Back in 1994, I had the real privilege to undertake a review of the extension services provided by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) – which, apart from anything else, introduced me to many people who have subsequently become great friends. If only the UK and Australia were a little closer together! Two of these people were (and still are!) Stephen and Rhonda Doyle. I distinctly remember being told by colleagues at the AWRI that I really should go and visit Stephen – not least because of his somewhat unorthodox approaches to the wine industry. Mind you, I still think that many great Australian wine makers are unorthodox!
Stephen and Rhonda were the people who identified Orange as being a great place to make wine, planting their first vineyard there back in 1983 (the adjacent picture). They had begun making wine from grapes grown at the Glenfinlass vineyard near Wellington in New South Wales in the mid-1970s, and had subsequently spent the next decade trying to identify the best possible environment for making fine wine in Australia. Eventually, they hit upon Orange, or more specifically as Stephen recalls “those elevated areas to the West and North West of Orange anchored by Middle Ordovician geology of the Orange Shadforth association of soils. These soils are low to moderate in vigour, warm and free draining gravel based soils which hug the northern edge of the Mount Canobolas volcanic red mountain earth plateau. They provide good air drainage for frost control and provide plenty of opportunity with their red clay base to construct hill side dams for irrigation…” To find out more, check out Bloodwood’s history in more detail.
So, finding myself with a spare weekend in Canberra, I took the opportunity to get in touch with them, and see if they just might be around. Wow – what hospitality! A friend drove me the three-and-a-half hours there – thanks so much Rob! And then Stephen and Rhonda drove me back to Canberra last Sunday. What generosity. It was wonderful to see how they have transformed the place in the last 17 years – I took the photo alongside from almost exactly the same position that the 1983 one above was taken from! Note the tree at the right side, and likewise the one in leaf in the middle left of both photos!
Bloodwood is not only a beautiful vineyard and winery, but it is also one where wildlife – well, most wildlife – is encouraged. Rarely have I been to a vineyard where the annual sacrifice of grapes to the birds is treated with such equanimity – but as the photos of the landscape and Rosellas below indicate, Stephen and Rhonda have managed to achieve a wonderfully colourful balance.
And the wines are brilliant too! Given my love of Burgundy, I have to confess that I like their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs best. As their latest online list comments:
- 2009 Chardonnay: “Intense stone and grapefruit blossom introduce the delicate, racy palate of this fine Bloodwood Chardonnay. With flinty minerality at its core and purity of fruit across the palate, this is a crisp, refreshing wine to enjoy with pleasure in the medium term.”
- 2009 Pinot Noir: “This perfumed, hand crafted Pinot Noir with its subdued sanguine hues and charming cherry blossom aromas entices you into a beguiling and gently delicious blood plum rich world couched in subtle barrel ferment char. Those ladies old handbags are slinking about the palate again, complementing the delicate tannins and distinguished bouquet of this fine wine”
Bloodwood can be visited by appointment – and, staying with them for a couple of days, it was fascinating to witness first hand how Stephen and Rhonda share their love and passion for wine with all their visitors – no matter how knowledgeable or inexperienced they are!
Bloodwood is a truly special place, crafted with amazing love, care and passion by very special people. It’s scarcely surprising that they make such wonderful wines!