Balgownie Estate was one of the pioneers of commercial winemaking in the Bendigo Region, first planting vines in 1969.
Established by the legendary winemaker Stuart Anderson, Balgownie Estate was the first vineyard planted in the Bendigo district in more than 80 years. The emergence of Balgownie Estate as a serious red wine producer in the 1970's led to the rapid expansion of the central goldfields wine growing region and was a significant force in the rebirth of the Victorian wine industry.
The 33 hectare vineyard is situated on a gentle slope overlooking Myer's Creek at Maiden Gully. This superb site of alluvial soil has major plantings of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz with smaller amounts of pinot noir, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, viognier and sangiovese. The conditions for premium wine grape growing are ideal with long warm summer days ameliorated by very cool overnight temperatures. This allows optimum ripeness while retaining that vital core of acidity.
Balgownie Estate’s red wines were inspired by the classic wines of France and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Shiraz were highly sought after from the first vintage release in 1972. The style of Balgownie Estate was set through this period with intense and complex wines that were rich yet savoury rather than simple fruity flavours. Moderate alcohol and the intelligent use of oak endowed these wines a rare combination of vibrancy and a genuine sense of honesty, as well as the capacity to develop in the cellar.
In 1999 brothers and passionate wine lovers Des and Rod Forrester heard the rumour that Balgownie Estate was to be offered for sale. Digging out a couple of prized bottles of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Rod's cellar, they found themselves hatching a plan to buy the vineyard and the winery in Bendigo. The Forrester brothers and their long term family friend Bill Freeman submitted a tender that same day, and with little to-ing and fro-ing the vineyard was theirs.
Excited by the potential to rebuild this iconic Victorian brand, they set about refurbishing the vineyards and winery. There were further vineyards plantings in Bendigo, including the first sangiovese vines, and the winery was modernised with the addition of a number of stainless tanks. The improvements made have already begun to show in wine quality and their finesse, elegance and ability to age.
In 1999 the Forresters purchased the Yarra Valley site prompted by Des Forrester's passion for pinot noir and chardonnay and began planting a 7 hectare vineyard and building what is now the cellar door, restaurant, conference centre and 70 spa suite apartments and a state of the art Day Spa.
With the pinot noir and chardonnay vineyards in the Yarra Valley now producing impressive and vibrant fruit, the Yarra Valley also provided the opportunity to produce two brand new wines from varieties well suited to the cool climate of the Yarra Valley - Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.
In 2014 winemaker Tony Winspear was excited to determine that the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards had matured and were producing fruit that of exceptional quality, that could be used to produce Estate wines for the very first time. The 2014 Estate Chardonnay and Estate and Estate Pinot Noir both proved to be extraordinary wines with complexity and a depth of flavour that reflect the brilliance of the Estate wines from Bendigo.
With the sale of Balgownie Estate to the celebrated Prestige group of hotels, a new episode in the history of this illustrious winery has begun. The Prestige Group boasts three hotels spread through regional Victoria, including the Cleveland Winery in Lancefield. The inclusion of Balgownie is such a group is a natural fit that is sure to result in substantial growth in the business with advantages for our guests.
Winemakers at Balgownie have been notably loyal and long standing. In over 40 years, there have been just five: impressive in an industry with a pursuit for excellence in wine and where winemakers are prepared to travel the globe in search of it. Winemakers to date start with founder Stuart Anderson. He was succeeded by Mildara Blass Winemaker Lindsay Ross. Tobias Ansted was the first winemaker under the Forresters, starting in 1999 and leaving just before his 10 years were due in December 2008. In January 2009 winemaker Mark Lane joined the team and he was succeeded by the Assistant Winemaker Tony Winspear for the 2012 vintage.