A Knight's Tale
STORY AND PICTURES BY RICHARD CORNISH
A shining Audi pulls up outside the cellar door. Two smartly dressed urbanites peel out into the afternoon sun, they stretch and walk into the cellar door. Winemaker and owner of Granite Hills, Llew Knight stands behind the bar. These men are foodies and wine lovers and here to pay homage to the man who helped change the perception of Victorian white wines.
Looking out over the rolling hills lined with vines and dotted with rock, Llew explains that, “in the early 1970s the bottom had well and truly fallen out of wool and Dad owned these bald hills strewn with granite and riddled with rabbit warrens.” He’s referring to what is now his vineyard perched up in the peaks of the Cobaw Ranges, an arc of forest, farmland and vineyards, 550m above sea level to the north of Mt Macedon between Woodend and Lancefield. “Dad, a 4th generation local farmer, improved the farm remarkably but either had to get a bigger farm or farm this one more intensively,” says Llew. “He met Tom Lazaar,” he says referring to the colourful hospitality industry character and owner of nearby Virgin Hills Winery. “Tom said to him, ‘If you plant vines, I’ll buy the grapes’. Dad decided to plant vines to supply Tom,” he says. That was the early 1970s.
Circumstances changed and Llew’s dad Gordon, backed into a corner, realised he would have to make wine from his own grapes. He borrowed against the farm to install a winery. “The funny thing is that dad was a tea-totaller. He didn’t touch a drop. He copped a lot of flack from the fellow members of his (Presbyterian) congregation.” In a beautiful twist, a few years later, those same people would help bring in the harvest and use their pay as a fundraiser for the church. With the help of John Brown from Brown Brothers they made wine. In 1977 they took their wines to the Royal Adelaide Show and blew the South Australians out of the water with their refined and finessed cold climate wines. Llew went to Charles Sturt University to finess his own wine-making skills and now is known as one of the region’s most respected winemakers. Knight’s Granite Hills Riesling is synonymous with varietal purity with a clean stony finish that reflects the granitic ground in which was grown. Celebrating the Riesling will be the opening of hundreds of fresh oysters at their winery during Budburst creating the perfect food and wine match.