Interview with the Winemaker

As we celebrate 20 years of wine making at Vineyard 28, and 25 years in business, we thought it would be a great opportunity to sit down with our Winemaker, Mark, and ask him some questions we’ve always wanted to know the answers to.

Winemaker Mark contemplating a glass of wine

How did your wine drinking journey begin?

My first experience with wine was with Champagne, French champagne to be exact. In my Uni days I worked in the kitchen at the Parmelia Hotel in Perth, mostly washing glasses and occasionally at the end of a shift, late at night, the barman would say there’s half a bottle of Veuve or some other French Champagne left, would you like it? I’d say sure I’ll give it a go. I discovered I really liked it and my introduction to wine commenced from there. I was terrible, I used to go out and buy, $20 bottles of French Champagne, you know, I only earned $5 an hour. Remember this was back in the 70’s. Everyone used to be my friend when I’d come home with a bottle of bubbles.

What are your favourite styles of wine?

I tend to lean towards white wine styles over red because of their subtleties. To me they have a little bit more elegance about them as reds can be big and bold. I love trying lesser known varieties. I’m enjoying exploring the Austrian variety, Gruner Veltliner at the moment.

Do you have a memorable wine tasting experience?

There’s a couple with Granny and Grumpy Smith (family friends) in Euroa. We had some really nice reds. Tim Knappstein’s Cabernet was one that I always enjoyed, we’re talking here back in the late 80’s to early 90’s.

The most memorable was a Sauterne, that Pip and I had somewhere in France, near Lyon. It would have been in 1992, during a holiday in the south of France, whilst we were living in the UK. I still remember it. It was such an outstanding, sweet style wine, just breathtaking.

First harvest memories – what was your first vintage like? Early family photo

The very first vintage was the 2002 Cabernet, because we only had Cabernet in the ground and we picked fruit from here and we also got a little bit of fruit from Ferguson Falls in the valley, and it was taken down to Flying Fish Cove who had only just started at that point in time because they were solely a contract winemaker back then. I think we only made 120 cases or something like that. We sold it for $10 a bottle.

My best memory was when I started making wine here at the vineyard in 2011, because prior to that either other people made it or I was working with other people to make it. Finally I was in total control of the process from beginning to end.  Louis Simian a senior winemaker from over east had a hand in educating me, working with me during 2010.

What was the vineyard like?

We broke ground on the vineyard in 1998 when we planted an initial 4 rows. We were naive but thought instead of planting a whole vineyard let’s try and see what this game’s about and learn as we go. We planted a row of Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Of those four rows, the Cabernet is the only one that still exists today. I chose that Cabernet because it’s  a good clone, so if we want to regraft Cabernet in the future, this is a clone we can use. The first thing I learned was that I didn’t want to grow Shiraz because on this soil it was like a creeper. It went absolutely everywhere, I hated it. So it was the first thing to come out of the ground. 

First vintage as a winemaker on your own?

What stands out in my memories of that time is the equipment that I bought. I purchased a basket press and instead of having a stainless steel basket I had the traditional wood basket. I quickly learnt that you can’t press white grapes in a wooden frame basket easily. It was an absolute disaster, yields were low that year and because I lost so much that may have been what contributed to the success of the Arneis at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine show. Could’ve been serendipitous, who knows?

Is there a grape variety you have a love/hate relationship with?

Muscat Petit a Grains Rouge (Moscato). It’s a pain. It’s a slip skin; it’s impossible to press in a basket press without it going everywhere; it’s messy. I think in the 12-14 years of taking fruit off the vineyard, I’ve managed to bring it in when I wanted it to, probably 2 times. It’s like a moving beast sometimes, but at the same time, I think I produce some really fantastic Moscato’s. Making sweet wines are challenging, where as making dry wines we simply allow them to ferment to dryness with the added protection of carbon dioxide from the ferment.  I can leave them there 3-4 days or a week and they will be alright. Whereas with Moscato, as you get towards the end, you are testing it at least twice a day to ensure you stop the ferment at the desired sugar level. It is then filtered and any last adjustments are made. You’re stopping something mid- process as opposed to letting it complete.

You’ve done 20 vintages now, what do you consider your best wine so far?

I’ve done 13 as sole winemaker, 1 as an assistant winemaker and the rest were made at contract facilities. The 2021 Fiano was a stand out for me as it was the first time I’d used oak in making a white wine. It was highly succesful, gaining the award for Best Geographe White Varietal at the 2021 Geographe & WA Alternative Varieties Wine Show.

The 2011 Moscato, is another memorable wine. It had a beautiful aroma, was really crisp, and was like a sherbet. It was absolutely stunning. That was one of the 2 years I got it dead right from my perspective. 

The Nebbiolo is my life challenge. It is a wine that is made in the vineyard. Having an assistance winemaker in 2021 who hails from Piedmont was of enormous benefit. There were many discussions about how we grow it in the vineyard. The 2021 Nebbiolo will be a stand-out. Drinking that in another 10-15 years will be gobsmacking. 

What do you love best about making wine?

It begins today. I was in the vineyard slashing and watching bud burst happen, thinking this is the year I’m going to make my best wine. It’s the old building a better mousetrap scenario all the time. Always wanting to do better than you did previously. For many years we’ve been consistent with our wines and have had some great standouts. I get very excited about Sparkling wines and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do over the next 5 years with Pignoletto and its derivatives. I’m experimenting to see where I can take it and focusing on getting the pick date and process spot on. One day I’d like to be able to do the tirage and secondary ferment here. I’m going back to my beginnings – a love of Sparkling wine. 

What inspires you to keep making wine?

Wanting to make each wine better than the last. It’s always that challenge.

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Vintage 2022

2002 Cab SauvVintage 2022

As the Summer holidays were ending here at Vineyard 28, we were gearing up for Vintage 2022.  This year is a milestone for us, as our very first harvest was 20 years ago in 2002. We only made one wine that year, our very first Cabernet Sauvignon. Vintage 2022 is also the first year we harvested grapes without a dog present. Our Jasper was missed by the whole team, as he would follow us all up and down the vine rows as we harvested and was always ready for the morning tea crumbs at the end of the pick.

Sunrise Vineyard 28Vintage Underway

Vintage 2022 started a little slower than the previous few years and didn’t officially get underway until 4th February with the harvest of the Muscat Petit a Grain Rouge which makes our Moscato Rosa. Most years this is the grape we harvest first. It was almost 2 weeks later before we harvested grapes again, starting with the Pignoletto on the 16th of February and then over the next 2 weeks it was quite busy with the Arneis, more Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Dolcetto (for Freddo), Semillon and on 28th of February the Fiano, all coming in. February was quite warm, so we were pleased to get the grapes in as early as we could each morning, always starting at sunrise.  Early March saw us head back up to the Wildwater Vineyard to bring in the Dolcetto and Barbera, and then back to Vineyard 28 for the 20th harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon on the 10th of March.

People often think that once the grapes are harvested the job is done, when in fact it is just beginning. From de-stemming, to spending time on skins, fermentations, pressing, barrel time and filtration; these processes commence the day the grapes are harvested and will continue for many weeks after. The winemaker, Mark will have wines at various stages throughout this time.

Vintage snapshots

Mid-March the weather gods decided to throw us a curve ball with the threat of a large volume of rain courtesy of a cyclone tracking down the west coast of WA. We then started to experience cooler days and nights in  the last few weeks of March and even a little rain, which fortunately didn’t cause us too much grief with either our Montepulciano or Nebbiolo, that were still trying to ripen. It then became a waiting game until the Wildwater Montepulciano was picked on the 5th of April and we finally closed out the season on the 13th  of April, just before Easter with the Nebbiolo harvest.

Thank you to our Vintage Crew

A huge thanks to our 2022 harvest crew, the regulars – Bruce, Carol, Julie, Phil and Fran who this year were assisted by some other locals, Vicki, Ken, Kathy, Robyn and Dave. We can’t forget our younger crew, Jake and Seb who worked as cellar hands before university commitments took over their time. We hugely appreciate all of them and their willingness to get up early and come help bring the grapes in.


Overall Vintage 2022 has brought us in some exceptional grapes, a little down in volume on some varieties, but as Bruce said to us, it is one of the best years he’s seen. (He should know since 2022 was his 16th harvest!) Winemaker Mark is happy with all the wines and is excited to be working on our first production of Montepulciano and Barbera. Watch this space and stay connected  to hear when these wines will be released.


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Growing up on a Vineyard

What is it like to grow up on a Vineyard ?

Our daughter, Gabrielle shares her perspective on growing up on a Vineyard.

Early family photoWhen I tell people that my parents own a winery and that I grew up on vineyard, they usually think that it was a glamorous upbringing, with idyllic scenes of vineyard. At points it was like that, but the majority of the time it was just growing up on a farm – at this farm we grew grapes – and the 10 acres where the cellar door, winery and main vineyard are, was my playground.

I was recently cleaning up an old hard drive and stumbled across a collection of photos from my childhood of the vineyard which prompted me to think about some of my favourite memories of growing up and I will share a few.

One thing I used to love was going out on the tractor with Dad. I’m sure there are photos of me sitting on his lap on the old blue tractor. He used to let me ‘steer’ and do a loop around the vineyard. Things have changed now though, as last time I was home I drove the tractor when we were putting the nets out in the vineyard.

Making Wine

Gab & Mark making Semillon
Dad & Daughter

When I was in school, I used to get the occasional day off at the start of the year to stay home and help with picking grapes and helping dad in the winery. Then during school holidays Mum and Dad gave me jobs to do in the vineyard to earn a little extra pocket money. In fact, one vintage Dad let me help make the Semillon, so I got a few days off to be there for all the important bits of the wine making process and would go down to the winery after school each day to check on my wine. Other jobs I did in the vineyard included leaf plucking, pulling out the canes after pruning and tying down the baby vines to the wires.

Gab making Semillon
Making Semillon

The No. 1 rule from Dad when we were young was that we weren’t allowed to wear thongs out in the vineyard. This was to keep us safe as sometimes snakes and lizards were hiding in the longer grass. This rule is still something I follow when I go home and when I’m in long grass or a paddock where I can’t quite see everything on the ground, I’m extra cautious about where I’m stepping.

You’d think that growing up on a farm, I would have a decent tolerance for spiders and not be scared of snakes or lizards. I don’t. I’m still scared of spiders, especially after seeing some creepy ones – or as Mum would say ‘beautiful’ – in the vineyard. Snakes and lizards also still make me jumpy. There were a few times where I was walking from the cellar door across to the house and there was a snake on the driveway, laying in the sun. I immediately ran back to the cellar door to get Mum or Dad to deal with it.



and Now…

A side effect of growing up on a vineyard and having a winemaker as a Dad has been that I’ve seemingly always had knowledge about grape varieties, the characteristics of wine and been able to explain the process of making wine as well as what would be happening in the vineyard at certain times of the year.  It’s a skill that has come in handy as I’ve grown older and gotten into drinking wine and now get to have more in depth discussions with Dad about the world of wine.

Gab in Yarra Valley
Gabrielle in the Yarra Valley

At the time of writing this, I’m living in Melbourne, where I have lived for the past 3 years while I completed my first degree at the University of Melbourne and worked part time in the wine industry. I unfortunately haven’t been able to travel home to WA for over a year due to Covid-19 but look forward to the chance to see my family and the vineyard again.

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Vintage Experience 2021 – Walk & Talk

 Vintage 2021

Immerse yourself in a Vintage Experience 2021 – Walk & Talk

Take a walk in the Vineyard with our winemaker, Mark. Sample the grapes and gain an understanding of how we decide when to pick them. Learn what the words “baume” and “brix” mean. Taste the flavours of the grape before they become wine.

Mark will then take you into the winery where it will all be happening. A peek into the world of a winemaker amidst the season we refer to as ‘vintage’ or in Italian, ‘la vendemmia‘.

There will be wines in tank and at different stages of the wine-making process. Get to have a sneak peek and early taste of 2021 vintage wines. Mark might even tempt you with some barrel tastings of the 2020 reds.

This will be a small group experience, lasting about 1.5 hours. (Limited to 10 persons per session)


Saturday 27th February 2021 – Starts at 11am

Sunday 28th February 2021 – Starts at 11am

Cost – $30.00 per person

Bookings are essential.

After your Vintage  Experience you are then welcome to taste wines at the Cellar Door and restock on some favourites.

You are also invited to order a grazing plate or bring your own picnic to enjoy with a bottle of your favourite wine outdoors in our lawn area.


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ABC – Anything but Chardonnay

 Why do we grow mostly Italian Varieties ?

Mark’s Answer: ABC – Anything But Chardonnay

Whenever Mark is asked why we grow Italians? His answer is often literally ‘ABC, anything but Chardonnay’ and not because he dislikes Chardonnay, far from it. There are some great Chardonnays out there to enjoy. Instead Mark enjoys the challenge of growing something different, producing unique wines and sharing them with those amongst you curious about wine.

There is something like 10,000 grape varieties in the world, 3,000 or so in Italy alone, and most people would only be able to name 5-6 at best.

30 years ago, you would find Mark & myself roaming the Victorian countryside looking for elusive, unique wines. This was a time when Brown Brothers and a few other smaller wineries were starting to experiment and beginning to plant lesser known varieties. It was these ventures that encouraged our curiosity about wine, beyond the world of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet.

How did we stumble upon the Italians?

Early Vineyard
First Vine plantings

We were on holiday back visiting family in Western Australia 25 years ago, when we stumbled upon the Three Hills label produced by Erl Happ, and in particular a grape variety we’d never heard of – Nebbiolo. It was so different, sort of like Pinot to look at, but a different shade of red, and tannic and dry, with a rich palate. This led us on a journey to find out more about this grape and where it came from.

Move on a few years and we had decided to move back to the West from Melbourne, leaving behind the corporate world, and look to raise our then 18 month old Bailey with family around him. We had discussing the dream of having our own vineyard and making wine, and the move to the West made this a reality when we purchased our 10 acres on Bagieau Road, establishing Vineyard 28.

In all honesty, we didn’t know much about growing grapes. We knew lots about drinking wine and all the styles, and what it was like to be on the other side of the cellar door counter. In 1997 we started planning; we’d plant a vineyard first, sell fruit to make some money and then build a cellar door and make wine. The grape glut of the latter 90’s – early 2000’s squashed that idea fairly quickly. Selling grapes wasn’t going to be viable, so we revised our plans and dived in to winemaking and building a cellar door.

A few conversations with Erl on how Nebbiolo grew resulted in us planting our first block in 1999. From there on, as they say, it’s history. The love affair with Piedmontese varieties began and we  started investigating what other grapes we could grow from that region.



It was a lot of fun trying different wines, researching what could grow here and it still is today. Our vineyards doesn’t stand still. There are always new things to be learnt whether it is about the clone of a particular grape we are growing, the way we are making wine, or a shift to another variety that appeals more to the wine consumer. A great site we can recommend to learn more about lesser known grapes is Vinodiversity.

Present times

Vineyard 28 – today

Today we grow Arneis, Fiano, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Muscat Petit a Grains Rouge, Brachetto and Cabernet Sauvignon on our coastal property at Vineyard 28. In the hills above Harvey at the Wildwater Vineyard we grow, Pignoletto, Barbera, Montepulciano, Dolcetto and Muscat Petit a Grains Rouge.

2021 is our 24th year in the wine industry, from a very small beginning in 1997 – 11 years of making wine onsite, and 16 years for our Cellar Door operation. Each year  is an adventure as we’re never quite sure what the climate and elements have in store for us. We are now preparing to embark on our 2021 vintage journey – from picking the grapes to crafting the wine- and look forward to seeing our wines enjoyed by our loyal customers.




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Wildwater Sparkling Pignoletto

 Sparkling Pignoletto2019 Wildwater Sparkling PignolettoWildwater Pignoletto

On Saturday 14th November we proudly launched our first Sparkling wine, the 2019 Wildwater Sparkling Pignoletto, in the company of our lovely customers and family.

Winemaker Mark regaled our visitors with the tale of how he was first introduced to the world of Sparkling Wine or ‘Bubbly’ as he calls it. Way back in the 1970’s Mark worked his way through University as a kitchen hand at the old Parmelia. At the end of one evening’s work there was a bottle of Champagne not finished, and he was offered it to take home. It would have been either a Veuve Clicquot or possibly a Pol Roger he thinks, but whatever it was, he loved it, and from then on made sure he got the unfinished bottles after his shifts each weekend. And so, the love affair with ‘bubbles’ began.

It was a couple of years ago during a visit to the research block of vines at Wokalup that Mark discovered this grape called Pignoletto. After a bit more research, he found out that it originates from the Emilio Romagna area in Italy. It takes its name from ‘pigna’, the Italian for pine cone, on account of its small, tight grape clusters. When he learned the Italians used it to make a sparkling style wine, we were in. Another block at the Wildwater vineyard was prepared and grafted over to Pignoletto in 2018.

The 2019 Wildwater Sparkling Pignoletto takes its name from the vineyard where the grapes are grown. Our lovely friend and local artist Yvonne Chapman was commissioned to create the artwork for our label. It showcases the terroir of the Wildwater vineyard – its landmark towering gum tree which is in the middle of our Pignoletto block and the guinea fowl who live amongst the vines.

 Yvonne & Mark launching Pignoletto

How is the wine made?

Winemaker, Mark, used ‘methode traditionelle‘ for this wine. The grapes were harvested on the 16th February 2019, whole bunch pressed and fermented to dryness in stainless steel. The resultant base wine was bottled and underwent secondary ferment on lees for 14 months, before being disgorged and corked in July 2020.

The resultant wine is a crisp, bright sparkling – think granny smith apples and crunchy green pear slices – this is our Pignoletto.

How do you purchase the Wildwater Sparkling Pignoletto?

Head on over to our Buy Wine page or just click here and it will take you to the right page. But don’t wait too long. This vintage was our very first and there is only a limited supply with our Cellar Club members receiving preference.


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Winter – Pruning Season 2020

Winter is our pruning season

Autumn in the Vineyard
Autumn view of the vineyard

As the autumn months come to a close the vines transition from all their glorious amber colours to looking quite bleak as all the leaves fall to the ground. The next change for our vines comes with pruning season. From late June through to August is the time we give our vines a big haircut, setting them up ready to burst in Spring and start working on the next vintage of grapes.With tw o vineyards now comprising of almost 22 acres of vines it takes a little longer than it did a few years ago. The majority of our vines are spur pruned, but the Nebbiolo is always cane pruned. Our younger vines, those that we’ve just grafted in such as the Fiano, Montepulciano and Barbera are also cane pruned, as in these first few years of growth it is all about establishing good structure.

Why do we prune ?

Grapevines are perennials. They shoot away in Spring, grow and develop over the Summer, are harvested in the late Summer, then die back over autumn and winter, to begin the cycle again the following Spring. We prune the vines because if we didn’t we’d have naturally bushy trees, with a mess of leaves and branches. Pruning and training our vines, helps us keep them organised and focused on growing grapes.

As the saying goes, ‘Great wines are made in the vineyard‘.

Spur Pruning

Muscat - before pruning
Muscat Vine – before Pruning
Muscat Vine after pruning
Muscat Vine – Spur pruned

You’ll mostly look out at our vines in winter if you visit and see that they’ve been spur pruned., but what does this mean? The before and after photos of our Muscat vine  illustrate this or you. In simple terms we cut off all the current years fruiting canes back down to ‘two bud spurs’, keeping the original cordon and trunk structure in place. We count the number of spurs on each side of the vine, and this way we are able to control the amount of fruit each vine produces. Typically each, spur will grow two fruiting canes and each fruiting cane will produce up two bunches of grapes. Our many varieties produce different bunch weights. From there we do the math – number of vines x number of bunches x average bunch weight = estimate tonnage of fruit per grape variety.

Cane Pruning

Nebbiolo Vine - cane pruned
Nebbiolo -Cane Pruned

On the other hand our Nebbiolo is a little different. These vines get a big haircut each year, and are cane pruned. The cordons get removed each year and we reduce it back to two of the best fruiting canes to lay down for the next vintage. The canes are cut to a specific length determined by how many buds we believe the vine can cope with. Generally we work on 8-10 buds per cane, which equates to approx 16 to 24 bunches of fruit per vine. But as we focus on quality over quantity, approx 30% of this fruit is dropped just prior to veraison.


Pruning 2020 – Gallery

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Vintage – what is this exactly?

Vintage 2022

What is this term Vintage ?

The Cambridge dictionary gives us the following definition of “vintage” when it’s used as an adjective;

– a thing of high quality and lasting value, or showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing, especially from the past.

and when used to describe wine;

– the wine made in a particular year or a particular year in which wine has been made.

In the wine making world the second definition is pretty close. The vintage is the year in which we harvest the grapes that go into a specific wine. An example is our 2015 Nebbiolo  . We harvested theses grapes on the 27th March 2015. The first definition is also correct in that it also describes the best and most typical characteristics likely to be displayed in a wine. It personifies the weather conditions, the soil and wine making processes that were used that year. All together they combine to become the vintage.

In our world we also use this term vintage to cover a season in our viticultural calendar. Its the time of year we harvest the grapes and starting on the winemaking process. We tend to consider vintage to be complete once the last grapes have been harvested. The winemaking process still continues through until the wine is in bottle.

Harvest Day

Most harvest days we start around 6am, and all our grapes are hand picked into fruit bins. These are collected and transported into the winery, where they are then destemmed and crushed, with the white grapes  being pumped into the press or if it’s a red grape transferred into an open fermenter and left on skins commence fermentation. As all these processes get underway we start to build up a picture of what the resultant wine will be like.Harvesting Semillon


When to pick?

It is a combination of taste, seed ripeness, sugar levels and acid levels that determine when we will pick the grape. Throughout the this time of year Mark can be seen wandering the vineyard early in the morning sampling off the vine, collecting samples of grapes, crushing them, tasting  and testing.

2022 – 20 Years of Making Wine

2022 is a big year for us. It will be the 20th year of Vintage for Vineyard 28. It all began with our 2002  Cabernet Sauvignon. Throughout vintage we will be sharing stories about our 20 years and reflecting on some of the special wines. Stay tuned.

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