Eppalock Ridge

In 1978, Rod and Sue Hourigan moved to Redesdale to plant a vineyard and establish the first winery in Redesdale.  Their property is located where the Coliban River runs into Lake Eppalock.  They lived in a cottage on site while they established the vineyard, built a winery, and raised their daughter Catriona and son Andrew.

Both Sue and Rod started their working lives in design fields.  Adelaide-born and Melbourne-reared Rod became an industrial designer, working at the ABC as a studio set designer.  He worked on sets for shows such as Bellbird, Marion, and several education programs.  Melbourne-born Sue became a fabric designer.

Copy-of-Eppalock-Ridge-1

“We were bitten by the wine bug at a relatively early age,” says Rod.  “We wanted to learn how to make our own wine.  In those days the Barossa in NSW and the Hunter in NSW were the two main wine areas in the country.  There were very few Central Victorian wineries apart from Zuber, Leamons, Balgownie, and Knights.”

Rod and Sue set out for the McLaren Vale area.  “I had the good fortune to work in some excellent wine cellars.  These included Pirramimma which was founded in 1892, d’Arenberg founded in 1912, and Coriole, established in 1967 with vines dating back to 1919,” says Rod.  “Graham Stevens was the winemaker at Coriole and I learned an enormous amount from him.”

Graham Stevens has spent his lifetime in the wine business.  At the tender age of nine years, he won his first vine pruning trophy.  He retired in 1997 but that only lasted till 2005.  He is now back in business in a McLaren Vale winery, with his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren in the family business Graham Stevens Wines.

While Rod toiled in the cellars of McLaren Vale, Sue cooked at the Barn Restaurant in McLaren Vale.  “It was the most popular restaurant there,” says Sue, “it was also the only one.  It’s still going strong now even with the growth of tourism in that region.  We always planned to return to Victoria.  Our parents were in Melbourne and we were ready to start a family, so we headed home to Melbourne to start looking for a place to set up as winemakers.”

Why Redesdale? “Redesdale has relatively young volcanic basalt soil,” says Rod.  “The Cambrian soil is around 500 million years old, but our basalt soil is a mere 50 million years old.  When we found our place all it had on it was a hayshed that we converted into our winery.  We planted pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and chardonnay.  While waiting for our own grapes to develop we bought fruit from a Colbinabbin vineyard.  We were delighted when the first wine we ever made won an award.” That’s the small bottle in the photograph.  Their label then was Romany Rye, but that changed to Eppalock Ridge in 1988.

The selection of Redesdale as an area to set up a winery surprised many people.  Rod recalls a visit from two of Australia’s wine greats in the early 80s.  “Two couples arrived at our cellar door to taste our wine, John Brown Snr with his wife, and Dan Murphy with his wife.  After they had tasted our wine we discussed our location.  We were the only cellar door in the area and John Brown’s comment was, ‘You are very brave.’ I guess he could see the challenges of being a lone cellar door in a new wine region.”

Catriona and Andrew grew up around the vineyard and winery.  Did they miss out on what city kids get to do ? “We both loved it here,” says Catriona.  “We grew up in the middle of nowhere and we loved it.  We had a great garden, we loved the river, we built many tree houses and had our own on-farm transport with flying foxes.  Andrew grew into a hunting, shooting, fishing guy, something that’s hard to do in a city.”

“The kids had to find their own entertainment, and they were never bored,” says Rod.  “Once they reached school age they attended the Redesdale School, so they had local friends to play with.” Catriona recently married Andrew Wills.  Although she has lived in Melbourne, London, Edinburgh and the Greek Islands, her two bridesmaids were friends from Redesdale.

Rod and Sue moved to Bendigo to live in 2001.  “By then Andrew was heavily involved in several sports.  We were not keen on him driving himself up and down through the week so we made the move.  We do all the winemaking for ourselves as well as for other vineyards,” says Sue.

The family now has two Andrews and they, along with Catriona and Sue, found themselves thrown into winemaking when Rod developed what he calls ‘a bit of cancer’ in the middle of the 2008 harvest.  “I went down like a ton of bricks,” he says.  “An emergency call went out to the two Andrews and Catriona to come and help Sue with the harvest and winemaking.  Sue has always worked with me so she knew what to do, but she couldn’t do it all by herself.

“At first they thought I had done something to my back, but the intense pain continued and I finally had an MRI that showed cancer in one kidney.  On my third trip to the hospital, the ambulance driver asked what I was having done this time.  When I told him about the MRI he was quite prophetic about it.  ‘They’ll find something mate, they always do,’ he said.  And he was right.  I lost the kidney but that was it.  It’s a good thing you’ve got two kidneys, I wouldn’t mind having two livers.”

How did the emergency team vintage turn out? “To our great relief it’s good,” says Catriona.  “We released it at the 2010 Heathcote Wine and Food Show.”

“Marketing has been our greatest challenge,” says Sue.  “Initially we did it all ourselves and it is soul destroying at times.  We’ve had several agents over the years and discovered that it would be really good if our agent had just us as a client.”

“The global financial crisis made a dent in our export sales.  Our exports to the US, Canada and New Zealand have virtually stopped.  Our current international agent is showing our wines in China where there is a demand for quality wines as part of their interest in western sophistication,” says Rod.

Their highlights? “We are delighted that Catriona and the Andrews are learning the ropes and becoming more involved in the family business.  Our children have good palates.  They understand wine and food and they have useful skills to grow the business.  Catriona works in digital marketing and is helping with our digital presence,” says Sue.  “It’s been really hard work but then there are the emotional highs of winning international and national awards.  One special memory is being presented with gold and silver in the International Wine Challenge in London by the French Ambassador, another is winning gold at Le Concurs de Vin.”

$22.50 in any dozen

$25.00 per bottle

Out of stock

A classic blend of shiraz 60%, cabernet 25% and merlot 15%.

The grapes for this wine were sourced from two vineyards in the Heathcote region near Colbinabbin.

These vineyards grow on the famous red Cambrian soil. The wine exhibits all the characteristics of the outstanding 2010 vintage. It is a fruit driven style, with a distinct soft tannin finish.

6 Niemann Street, Bendigo 3550

03 5443 7841

www.eppalockridge.com

6 Niemann Street, Bendigo, 3550 VIC
css.php