ABOUT US


OurStory-1In 1987 we purchased 150 acres overlooking Lady Bay on the spectacular South-west Fleurieu Peninsula. Lady Bay is 70 kilometres south of Adelaide, further along the coast from McLaren Vale, and part of the township of Normanville in the greater Yankalilla District. The property lies between the protection of the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges and Gulf St. Vincent; on a clear day we can see Kangaroo Island. Less than 500 metres from the sea and only 10 metres above sea level, we enjoy a quintessential maritime climate of warm, sunny days, and mild to cool nights perfect for grape growing.

Decades of traditional farming practices had degraded the landscape. We embarked upon revegetating the property with local, native plant species and have been encouraged by the ever-increasing populations of native animals that have made our place their home. Echidnas enjoy digging for ants in the vineyard and the female kangaroos use it as a refuge, hiding from the bucks. Tawny Frogmouth’s find camouflage against the bark of the now established eucalyptus trees, and the Superb Fairy Wrens make nests in the native shrubs and grasses.

Initially for ‘personal consumption’, the vineyard was established in 1996 as more of a hobby. Lady Bay Vineyard was a pioneer of subsurface irrigation in Australia. Our first vintage in 1999 was very much an amateur affair. Family and friends were recruited to pick grapes on the promise of a beer at the end of each row. This system worked well for the first part of the day in the Cabernet where the rows are long. By the end of the day we moved into the short rows of Shiraz – consequently the beers were consumed more frequently and our workers became slower. We made a bit of wine for distribution among our picking crew and sold a bit of fruit to McLaren Vale winemakers.

Through word of mouth, our vineyard gained the attention of high profile winemakers and we entered the first of many long-term grape contracts. The Shiraz and Cabernet grapes that we sell have consistently been classified ‘A grade’, and have made their way into labels including Penfold’s Bin 389, Bin 407, and Wolf Blass Platinum Label. Each vintage we ‘cherry-pick’ the vineyard and keep the best fruit for our own label. We produced the first commercial vintage under our own Lady Bay Vineyard label in 2002.

OurStory-2Neighbours are not surprised by the success of our vineyard. A former neighbour and third generation local farmer told us he often leant on the fence and pondered the difference between his soil and ours. The crops produced where our vineyard is now located, were always superior despite common farming methods. Our explanation is that much of our land was once a rich, alluvial floodplain. We are located in a unique position at the entrance to ‘Great Gorge’, a grand gateway through which the Yankalilla River passes before meeting the sea. The Yankalilla River originates at Parawa, a site known to have the highest rainfall in South Australia. Historically, over many years and many floods, a rich array of soils was deposited on this floodplain where our vineyard is now located.

Our prized ‘top block’ of Shiraz grows at the highest point in the vineyard on a sandy loam hillside scattered with granite and ironstone fragments. This Shiraz is elegantly cool climate in style with intense black and red berry flavours, layers of spice and complexity. Shiraz planted at the base of the vineyard endures tough growing conditions on black, cracking Bay of Biscay clay and produces small berries packed with ripe plum, blueberry and mulberry flavours. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo span an area between these Shiraz blocks and the diversity of the soil adds to the complexity of the grapes and resulting wines. In addition to the influence of the floodplain, we have discovered that an ancient river lies deep beneath our property creating a limestone layer within the reach of the roots of the vines, not unlike what is found in the Coonawarra area.

While our Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are now a benchmark for quality within the Fleurieu region and beyond, we recently discovered that our land was formerly regarded as one of the most valuable farming properties in South Australia. Our vineyard grows on soil that once produced wheat classified as the best in the world. The South Australian Company (now Elders) was formed in 1835 by a group of British philanthropists, radical thinkers, dissenters and wealthy merchants to develop a new settlement in South Australia. Led by George Fife Angas (1789 – 1879) The Company played a significant role in the establishment of South Australia by securing pastoral land, with the produce returned to England then traded around the world. It was during this period that wheat grown on our land was returned to England and classified, “unsurpassed by any in the world”.

George French Angas (1822 – 1886), the eldest son of George Fife Angas, was an English explorer, naturalist and artist who painted some of the earliest views of South Australia. Arriving in Adelaide in 1844, he joined Sir George Grey on several expeditions including to the Fleurieu Peninsula where he painted his impressions of the newly established colony – its inhabitants, landscape, flora and fauna. We discovered Entrance to the Gorge at Yankalilla (1850) by chance and immediately identified the location on our property captured by Angas. The print is held in the Australian National Gallery and is published in, South Australia Illustrated (1886), a collection of lithographed plates, hand-coloured all after watercolour drawings and impressions on stone by Angas. An original copy resides in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Special Collections. A copy of the original print hangs above our fireplace at Lady Bay as a reminder of the known history of the location we fell in love with. The image also features on the label of our Limited Release Shiraz Cabernet