Mitchelton celebrates 50 years

By James Bennett

The smooth blend of grapes, family history and iconic tower has been a staple of Mitchelton for 50 years.

This month the Nagambie winery celebrates the first vine planting in 1969 by Melbourne entrepreneur Ross Shelmerdine and wine industry stalwart Colin Preece.

Since then it has not only become one of the Goulburn Valley's leading winerys but also Victoria's.

Chief winemaker Andrew Santarossa said the brave decision by the founders to plant a winery in the Goulburn Valley had paid off.

"Our proximity to the Goulburn River really makes it a very unique bit of a cultural site and I think that's represented in our very unique wines." 

Philanthropist Dame Margery Merlyn Myer and Mitchelton's first vineyard manager Norman Robb.

Mitchelton is famed for its extensive range of premium blends including shiraz and riesling, plus its famous underground cellars and winery tower overlooking the 108ha of vines.

Mr Santarossa said there were four particular wines that Mitchelton made exceptionally well.

"The Blackwood Park Riesling is, if not Victoria's greatest example of riesling, it's very close to Australia's greatest example; it's the most awarded riesling on the show circuit.

"We can do some fantastic examples of chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Those are the four I think are really special."

The winery is celebrating five decades of business.

Mr Santarossa said Mitchelton also specialised in blends not well known to the average palate.

"If you want something unique to the region — because only a couple of wineries grow and produce it — is the white variety marsanne.

"It's an obscure variety not grown in many places and I think the base and heartland for it is the Nagambie Lakes.

"Marsanne originates from the Rhône region in France. It's a wine that's underrated in terms of its ageing ability — which can be for a very long time."

Mr Santarossa admitted his favourite wine produced by Mitchelton is Blackwood Park Riesling.

Vineyard manager Norman Robb and founding businessman Ross Shelmerdine.

Mitchelton has firmly established itself as a tourism destination, bolstered by the 58-room hotel and day spa to accompany Muse Restaurant, Australia’s largest commercial collection of indigenous art, and the cellar door.

Mr Santarossa said although there were challenges, it was important to have an ownership team that was prepared to invest in its winery and vineyard.

"You have the year growing grapes, then you have up to two to three years before it's made into wine, and then bottled and sold.

"Everything is a long-term project with wine, so we're lucky to have ownership that believes in that."

Founding businessman Ross Shelmerdine and inaugural winemarker Colin Preece.

Already celebrating 50 years as successful a winery, Mr Santarossa said the future outlook was positive.

"We've got an exciting new vineyard being expanded at Heathcote for our luxury collection shiraz,'' he said.

"For the site in Nagambie, the fact we've being able to invest in a hotel onsite and we've got a unique hospitality site, I would say the future is bright for Mitchelton.''