Vine­yard rises from ashes

Countryman - - COUNTRY LIFE - Zach Relph

Bernie and Tr­ish Wor­thing­ton’s Peel-based vine­yard was all but de­stroyed nearly three years ago when the fe­ro­cious Wa­roona-Yar­loop blaze tore through the Dar­ling Scarp.

The fa­tal bush­fire ig­nited on a warm Wed­nes­day evening on Jan­uary 6, 2016, near the Wor­thing­ton-owned Drakes­brook Wines, which neigh­bours Lake Navarino east of the Wa­roona town­ship.

When the fast-trav­el­ling flames en­tered the prop­erty and started scorch­ing vines, the cou­ple opted to leave their land in search of safer ground.

“It wiped out 100 per cent — noth­ing was spared,” Mr Wor­thing­ton, a for­mer pas­toral­ist at Yal­balgo Sta­tion in the Gas­coyne, said.

“We left at 8.11pm on Wed­nes­day night . . . we made the de­ci­sion to evac­u­ate and it was the right one.”

Drakes­brook Wines was one of the first prop­er­ties hit by the dev­as­tat­ing Wa­roona-Yar­loop bush­fire.

In to­tal, the in­ferno torched 69,000ha, de­stroyed more than 180 homes and killed two men in Yar­loop.

Mr Wor­thing­ton, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and viti­cul­tur­ist at Drakes­brook Wines, said the hard work to re­build the vine­yard was slowly prov­ing its worth, with the prop­erty pro­duc­ing its first vin­tage in the wake of the blaze this year.

The vine­yard’s long-awaited cel­lar door is also near­ing com­ple­tion and is set to of­fi­cially open to the pub­lic next Thurs­day.

Mr Wor­thing­ton said it had taken two years to re-es­tab­lish the vine­yard.

“We cleaned up and con­tin­ued on with con­struc­tion of the house and the cel­lar door,” he said.

“In 2016, we didn’t have a crop (due to the fire) and in 2017 we had a small crop but it was smoked out by a con­trolled burn at Bod­ding­ton.

“This year, we had a small crop of about five tonnes and we’re aim­ing to work to­wards be­tween 20 to 25 tonnes of pro­duc­tion.”

The Wor­thing­tons bought the prop­erty in 2000 and started es­tab­lish­ing vines, be­fore pro­duc­ing their first com­mer­cial vin­tage eight years later.

Mr Wor­thing­ton said the Dar­ling Scarp was an ideal lo­ca­tion for a Mediter­ranean-style vine­yard be­cause it was el­e­vated and had sim­i­lar­i­ties to the South West’s Fer­gu­son Val­ley.

“Over time you might see more cel­lar doors here,” he said.

“It is the ul­ti­mate sea change.”

Pic­ture: Zach Relph

Drakes­brook Wines’ Bernie Wor­thing­ton.

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