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The Story So Far

After fifteen years of extensive trials, the 2006 Mount Terrible Pinot Noir was John Eason’s first tilt at his ambition to make a Pinot in the style of the great French Burgundies. Released to acclaim (95 points from James Halliday) in January 2009, the ’06 vintage has now been followed by the ’08 Ian Ridley Reserve (94 points) and the 10 (95 points) which have been listed in restaurants such as Melbourne’s Vue de Monde, Guillaume at Bennelong in the Sydney Opera House and the 2 Michelin Star The Square in London’s Mayfair. The 2011, a pale but delicately flavoured wine (90 points) is widely available as a pourer in Melbourne and many restaurants in N E Victoria, and the recently released 2012 and 2013 (95 points from James Halliday in April 2016) confirm what the dry and stony Jamieson River Vineyard can do.

Reviewing the story of the vineyard, John says: “When we left London, Janene and I knew exactly where we wanted to live. We had picked the spot on previous visits: the valley of the Jamieson River. It took us six months to find the right property – eight riverside acres with a northerly aspect, access to water and a beautiful site for a house. The land was just rough pasture but it had huge potential.

“There were no vineyards in the area then but I had a hunch the sloping shaley clay and river-loam ought to grow good grapes. I experimented with several different varieties but best by a mile was Pinot Noir, which was fortunate because that was what we both liked best to drink.

“The results over the first few years were patchy but promising, especially the Pinot, from which I made a series of bucket-and-stick vintages. But in amongst these experiments, there were a couple of triumphs, enough to justify more extensive plantings in 2001.

“But Pinot isn’t Burgundy. In the Nineties over-cropping was widespread and too many Australian pinots were thin and fruit-driven. We were after something more layered, a wine that would linger on the palate and develop interest and complexity as it matured.

“Progress towards our goal was slow and beset with difficulties but in 2006 we succeeded in producing a wine that truly showed what the land was capable of.

“We had high hopes for the 2007 vintage. The Gods thought otherwise. Frost blasted the buds and what little survived the smoke of bushfires tainted.

“The harvest in 2008 was good, but in 2009 the bushfires came back. Again – a small enough matter compared to what others lost in that tragic year – the fruit was spoilt and another season’s work went for nothing.

Mount Terrible 2012 picking with tractor

“It was beginning to look like we were only going to get a vintage every other year. Sure enough, after a near-perfect crop in 2010, we came close to losing everything once again due to unseasonable rain in 2011.

“But then luck struck. Two weeks before harvest, the skies cleared, the fruit ripened and the vintage (four weeks later than in other years) yielded a wine pale in colour and lacking the structure and complexity of previous years, but with exquisite primary fruit.

“For the subsequent five years our luck largely held. 2012 was a bit on the wet side and we had a plague of wasps to contend with, but the vintage, though small, was of good quality.

“2013 was a warm, dryish but not too hot year where everything in the vineyard and the winery went entirely to plan and the resulting wine, which was released in January 2016 is perhaps out best ever.

“For many in the business the 2014 season was difficult. But not for us. For once, we escaped the frosts and the bushfires that affected other parts of Victoria, and the warm, dry summer made for another near-perfect vintage.

“2015 was another highly satisfactory year for us. Dry but not too hot with no disease pressure, it culminated in an excellent crop. The wine which is currently in barrel is extremely promising.

“The 2016 season however started badly with an unwelcome early Christmas present: a damaging frost later than any previously recorded in this district. I remember waking up on the morning of 27th November 2015 and looking out the window and thinking: ‘What’s all that pollen doing on the ground?’ As the day warmed up, Hope, that treacherous counsellor, whispered: ‘Maybe we just got away with it,’ but by the next day it was obvious we hadn’t. Upwards of half the developing bunches were burnt, but many of the vines in the upper parts of the vineyard escaped damage and the grapes there ripened normally. The summer of 2016 was hot and dry and we picked our small crop earlier than usual. The grapes were in very good condition and the inclusion of a significant number of the ‘secondary’ bunches that had developed on the frost-affected vines contributed valuable acid to the final must. The winemaking process went without a hitch and I’m guardedly optimistic.