The conscious decision to make wine only from the grapes grown on site results in limited barrels of powerfully fragrant wines that reflect the estate's heritage of meticulous winemaking processes. This small vineyard delivers impact that belies its size – it may be small but it is producing truly great wine.
Back in 1975 Nat and Rosalie White selected an affordable, failed lemon orchard in a Red Hill back block and set about putting in experimental plantings of seven grape varietals. The terroir was perfect; gentle slopes of the right soil type, sited high on the hill for a cooler climate, plus the 'clos' effect of the surrounding trees created the protective result similar to that of a walled vineyard. It made for a very rewarding place to grow grapes. By 1979 they had made their first batch (20 litres) of wine on their kitchen table and just one year later they produced their first commercial vintage. That same year Main Ridge Estate received the first commercial winery liquor license ever granted on the Mornington Peninsula. Little did they know that they were becoming pioneers of the Mornington Peninsula wine industry and that their work would support the development of the Mornington Peninsula’s reputation as a premium wine region.
Nat's wine philosophy of endeavouring to make fault free wines that reflect the season and the site, led to a focus on low yields with encouragement of wild yeast fermentation followed by thoughtful handling of the wines. The Main Ridge Estate pursuit of perfection became synonymous with natural, authentic, premium quality wines and they went on to receive a litany of awards over the next four decades. In fact James Halliday (Halliday Wine Companion) stated that “Main Ridge Estate is a diamond in the crown of the Mornington Peninsula”. High praise indeed.
In 2015 Nat and Rose planned retirement but wanted to ensure the vineyard was passed on to a family that was as passionate about the wine as they were. They are delighted that Tim, Libby and James Sexton to carry on the traditions they had pioneered. The Sexton family now live on the vineyard – this is their home. The bond created between the two families is strong, so much so that Nat has stayed on as a mentor to new winemaker James to help him deliver the Main Ridge Estate style of being ‘true to the grape’. Many of the wonderful original vines are now more than 40 years old, and the viticultural and winemaking traditions established over many years continue while introducing James Sexton as the new generation of winemaker.
The small 7 acre vineyard continues to produce wine made only from the grapes grown on site; now focussing on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Merlot. "The impact of this vineyard far outweighs its size" says Jeremy Oliver, one of Australia’s foremost wine writers. It is a place for wine lovers seeking to develop wine knowledge and palate, and for those already serious about wine – the product quality (and price point) reflects this.
The Sexton family has a strong background in hospitality, but it is wine that James loves. Already an experienced sommelier, in mid 2015 he commenced the Bachelor of Wine Science degree at Charles Sturt University, just as Nat White did 40 years ago. As the winemaker, it is still a conscious decision to produce low yields of wine, and only fruit grown on site is used. It is still a very humble winery with simple production process and James uses the same winemaking room that Nat always did. The wine is still carefully made to express the terroir of this iconic vineyard. “I love that each vintage is a reflection of that years’ climate, James says. James is often asked if there are plans to change the traditional Main Ridge Estate wine styles, or increase production. “It would be foolish to meddle with such a highly regarded and strongly supported brand and style, so Main Ridge Estate wine will stay just as it is!”
Production is only 1,000 cases and is tiny comparatively to other wineries, but that doesn’t worry James. The critics agree that it is the right decision, with Main Ridge Estate receiving another Top 5 Red Star winery award from Halliday Wine Companion in 2019. The renowned Main Ridge Estate ‘Half Acre’ Pinot Noir was again classified as “Outstanding’ in the 2018 Langtons VII Classification of top Australian wines – the highest rating of just 4 Mornington Peninsula wines classified. There is almost a mystique around the site – it’s so small and compact yet produces such excellent wine.
The family’s strong hospitality background also flows through to the Main Ridge Estate cellar door experience where they carry on the hands-on service traditions of the estate established by the White family, but with their own twist. Visitors enjoy fine wine, simple casual lunches and views of the quiet bush valley from the sundeck - or can sit by the fire in the winter in the working winery. This is also the venue for wine tastings, wine dinners and concerts.
The Sextons have made a few changes just to refine and refresh the cellar door, in it’s an idyllic setting in its own small valley. The sense of engagement with the family and a connection to the winemaker continues. In fact, usually it is the family serving you in the cellar door. “We want our visitors to experience a true family winery and to show them our wines in the best way”, says Tim. “Our aim is to surprise visitors through them finding a beautiful place down a country lane… that is professional, hospitable and relaxed, with good value casual dining. It’s not a busy, noisy, bustling commercial winery experience.”
With their fourth vintage at Main Ridge Estate approaching, the Sextons believe the transition of ownership and winemakers has been a success. This is measured by the very positive reviews of their 2016 and 2017 vintage releases, a well patronised cellar door, a loyal mail-order customer list, and by the happy new life they enjoy in the Mornington Peninsula community.
Main Ridge Estate has been built on rich heritage of producing quality wines and has been successfully passed on from the White family to the Sexton's. Today the 40 year old deep rooted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines on this idyllic estate provide exceptional 100 per cent estate grown fruit for the Main Ridge Estate wines It’s a balance between the vineyard terroir, the history of meticulous wine-making and hands-on family business that works exceptionally well. The wine-making traditions established by Nat White continue while introducing James Sexton as the new generation of winemaker, and the results speak for themselves.
80 William Road, Red Hill Victoria 3937. Phone: 03 5989 2686
Friday, Saturday and Sunday 12.00pm – 5.00 pm
More info HERE>>
The Mornington Peninsula is a place unmatched in it’s beauty, diversity of experiences and quality of produce. Here you can discover hand picked, hand made local heroes.
Sometimes you need the local knowledge to find them so “I AM Mornington Peninsula” shares with you the stories of 10 local heroes. Come and meet the talented makers, creators and innovators of our region. The welcome is personal and there is so much heritage and passion. They work hard to make their dreams come true, and they want to share it with the world. “I AM Mornington Peninsula” means that you can find your way to meet them for yourselves.
Read more at www.iamMP.com.au