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Sally Scarborough
16 January 2013 | Sally Scarborough

From vine to wine: The beginning of Gillards Road

You have to be slightly mad to start a winery. Passionate and determined as well, but to see it through with conviction takes a certain type of character. Luckily Scarbie and Merralea happened to have the requisite madness, passion and know how to get the ball rolling.It was the mid 80s, a boom time, a time of excess and wealth, the perfect time to buy a winery, but the life of a winemaker is not smooth sailing. It’s plagued with decisions, what to grow, where and when to release the first vintage. It was a modest affair from the start.

The original vineyards at Gillards were planted to Shiraz and belonged to Hungerford Hill. The Shiraz was pulled out, the vineyard bulldozed and re-configured and in its place Chardonnay was planted as well as a small amount of Pinot.

Originally the ratio of varieties was going to be 50/50 but Scarbie realised how good Chardonnay was going to be off this site, he knew it was going to offer a unique style and flavour. How right he was.  Yet even they did not dare to dream about just how successful the Yellow Label was to become.

In the year leading up to the first vintage, when the vines were not  quite berry-fit, the first Chardonnay grapes clung uncertainly to the vines in tiny clusters. Like a mother nurturing children Merralea painstakingly drove round the vineyard in a Volvo with a trailer full of milk crates. She picked the entire block, and Scarbie sympathetically crushed it although no wine was made.

The first vintage was in 1987 and was made in the garage at the back of what is now the cellar door, some Pinot Noir and some Chardonnay was made.

Slowly the yields grew and although in the first year only 250 dozen were produced, it grew incrementally each year. By the time the cellar door at Gillards road opened in 1990 the amount was closer to 500 dozen and from the start the Yellow Label Chardonnay was only released after three years in bottle. This has been an integral part of the Yellow label’s enduring cult success and sealing the Scarborough’s  reputation as premium Chardonnay producers in the region.


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From vine to wine: The beginning of Gillards Road