In 1977 I embarked on a cycling trip through some of the great European wine regions. Travelling alone, I peddled through France’s Loire Valley, Chablis and then on to Burgundy. I quickly fell in love with France – the people’s passion for their land, their vines, their wines and their food really resonated with me. My next destination was the Rhine Valley but to get there I had to travel through Alsace in the north-east corner of France. Alsace was a wonderland – old castles on the hilltops, vineyards on the slopes and magical 15th century villages nestled in the foothills.
And the wines were stunning – glorious Rieslings, rich Pinot Gris and monumental Gewürztraminer. At the time I said to myself that there was nowhere in Australia that could produce wines like these … but I was wrong.
1977 must have been a good year because I met my wife-to-be Jane and the rest of our journey has been as a couple. After visiting France together in 1980 our dream of one day owning a vineyard began to take shape, but where would it be?
During the 1980s and 1990s we became aware of the fledgling Orange wine region. The unique cool, sunny, continental climate of this district obviously had the potential to produce classic wines. And this potential was soon realised when a 1997 chardonnay from Orange won a prestigious prize at a wine show in France. It was no fluke – Orange has made superb chardonnays ever since. Hmmm, maybe our calling was to make great chardonnay.
But when we visited some of the highest vineyards in Orange, at altitudes of 950-1000 metres, our fate was sealed – glorious Rieslings, rich Pinot Gris and monumental Gewürztraminer. There was a place in Australia that could produce wines like those inspirational wines tasted in Alsace decades before.
When the opportunity arose to buy a little vineyard in the highlands of Orange we grabbed it. We called it Colmar Estate to bind this special place with the inspiration that led us to it. Colmar is a beautiful old town in Alsace, France.
Bill and Jane Shrapnel