As it so often happens in life, something starts out one way and ends up in a completely different place… Who would have thought that a region located at one of the richest gold deposits in the world would, about 100 plus years after the gold rush, be renowned for producing some of the best wines in Australia? And who, if you follow the history of many of the wine makers in the region, would have thought that such a diverse set of people could turn Heathcote and its wineries into a place that is now arguably in the top 1 or 2 regions for Australian Shiraz? <read on>
The Wineries of Heathcote resemble indeed a most interesting collection of winemakers. There are those with a traditional wine making background, who have built wealth outside of the wine world and then cashed it in to follow their passion and start their own winery, there are those who simply fell in love with the region and stayed, and also the vineyard owners who began to make wine simply so they could drink the kind of wine they loved! – An exciting new generation of winemakers who have one thing in common: A never-ending love story with their wines and a warm hospitality that is generously extended. Welcome to Heathcote!
Situated at the North of the Great Diving Range, and affectionately called “Shiraz Heaven”, this is the region where dedicated winemakers attentively nurture their vineyards to produce, in addition to the signature wines of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, the most interesting bottles of Grenache, Viognier, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Marsanne.
Heathcote boasts over 100 wineries and 30 open cellar doors, and it’s well worth taking the time to visit a few of them. Tucked into rolling hills, you will find inviting little boutique wineries and large scenic vineyards with vine stock as far as the eye can see. Some Heathcote wineries offer accommodation, ranging from simply bed and breakfasts to luxury cottages with private pool, while at others you can stop and enjoy a nice meal together with your favourite bottle of wine.
You might want to start with the most southern winery in the Heathcote region. Barfold Estate produces elegant, powerful and complex red wines made from small-berried fruit on low yielding vines with minimal intervention. Craig Aitken, owner of Barfold Estate is a good example of a different but obviously very successful kind of winemaker. Craig spent 37 years as an IT specialist before he and his wife Sandra, now a viticulturalist, turned into winemakers and brought in their first crop in 2002: Barfold Estate 2002 Heathcote Shiraz won three medals including Gold at the Ballarat Wine Show, and their 2003 and 2004 Shiraz wines have been rated at 93 points in James Halliday’s Wine Companion.
Your next stop could be Wild Duck Creek Estate (home of the famous Duck Muck), a small family-run winery located about 8km west of Heathcote, alongside the Wild Duck Creek. Ask for their award winning Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and treat your taste buds to an exceptional experience by having a taste of the Wild Duck Creek rarities from exceptional vintages. As to the origins of Wild Duck Creek Estate? It’s very nicely summarized on their website: “Our humble origins date back to 1971, with the purchase of our first Heathcote property for $6,000! Since then, the adventure that is wine-making has brought with it a unique blend of sweat and tears, friendships, humorous tales, bizarre inventions, and of course, breathtaking wines.
Driving further north, you will reach Jasper Hill, another good example of Heathcote’s diverse wineries. Established in 1975 by Ron and Elva Laughton, Jasper Hill’s wines are exclusively made from estate-grown grapes based on organic and biodynamic principles. To support a greater bio-diversity they use special techniques, among them, inter row mulching and self made organic compost. The result? As vines are grown on un-crafted root-stock and are non-irrigated, the grapes, including Riesling, Grenache, Vioignier and Nebbiolo, bring out the unique flavours and characteristics natural to their variety and terroir. As Robert Parker from the Wine Advocat put it: “Whether it’s down to this very special rift of dirt or not, these wines are simply incredible.”
And then there is Stefani Estate. Stefano Stefani comes from the rolling hills of Tuscany where his grandfather owned a vineyard and was an avid collector of fine wines. Stefani Estate is a family owned boutique winery that produces elegant wines including an excellent Merlot and a very popular Shiraz. Hand-picked grapes and lots of attention to detail ensure wines that consistently receive high praise. Following more of his Italian tradition, 12 years ago Stefano planted olive groves on 9 hectares of land adjacent to his vineyard and today, a rich Stefani Extra Virgin Olive Oil with intense flavours is on offer.
These are just a few examples of the Heathcote Wineries and their great products. The list could go on and on, but don’t take our word for it. Come down to Heathcote, drop into the Heathcote Wine Hub and find out for yourself…