Up until the United Kingdom joined the European Union and stopped buying apples from Australia, the Great Southern was a prosperous agricultural region. Desperate to restart the region’s name for agriculture in 1966, Charlie Court, a West Australian Government Minister, invited Professor Harold Olmo from the University of California, Davis Campus to identify the most ideal growing location in the state for the production of premium cool climate wines. In 1965 the Forest Hill property, owned by Betty and Tony Pearse, was selected and they agreed to lease the land for 10 years to allow for the first experimental plantings by the Department of Agriculture. Two hectares of Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted on this small, elevated plot in an apple orchard.
This planting makes Forest Hill’s the oldest Riesling and Cabernet vineyard in the state and since then, varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Shiraz and Malbec have been added. In the early days, the Pearses didn’t have a winery so processed their fruit at Houghton’s winery in the Swan Valley.
In 1989, Betty and Tony Pearse sold Forest Hill to the late Robert Holmes à Court, who elevated it to an ultra premium boutique brand alongside the reputable Vasse Felix.
By this time, the reputations of both the Great Southern and Forest Hill were taking off and the winery was gaining recognition for its pristine quality fruit that was being crafted into some of Western Australia’s most renowned wines. For example, the 1975 Riesling took out 12 gold medals and nine trophies.
Today, Forest Hill is in the hands of the Lyons family, who acquired it in 1996. Their passion for cool climate wines has seen the careful nurturing of the oldest blocks in order to yield the highest quality fruit parcels. Tim Lyons sees this unique resource as a huge asset and is determined to maintain low yields, ensuring the best fruit quality leading to intense flavours and the strongest regional expression.
Today Forest Hill Vineyard consists of over 60 hectares of vines, producing premium quality grapes and the emphasis on quality continues.
What is the Great Southern region known for?
We are a cool climate growing region, which has the good fortune of producing excellent quality Shiraz, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet during any given year. Forest Hill is Western Australia’s oldest cool climate vineyard.
What is so special about cool climate wines?
Cool climate wines are very elegant. The foundations of the flavours and the structures of the wines have longer to take shape due to the slower ripening periods.
We are the orginal vineyard that was planted in Mt Barker and have oldest vines in the Great Southern region. Our original vines were planted in 1965, two years before Margaret River was planted.