When Ian and June Marks settled on Gembrook Hill in 1983, it was the start of a great adventure. After searching tirelessly around Victoria for the ideal plot to grow grapes, they discovered a natural amphitheatre, tucked away from the main road in Gembrook, that ticked all the boxes. North-easterly aspect, gorgeous volcanic soils and the perfect environment for cool climate wines.
On our drive to visit the winery, as soon as we turn the corner into Gembrook the regional differences are obvious. The growth either side of the windy roads are lush and green. The banks of soil are a rich red. From hobby farms to commercial agriculture, most properties seem to take advantage of the fertile region. Distracted by the scenery, we drive past the entrance to Gembrook Hill, which is quite nestled in the roadside growth. After a u-turn, the original wood carved sign in red lettering directs us in. As we are greeted warmly
by winemaker Andrew Marks, it begins to rain. We take shelter in the red tin winery, where we watch the vineyard shimmering on
Sensing our admiration, Andrew explains to us the history and qualities of the site. “Our 5.5-hectare plot is the southern most vineyard in the Yarra Valley. It’s a low yielding, non-irrigated vineyard made up of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We’ve always hand pruned and harvested.” Andrew grew up playing in the vineyard. When he finished school, it was straight to Adelaide to study Oenology. Time at Penfolds taught young Marks plenty and after experience in wineries around the world, he returned home to start his new adventure. During this period and up until this year, Andrew worked alongside the infamous Timo Mayer (Seasoned Winter 17’) who also made his own Mayer releases at the winery. Now chief winemaker and viticulturist, Andrew knows the vineyard so well and can be meticulous with it’s development through the year. With no fences, the vineyard is so open and beckons you to take a walk through its rows. Alas, the rain and invitation to taste some wines keeps us inside.
“All this talking without a glass in hand seems wrong.” Andrew says with a smile. From his bright whites to juicy moreish reds, each barrel has a story. He is generous and earnest with his wine, knowledge and conversation. There’s a clear determination to make the best he can and his calm passion is a charming quality. “Trends come and go. Great wine is timeless.” As he took a sample from a barrel of pinot, he used the example of three stages in a strawberry’s life. Unripe, tart and hard. Ripe, perfectly balanced flavour and texture. And over ripe, syrupy sweet. “I’m aiming for that sweet spot in the middle.” That balance he speaks of, shines through all his releases. “I’d be lying if
I said each winemaker didn’t put their stamp on their wine, but we’ve always believed good wine is made in the vineyard. The aim is for consistency in the Gembrook Hill releases, throughout the vintages. I definitely think that our site gives the varietals a unique flavour.” Doing justice to the vineyard, the history and its legacy is all the more important to Andrew since the sudden passing of his father Ian
at the beginning of 2017.
If you didn’t know of Andrews activities, it would be fair to think there’s just a bit too much wine in the winery for such a humble vineyard. In addition to Gembrook Hill’s releases, Andrew has his own label The Wanderer. Sourcing fruit from the other end of the Yarra Valley and an opportunity to experiment with winemaking techniques he’s learned along the way, The Wanderer has four releases. A love affair with Spain turned into a fun release for Andrew coined El Wanderer. An annual trip to Catalonia to catch up with friends, pick and press Carinyena, a native variety of the region, makes for a medium bodied, fragrant wine with rustic charm. Sounds pretty fun to us. As our tour continues we notice a crate of LP’s by a barrel. “You’ve got a little set up?” We ask. “Sure do.” He pauses. “With a microphone.”
He adds, smiling.
Whilst one foot is in Gembrook Hill, Andrew’s other can be found in Collingwood. A devout to Melbourne culture, Andrew’s love of
a good drink and a challenge birthed a project that has turned into something bigger than even he could have imagined. Walk into any serious cocktail bar and you will find Melbourne Gin Company. Launched in 2012, the spirits recipe took a year of crafting. The 11 ingredients are all individually extracted and distilled in alembic copper stills. Originally from Portugal, they were once used for making perfume. Once Andrew’s added the classic juniper berries and coriander seeds, he introduces more of the exotic, grapefruit peel, macadamia, cassia bark. What brings it back home though is rosemary from the garden and Gembrook rainwater, a lovely touch.
A fascination with the notion of the unattainable ideal drink, led to a journey into the alchemy of batch distillation. An unexpected
mix of classic and contemporary, local and exotic. Just like the man himself.
We are excited to host Andrew Marks on Sunday January 21, 2018 for our Seasoned Summer Dinner in The Stables at Stones. With all his wonderful releases and stories to match, we know this is going to be a very special night. For more information and to make a booking visit thestablesatstones.com/seasoned