By CAMERON MCCULLOUGH
It is hard to imagine a family more ingrained in the peninsula wine industry than the Crittenden’s.
Garry Crittenden planted some of the first vines on the peninsula back in 1982. In fact the five acres he planted then doubled the peninsula’s entire planting at the time.
Fast forward 33 years, and the peninsula boasts approximately 1600 acres of vines in what is now a renowned wine making region of the world.
Not surprisingly, now at the helm of this winemaking family is Garry’s son and daughter, Rollo and Zoe, who head up the winemaker and marketing roles respectively.
The 39-year old father of two young boys, Digby and Oscar, Rollo has already made quite the name for himself in the winemaking industry.
Having been named “Young Gun of Wine” in 2010, Rollo has taken the winemaking helm with enthusiasm and passion. After all, Crittenden Estate has been part of his life from an early age.
“We grew up on site here. In fact, where you are sitting right now used to be part of our family home,” said Rollo of their new Crittenden Wine Centre.
It is hard to imagine, but the beautifully appointed and majestic wine centre used to be filled with the younger generation of Crittendens running about enjoying their childhood.
“As we grew, the vines and winemakers and the general experience of wines were all around us.” said Rollo.
“In my youth, I fell in love with the winery because it was a fun place. There was always vintage workers coming in from overseas, and there were always forklifts and flashing lights, and eccentric and interesting people that make the wine industry what it is.”
“It was always a pretty cool place to be.”
“I truly fell in love with wine around the dinner table. When I got older, every night dad would open up a bottle from his cellar and serve it blind at the table”.
“I would always taste it, and we’d have a brief chat about the wine before he would reveal what it was.”
“For me, that was really exciting way of honing my palette and learning about wine and developing that passion. He was lucky enough to have interesting and sometimes obscure wines from around the world, so there was never any preconceptions that ‘well, this is going to be another pinot from Burgundy’. There were all sorts of obscure things that opened my eyes to the great world of wine.”
“I do love pinot first and foremost. It is my true love, and I think the variety I enjoy making, and is the most challenging to make, but I’m intrigued by all forms of fermented grape juice!”
It is not surprising that when Rollo left school, winemaking was his study of choice. He also worked overseas in the “off-season”. He did two vintages in the United States (Oregon and California) and also one in Barolo in Italy.
In Australia, stints were spent producing vintages in the Hunter Valley and King Valley among others.
Back home at Crittenden Estate, Rollo set about honing in on quality over quantity; to make the best wines possible, and build a strong name of excellence in the marketplace.
With 11 acres under vine, Crittenden Estate is not the largest producer of wine on the peninsula. But in terms of quality, they are second to none.
“There is no doubt that wine on the peninsula is a crowded market,” said Rollo.
“It is so important to have a great range; the best products to stand out above the crowd,” said Rollo.
And stand is what they intend to do. They believe that their “wine centre” approach will result in a complete rethink on the wine tasting experience.
“We wanted to be able to properly showcase our wines. We felt that the traditional approach of having people standing at a bar being poured wines was not ideal,” said Rollo.
“The person behind the bar could be dealing with multiple parties, and perhaps not make the tasting experience as informative as it could be.”
“They may jump around, and not be able to offer a structured progression of wines that results in the best experience for the taster.”
“What we have done is changed the experience to a sit down one, where people taste a flight of wines.”
On arrival, visitors are welcomed and given an introduction to Crittenden Estate before being seated. Once they decide what variety they are most interested in, they are given tasting notes and a flight of wines; wines of a theme, either of variety or brand.
With a range of 26 wines, the visitor to Crittenden Estate will never be short on tasting options whatever they choose.
“Crittenden Estate produces wines from the Mornington Peninsula’s signature varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as Italian varieties under the Pinocchio label, and Spanish varieties under the Los Hermanos label. Visitors to the Crittenden Wine Centre have the opportunity to taste and learn about not just what the peninsula does best, but about the range of fascinating varietals from northern Italy and Spain,” said Rollo.
The Crittenden Estate’s approach to educating and informing wine tasters has seen them awarded Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine’s award for “Best Tasting Experience on the Mornington Peninsula 2015”.
“We aim for visitors to leave our new home feeling relaxed, engaged, fulfilled and well-informed about our wines” said Rollo.
Or not leave, as the case may be. For Crittenden Estate offers you the chance to stay a little longer.
Located over the vineyards expansive lake are the Crittenden Estate’s Lakeside Villas.
Offering a luxurious and tranquil accommodation experience, the villas are among the most exclusive boutique accommodation on the peninsula.
Only three villas grace the scene, creating a sense of seclusion and indulgence. The outlook of the lake with its birdlife offers a cathartic break from the daily grind.
You can self-cater in the well equipped kitchen, or dine at “Stillwater at Crittenden” which is on the family estate.
“There is a natural synergy that exists between the Crittenden Wine Centre and the newly refurbished Lakeside Villas accommodation suites on the estate, together with the ‘Stillwater at Crittenden’ restaurant,” said Rollo whose wife Linda manages the villas.
“We like to provide guests with the complete package in one location”.
Crittenden Estate in Dromana has set the benchmark high for a peninsula wine experience. The vision that was born 33 years ago with those first five acres shows no sign of abating. The next generation have embraced their father’s dream and it seems like nothing will stop them.
There may be many wineries on the peninsula, but there is only one Crittenden Estate. If you haven’t been there, you haven’t been anywhere.
Address: 25 Harrisons Rd, Dromana
Call: 5987 3800
Open 7 days a week 10:30am-4:30pm, drop in any time and taste the wine.
General enquiries: 5981 8322