The roots of this vineyard are deep indeed. In the 1950's two Italian couples Francesco and Filomena Di Cicco, and Aldo and Rosa Melone, arrived as immigrants in Australia armed with ‘a suitcase and a dream’. Curiously, they were both from the Campagna region of Italy but didn’t know each other. They built their new lives using the skills they had brought with them and established (initially small) clothing manufacturing and cheese making businesses that grew and prospered. By 1987 Francesco and Filomena had purchased a small parcel of land on the Mornington Peninsula as a holiday escape, where Francesco did what any good Italian-Australian from a wine growing region in Italy with a dream of owning a small vineyard would do – he planted grapes.
Meanwhile, in a twist of good fortune, the (now) grown-up children of both couples, Jo and Cosi, met and fell in love, establishing a thriving restaurant in Melbourne, serving the Italian food they loved; generous, simple, fresh and flavoursome.
In 1993 Francesco bought the property next door and established Blue Range Estate. It needed a lot of love but had a great combination of aspect, site and soil that gave a very special terroir. This included vineyard slopes in all directions - North, South, East and West, and an ideal combination of soils; clay for Pinot Grigio (planted first), volcanic rock ideal for producing highly spiced Shiraz, and limestone influenced soils for Chardonnay (although it’s also grown on the clay).
The spectacular almost 180 degree views over the sea took in both Port Phillip and Bass Strait, and meant the vines would be exposed to summer sea breezes that can become strong winter winds. The 20 acres of vineyard was later planted with some Pinot Noir and Merlot and it’s all estate grown single vineyard wines.
A vision based on passion and hard work.
In 2008 Francesco retired and was able to spend more time on the vineyard, deciding to open the cellar door to the public. In 2009 Cosi came to help his father-in-law out on his first vintage and was soon there every day of the week. Over the next few years he learnt how to prune, then to pick, then to make wine. “I came down to help with the picking and kind of just stayed… learning the hard way how to create a wine”, Cosi says. “There is a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from season to season – at the end of winter we are preparing the vines for the new season, and so it goes on. It’s hard work, but so rewarding”. With the cellar door open Cosi and Jo helped out; their background in hospitality proving invaluable.
Sadly in 2011 Francesco passed away without the chance to see how the business grew, but Jo and Cosi wanted to build on Francesco’s legacy and create their own family dream. They have now been together more than thirty years so they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. “We complement each other and work well as a team. We want to build something for the future generations,” says Jo. “I have the ideas and work out how it could be done. Cosi is the strength. He is hands-on and makes things happen.”
Their four children now also work within the business. “They are our perspective-givers,” says Cosi. “They enjoy it, and their hearts are in it. We are proud of their attitudes”. It truly is a family affair; sometimes even Nonna can be found helping out in the kitchen over summer. Their eldest son, Christian has recently established a glamping experience on site. “I love that this is all part of a bigger picture – part of an ongoing, and growing, legacy” says Jo.
A multi-generational business that continues to evolve
The strong sense of Italian hospitality is also behind the food. It’s an uncomplicated Italian ‘cucina’ style menu with simple flavours; food that Jo and Cosi love themselves and love sharing with people. “We serve food we love. The recipes are from our ‘family kitchen’ and change with the seasons,” says Jo. “We wanted to offer affordable quality fresh food that matched our wines.”
The menu includes lots of sharing plates and features fresh regional produce - Jo has planted a lot of zucchinis in the garden so that they can offer Italian style stuffed zucchini flowers on the menu. “We feel so lucky to be able to share this with people,” says Cosi. “They are sharing the journey with us. They become part of our family”. You can see the passion and authentic hospitality in the simple, crafted, quality tastes offered and the welcoming embrace of the hospitality. There is, of course, also Italian coffee!
You don’t get a view without a hill and travelling up the winding dirt road you appreciate the seclusion of the location, although it is only a few minutes’ drive to Rosebud. Driving through the vineyard you feel that you are away from it all, removed from worries and the daily grind/routine. “The vineyard feels like it is in its own world” says Jo. “There is a sense of discovery as you arrive, that you have arrived at a hidden and special place”.
Wanting to share this feeling, Jo and Cosi opened four beautifully appointed accommodation villas in 2015. This is somewhere special, where you can reconnect and relax, switch off and escape – and all rooms (and bathrooms) have a piece of that view!
Sharing their hospitality and making new friends
Blue Range Estate is built on family legacy, and the satisfaction gained from the results of hard work. For Jo and Cosi it's a long-term project that is all about sharing good food and wine, and spending time with family and friends. They love what they do, and this is key to the Blue Range Estate experience.
It’s a true hands-on and personal approach to growing the grapes and making the wine, and this authenticity is carried through to the cellar door, restaurant and villas. It’s an experience best shared – wine, plates of food, the fun and location. A chance to be together and enjoy each other’s company. You can see, taste and feel the passion that this family has for this business. It is far more than ‘just a view’ – but that view though!!
The Mornington Peninsula is a place unmatched in its beauty, diversity of experiences and quality of produce. Here you can discover hand-picked, hand-made local heroes. Sometimes you need inside knowledge to find the extraordinary - I AM Mornington Peninsula shares with you the stories of local hero experiences and helps you find your way to meet them for yourself. Read more at www.iamMP.com.au