IAN HOPKINS / Principal

In 2002 some colleagues asked me to join them in a vineyard venture. Initially I said no, but finding the site was Heathcote I was intrigued. Two weeks later, standing on the ridge looking at the spectacular view, I was sold. My friends thought I was crazy when I told them I’d suddenly bought 100 acres on the slopes of the Mount Camel range. When I stand on the ridge and look out over spectacular view of vines and grasslands and blue skies, I’m happy to live with the crazy title. This land speaks to me. The name Tellurian meaning ‘of the earth’ relates this sense of connection, as well as a reference to Heathcote’s famed red Cambrian soils.

As a young man during summer vacations I worked at Lindemans vineyards near my family home in Corowa. Wrangling vigorous shiraz vines onto wires, I never dreamt one day I would own my own vineyards. After completing my Aeronautical Engineering Masters I joined Australian owned Consulting Engineer services firm Norman Disney Young (NDY), eventually becoming CEO and Chairman with offices in every capital city in Australia and an office in London.

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My work travel allowed me to visit wineries and as a growing wine enthusiast, company entertaining usually involved wine. I started seriously collecting Australian and imported wines in the mid-80s, discovering Heathcote at the Victorian Winegrowers Exhibition. Ron Laughton’s Jasper Hill wines were a benchmark for me.

As it transpired the original partners and I decided to go our separate ways fairly quickly and we split the landholdings into two blocks. I set about planting a second site of 5 ha in 2003.

Coming from an engineering background makes me very quality focused; if you’re going to do it, do it bloody well, be methodical: get the basics right and build on them along the way.

One of my smartest moves was reaching out to local winemaker Tobias Ansted. After some convincing he made our first vintages, 2007 and 2008 at Balgownie. He agreed to join us provided we worked with viticulturist Tim Browne to get the best out of our vineyards. This was a great step forward in our evolution. Tim helped us to source deep bore water which allowed us to buy back the original shiraz vineyard and plant additional varieties in 2011.

Rhone varieties do well in Heathcote, in particular shiraz. This variety brought me into the wine industry and my ambition is to make benchmark Heathcote shiraz – contemporary, elegant wines that are wonderful expressions of our vineyards. We are also excited about the quality of our grenache, mourvèdre, marsanne and viognier and planning plantings of roussanne, carignan and possibly cinsault.

After a trip to Sicily we were struck by the parallels of our climate. We loved the local Fiano and Nero d’Avola – and planted Nero at our vineyards in 2011 and Fiano in 2014. Both varieties have already proved themselves as brilliant additions to our range. My folly was planting riesling, inspired by Ron Laughton and despite some naysayers outside our region, the first vintage was terrific!

As an agricultural endeavour you are at the mercy of the elements. You can engineer the risk levels down, but the elements throw up the intrigue and the challenges. The joy is when everything comes together and it all works beautifully.

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