Field of dreams

August 17, 2022

Dear friends
We’ve been quiet for so long now that when we bump into people we know beyond our immediate circle they politely ask “how are things going on The Wine Farm?” in a way that suggests they assume we’re another in the long line of small family businesses to fall prey to the pandemic and shut up shop.
Far from it, we’re happy to report. It’s just that we’ve been so busy behind the scenes – beyond our usual full-to-the-brim growing season and harvest period – we haven’t had time to sit down and write. But here we are, and there’s so much to fill you in on. It may take a few goes to catch you up on all the happenings of the last two years, but today we want to let you in on the biggest thing in our lives right now. A long-term dream that is slowly becoming a reality. Post by post.
When we first bought our little farm eight years ago it seemed like an enormous mountain to climb. Eight acres of vineyard to be managed without using the chemicals it had relied on to overcome weeds, pests and disease for the 25 years since it was first planted. As we ran our little B&B to scrape together enough cash to buy our first bottles and corks, we already knew, despite feeling overwhelmed by the task in front of us, that this farm wouldn’t be enough to sustain our growing family for long.
We also knew we’d never buy in grapes farmed by others to grow our business.
So, while we leant in to the task at hand (often with a child strapped to our backs), learning which of the eight varieties we’d inherited really belonged in South Gippsland soils and figuring out how to farm them to make the best wines we possibly could, we started eyeing off the neighbours’ land and dreaming about the future.
Our confidence in organic farming grew with every season, then we discovered the Biodynamic path and our knowledge increased exponentially. We started to think that perhaps we had the skills now to regenerate a larger parcel of conventionally farmed land into the healthy, biodiverse, microbial-rich carbon sink we were achieving on our home turf. And of course make some more good wine in the process.
In October 2019, five years into our tenure on The Wine Farm, we got a call from our mate Nathan. Nathan’s parent’s Edwin and Marlene owned a good slice of the beautiful red volcanic soils we’d been coveting just a couple of klicks down the road. Neil had met Nathan over knock-off drinks a couple of year’s prior and quickly learned that, “Nah, my old man’ll never sell to you vineyard blokes!” But several six packs and many a yarn later and the message had changed.
“Hey Neil, Dad might want to split up the farm and sell off a chunk. You guys interested?”

This land – its red fertile soils in a high rainfall region making it some of the best agricultural land in the country, and just a tractor ride from our front gate – hadn’t been sold in over a century. Were we interested? You bet. Did we have the money to buy it? Nup.
“Give us a few weeks, Nath. And don’t tell anyone!”
Not wanting to gamble our house on a brand new venture, we made a couple of important phone calls to people who have been in our lives for a long time and weren’t surprised to hear from us. The first call was to Anna’s Dad, a businessman at heart who knows a good thing when he sees it and even better if it’s family. After a few scribbles on the back of an envelope he confirmed he was able to loan us the money to secure our half of the 77 acres up for grabs.

For a long time we’ve been looking for the right project to collaborate on with our friends and fellow wine tragics, the Rushton family. A few different ideas had bubbled up between us over the years but when we relayed Nathan’s message, we all knew it was time to team up.

We went round to Edwin and Marlene’s for tea.
It was nearly three years ago that Neil and I, Chris and Peter Rushton, signed our names on the title deeds of these well-trodden cattle pastures. Soon after, when the time was right, we opened up the soil for the first time in probably 100 years to start the critical first stages of rejuvenation.
Since then we’ve been busy cultivating the soil to relieve some of the compaction, planting successions of green manure, mulching it in and applying Biodynamic microbial sprays to convert the organic matter into humus, bringing much needed nutrients and minerals into the earth.
A year ago we surveyed the property with a drone, mapping out the vineyard site so that every single post has its own GPS location. Neil has always worked with vines that someone else has planted so this time there’s no-one to blame but himself if there’s a vine encroaching on the tractor’s path as he passes down each row.
This winter we’ve been knocking posts in the ground and are nearing the end of the exacting and back-breaking task of installing perfectly straight rows of end assemblies, posts and wires across our first 14-acre block. 

Come spring we will finally start putting sticks in the ground, and then nurture them as they begin sinking their delicate roots into the newly rejuvenated soils designed to give them the very best start in life.
We feel incredibly lucky to have access to this beautiful land and we have the motivation (and hopefully the skills) to do the very best we can with it. We’ll keep you posted as we go, planting trees in the less viable areas and regenerating more of the soil to sequester as much carbon as we can, returning this grazing land to the biodiverse, healthy environment it once was.

And of course, making the most beautiful wines we can as we go – another expression of South Gippsland’s soils. Because we believe these two things go hand in hand. You can’t make great wine from conventional farming methods. It takes conscious, gentle farming to create beautiful wine. The kind of wine that cultivates valuable friendships and meaningful collaborations. The kind that fuels dreams.

Neil and Anna

Photo credit: Cam, our ace fencing guy, who appreciates a straight line as much as we do

  • The thirsty season

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  • Buzz words

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  • Family first

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  • Stop and smell the poo

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  • And breathe…

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  • Collective good

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  • Vintage 2020

    June 30, 2020

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  • Moving with the times

    May 31, 2020

    Dear friends Wow, we have been overwhelmed by the amazing response to our last email. Thank you so much to everyone who got in touch and put their hand up for some wine. It is reassuring to know that so many of you out there are doing your best in these trying times and actively … Continued

  • A kick up the bum

    March 28, 2020

    March sees us in voluntary self-isolation anyway as we shut out all distractions and focus our energy into harvesting our crop, but with our customers shutting up shop we’re feeling the paradigm shift even in our little oasis

  • A brief history… and wine

    December 13, 2019

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  • Sparkling conversation

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  • Certifiably insane

    October 12, 2019

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  • Picture perfect Pinot

    October 5, 2019

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  • Planting thoughts

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  • Vintage 2019

    May 10, 2019

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  • Let’s talk about the weather

    April 20, 2019

    ‘Cool climate’ is a term that gets used a lot in the wine world but not always appropriately. It’s the weather during ripening that really counts, and the closer to picking the more of an impact it has on the ultimate style of your wine.

  • One door closes

    February 12, 2019

    This morning the last of the nets went over the vines marking the end of the back-breaking vineyard work till harvest starts in about three weeks; the cellar door is now closed until Easter; and the kids’ activities have started up again for the year (including our oldest starting school!). It truly does feel like new beginnings.

  • In the thick of it

    November 18, 2018

    Until now we’ve tackled weeds in the vineyard by slashing under the vines. But when your back hurts just looking at the vineyard at the beginning of the growing season, and then your tractor starts making the same groaning noises as you, it’s time to re-assess the situation.

  • A kiss on both cheeks

    October 18, 2018

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  • The Wine Farmer’s Wife

    September 22, 2018

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  • Contains sulphites

    August 31, 2018

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    So how do you stop them? And without creating a host of new problems like headaches, breathing difficulties and worst of all, ho-hum wine…

  • Stop and smell the rosé

    August 19, 2018

    A well made rosé should command as much respect as a decent white wine. Well, nearly. It should be dry, light in colour, smell of light bright berries with maybe a touch of dried herbs and a slight tannin tingle to finish. Delicious.

  • A tale of three farms

    August 11, 2018

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  • Judgement day

    August 8, 2018

    With the first of our 2017 vintage ready to release, it’s time to offer up the fruits of our labour so you can decide for yourselves if you think our approach works.

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  • No place like home

    July 14, 2018

    We’re always talking about the importance of wines being allowed to show ‘place’ – keeping the fruit pure to let it express the soil in which it grew. So given we’re very nearly ready to share the first of our 2017 wines with you, we thought we should tell you a bit about our place first. What’s so special about The Wine Farm?

  • Daddy, you smell like soil

    June 30, 2018

    In Neil’s native South Africa, where he studied and started his career in wine, vineyards are commonly referred to as ‘wine farms’. The focus is on growing grapes and the people who grow them are farmers.

  • Pure ain’t simple

    June 8, 2018

    Here at The Wine Farm we work hard to make pure wine that shows place not process.

    It’s taken us a long time to come up with those few words, and while they might not sound like much to you they mean the world to us.

  • Welcome to The Wine Farm

    May 24, 2018

    We’ve just started a conversation with people who value the same sort of wine as us – wine that is pure; wine that shows place not process – and are interested in how it’s achieved. If you’d like to hear more about the wine we make and how we make it, as well as getting … Continued