Over 20 years, we’ve been able to survive bushfires, smoke, embers, sunburnt grapes, frost, downy mildew, drought and voracious birds; for all that, we haven’t had many misses… I am very proud of what we’ve done over the last five or so years. The wines can proudly stand with the best of the Valley.
– MIKE FITZPATRICK
Owner Mike Fitzpatrick’s interest in wine was first kindled when he was studying at Oxford in the 1970s. His future father-in-law, himself an Oxford Don provided Mike’s introduction to wine and the close proximity to France allowed further exploration. The great wines of Europe proved to be a revelation.
Mike returned to Australia with his future wife Helen on his arm and the idea of a winery in the back of his mind. However, a successful football career with Carlton was beckoning and as Captain, he guided the football club to two premierships.
In the nineties, the search for a vineyard began. With the time Mike had spent in Melbourne, the Yarra Valley had seemed the logical area to establish a boutique winery. “I always wanted to be involved in a winery that was in the boutique style; in other words, big enough to make an impact, but small enough to allow for hands-on at every aspect of the wine-making process,”
Nestled in a corner of the Yarra Valley, a stone’s throw from Coldstream Hills and Yarra Yering, was the Log Creek Vineyard. Planted in 1982, the six hectares of mature vines had been established as a grower vineyard, with fruit sold to other producers. Naturally, Mike named the vineyard Squitchy Lane recalling where he had lived in Oxford, where he first began his foray into wine.
There was much to accomplish before the first wines could be released. The vineyard was planted to traditional Yarra Valley varieties – cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet franc. Although the vineyard was well established it had been created with a focus on quantity. To improve the quality of the vineyard Mike set about converting the vineyard trellis system and instigated a vine improvement program.
Mike realised that the lessons learned on the football field were every bit as important in wine production – discipline, resilience, attention to detail and teamwork.
Since the first release under the Squitchy Lane label in 2004, the aim has been to produce wine that exhibit the characteristics of the vineyard site and the influence of the particular vintage. The wines are all hand–made, using traditional methods. Fruit is hand-picked when the grapes are flavour ripe and the optimal balance has been reached.
“We wanted Squitchy Lane to be anything but ‘more of the same’ and I think with our range of Fume Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc—as well as some superb Pinot Noir wines—we have done that; our aim is to be innovative, without going outside the structure we know can work in our micro-climate at Squitchy.”
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