Lorna Gelbert and Michael Gelbert
Buxton Ridge is situated at the southern end of the Upper Goulburn region, 1.5 hours from Melbourne on the Maroondah Highway near Marysville. Elevation 300 metres. Buxton Ridge is a dry grown vineyard with moderate yields of less than 7 tonnes per hectare. The vineyard and winery is a family affair operated by Michael, Lorna, Michael’s wife Katie and Lorna’s partner Colin.
Lorna Gelbert and her late husband Wolf-Rüdiger Gelbert purchased a 5 ½ acre tract of land in Seal Rock Road Buxton in April 1996. When they first inspected the land Wolf looked at the short but steep north facing hill at the back of the land (which he later baptized the “Hill of Contempt”) and said “you could grow grapes on that”. Soil analysis was done and a lot of research. By November 1996, the first Shiraz grapes were planted on that hill. It all started as a bit of a retirement “hobby”: there was no intention to make wine at that stage, just grow some grapes with the hope of selling them.
In July 1998, Wolf died suddenly from a heart attack. Their younger son, Michael, expressed the wish to continue with the project so later in 1998, Bill Christophersen (ex-Coldstream Hills) was engaged as a Viticulture Consultant. The vines were puny and the weeds rank. Bill advised us to cut everything back to two shoots, kill off the weeds and see what happens. By February 1999, it began to look like a vineyard and even Bill was impressed with what had been achieved.
Thereafter Michael studied everything he could lay his hands on to learn about viticulture. Michael met with Bailey Carrodus of Yarra Yering who inspired him with principles of dry grown vineyards, terroir and making wine – not any wine, but the best wine you can make.
In 1999 the adjoining properties came up for sale. Michael and his then fiancé (now wife), Katie, bought one and Lorna the other making a total small holding of around 24 acres. A larger plot of Pinot Noir was planted in 2000 and some additional Sauvignon Blanc vines in 2001 making a total of around 2.5 ha under vines. A small amount of Viognier has recently been grafted.
Viticulture and winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention.
The initial vintages were made off-site but by 2005 Michael felt confident enough to tackle the winemaking himself and has made all the red wines for Buxton Ridge ever since. The Sauvignon Blanc was made externally until 2012 after which that too was made on site by Michael.
All of the wines are called after members of the family: the Wolf-Rüdiger Shiraz, Lorna Grace Pinot Noir, Michael Wolf Merlot, Katie Maree Sauvignon Blanc. In 2006, the Pinot Noir was made into a 100% Pinot Noir sparkling – the Molly Jean (Michael and Katie’s first daughter and Lorna’s first granddaughter). A further experiment was carried out in 2010 to make a Clairet from the Pinot Noir which is named after Mia Grace – daughter and granddaughter number two. Oliver Wolf is still waiting for his wine.
Save for the Molly Jean (which is made by David Cowburn/Brian Martin at Kilchurn Wines), all of the wines are now grown and made at Buxton Ridge.
In years when all the stars align and the Shiraz crop is exceptional, a limited amount of a Hill of Contempt Shiraz will be made and released in honour of Wolf from the vines growing on the hill he first planted.
The label depicts Mount Cathedral towards which the Shiraz hill faces. It is shown as cool and misty representing the cool climate in which the wines are produced. The wolf stands as a sentinel.