by Fred McMillin
for March 6, 1998

Winery of the Week

Red Hot Rosemount


Prologue

1864—Karl Brecht plants vines in the Upper Hunter Valley, north of Sydney in Australia. His winery was named Rosemount, and his wines won awards in Bordeaux competition. After his death, the land reverted to cattle pastures.

1969—Papua New Guinea coffee trading provided Sydney-born Bob Oatley with some extra change to invest in pasture land...in the Upper Hunter Valley, where he discovered the ruins of the original Rosemount winery.

1975—A small, new winery and vineyard are added to the estate. The operation is so small that Bob and his friends are able to harvest the entire first vintage of his new Rosemount Winery.

1990—By now the family and friends had to get a little help with the harvest; production was over 400,000 cases a year!

1996—Rosemount sales in the U.S.A. alone exceed 400,000 cases.


The Rest of the Story
 

Rosemount wines are an obvious success. Who makes 'em? His name is Phillip Shaw. He trained north of Adelaide at Roseworthy Agricultural College; the press calls its winegrowing courses, founded in 1936, the best in the country. Critic Thomas Hardy says Shaw "is one of the three or four most gifted winemakers in the country." What does he make that you can purchase in America?


Phillip's Wines

Here's a sampling of comments by seasoned American and Aussie writers.
Chardonnay—"Their Roxburgh is the richest of the country."
Shiraz (Syrah)—This is the most widely planted premium grape in Australia. Over 350,000 cases a year of Rosemount Shiraz are sold in the U.S.A., which beats the competition by far. Phillip believes a major reason for this popularity is that he makes them "more plummy and riper" than those from the Rhone.
Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon Blend—The Aussies are noted for their non-traditional blends. This one draws critic's comments like "lovely, zesty."

Your U.S.A. Contact
The English major at S.F. State University had little idea that some three decades later he would be president of Rosemount Estates, USA. But a public relations client one fateful day asked him to scout out some good Aussie wines. However, at Syndey tastings he got scouted out himself and wound up being hired to run what became a sensational Rosemount invasion.

For help in selecting the right wine for you, phone his Sonoma office at (707) 996-4505 and ask for John Gay. Brecht, Oatley, Shaw, Gay...a few good men behind many good wines.  


Postscript:

A few decades before Karl Brecht planted those first Rosemount vines, nearby New Zealand had a passenger on a visiting ship note that the wine vines were doing well. The year - 1835, the ship—the H.M.S. Beagle, and the notetaker—Charles Darwin!

 


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


 


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