Planted in the 1980s, Squitchy Lane is in the “dress circle” of Yarra Valley wineries. Our near neighbours include Yarra Yering and Coldstream Hills. Not much further away are Yeringberg and Oakridge, and most recently, Medhurst.
This area has a slightly warmer growing season than other parts of the Yarra Valley, given its aspect and open nature. Conversely, it is very cold in winter, with Coldstream regularly having the lowest temperatures in the region.
What’s beyond doubt is the relatively cool nature of the climate overall—James Halliday mentions that the mean January temperature (an important climatic measure) is lower at Healesville than at Burgundy or Bordeaux.
This cool climate is ideal for the great Burgundian varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It also favours the production of elegant, medium-bodied wines from the classic Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Annual rainfall totals are approximately 750 mm, among the lowest in the Yarra Valley region. This rainfall is winter/spring dominant, with the summer relatively cool, dry and humid. We rely on this low rainfall ripening and harvest period to keep our grapes healthy, disease-free and full of flavour.
Harvest typically commences in mid- to late- February with the Pinot Noir and finishes with Cabernet Sauvignon in late March or early April. We like to say that we have two harvests—the first of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is hectic and takes only a week or so around late February. We then wait for the Bordeaux red varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot to ripen. This can be up to a month later.
History of viticulture and winemaking in the Yarra Valley
The Yarra valley has a long yet varied history of grape-growing and winemaking.
The first plantings were made not long after settlement of Victoria, in the late 1830s. Viticulture flourished throughout the nineteenth century and by 1900 there were one thousand acres planted. Famous names, some of whose descendants continue to make wine to this day, included Yeringberg, Yering Station, Hubert de Castella (of St Huberts) and the family of Dame Nellie Melba.
Unfortunately, economic conditions (in particular, the growth of South Australian and other irrigated vineyard regions) and the move to fortified wine consumption sent the industry into decline. By the 1940s virtually all the vineyards had been converted to pasture.
The 1960s and 70s saw the beginnings of the Yarra Valley as we know it today. Reg Egan began making wine at Wantirna Estate, and Yeringberg and St Huberts were re-established while new vineyards including those at Mt Mary, Yarra Yering and Yarra Burn were planted.
Further development occurred in the 1990s as small boutique producers saw the potential of the region. Many of today’s famous wineries were established in this period.
If you are interested further in the history of winemaking in the Yarra Valley, here is a useful link: www.wineyarravalley.com