Turning moments into occasions at Wimmera Hills Winery
Great shiraz is made in the Pyrenees.
Wimmera Hills Winery’s shiraz is no exception.
Not one to rest on their laurels, Benjamin Baker is not only the winemaker of Wimmera Hills, but the distiller of Mrs Baker’s Still House.
“When I first met my wife, we shared a day-dream about moving away from Melbourne,” Benjamin explains.
“I had grown up on a ‘bush block’ between Bacchus Marsh and Gisborne and longed for a farm where you could grow things and be involved in primary production.
“This day-dream evolved into a vineyard and winery, and a home that is welcoming.”
Benjamin found his happy place in the Pyrenees, operating Wimmera Hills for the past 22 years.
The passion for wine and gin making in this beautiful part of the world is contagious, with three generations of Bakers working in the business.
“This place is real,” Benjamin says.
“Sure, there may be bushfires, there may be floods, there may be days of 45 degrees, but the sunsets are pure, the people are genuine, and air is clean.
“We are upper Wimmera River catchment, our water falls from the sky, and that is what makes things taste fresh.”
Benjamin’s favourite place in the region is Mount Cole.
“It is not as well-known as the Grampians, but has fantastic walking tracks, stunning views and free camping,” he says.
“It is a magic place.”
What makes the wine and gin producer happy is the response from the people who taste his products.
“I don’t go in for awards,” Benjamin says.
“But I make a wine that I like, and other people really like it too.”
Benjamin admits there has been challenges along the way, including years of drought.
However, determination and some sound advice Benjamin has carried with him for years has got the Bakers through.
“When we lived in Melbourne, and renovating our first home, our old Greek neighbour would come over and watch and help out,” Benjamin remembers.
“He would always say, ‘Slowly, slowly Ben’ – a reminder to take time to enjoy every moment, not just rushing to get the job done.”
Benjamin says Grampians Grape Escape patrons will love their Red Cat sparkling shiraz at their stall this year, describing it as perfectly balanced.
“Served chilled, it turns any moment into an occasion,” he says.
“My wife would disagree, and direct people towards the cute bottles of gin.”
He says they are looking forward to enjoying the festival themselves.
“We always get our lunch from the Flying Calamari Brothers,” he says.
“And my wife will certainly have a poke around the homewares stalls and find something delightfully quirky.
“Halls Gap is a stunning venue.
“The time of year is perfect, that mix of autumn crispness in the morning and lazy sunny afternoons.
“Add to that great wines and the opportunity to learn and discover something new.”