Getting to know Duke of Duke’s Vineyard
Sarah Cecchi Executive Director of Tirage Wines who distributes Duke’s Vineyard wines in WA, headed to the Porongurup Wine Festival over the long weekend a few weeks ago and spoke to Duke and Hilde Ranson of Duke’s Vineyard on what they have accomplished over the past 20 years and their hopes for the future.
Duke’s Vineyard is situated in Porongurup, near Mt Barker in Western Australia. From a gold medal for their first vintage in 2001 to being awarded the 2019 Wine of the Year for Duke’s Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling last August, their reputation is outstanding. They sell out every year domestically and pride themselves on knowing their customers. Due to their success, there is not enough stock for export.
The first vine was planted on Duke’s 60th birthday (5th August 1999). Today there are 26 acres of vines on their 160+ acre farm producing 6000 dozen bottles (in 2018) from three varieties; Riesling, Cabernet and Shiraz. Having lived in South Australia for a few years when they were younger, both Duke and Hilde drank a lot of Riesling there and loved it.
When it comes to reds, Duke has always loved Cabernet and Shiraz and today mainly drinks cool climate Cabernet. The husband and wife team are not looking to produce more as Duke does not want to buy in grapes focusing only on making “Single Vineyard” wines. Responsible for this is a team of 3 (plus Rob Diletti who makes their wines). During vintage they expand to about twenty pickers for a few days then it is back to the 3 of them after that for the rest of the year.
Life before Duke’s Vineyard
Duke and Hilde surprisingly did not work in the wine industry prior to setting up Duke’s Vineyard. Hilde was and still is a successful artist while Duke ran a clothing manufacturing business in Perth. Asking Duke and Hilde what inspired them to set up a winery, especially nearing retirement, he answers, “Because I had drunk great wine for 40 years, 20 years of that being good wine and 10 years exceptional wine and the best wine that I drank came from the Great Southern.”
Duke’s Vineyard Today
It takes a great deal of courage and time to follow one’s passion, especially in retirement. But together Duke and Hilde have built a small and strong team at Duke’s Vineyard that are making award winning wines from their single vineyard Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
What is your favourite style of Riesling?
“Other than Great Southern, of course, I love Alsace Riesling – because it is so different to Great Southern Riesling. You can get more fruit and sugar and aromatics which is such a different style to Great Southern Riesling and amazing in its balance.”
Why did you choose Cabernet for a rosé?
“Cabernet gives beautiful strawberry & cream nose which we love. Cabernet fruit gets very ripe on our vineyard which is great for Rose & it also gives a very clean finish. We also add a splash of Shiraz in the Rosé to add a bit of texture to the wine.”
What are your hopes for the 2019 vintage (viticulture)?
“2019 is the coolest and driest vintage in 20 years – so far all looks good. Riesling is looking fantastic and reds still have 4 weeks to go (long way this time of year).”
What do you like to do on your days off?
“Enjoy good lunch and a glass of wine and I love fishing.”
What is your inspiration to continue going as you near your 80s?
“Tasting the new vintage before it’s bottled every year – get so excited to see all the work come together.”
We wish Duke and Hilde with the team at Duke’s Vineyard all the best for the upcoming vintage and hope to see many more to come!
Swanny Cellars and Liquor Barons are a big supporter of Duke’s Vineyard. Duke’s Magpie Hill Reserve 2018 New Block Riesling is in the current issue of On the Vine and will be on tasting Friday 15th March from 4-7pm in Swanny Cellars.
Drop in or call them about the range they stock.