Cellar Door Drivers
At the cellar door, one of the first things a winemaker is asked is how long they've been there. Now there are a number of standard replies which I use based upon my instant assessment of the potential size of the hoped for sale. If my interrogators appear to be of a certain social persuasion and seem to have over invested in a display of all of the good things of this consumer life, (and as a consequence have bugger all left on the credit card to invest in the even better things I am offering) my reply is something along the lines of “ Oh about, now let’s see…hmmm..since about 7 am”
If the prospect is a relic from a past era with the bum out of his and or her pants and is driving and or pushing a battered salt encrusted VW Combi; in short someone who can only have an absurd sense of humour and or values the good things in this life (and strongly reminds me of my former pre-sales self), then the reply is likely to be along the lines of “ since I was a brunette” “ Really..that long eh?”
But there are some scarey cellar door types who fall out of their veHicles in a storm cloud of regional maps, cellar door guides (which don’t include us) with the latest wine app (which doesn't include us) glinting in the socially mediocre sunlight only to stumble over the dog as they blindly trample their way through the mondo grass in their headlong rush to breathlessly demand of me….”so how long have you been here?” There’s not much room for maneuver when you are about to be classified by this particularly well connected style of wine buff, so you have to grit your teeth and play it straight….there’s little chance of a sale anyway and if you don’t give them an answer they can tick off and tweet to their wine investment club, they’ll only visit you again..and probably with both of their friends.
Says I “We’re coming up to our 33rd anniversary this June, and we were the first vineyard winery in Orange” “Is that right, well how come there weren’t any wineries here before you when they’ve been growing wine in Mudgee for 161 years this month” . Hands up.. I give in.
No I don’t. I think it's largely a cultural thing. Unlike the mostly Protestant orchardists around Orange, who turned their grapegrowing skills toward the table, the pioneers of the Mudgee area had had a winery operating at Craigmoor since 1854 or 1855, well before gold was discovered at Gulgong in the early 1870s. While the Hicks, Hawkes and Joneses of Canobolas persuasions near Orange were busy growing “cherries, grapes, apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, ….walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts and almonds – (in) short anything which grows in (mother) England…..with perfect results”, their contemporaries down the Cudgegong, the Roths, Fiaschi, Muller and Kurtz families to name a few, had followed the traditions of a different post-harvest heritage and turned their surplus grapes into wine.
Beulah may have gotten away with peeling and savouring a grape in the quiet crisp sunlight of a late Orange autumn, but that same grape in down town 19th century Mudgee would have long since been fermented into alcohol and probably be on the road to the anxious markets of Sydney or the terminally un-slaked thirsts ot the local Loaded Dog inn.
It has only been since the relatively recent reductionist approach to all things wine that the traditional pattern of development has changed and scientifically driven new areas from Mount Lofty to Mount Canobolas have been opened up to wine production..or should that be vini-culture. And yet the fact remains that cellar door visitors of all stripes underpin the long term economic success of many of these new areas and the current industry shakeout will largely be a reflection of the strength of the cultural drivers which underpin each locality.
And that’s one driver we all need at our cellar doors
 BONE, F.S., ed., Orange District Guide: Millthorpe, Cadia, Forest Reefs, Thomas Crouch, 1908,pp44-56