I have been surrounded by wine all my life.
Growing up, my old man had a good cellar, collecting wines from all over Australia and overseas, many from Bordeaux. Our next door neighbour too had a real interest in wine, although he was mostly into Spanish varietals. I recall Saturday night dinner parties with our neighbours, where all sorts of wine terms were thrown across the table. Although then, in my early teens, not a lot of the terminology made much sense.
When I was at uni studying law, I worked a couple of nights at a bar, The Posty, in Richmond. It was a lot of fun and at that time, they had a pretty good wine list too. Mind you, it was definitely a beer and cocktail crowd on a Saturday night after the footy.
In 2014, after graduating from uni, I donned a suit and worked at a large Collins Street legal firm in commercial litigation. My days were long and often ran into the weekend, so there was always wine. Friday night drinks quickly became the norm, and a glass of wine always took the edge off the never-ending fast pace.
In March 2017, whilst taking Tom's new speed boat for a spin on Lake Eppalock, we stumbled across Armstead, a winery, vineyard and cellar door located on the northern shores of the lake, centrally within the Heathcote Wine Region. Instantly falling in love with the lakeside setting, we embarked on the most crazy adventure yet - taking over the property, vineyard and Armstead brand in July 2017.
Our Armstead wines are, and have always been, classic and traditional styles whilst following contemporary winemaking techniques. The fruit sourced for these wines are only from Heathcote vineyards and are, to date, single varietals.
Wanting to create something a little more us, in late 2019, we launched ECK Wines. The focus of these wines are People, Place and Play.
Without wanting to limit ourselves to the Heathcote GI, we currently source fruit from six sites across Heathcote, the Macedon Ranges and Faraday. Some of our wines are crafted to capture the elements of the unique terroir of that site. Some are an expression of the winemaking, inspired by a particular technique or passion for a particular variety or style. And others, our Play wines, are just that: made playfully in the winery and are intended to be unchallenging, uncomplicated, picnic wines.
In February to May 2020, I worked at Hanging Rock Winery as their Cellar Hand and Assistant Winemaker, whilst also making our own wines there. During this time, I refined my winemaking and experimented with different techniques, learning some invaluable lessons along the way. Rob Ellis really took me under his wing, showing me the ropes and teaching me how to make good wine great.
It was also during this time that I developed a far better understanding and appreciation for viticulture and the vast number of elements that can so easily influence a wine. I quickly learnt that the difference between a good wine and great wine were many and varied factors; but ultimately, if you began with the best grapes, you inevitably could make a pretty delicious wine without many additions. And that, I realised, was pretty important to me.
Whilst I'm only at the beginning of this ECK Wines adventure, and relatively new to the wine game, there are some things I've learnt:
- Wine is complex. The deeper I've dug, the more I've uncovered. And there's a stack load more to uncover, an overwhelming amount of information out there to be learnt.
- Wine brings joy. To the grower, the winemaker and the drinker. It is challenging, but so very rewarding.
- Making wine can be as simple or as complex as you wish. There's so many different ways to press and fine and filter, lots of technical ways and equipment you can use to aid in each step; but for me, it's not about what you add to the wine, it's what you don't add which makes it so magical.