Vinteloper winemaker David Bowley has won Pinot Palooza twice in the last four years (and finished second the other two). He's taken the Urban Winery Project (a pop-up working micro-winery) to Melbourne, Sydney and even Singapore. Since launching the business 10 years ago, he's developed into one of the Adelaide Hills' most respected small batch winemakers and yet when he appears at events, he says there's one question he gets asked more than any other.
“It doesn't matter what your reputation or history is, the number one question people ask when they meet you at a wine show is, 'Where are your vineyards – where are you based?'”
So for the last three years Bowley has been scouring the hills for a suitable place to call home, a quest he describes as “a needle in a haystack scenario ... Vineyards have got so many different aspects that make them unique, and it had to be right.”
What he eventually found was an idyllic property, three kilometres out of Lobethal, in Cudlee Creek. When he shows Broadsheet around, rosellas flit between vines that still bear a crown of golden leaves as cows graze peacefully on a lower paddock. The rolling hills beyond are covered in trees ablaze with autumn colouring stretching out in every direction.
“It's probably bigger than I was comfortable with,” he admits – there are 30 acres of vines on the property, meaning that he'll have to sell to other winemakers – but as he gestures out to the view, it's easy to see why he fell in love with the place.
Those vines are split between pinot noir, pinot gris, shiraz and sauvignon blanc, the latter of which doesn't currently feature in any of Vinteloper's wines. “I have been making it the last couple of years,” Bowley reveals, “but I haven't released it yet. It's just a small amount and not the typical Adelaide Hills style – it's a smoky fumé style, skinsy but not crazy skinsy, and I'm just experimenting with that.”
Which leads us to the other reason he's been looking for a new home for Vinteloper: he plans to open an onsite tasting room. It won't be a conventional cellar door because there are already plans to open one of those with a number of other Adelaide Hills producers.
“What we want to do here is like a chef's table, where you come and the winemaker – and now the grape grower – is the one taking you through.” It will also be a chance to show off some of the “quirky, fun shit” that he's experimenting with, and which he'll now be making onsite. He envisions a space for up to 12 people that will be “more or less” by appointment. Instead of a bar, the only furniture in the room will be a long table with seats. “Imagine walking into an Aēsop store – they're all clean and they don't have a counter, that's what I want it to be like.”
The aim is to have it functional by September, and there's plenty of work to be done, but Bowley's ambitious plans don't end there. Once the tasting room is open, he'll turn the onsite residence into a farmstay and then construct a restaurant on the highest point of the property, which he also wants to convert to a certified organic and fully sustainable vineyard over the next 10 years.
“It sounds like we've got these grand plans, doesn't it?” he laughs. “And we kind of do, but it's one step at a time, it's gonna be a long game.” And now that Vinteloper has a permanent home, there's no rush.