Garry Crittenden’s long-standing love of wine saw him move from horticulture to viticulture at about the same time that Mornington Peninsula was emerging as a wine growing area. Their first plantings in 1982, a mere five acres, more than doubled the area under vine in the region. In 1992 the cellar door tasting room and the winery café under Margaret Crittenden’s culinary expertise marked the beginning of wine tourism in the area and a new industry for the Peninsula. That humble but popular cafe is now one of the Peninsula's acclaimed restaurants under the ownership of Zac and Jacqui Poulier. Although they're a vineyard, they say they really see themselves as farmers.
They are not driven by a green philosophy; they just do what they have always done, which is to look after their soil and vines, so that they are kind to the environment and continue to produce quality wines. Their mantra has always been that great wines are created in the vineyard and are only enhanced in the vats and barrels. It probably comes from Garry’s horticultural background, but it is also overlaid with respect for the environment and a lot of common sense about how you treat the land for sustainability. They minimise chemical use and synthetic products, preferring to use cover crops such as peas and oats, compost and recycled water. This builds natural disease resistance in the vineyard, which makes healthier vines and grapes and the result is simply better wine.
Garry’s children Rollo and Zoe grew-up among the young vines, and it was possibly the magic of grape growing that encouraged Rollo to head to the vineyards of Italy and America after finishing studying at Charles Sturt University. It was here, experiencing vintage internationally, where he honed the skills acquired from watching his father. Garry was one of the first in Australia to commercialise Italian wine varieties and now the second generation, siblings Rollo and Zoe, have since also embraced the enticing varieties of rural Spain.
We’re not sure whether it’s a case of ‘nature or nurture’, but Rollo’s award as ‘Australian Young Gun of Wine’ and Garry’s elevation to a wine industry ‘legend’ of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival might point to the fact that it’s something in the genes. Drawing from over 50 years of combined winemaking experience, Rollo and Garry have taken the opportunity to complement their existing winery equipment with some exciting additions to ensure continued improvement in wine quality well into the future. The use of Conveyor Belts and gravity instead of abrasive Augers and Must Pumps as well as oak fermenters instead of stainless steel are some of the many improvements introduced and ensure the delicate tannin profile of all their Pinots are maintained. Additionally, the facility’s large cool-room is perfect for retaining aromatics in Chardonnay ferments, while the ability to divide the barrel store into three separate sections will ensure ideal maturation conditions can be maintained year round.
While keeping in touch with advances in equipment is important, as Garry frequently suggests, some winemaking traditions should always remain. Hence all red wine ferments will still be plunged by hand (and in many instances by foot) as has been done in the great houses of Burgundy for hundreds of years.
This wine walks the middle ground between being fruit driven and more complex and structured. Each of the contributing clones – 114, 115 and MV6 – bring a unique character to the wine. Ideal ripening conditions and minimal yields have also contributed a level of complexity and a bright ruby red colour which further enhance the length and age-worthiness of the wine. The texture is rich and structured with soft tannins and a poised, refreshing finish.