickham Hill winery on Jensen Road, formerly owned by Orlando Wines, was bought out in June this year by a conglomerate of national and international private investors, headed by Blaxland Vineyards chairman Neil McKenzie.
Mr McKenzie was in Griffith this week to oversee progress and confirmed that the site will re-open by mid-January next year and will operate predominately as a contract winery.
For the time being, it will continue to be called Wickham Hill winery.
Having already hired winery manager Rodney Morrish - whose claim to fame is making one billion litres of wine and running 134,000 tonne crushes - Mr McKenzie is now looking to take on about 10 permanent staff and 30 casuals.
"We want to hire locally as much as possible," Mr McKenzie said.
"I'll be here every other week until Christmas to keep an eye on things, but Rodney will be doing most of the work to get the place ready."
Mr McKenzie has already secured a contract with Warburn Estate and is in talks with other wineries, including some overseas.
"We have quite a few local growers on the books already," he said. "We will be looking to take about 15 to 20,000 tonnes (of grapes) initially."
With 22 million litres of storage, the winery has a 25,000 tonne maximum capacity, but Mr McKenzie said that could increase, depending on the initial success. The winery has been out of operation for two years and bringing it up to working order is expected to cost a million dollars.
"It is a very good winery, it is very modern and efficient," Mr McKenzie said.
"But we need to do a lot of work on the receivals area as well as the lab, the weighbridge, the refrigeration, centrifuge and effluent disposal."
The introduction of a new winery is great news for growers, Wine Grapes Marketing Board industry development officer Kristy Bartrop said.
"This will really open things up and it's brilliant that there is another company buying fruit because it provides another option for growers," Ms Bartrop said.
"It's great that they're here because it will boost employment as well."