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. Karen 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 the role of assistant pruner in Virago Vineyard.
The most fulfilling day of each vintage was the one in which we drove 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 for 9 of our 10 vintages . I like to think that he respected our hard work, dedication, and obsession?!? Rick made our Virago Nebbiolo in the traditional Italian method. The wine remained on skins for an extended period in a large concrete tank, underwent a wild yeast ferment, and was gently basket pressed and transferred to a 1,600 litre Gamba oval cask for approximately three years of ageing. We stored our 2,100 bottles/year in a Stanley apple warehouse for at least 6 more months before release.
First planted in 1945 by a local Italian vigneron, and then purchased and expanded by Brown Family WIne Group 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. In 2019, the vineyard was sold back to a young member of the Brown Family Wine Group, and renamed to Everton Hills Estate.