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Balgownie Brotherhood


Rod and Des Forrester have a brother-like relationship with their business partner, Bill Freeman.
Having undertaken many development projects with each other, they felt the need to branch out into one of society’s romantic industries, owning a vineyard. Someone once said to make a million in the wine industry start with two.
Set in the picturesque dress circle around Melbourne, the location of Balgownie Estate in the Yarra Valley makes it ideal for touring. There is also a cellar door in Bendigo, some two hours driving time north of Melbourne. Both sites offer accommodation, though the Yarra Valley property has more rooms.
The boys took over Balgownie Estate, then a tired-looking property, in 1999. Stuart Anderson founded the Bendigo site in 1969. Forceful, brooding Cabernets and Shiraz were produced from the Mediterranean climate.
The need for more elegant wines, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, was met with the purchase of the Yarra Valley site in 2002. It has since been developed into a spa center with accommodation, conference facilities and a superb restaurant. A new chef has lifted the menu to great heights, complete with an abundance of local produce used in the ingredients.
Mark Lane is the wine maker at Balgownie, the fourth in its history. His philosophy is that great winemakers do very little to the product from the vineyard. The owner’s philosophy has been to develop a synergy between the environment and the vineyard. This will result in sustainability and great fruit. The well-schooled PeterWindred is the wine sales manager, and runs wine master classes on Fridays and Saturdays.
Balgownie appears to be gathering momentum. The end product reflects the tireless work that goes into a vineyard. The proof of this is the quality museum wines that are produced – powerful reds that will cellar well for between 10 and 15 years, and the complex Bendigo Chardonnays that will certainly cellar well.
Of the many cellar doors within an hour’s drive of Melbourne, Belagownie is a stand out, not least because of its first-class hospitality. Of course, the vineyard product is outstanding, and has its own signature feel.
My experience was made possible by the generosity of the Balgownie boys and 123 Travel Conferences. I certainly feel the need for a conference or two in 2014.
Wines tasted
2012 Balgownie Estate Pinot Gris (Yarra Valley) – light lemon tinged with lime in color. Classic tropical fruits and nashi pear notes abound. The palate is frontal and luscious, with balanced acidity to make this a very enjoyable food wine. Drink now with a fig and goats cheese balsamic salad.
2011 Estate Chardonnay (Bendigo) – lively yellow color. The bouquet abounds with white pear, grassy citrus notes and some meaty yeast characteristics. The palate is a satisfying mix of quality fruit, acid and lees structural complexities. French oak influence is discernable but not overpowering. Drink now or cellar for seven or more years. Have with a charcuterie platter.
2010 Estate Shiraz (Bendigo) – intensely deep purple in color. The complex nose evolves on many levels. Initial plum-like characteristics are bolstered by spicy chocolate notes and hints of tobacco. Another full, silky palate wine with balanced structure. It drinks well young, but will cellar 10 plus years. Enjoy with gelatinous beef cheeks.
1994 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Bendigo) – it is a privilege to drink this wine. The ability to age wines always highlights a sense of time and place. The dusky brick red color reflects its 20 years in a bottle. The subdued fruits are in balance with the aged notes of olives, tobacco and hints of spices. The palate is subtle and, coupled with its complexities, is a very well cellared, sophisticated red wine. Drink right now with some lamb back straps.

Image by Kevin Galens on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Licence