Brash Higgins is Brad Hickey’s wine label.
‘Brash Higgins’ might as easily be the title of a picaresque novel as a new wine label. The road bringing Brash’s creator, Brad Hickey, to the rich terroir of his Omensetter Vineyard winds through two decades in virtually every aspect of food and wine across four continents.
After completing a degree in English Literature and Botany in 1989, Brad left his hometown of Chicago to make the world his wilderness. He landed in Paris, France where he quickly learnt that soaking up the language, wine and fine French sauces doesn’t come cheap; he funded these pursuits and a burgeoning wanderlust by going straight to the source - working in restaurants and vineyards.
Upon his return to the US, Brad was attracted to the artisanal vibe of the Pacific Northwest and made Portland, Oregon his home. There he expanded his hands-on botanical interests developed abroad by designing landscapes, brewing beer and baking bread. It was an idyllic time. However, the lure of the great international city that is New York loomed large, and in August 1996 Brad made the pivotal cross-country drive eastward without a job and little money.
As an aspiring food writer in New York City, Brad hit on a perfect format to express himself and pay the rent - composing restaurant wine lists. After 10 solid years in NYC he held the title as the first US sommelier to work under French culinary genius Daniel Boulud, at Cafe Boulud, and then to the role of wine director for four years at world renowned chef David Bouley’s duo of two Michelin-starred restaurants, Bouley and Danube.
Life at the pointy end of NYC’s restaurant scene took Brad to the new and old regions of the wine world, including South Africa, France and Australia. Time in the vineyards deepened his knowledge of viticulture and winemaking and reignited in him the desire to connect with the creative and organic processes he had embraced during his time in Portland. Inevitably, Brad broke with the hustle and bustle of the New York fine dining scene and hit the road to understand, from the ground up, the enigma behind the bottles which reach the table.
This quest brought Brad to South Australia in 2007 to work vintage at the invitation of winemaker Chris Ringland. Here, a new chapter began with the conception of the alias ‘Brash Higgins’; a nickname swiftly bestowed by Aussie friends on the bright-eyed and brash New Yorker. Brad stayed off the radar just long enough to prune after vintage, fall in love with McLaren Vale, and, ultimately, with local vigneron, Nicole Thorpe. Together they own and care for Omensetter Vineyard. The odyssey has become a special kind of love story.