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Ross Shelmerdine OBE CMG (1921 â€“ 1979) was one of the original three fathers of Victoria's Mitchelton winery, along with architect Robin Boyd and legendary winemaker Colin Preece
An innovative and visionary restaurateur, Ross saw the whole wine and tourism scene set to explode. In 1968 Ross gave his friend Colin Preece a free hand to identify the location for his great dream. In 1969, the first vines were planted on the Blackwood Park property at Mitchellstown near Nagambie, on the very site where Major Thomas Mitchell and his Australian Felix expedition had crossed the Goulburn River in 1836, opening the Victorian hinterland for pastoral settlement.
The Mitchelton Winery/Restaurant/Tourism Complex a premium vineyard, state of the art winery, art gallery, restaurant, cellar door, farmersâ€™ market and wildlife reserve - in essence, a harbinger of todayâ€™s wine resort tourism destinations â€“ opened in March 1974 with wines from the 1973 vintage made by Colin Preece. The creation of Mitchelton signalled the start of the modern era of the Victorian wine industry. While Ross and Colin did not live to see their dream fulfilled, throughout the 1980s and 1990s Mitchelton accumulated a formidable number of trophies, awards and medals notably - Winemaker of the Year, Vineyard of the Year (1991), Jimmy Watson Trophy (1991) and Wineries Tourism Awards in 1994 and 1995.
In 1994 Petaluma Ltd purchased Mitchelton enabling increased investment and growth, and in 2001 Mitchelton (as part of the Petaluma Ltd Group) was acquired by Lion Nathan Ltd. In Vintage 2001, the Shelmerdine family celebrated 125 years in Victoria â€“ and 40 years / three generations involvement in the restaurant, viticulture and wine trade â€” by commissioning special commemorative wines from the familyâ€™s vineyards, wines which reflect and express the climate, landscape and character of the wooded valleys, ranges and hills they know so well.
Winemaker Stephen Shelmerdine was involved in the Mitchelton vineyard and winery tourism complex, in the Goulburn Valley, from its inception in 1969, through the Petaluma Ltd ownership (1994 â€“ 2001), until its acquisition by Lion Nathan in November 2001. After intensive study, travel and work in the vineyards of Europe, and managing the retail arm of The Australian Wine Centre in London in the late 1970s, Stephen joined the family vineyard business in 1978, establishing Shelmerdine Vineyards with his wife Kate and mother Marigold in 1989.
In June 2002, Stephen was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the Australian and Victorian wine industry, and received a Centenary of Federation Medal. Stephen is a Board Member of the Victorian Wine Industry Association, has been President Winemakers Federation of Australia, Board Member Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation, Board Member Australian Wine Export Council, Member Premier of Victoriaâ€™s Food Industry Advisory Council, as well as other corporate and public positions too numerous to mention.
The Shelmerdine family have two major vineyards in the Heathcote region, Merindoc Vineyard and Willoughby Bridge Vineyard. Merindoc Vineyard consists of four separate, small plots on the original family farm at Tooborac in Central Victoria. It was 1956 when Ross and Marigold Shelmerdine began farming livestock here. The family first planting vines in the 1990s at hand-picked sites ideal for specific varieties. Surrounded by dramatic hills, sweeping vistas and spectacular granite outcrops, Merindoc Vineyard sits on McIvor Creek, site of mid-19th century gold diggings, and amongst the earliest vineyards in Victoria.
The Springs Shiraz vineyard, at 250m elevation, rests in a stoney ampitheatre capturing the northern sun and producing grapes of intense raspberry fruit and refined white pepper characters. While Heathcoteâ€™s reputation has long been built on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, white varieties are also now making their mark â€” notably Viognier and Chardonnay. Willoughby Bridge Vineyard is situated at Colbinabbin, north of Heathcote, on the Mount Camel Range in Central Victoria.
The Rangeâ€™s unique deep red, "self-mulching" Cambrian soil â€” the oldest soil type in Australia â€” produces red wines of intense varietal fruit definition, profound colour, remarkable elegance and cellaring potential. Willoughby Bridge was one of the first new vineyards planted in the 1990s in this historic 19th century winegrowing district. The vast adjoining expanse of Lake Cooper provides a moderating influence to ensure grapes are fully ripened while preserving good natural acidity and vibrant fruit brightness.
The Shelmerdine family purchased their first Yarra Valley holdings in 1990 with the outstanding Lusatia Park Vineyard regarded as the jewel in the family crown. Lusatia Park Vineyard was established in 1985 on the Lone Star Creek, at Woori Yallock, in the Upper Yarra Valley. Its elevated north facing aspect, deep free-draining red soils, and close-spaced vines ensure intense varietal flavours derived from long, consistent ripening.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc have proven to be particularly successful with pronounced varietal definition and distinctive cool-climate regional aromatics and flavours. Lusatia Park Vineyardâ€™s mature Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines have contributed great finesse, restraint and grace both as sparkling wine base material, and as still table wine. Sauvignon Blanc at Lusatia Park is distinguished for its pronounced zesty gooseberry, gauva and passionfruit character.
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