Karin Adcock sits at a table in the courtyard of the art gallery that is the latest attraction at her sprawling vineyard Winmark Wines, her wrist jewellery jangling slightly as she tucks into the cheese platter before her.
When the lanky Dane with sparkling sapphire eyes arrived in Australia at 32, she had two suitcases and $3000 in her bank account. Her "wide and varied" past included building a school for child refugees in Zimbabwe, sleeping in the slums of Bombay and tackling complex farming and building roles.
Within years, Adcock secured the exclusive rights to retail then unknown jewellery brand Pandora in Australia and New Zealand, ultimately selling it in 2009 with her then husband for a reported $100 million.
Since then, she admits to making a poor decision or three.
On a blustery winter afternoon at Winmark, set on 130 picturesque acres in Broke, in the Hunter Valley, the 57-year-old entrepreneur is candid and reflective as she talks about her high-flying, corporate past and her latest career tilt in Wine Country.
"I lost a shitload of money," she says in her softly accented voice of her thwarted attempts to build a second jewellery brand after Pandora, "but you live and you learn and I have to move forward.
"I am determined to make this business here work, we have to make this work, and I have admittedly invested quite a bit into it but I'm very conscious that we have to actually make this its own viable business. I believe we can. We just have to sell a little bit more wine."
As she gives a quick tour of her estate - by buggy and on foot, Adcock maintains an eagle-eye on her environment - it is clear she is deeply connected to the property.
And yet, when she and then partner, John Winstanley, drove north from their Sydney home to have a look at Winmark, about three kilometres south of the township of Broke on the eastern side of Wollombi Road, Adcock had no interest in it.
Facing an uphill battle to build Alex and Ani, the US-based jewellery brand she took on after selling Pandora, she was deeply fatigued.
"I was not having a bar of it, on the way up I said 'We are not buying a vineyard but OK, we will have a look'. Then we came and I fell in love with it," Adcock says with a smile.
Winmark is an amalgamation of the former couple's names (her maiden name was Enemark) but, ever the savvy marketeer, she has ensured their split won't tarnish the brand.
"Winmark also means fields of vines in Danish," she says, adding that she and her ex remain good friends.
Born in inner Copenhagen, Adcock was a driven child: "I remember Dad at one point saying, 'Karin, for once can we not plan this weekend?' she laughs.
After high school she didn't return home, instead enrolling for four years at teachers college, "not because I wanted to be a teacher, but I just needed to get older and wiser."
Adcock began working for a small engineering company whose clients included a group of schools in Denmark. Soon she was dealing with councils, architects, project managing and boarding a plane to Hong Kong to collect furniture, sold off by luxury hotels as they renovated, to install in the schools of her Danish clients.
In Hong Kong she met her future husband, air force pilot Brook Adcock, and the pair moved to Australia, settling in Perth. When he got a pilot job with Qantas, the couple moved to Newport, Sydney.
Among her early projects were selling party plan jewellery and working as a PR office manager, "but after 12-hour days with a pilot husband and a very young daughter, I vowed never to work for someone else again".
In 2004, on the same day she and her husband launched a taxi business that required her to man the phones every night, she secured the exclusive rights to distribute Pandora in Australia and New Zealand.
A friend had tipped her off about the then unknown Copenhagen jewellery brand retailing sterling silver bracelets with charms that could be bought separately and attached by hand.
She got a $35,000 loan from her father to buy the initial stock. Her husband took on the role of chief financial officer, and steered the IT.
"I had not worn jewellery for years and had no background in it but I just thought it could have potential," she says, adding that the "unique" brand was more modern than its rivals because the wearer could attach the charms rather than pay a jeweller to get them soldered to a bracelet.
Adcock struggled to convince jewellers to stock Pandora. "A lot of them said 'Why would I spend $25 on a charm, as it was priced then, when I can sell a $5000 diamond ring?"
Under pressure, she sat outside a jewellery store and gift store in Mona Vale and noticed her target market were heading to the latter store more often.
"I got gift stores on board who understood the concept but back then it was very much jewellery selling separately," she says.
In 2009 the Adcocks sold 60 per cent of Pandora back to the private equity firm that by now owned it. At that time, their Australian/New Zealand operation was responsible for 15 per cent of Pandora's global turnover, and was so successful it was called upon to "school" company executives in sales and marketing.
A year later, when it was listed on Nasdaq in Copenhagen, they sold their remaining equity. (Adcock stayed on as CEO for three years; her husband, who had been chief financial officer, had already left).
Adcock doesn't like to discuss the windfall that made her a multi-millionaire.
"When I came to Australia...I had nothing to my name, so to suddenly have that kind of wealth was surreal," she says modestly.
"Also, my strength is not in numbers. It's more people and sales, marketing, creating a beautiful place, I am in tune with what I like to think with what I need to do to get people on board and come with me on the journey.
"It's very strange when you suddenly have money, but for the first couple of years I was still working at Pandora so I had no time at all [to enjoy it]."
By now separated with three daughters, Adcock was suddenly flailing.
"When you have been super busy, it's quite daunting because all you know is work, hundreds of emails a day, people needing you and then suddenly it's like, 'What am I going to do now?' I wish I had taken time out to not do anything and just regroup."
"I jumped into various business ventures way too quick...some ventures that ended up failing. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I wish I had taken some time.
"I was lost.... and desperate to find something to be busy with."
That state of being may go some way to explain why she leapt to take on the distribution of Alex and Ani, a move that prompted her former employer Pandora to warn its stockists off Adcock's new brand.
"We started concept stores and got good traction and were on the right track but we just couldn't meet the crazy expectations," she says.
In 2017, she exited the US business, "and at that point I said I am done with distribution".
Fortunately, a year earlier she had bought Winmark and she could see the potential of the vineyard, formerly named Pooles Rock after the convict that once slept in the hollow of the iconic rock on the property.
Adcock quickly realised the peace she felt at Winmark, nestled beneath landmark Yellow Rock and with stunning views across vineyards and mountains, and felt inspired to transform it into a multi-faceted business she hopes can "stand on its own legs".
"Initially it was meant to be a place for family and friends. It evolved," she said.
"Wine takes years to learn...I don't have 20 years up my sleeve to learn it all. I surround myself with talented people to maximise the opportunities and use their skillset and follow their lead."
As the first lockdown ended in June 2020, Adcock launched Winmark's rustic but elegant cellar door, featuring simple ply and signature sage green interiors.
She has also slowly created an extensive sculpture park with her private collection, peppering striking pieces at vantage points across the vineyard for guests to enjoy.
In February this year, Adcock opened a small gallery which flanks the cellar door - a space that she is already planning of expanding.
"I always had this dream, if everything else fails, I can run an art gallery!" she says with a laugh.
"I am not trained in fine art and I am not pretending I know a lot about art but I am constantly learning and I love art and I have always been drawn to it.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be super expensive, it is just what talks to me."
Asked what her best qualities are, Adcock says it's simply "getting things done".
"I think I am good at getting teams around me and respecting people," she says.
"My worst qualities? Well, my lawyer and accountant, who are very good friends, are forever trying to teach me to say no."
She hopes to have set an example to inspire women, or people in general, who are looking at business ventures and weighing up the pros and cons.
If charged with mentoring younger women, she would ask them to simply back themselves.
"In terms of career advice it would be that they keep believing in themselves and if they have a strong vision that they set out to do it and block out the noise," she says.
"There are always people around you saying, 'You can't do this, you shouldn't...', but listen to those who say, "You can and you should'.
"You can choose who you are listening to and surround yourself in people who trust and believe in you and block out the noise.
"At the end of the day, you can't please everyone, you have to try and stay true to what you want to do, what your vision is, and that's what I am trying to do here. I am trying to do what is right for this place, for me and the people around me."
After decades of travel for work and leisure, Adcock feels very much at home in Broke.
"I have an apartment in Copenhagen and I have to say I feel at home there but in Australia I feel more home here than in Newport, where I lived for 20 years," she says.
Winmark Wines is open seven days and, she admits "it's tricky to stop, because I feel like I have to be 'on' all the time".
Above all, it is a place she is passionate about sharing at all costs.
"I know there will be others who have a place like this and want it to themselves, I guess I am different," she says.
"I don't feel comfortable that it is just for me. I want other people to come and experience it and say 'Wow, it's a beautiful place'."