Leading winemakers Montara Wines reflect on their 50-year legacy

Leading winemakers Montara Wines reflect on their 50-year legacy

Words by Marnie Vinall

The Grampians calls a lot of amazing things home: waterfalls, wildflowers, wallabies, as well as a very good drop of wine.

The latter is possible through various vineyards in the region, and one of these, Montara Wines, is celebrating their 50-year legacy in 2020.

The milestone will be felt outside the parameters of the vineyard too, as it’s been a cornerstone in the region and has history in the Ararat gold rush days.

“There has been a rich history of winemaking and grape growing here,” Fennell says. “We’re maybe the fourth oldest in the region.”

Once owned by the McRae family, Montara now lies in the hands of the Stapletons, who acquired the vineyard in 2006 and have been on a mission to combine the old with the new, fusing tradition with the cutting-edge.

The vineyard, as true to the region, specialises in cool climate wines – think your shirazes and rieslings. It hasn’t always been this way, however, as the nearby Great Western township used to be famous for sparkling wine production.

Being a pioneer of the region, the winery has seen different styles of wine shift over the last 50 years as consumer palates change.

“Through the journey of time, winemaking styles have changed and I think that what we’re trying to make now is a contemporary, fresher style of Australian shiraz and Grampians shiraz. I think in the past, there’s been a nod to that rich, ripe and oaty, generous style of winemaking,” Fennell says.

“I think we’ve really dialled it back and made the wines far more approachable as younger wines. It’s not just with us but that’s a trend in the industry – people are looking for lower alcohol and drinkability.”

Now, to celebrate 50 years, the vineyard are continuing and ramping up their successful Wine Down Fridays. This is an ongoing series, where each week a new local or touring acoustic solo artist takes the stage. It has previously seen the likes of Steve Kilbey from The Church entertain wine-loving guests.

“We utilise Wine Down for a few different reasons: for one, it’s a great way to showcase to our customers – our trade customers being hotels, cafes, and restaurants. But as well as that, we have a lot of our international guests fly down for Wine Down. So, it’s a really good marketing tool to show-off the vineyard.

“A few of us here at the winery are a bit musical so it’s wonderful to have that affinity with wine, food and music – and put it all together in that way.”

And if the music, food and wine wasn’t enough to tempt attendees, the view should win them over.

“The view is pretty magical,” Fennell continues. “It looks out towards Mount Langi Ghiran and especially on a summer’s night with the band performing on the deck, it’s almost like a natural amphitheatre. The crowd can look down to the stage, sort of framed by the backdrop of Mount Langi Ghiran and the vineyard in the foreground.

“So, it’s a really lovely spot for live music and entertainment.”

Despite this regular affair, wine-lovers should also keep their eyes peeled for other celebratory events going on this year at the winery. Fennell admits there will be more on the horizon.

“We’ll have a couple of commemorative dinners and gatherings throughout the year; we’ll do some retrospective tastings and we’ll look at older vintages of the winery going back through the years.”

Most notably, July will be Montara’s month of special 50-year events. Things will kick off with Wine Down on Friday July 3 and continue throughout the month with a winemaker’s winter fest and more.

Check out Montara Wines at 76 Chalambar Road, Ararat for your next Grampians roadtrip. Head to montarawines.com.au to explore their wines and for more info on upcoming events.