First planted in 1945 by a local Italian vigneron, and then purchased and expanded by Brown Brothers in 1950, the site on which Virago Vineyard was established has a long viticultural history (in Australian terms!) Unfortunately, only the terracing remained from the original vineyards, so we re-planted two thousand Nebbiolo vines in 2007, a combination of five Lampia clones (MAT 5,7,8,9,10). The one-hectare vineyard is situated on a moderately inclined, north-west facing slope at an altitude of 270 metres. The nebbiolo vines were planted by hand, and all pruning, trimming, fruit-thinning, soil tilling and picking was also done by hand each year to ensure a low yield of the highest quality fruit
Karen was a tax accountant in her previous life, but her passion for Nebbiolo and the Beechworth wine region lured her to the romantic ideal of a vineyard. She added a Bachelor of Wine Science from Charles Sturt University to her degree collection, after 7 long years; but how it melds with a BS in Accounting and Master of Taxation is still not clear. Karen’s partner, Prue, is an orthopaedic surgeon by day, night, and weekend, and devoted her free time (not occupied by mountain biking, skiing, and trekking to the peaks of mountains) to Virago Vineyard.
The most fulfilling day of the year is the one in which we drive our ute up the Beechworth Road to the Giaconda winery with bins full of our Nebbiolo grapes! Rick made our first small vintage in 2010 as a rescue mission, since our intended winemaker had left the region, but Rick generously continued to do so each subsequent year. I like to think that he respected our hard work, dedication, and obsession?!? Rick makes our Virago Nebbiolo in the traditional Italian method. The wine remains on skins for an extended period in a large concrete tank, undergoes a wild yeast ferment, and is gently basket pressed and transferred to a 1,600 litre Gamba oval cask for approximately three years of ageing. The secret with Nebbiolo is to allow the fruit from each vintage to express itself in the wine, even when it takes a path that you may not prefer (immense fruit driven wine of 2014, for example). We store our 2,100 bottles/year in a Stanley apple warehouse for at least 6 months post-bottling before release.