The corks are popping at Paringa Estate! 2017 is Lindsay McCall’s 30th vintage. As part of the celebrations, Paringa Estate chef, Julian Hills will be collaborating with Teague Ezard from Ezard, to cook two memorable dinners, matched with rare back vintages from the Paringa cellar, and some current releases. The dinners will be held at Ezard in Melbourne on November 16th and Paringa Estate on November 17th. So make a booking and come and celebrate with us.
And The Awards Just keep Coming
With dozens of trophies adorning the display cabinets at cellar door, a chef hatted restaurant, and two wines in the Langton’s Classification, Paringa Estate has certainly come of age.
Lindsay’s first gong was a few decades ago, at the Yarra Valley Wine show, where he got a gold for his 1990 shiraz. Many awards were to follow. In 2007, the Geography teacher who had no formal training in wine was awarded the inaugural “Best Winery in Australia,” in the James Halliday Wine Companion. Lindsay likens it to being chosen as captain of the Australian cricket team!
In recent years, however, it’s the Provenance trophies that have been the most significant for him. The Estate Pinot was awarded The Red Provenance Trophy at The National Wine Show of Australia in Canberra in 2014, and then in 2016 at the Mornington Peninsula Wine Show. The Estate chardonnay also won White Wine of Provenance at the 2015 Mornington Peninsula Wine Show.
The Restaurant Has A New Look
There have been many changes since 1999, when the restaurant first opened, but the renovations last year have added a touch of glamour. Once loved for its’ rustic charm, the Paringa restaurant now has a sleek new look. A striking façade, topped with a statement sign, makes for a sophisticated exterior. Once inside the weighty door, the mood is warm and intimate. New banquettes and floor covering give a luxurious feel. Diners can look out over the vineyard, or down into in the winery. In a region known for fine dining, Paringa is at the pinnacle.
Lindsay’s genius and vision have resulted in the restaurant being awarded a Chef’s Hat in The Age Good Food Guide, every year since then, and “Best Restaurant in a Winery in Australia at the Savour awards in 2014.
The menu is a celebration of locally sourced, seasonal produce. The chef works with whole fish and animals, rather than individual cuts, thus reducing waste. The beef comes mainly from Gippsland, the pork from the Western Plains, and most of the seafood is Victorian too. He sources vegetables and herbs from the Paringa garden and other local farms. Foraging also plays a major role in his culinary style. The paddocks, woodlands and shores of the Peninsula are a rich source of wild ingredients, such as mushrooms, sea herbs and other native flora. He is often to be seen early in the morning, basket and knife in hand, gathering the different seasonal delicacies.
From Humble Beginnings
Lindsay grew up on a dairy farm in Fish Creek, South Gippsland, and always expected to take over the family business when his parents retired. It came as a big shock, when his father told him that he didn’t see any future in dairy. A talented student, Lindsay decided to study Economics at Monash University. After graduating, he became a Geography teacher. His first job was at Rosebud High. During this time, a colleague introduced him to the joys of red wine, and trips to Osicka’s in Nagambie to buy wine in bulk became a favourite pastime after sport!
It wasn’t until a few years later, however that he discovered that wine was more than just an alternative to beer! Having a “wine epiphany” has become a bit of a cliché, for Lindsay, however, it led to the creation of one of the finest wineries in Australia.
The wine he tasted was a 1980 Seville Estate shiraz, which he ordered in a restaurant one night in 1983. Until that moment, he hadn’t realized that Victoria could produce a wine of such calibre.
A year later, in 1984, he bought a derelict north-facing orchard and began clearing it. In 1985 he began planting the ten-acre property with vines. He sought advice on planting shiraz in the region, but was told by a local vigneron that it wouldn’t ripen in the cool maritime climate of the Peninsula. Not to be deterred, he planted it in the warmest spot. Numerous trophies later, and a Classification in Langtons, his hunch has struck gold.
Lindsay had high hopes for his first vintage in 1987, and he bought an old milk vat in which to ferment the one-ton of grapes he had forecast. The yield was a mere 140 kilos, so he pulled out an old fish tank from the garage, and this proved to be more than adequate for his first crush! The wine didn’t win any awards, but was enjoyed by family and friends.
The first commercial vintage at Paringa was in 1988. The fish tank went back into the garage, and out came the milk vat! With the three tons of fruit he picked, Lindsay made around 200 dozen bottles. The first Paringa vintage was on the market, and received high praise from Halliday.
The ensuing vintages had to be organized around his teaching career. Picking would be scheduled for weekends, and Lindsay was often up all night processing grapes. His hands would be stained purple from the juice, so he would have to scrub them with bleach to make himself presentable for the private girls’ school where he was working. It wasn’t until 1996, that he was finally able to give up the day job and become a full time winemaker.
A special place
It’s no secret that the Paringa Estate vineyard, in the cool climate sub-region of Red Hill, is a very special site, with a unique microclimate. North facing, on ten acres of un-irrigated rich red volcanic soil, it’s at an elevation of 140 meters. It curls around the slope like an amphitheater, sheltered and warm, protected from south and southwesterly winds.
The vineyard has a unique trellising system in a ‘U’ shape known as the ‘Lyre.’ The steel frame, which supports each vine, allows air to circulate, and sun to penetrate the canopy, which in a region with high disease pressure, helps produce high quality fruit.
Whilst Lindsay has experimented with different varieties over the years, the estate vineyard now has mature pinot noir, shiraz, chardonnay and pinot gris vines. He also leases four local vineyards.
The Next Thirty Years
In 2015 Lindsay bought the seven-acre property next door. He has already planted some Abel clone pinot noir, and plans to put in some chardonnay soon. The extra space will also allow him to expand the infrastructure of the winery.
Son Jamie McCall joined the winemaking team in 2012, after completing winemaking and viticulture at the University of Adelaide, Waite Campus. He was put in charge of winemaking at the end of last year.
Gourmet Traveller Oct/NOV 2017 issue