PRIDE OF PLACE

Sib­lings Arthur and Mandy Jones are con­tin­u­ing a 90 year tra­di­tion, mak­ing food friendly fine wines which re­flect the ter­roir of their Ruther­glen prop­erty.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Anita Mcpher­son pho­tos Marc Bongers

Sib­lings Arthur and Mandy Jones are con­tin­u­ing a 90 year tra­di­tion, mak­ing food friendly fine wines which re­flect the ter­roir of their Ruther­glen prop­erty.

LONG strips of nat­u­ral bark line the ceil­ing of the his­toric cel­lar door at Jones Win­ery, re­flect­ing the trunks of the trees from which they were stripped. While a con­tem­po­rary glass door lets the light flood in, once in­side the for­mer barn it is like be­ing trans­ported back to the time of the pi­o­neer­ing days of the late 1800s. That it’s pretty much orig­i­nal and has stood the test of time is al­most hard to be­lieve - a tes­ta­ment to the way things were done back then - sim­ple, func­tional and built to last.

Jones Win­ery was es­tab­lished by the Ruhe fam­ily in 1860, Ger­man mi­grants who ar­rived in the Ruther­glen dis­trict and de­cided to set up a mixed farm, and it re­mains one of the old­est and small­est winer­ies in the Ruther­glen re­gion. The barn was one of the first things the fam­ily built and the house next door, which hosts a gallery space at the front, was orig­i­nally white­washed and used as a dairy. Fifth gen­er­a­tion wine­maker Mandy Jones said they called the prop­erty “Jo­han­nes­burg” and Fritz Ruhe and his son Wil­liam were very ac­tive in the lo­cal vi­gnerons group, look­ing for the right grape va­ri­eties.

“I’ve got lovely old medals from the Mel­bourne Wine Show they won in the late 1800s, so it shows they were se­ri­ous about wine­mak­ing,” she said.

Wil­liam Ruhe’s fam­ily sold the prop­erty to English­man Clarence Car­bery in 1925, who had bit­ten off more than he could chew and let the place run down, be­fore Mandy’s grand­fa­ther Les­lie Jones Se­nior (Jimmy) pur­chased it on Oc­to­ber 7 in 1927. Mandy said her grand­mother was “a Camp­bell” and her great grand­mother was the daugh­ter of Ruther­glen pi­o­neer (and one of its first butch­ers) Chris­tian Dev­ers, which speaks vol­umes of their Ruther­glen pedi­gree. On Oc­to­ber 7 this year, Jones Win­ery will cel­e­brate 90 years of own­er­ship in the Jones fam­ily.

“My grand­fa­ther had spent a lot of time work­ing with the Stan­tons, be­fore it be­came Stan­ton and Killeen, so viti­cul­ture was easy for him,” said Mandy.

“Ini­tially he sold his grapes to All Saints but when they de­cided they didn’t want them any­more he de­cided to make his own and he was a pretty suc­cess­ful wine­maker.”

The grapes were har­vested from the vine­yard planted way back by the Ruhe fam­ily and when Mandy’s grand­fa­ther passed away in the sev­en­ties, her un­cle (the el­dest son) took over. Mandy’s fa­ther started work­ing at Sep­pelts in Ruther­glen and went on to be­come the wine­maker and man­ager of op­er­a­tions in Ruther­glen, Ba­rooga and Grif­fiths.

“We grew up at Sep­pelts and this (Jones Win­ery) was al­ways our grand­par­ents’ house,” she said.

“We loved com­ing out here to the farm – my grand­mother, who couldn’t cook when she was mar­ried, be­came a very good cook and they had chick­ens, pigs and a dairy herd as well as the win­ery and vine­yard.”

When Mandy’s un­cle made the de­ci­sion to re­tire, Mandy and her sib­lings took over, and now she and brother Arthur are at the helm. While both of them had ini­tially fol­lowed dif­fer­ent ca­reer paths, they found them­selves nat­u­rally drawn back to fam­ily busi­ness.

Mandy first pur­sued in­dus­trial chem­istry, ob­tain­ing a de­gree in Ap­plied Sci­ence at Mel­bourne Univer­sity be­fore mov­ing into Wine Sci­ence at Charles Sturt Univer­sity. She headed to Bordeaux in 1990 where she spent 10 years as wine­maker at Chateau Carsin in the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, in later years trav­el­ling back­wards and for­wards be­tween France and Ruther­glen at har­vest time. It was in Bordeaux where her French wine­mak­ing tech­nique be­came in­stilled. >>

“Our wines have al­ways been French in style, for Ruther­glen,” she said.

“We like to make wines that have a sense of place and tell peo­ple where they are from through how they taste.

“We make them to be food-friendly and ap­proach­able, be­cause that’s what wine and food is all about.”

Arthur is in charge of nur­tur­ing the 10 hectares of vine­yards on the 110 hectare prop­erty (which in­cludes a par­tial lease­hold) where they also run Mur­ray Grey cat­tle. The va­ri­eties grown in­clude Mal­bec, Shi­raz, Mus­cat, Gre­nache, Ugni Blanc, Du­rif, Marsanne, Rous­sanne and the Ital­ian va­ri­ety, Fiano, along with Pe­dro Ximenez.

“We like to grow va­ri­eties that are suited to our en­vi­ron­ment and soil type – that are sus­tain­able into the fu­ture and will last the dis­tance,” she said.

“We have a vine­yard that was planted in 1905 that is still pro­duc­ing Shi­raz and Gre­nache to­day and we love mak­ing wine from that vine­yard, in­clud­ing our flag­ship L.J. Shi­raz.”

Mandy said the vine­yards planted more re­cently are only wa­tered un­til they’re es­tab­lished and when about five years old, they are mulched heav­ily with straw. She said they don’t ask their vines to pro­duce a lot of grapes, but do ask them to pro­duce qual­ity fruit, and Mal­bec is one of her favourites.

“It’s not quite the va­ri­ety you ini­tially think of when it comes to Ruther­glen, but it does re­ally well and we’re so happy with the qual­ity of wine we get off the Mal­bec vines,” she said.

“Fiano is a great con­trast­ing va­ri­ety be­cause it ac­tu­ally holds its acid­ity re­ally well and has lovely aro­mat­ics – it’s just per­fectly bal­anced in our cli­mate.”

In Novem­ber last year, Jones Win­ery in­tro­duced a new prod­uct which Mandy thinks may be the most in­no­va­tive wine prod­uct to come out of Ruther­glen in the last few years. It’s a for­ti­fied wine with botan­i­cals added, sim­i­lar to a ver­mouth-style, and has been named “Cor­rell” af­ter Mandy and Arthur’s mum. It was in­spired by Mandy’s ex­pe­ri­ence of en­joy­ing Lil­let Blanc Aper­i­tif in cafes in Bordeaux.

“I did a bit of ex­per­i­ment­ing, showed a cou­ple of friends what I’d come up with, and they thought it was fan­tas­tic,” she said.

“We’ve only started it up in a small way but it’s get­ting a re­ally good re­sponse.”

Mandy is also man­ager of the on-site restau­rant, call­ing on her im­pres­sive cre­den­tials which hap­pen to in­clude a diploma in French cui­sine from Le Cor­don Bleu Paris.

“I have a very solid in­ter­est in food and wine and we be­lieve pas­sion­ately in pro­duc­ing the best from what we can do here our­selves – it’s what we love to do,” she said.

“It’s so nice to have peo­ple come here to have our food and en­joy our wines and to be able to say, if you look out the win­dow, you can see the Marsanne grape vines where that wine you’re drink­ing comes from.”

Mandy said while she’s in­ter­ested in in­no­va­tion, con­sid­er­able re­search is al­ways done be­fore head­ing in a new di­rec­tion and it must be right for the place.

“Fiano was some­thing I’d seen and read about be­fore we ac­tu­ally put re­search into whether we could grow it or not,” she said.

“We’re not fol­low­ing trends here, we’re do­ing what we be­lieve is right for this sort of cli­mate.

“We’re mak­ing wines that re­flect where we are and what we do - every vin­tage is dif­fer­ent and every wine has a per­son­al­ity of its own.” >>

Even in the early days, Ruther­glen wine­mak­ers were ex­per­i­ment­ing with new va­ri­eties and it was at the Jones vine­yard where phyl­lox­era was first found in the re­gion in the late 1800s, in Mal­bec vines brought in from a nurs­ery in Bendigo. Rows of ta­ble grapes were also found in the old Shi­raz, hid­den from the lo­cals who once upon a time would steal the grapes to eat, and el­derly res­i­dents still tell Mandy how they used to pick sul­tanas when “old Mr Jones” wasn’t look­ing.

Mandy said the va­garies of the Ruther­glen cli­mate con­tinue to be chal­leng­ing even for re­silient grapevines, in­clud­ing 10 years of drought which be­gan in the early 2000s at a time when they were try­ing to re-es­tab­lish the vine­yard.

“We’re try­ing to make them as sus­tain­able as pos­si­ble but now with cli­mate change, the tem­per­a­tures in this area are creep­ing up and there are more ex­tremes of hot and wet,” she said.

Mandy’s grand­fa­ther lived through the drought of the 30s and was savvy enough to pur­chase a block of land in the town­ship that had water con­nected, so he could run his own water pipe all the way out to the prop­erty which is still con­nected to their cat­tle troughs.

The restau­rant was in­tro­duced to the win­ery around six years ago, when Mandy and Arthur de­cided to ren­o­vate the barn and make more space for vis­i­tors. Mandy be­gan by cook­ing “sim­ple food” on week­ends for a few months be­fore it took off and they could em­ploy a chef. But it was al­ways go­ing to be French. “It’s what I love,” she said. Their cur­rent chef puts his own stamp on the menu and dishes may in­clude cas­soulet of con­fit duck, chicken and port ter­rine with home­made brioche, or beef with car­rot and chick­pea puree. There might be quinces sourced from a friend’s tree, figs and blood or­anges grown and picked from trees on the prop­erty, and rhubarb and herbs har­vested from the gar­den.

“We try to keep it ca­sual - we’re in the coun­try and this is French, coun­try-style food and ser­vice,” she said.

“I like food that’s hon­est and not too com­pli­cated or fussy - it’s well ex­e­cuted and has some fi­nesse about it, but with hon­est flavours.”

Cel­e­brat­ing its 90th year, Jones Win­ery is mov­ing on­wards and up­wards, with Mandy and Arthur now work­ing hard to get into the ex­port mar­ket, in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion and ex­pand­ing their dis­tri­bu­tion around Aus­tralia. Mandy ob­vi­ously takes her job se­ri­ously but she’s in a good place - full of re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for those who have gone be­fore but also mov­ing with con­fi­dence into the fu­ture.

“I think it’s an in­dus­try where you have to be pas­sion­ate about what you’re do­ing, or you won’t suc­ceed at this level, be­cause it’s a lifestyle and also a lot of work,” she said.

“We’re very lucky to have a loyal fol­low­ing of peo­ple who love the French style of wine we pro­duce.”

IN­NO­VA­TION / The Cor­rell blanc aper­i­tif is named af­ter Arthur and Mandy’s mum.

HER­ITAGE / The late Les­lie Jones Ju­nior learnt how to make wine from his fa­ther.

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