A Yarra Valley room with a view
Jack Church went searching for a good spot to grow back in 1969 and despite initial reservations, he followed recommendations to set up in the Yarra Valley and didn’t look back. His foresight paid off and his legacy is now continued by his sons.
Jack and his wife June planted the first vines at Warramate that year, next to what is now Coldstream Hills. The only other vineyards in the area at the time were Yarra Yering, St Huberts and Yeringberg.
“The Department of Agriculture people suggested the Yarra Valley would be a suitable spot to grow grapes and make wine. I was a bit doubtful at that stage, thinking it would be too cool, but I did a bit of homework and thought that it should be okay,” said Jack. The site, on the north facing slopes of the Warramate Ranges, was close to where they were living in Melbourne at the time and made it much easier easier to be involved at weekends and holidays.
“It’s a north facing slope which provides maximum sun for ripening of the grapes, a gentle slope to avoid wet feet, particularly in spring time, and high enough up from the bottom of the valley to avoid frost, which can be a problem in some parts of the valley.”
The site was originally used for grazing cattle with many unburnt logs from clearing still lying about. Jack and his young sons at the time had a great time burning off the remains to prepare the land for planting.
“We decided that right from the word go we wouldn’t irrigate the vines and it means that the root systems of the vines have gone down a very long way and once they are established they are able to survive very dry conditions, which can be quite demanding for vines that are always being irrigated throughout the growing seasons,” he said.
“I feel that we get greater depth and flavour in the resulting wine because of that non-irrigation. Often [people] remark on the depth of flavour that we get in comparison with other wines made around the area. The vast majority of people in the area do irrigate their vines so there’s plenty of wine made from irrigated vines.”
An industrial chemist, Jack had always harboured a secret passion for growing his own grapes and making his own wine.
“I’d always been interested in wine. When I was at University in Adelaide there was the possibility of moving into the wine industry. It didn’t eventuate but I’ve always been pretty interested and the opportunity came to buy a bit of land and play around and here we are.
“ It gives you a great sense of satisfaction to produce some drinkable wine initially and some pretty good stuff as time goes on. I haven’t got a winemaking background but I have a chemistry background which has helped. Our older son has completed the wine making course several years back and he and I compare thinking and eventually during vintage decide which way we’ll go and that in itself is good to bounce different views off each other.”
Looking down over the Yarra Valley, the cellar door has some spectacular views, but it’s the family business atmosphere that makes Warramate truly special, and htis continnues today.
- Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
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