David and Diana Anderson moved to Heathcote in 1991 when their three children were still in primary school. David was an artist painting portraits and landscapes, Diana was a medical technologist. David expanded his business into wedding and baby photography. By 1981, they were working together in the business, with Diana assisting with office work as well as printing and delivering photos.
“But,” says David, “once I knew I wanted to make wine then I worked out that I’d need a tractor to build a vineyard, so I became a fencing contractor. I started with a crowbar and shovel before I could afford the tractor. Fencing was a healthy job. I loved being outdoors. Over the years I helped build about thirty five commercial vineyards in the northern outskirts of Melbourne.”
When he was eighteen years old David had purchased his first Heathcote block of land. The family took frequent trips to their Heathcote block from Hurstbridge, planted a few vines and made their first wine. “We didn’t know very much about making wine then,” says Diana. “David was always willing to learn from other winemakers.” Their early wine won them the first of many gold medals and wide acclaim for their wines.
In the early days of establishing their vineyards, David sought advice on business practices, as well as winemaking. “We signed up for a government-backed business advisory service under the NEIS program. This helped us put our business ideas into practice. We received assistance to help achieve our business goals, with the offer of ongoing help if we experienced business problems, or needed additional support.
“One person to whom we owe an immense amount is David McKee. We met through his interest in buying our wines and he later became a close friend and our business advisor. He was a Senior Lecturer in Finance at Newcastle University, with lots of practical experience in the business world. He encouraged us to analyse our business so that we knew what was really important. He gave us direction. I could spend just ten minutes with him, answer some of his questions such as ‘what do you want to spend to keep the vines healthy,’ and he’d then produce a budget.
“The key thing about seeking good advice is to listen to it and act on it. David McKee is now retired but still assists us in the vineyard and winery. He even volunteers for the graveyard shift. Over the years we have worked hard to be self-sufficient. We have a lot of wonderful volunteers who really enjoy being involved in the winemaking process.
“We produce about 3,500 cases of wine each year. We now grow about sixty percent of the winery’s fruit and buy the rest from vineyard owners with whom we work closely. We choose the part of these vineyards that we take fruit from, and we monitor the development of the grapes. I’ve advised many people about setting up vineyards. Some embark on the great vineyard romance with little idea of the effort involved. My main advice to those starting out is to start small. Expect a twenty year break-even on a vineyard and winery.
“I’m really happy that many of the people who buy our wines have been doing so since we started. I’ve always kept in touch with these people. In many cases I’ve delivered their annual allocation of wine to them personally, including to some who live interstate. Building relationships with suppliers and with customers is really important to us.”
“Our son Liam has been playing golf since he was ten years old,” says Diana. “Heathcote has a fantastic golf club and Liam spent much of his leisure time there. He learned a great deal about golf. Playing golf also teaches you about etiquette, about respect and social skills. Liam was selected as one of twelve young golfers to attend the Australian Institute for Sport and spent one year there.”
Liam considered a career as a golf professional. “That possibility is still there,” he says, “but I’d rather be making wine. I love being outdoors and I love being with my family. Golf will always be there. I’ve played in lots of tournaments in Australia and overseas. I enjoy the game and having a few beers afterwards. The life of a professional golfer is such that you live out of a suitcase. I prefer a more settled lifestyle and I love the wine business, both making it and drinking it.
“He could have been a golf professional,” says David, “but he came in one day and said, ‘Dad, can I make wine with you?’ I said, ‘Do you have a wine making degree? Because that’s what’s needed to take the business to the next level.’ So he signed up for a wine science degree at Charles Sturt University at Wagga Wagga. We’ve now worked closely together for five years and he’s learned to listen to what the vineyards are telling us. I am very proud of his passion for winemaking.”
Diana sees the father-son winemaker combination as providing balance into the future. “David has been very innovative in wine making,” she says. “We’ll always be involved in the business. Now, with Liam’s continuing passion for grape growing and winemaking, we have time to travel and finish some other projects around the winery.”
David has a passion for aeroplanes, having taken up flying when he was still fencing. “Making wine takes a lot of thought,” he says. “I am constantly dreaming of the wine, it’s in my head all the time. Now it’s in Liam’s head. I need to let him be the dedicated one so I can chase some other dreams. I can pack my paints and easel and leave for more than a week, knowing that it’s all in good hands.”
Liam was ten years old when his family moved to Heathcote to live. By then, David and Diana had about eighty acres of land in the area, spread across several blocks. Liam and his sisters Ngaire and Bridie attended primary school in Heathcote and secondary school in Bendigo. Liam used to play a lot of golf after school. “I used to practice in the paddock,” he says, “so I was pretty used to playing in the rough. In the mid-90s there were 200 or more people on the Heathcote golf course every Saturday and Sunday. Its a beautiful golf course, and it’s currently looking the best it ever has,” he says.
“I completed a wine science degree and I’ve also done a number of viticulture courses at Dookie College and at TAFE which have given me a really good foundation. I’ve learned much from working with Dad. He’s taught me that you need to be in tune with what’s happening in the vineyard, and be ready to change your thinking and adapt. He’s an artist with a deep understanding of grapevines and how they interact with their environment.
“There’s a plant cycle. Some growers try to intervene in that cycle. I’ve learned through Dad that you need to let the vines tell the story. Dad has built up our reputation for turning wine drinking into an experience. Anyone can make a wine, but we want to make a memorable wine. I’m interested in biodynamics. It gives you a new perspective on how the earth cycles itself, how plants are influenced by the earth cycle. Lunar cycles play a part in many farming practices, and we are farming vines.”
When asked what advice he has for those just starting out on a winemaking journey, Liam echoes the advice of his father. “Vineyards need a lot of love and a lot of attention. Start small,” he says, “really small, plant an acre, do that really well, enjoy it and then branch out. It’s a business that can involve many hours of hard work and often large financial outlay over at least five years before there’s any return. Some people don’t start til they are nearing retirement. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some people do all the hard work of setting up a vineyard and then selling it because the workload is so challenging.”
Some Wild Duck Creek Estate wines such as Duck Muck have reached cult status and are on wine auction web sites for more than $500. “There’s a strong secondary market for wine, wines that were made in small quantities. They are hard to get, and that boosts their reputation so that investors buy them and resell them. We prefer to enjoy them with friends,” says Liam.
Liam’s sister Bridie was interested in making some wine when she was twelve years old. David gave her Row 12 of one vineyard that year, then Row 13 the following year and Row 14 the next year. “I asked her what sort of wine she wanted to make,” David says, “but she was not sure, so I sent her off to smell the different barrels and see which one she liked best. We sold some of Bridie’s wine in Singapore when she was sixteen. We all went over there for a special dinner to mark the occasion.”
Bridie is now a nurse, as well as a singer and a dancer. Ngaire, currently a paramedic, is studying for an MBA ( Master of Business Administration ) and is very interested in the family business. Ngaire will work with David and Diana in keeping in touch with their customers and introducing some exciting new things each year. “We really value our customers, some of whom go right back to our first vintage,” says David, “and we try to give them a reason to come back each year.”
The Wild Duck Creek Estate winery is an unusual building which David and Diana built. It is an attractive building that uses local stone and glass walls. Liam and his wife Meagan are building a house near the winery and are really looking forward to its completion. Liam is now fully involved with David in growing and making the wines. Meagan, who spent seven years as a vet nurse before completing a degree in business, has started working with Diana, taking over some of the Wild Duck Creek Estate administration work.
Liam has grown up in the Heathcote wine region and he sees it as a young wine region that needs another ten to fifteen years to reach its potential. “We have some big commercial wine players here now, plus an increasing number of boutique players which is great for boosting employment in the area. The annual October Wine and Food Festival generates a lot of interest and is really encouraging people to stay and enjoy the region.”
$126.00 in any dozen
$140.00 per bottle
A process similar to that of the Shiraz Reserve, the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is made from visually perfect fruit selected from the healthiest vines.
The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is quite rare, having only been made a handful of times since 1991. Most years it is blended back with the Alan’s Cabernet, but on occasion it shines as being something extra special.
Concentrated fruit, high natural acidity, and matured in 100% of the best new French oak, ensures a Cabernet Sauvignon experience not to be forgotten.
$67.50 in any dozen
$75.00 per bottle
Out of stock
The Alan’s Cabernet was the wine that launched Wild Duck Creek Estate.
Skungy acidic soils help to keep yields low in this vineyard, which comprises 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and a splash of Petit Verdot.
Prior to the existence of the winery, Duck and Diana would pick these grapes with friends, drive them 100km home to Melbourne and make them into wine.
Amongst others, the Volkswagon Club of Victoria have assumed the awesome responsibility of picking this vineyard (under instruction of course!). However, anybody with or without a VW is welcome…
A floral treat of berries, mint, violets and eucalyptus; most years the Alan’s Cabernet is Duck’s favourite.
$43.20 in any dozen
$48.00 per bottle
A wine of refinement and finesse whilst being succulent and powerful is the best way to describe Ducks and Drakes. Made primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon (>90%) from Ian & Lynn Rathjen’s vineyard, which is abundant in natural tannins, it also has a small parcel of carefully selected Shiraz blended to give a succulent mid-palate. This wine, like Springflat Shiraz, is matured in up to 40% new French and American oak hogsheads for 22 months.
$44.10 in any dozen
$49.00 per bottle
A very small production wine where some carefully selected grapes (usually Shiraz with a little Cabernet Sauvignon) depending on vintage, are fortified (with 22 year old brandy) on skins and left to macerate for up to 4 days before being gently basket-pressed. The wine is then matured in old oak hogsheads for up to 2 years prior to bottling. A wine that will benefit from careful cellaring.
$112.50 in any dozen
$125.00 per bottle
A process similar to that of the Alan’s Cabernet, the Shiraz Reserve is made from visually perfect fruit selected from the healthiest vines.
Whilst selection is underway, and to maintain a keen eye, Duck insists on drinking a bottle of the previous Shiraz Reserve and tries not to spill it on the way!
Shiraz Reserve is very special – highly seductive and only created in the cream of years.
$32.40 in any dozen
$36.00 per bottle
Out of stock
Originally, The Blend was made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, grown in Kangaroo Ground (Yarra Valley), Sutton Grange (Bendigo Wine Region), and Heathcote.
Over the years, The Blend has evolved into a Cabernet Sauvignon with small parcels of Merlot, almost entirely now from Heathcote.
A rich middle-palate wine designed to complement almost any dish, The Blend is smooth and unassuming.
$54.00 in any dozen
$60.00 per bottle
Prior to deciding which wines will ultimately be made each vintage, Duck and Liam analyze their fruity concoctions so as to make the best Springflat Shiraz possible.
The uniqueness of this wine results from parcels of fruit being sourced from eight other sites across the Heathcote region, stretching from Colbinnabbin to Mia Mia.
These vineyards are living in various soil types ranging from the rich ‘cambrian’ volcanic soils of the north, to the dense, acidic, granite and quartz-laden clays of the south. This allows the Springflat Shiraz to express a rainbow of richness for which the Heathcote region is famous.
The Springflat Shiraz is a Wild Duck Creek Estate flagship, representing exceptional value.
$27.00 in any dozen
$30.00 per bottle
Yellow Hammer Hill was the collective vision of Duck and some long-time friends and fellow ‘agricultural drinkers’. The Yellow Hammer Hill block is situated near our oldest vineyard, the Alan’s Cabernet Vineyard. The first vines were planted in 1996, after ‘Effa’ the Fordson Major tractor, had cleared the land of Chinese heath some months earlier.
Shiraz and Malbec were chosen as the varieties of choice due to their wonderful complimentary characteristics. The fruit-driven fullness of Shiraz and floral notes and wonderful texture of Malbec, lend themselves to a wine that is delightful when consumed in early years, and develops into a brooding complexity of spice and fruit after cellaring.