John Boucher and Pauline Russell started developing their Kyneton Ridge Estate businesses in the late 1990s. They followed an approach similar to that take n by John’s great-grandfather, William J. Dixon, who developed a mix of agricultural activities in the Indigo Valley about one hundred and thirty years earlier.
William. J. Dickson trained as a professional gardener in Scotland and worked at Balmoral Castle, Queen Victoria’s Scottish Highland summer residence. He emigrated to Australia around 1866. His intention on arrival in Australia was to settle down as a farmer. He purchased land in the Indigo Valley, along Indigo Creek, where his initial one hundred acre acre property was substantially larger than the average of about thirty acres.
The grapes were sent to a district winery, possibly at Chiltern, from which wine was sent to exporters in Melbourne. Then came the phylloxera disease which shut down the wine producers in much of Victoria. Most of the vineyards were converted back to pasture.
John Boucher was born in Chiltern. His mother, who worked in the family vineyard, died when John was just eight years old. John spent his early working years on farms in Queensland. He then returned to Melbourne and qualified for a plumber’s licence. He later worked as an engineer at power stations, and at Holden where he had a management job.
He retained his love for the countryside and returned to work in a Chiltern winery during holidays and in between engineering jobs. “On one of these ‘holidays’ I somehow ended up in a vat, drenched with wine. My sister washed and dried my clothes, no one was any the wiser.”
Pauline Russell has family connections to Central Victoria. Her great grandparents were married in the maze at Kyneton’s Presbyterian Church in 1864. Her grandparents were born in Carlsrhue. She started her working life as a dental nurse, then ran several businesses, including a log cabin and general store in North Queensland, before pairing up with John in the mid 1990s. Her business experience is evident in her approach to their mix of business activities.
John’s partnership with Pauline led to their setting up a mixed business that includes wine, food, and accommodation, in a beautifully landscaped setting about ten kilometres north of Kyneton. They developed their Kyneton Ridge Estate businesses in stages. “We worked to a plan,” says Pauline. “The sequence of work was: establish the dam; get power connected; develop the house site; plant the vineyard; build the house; offer B&B accommodation; and then build the winery and the cellar door. We developed the accommodation business in 2000 in order to have some positive cash flow while we set up the vineyard. The cellar door was opened in 2004. We still offer accommodation, but we don’t spend much time on promoting it. It’s hard enough to find time to promote our wines and the vineyard takes up much of our time.”
When John retired from an engineering consulting role at Ford in 1997 they had already purchased their property and started to develop the vineyard. “Moving here was initially about finding a block for retirement,” says Pauline. “We are both hard workers and are now working harder than ever. It’s hard to be inactive when you’ve had a busy working life. Life’s a challenge. We’ve learned more efficient ways of doing many tasks, but there’s still much to learn.”
John is now the viticulturalist and winemaker at Kyneton Ridge Estate which is perched on a hillside overlooking Mt Alexander, surrounded by large granite boulders similar to those around Tooborac. “We set out to make good wine and we have made some good wines. Our focus now is on making consistently good wine.”
John’s son Luke recently joined the Kyneton Ridge Estate family winemaking team. He has a wealth of winemaking experience after working for wine producers such as Chandon and Oakridge and is currently a winemaker at Mitchelton Wines. Luke was in his twenties, studying for a business degree, when John and Pauline were developing their vineyard. He then went to Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga and returned to winemaking work in the Yarra Valley before moving to Mitchelton.
John and Pauline manage the vineyard and they make their own wine. Between them they have children with an excellent mix of skills they can call on for support in their business activities. “There’s an accountant, a web designer, and a marketing person, as well as Luke the winemaker. They all love this place. They now have their own young families growing up in Melbourne. We have great family days when they come up to help with picking,” says Pauline. “John’s sister, Ann Boucher, a retired nurse who is interested in wine and food, does some pruning for us. Only recently have we started using contractors for part of the harvest.”
Their modern cellar door and dining room is air conditioned for summer, with open fires in winter. The panoramic view from inside, and from an outside deck, provides a picturesque view over the vines and the surrounding countryside.
Kyneton Ridge Estate is in the Macedon Ranges wine region, and is close to other Macedon Ranges attractions such as Granite Hills at Baynton, Rowanston in Glenhope, Hanging Rock Winery, and Black Hill Reserve. It’s also close to Heathcote region wineries at Barfold, Redesdale, Mia Mia, Baynton, and Tooborac.
“We have some really busy weekends on a regular basis,” says Pauline, “especially in October when Macedon Ranges wine region hosts the Budburst Festival. On Queen’s Birthday weekend we have a busy Sunday when we offer locally sourced gourmet food and live music.”
If Pauline had a magic wand, she would like to be a larger producer on a main road with good road signage, have more support in the vineyard, and receive more referrals from other tourism businesses in the area.
“As a small producer, we can’t be working in the vineyard and be in the cellar door at the same time. So we open the cellar door on weekends and public holidays and other times by appointment. Visitors enjoy our location once they find it, they love the view, the food, particularly the wood-fired oven pizzas, and the wine.”
Cellar Door opening hours:
Weekends and public holidays 10 am – 6 pm