Michael Waugh was a bricklayer, a trade which brought him to Barossa in the 1970’s. With his wife, Annabelle he bought a 20 acre property near Seppeltsfield in 1976. It consisted of nothing more than a rundown house with an attached almond and apricot orchard and around 2 acres of old Shiraz vines planted along the line of a creek.
In 1978 Michael planted just over an acre of Chardonnay on this property and produced several vintages from these vines. But he soon realised that Chardonnay was by no means suited to the Barossa climate and grafted the vines over to Shiraz in 2000. In the early years, the grapes from the old vines were sold to the Seppelts, but in 1988 Michael began to produce his own wine from these old vines. Chris Ringland was the winemaking consultant.
In 1994 they purchased the Roennfeldt Road property consisting of around 6 acres of Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines with around 8 acres of apricot orchard. The vineyard was in very poor condition but after much hard work re-trellising the vines and deep-ripping the soil, the vineyard was re-vitalised and brought back into full production. 1995 was the first vintage of the Roennfeldt Road Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from this entirely dry-farmed vineyard. The apricot orchard was pulled out in 1995 (along with around 500 tons of granite) and the land was planted with a further 8 acres of Shiraz, the Apricot Block. Alice’s Vineyard was planted on a 20 acre property adjoining the original homestead on Radford Road and produced its first vintage in 2008.
Greenock Creek now produces between 3,000 and 3,500 cases a year depending on seasonal conditions. Since none of the vineyards are irrigated, yields are dictated purely by weather and pruning, averaging around 1.2 to 2 tons per acre (24 to 32 hl/ha). All fruit is estate grown.
All the wines are 100% single variety and the winemaking is broadly the same across the range. Low to very low yields from dry-farmed vineyards. Grapes picked on phenological ripeness and flavour at a baume range of 16° to 18° which can give high alcohols. The grapes are fermented in large, shallow 4 and 6 ton open fermenters, pumped over and chilled 3 times a day to give maximum fruit expression. The ferments are on skins for 6 to 8 days and pressed through 3 and 2 ton basket presses for a minimum of 8 hours to extract big but soft tannins. Free run and press juice are kept separate through maturation and blended together one week before bottling. The wines spend 2 weeks in stainless steel and concrete underground tanks to complete primary fermentation and are then racked to barrels for malolactic. Oak is a mixture of French and American oak, mostly second use with new for the two Roennfeldt Road wines.
These are large-scaled, big-boned reds which nonetheless display fine acid balance, and, oddly for their size, elegance, with a tremendous ageing potential. They are charismatic, individual and rare, produced as they are in utterly finite, not to say minute quantity.