Organic Hill: The Organics of Family
Western Sydney isn’t renowned for producing Australia’s finest organic wines, but the bars and restaurants certainly sell them and the locals definitely enjoy their unique flavour profiles. While Tanya Blair, one half of Organic Hill Wines, can’t take full credit for Sydney’s love of boutique organic and preservative-free wines, she certainly played her part.
Tanya grew up working in her family’s hotels and eventually managed one of their North Annandale bottle-shops. Dedicated to her job, or just because she enjoyed every moment doing it, Tanya set out to taste every product sold and read every magazine and book she could get her hands on.
As a result, Tanya made sure her bottle-shop was stocked with the best Australian wines on offer and Tanya’s family soon knew her as a ‘champion for wines with a difference’. Tanya’s passion for organic and preservative free wine was well and truly sparked.
A meeting of wines
Down in South Australia, another wine lover was developing a passion for organics. Continuing his family legacy, a love of wine and vineyards that was started when his family arrived as first settlers, three generations before him, Leon Hill graduated from renowned wine college Roseworthy at the University of Adelaide. His skills and love of unique wines eventually led Leon to pioneer the organic and preservative free wine category as part of his own wine distribution business. But in his early days as a wine distributor for a large organisation, Leon travelled to bars, restaurants and bottle-shops all across the east and west coast of Australia, even occasionally stopping in at Annandale.
It was inevitable that these two passionate wine lovers would get together. They immediately recognised each other’s love for wines with a difference – organic and preservative free – and organically, a Western Sydney bottle-shop manager and a South Australian wine distributor began an exciting future with family and forward-thinking wines at the heart of everything. They just didn’t know what that future might look like, yet.
It all begins with family
During the throes of being completely exhausted with the day-to-day demands of starting a young family, many couples are content to just get through the day still smiling, biding their time before adding any other challenges into the mix. Not Tanya and Leon. It was at this time, in the thick of it, that they decided to start their own winery.
“It was only a matter of time before we became both life and business partners,” says Leon. “Embarking on an organic and preservative free winemaking business of our own, making the premium organic and preservative free wines, we knew our customers would crave. And that’s how Organic Hill was born – a natural birth, of course.”
home at last
Tanya and Leon knew they needed somewhere special to set down their new winery’s roots and when they discovered land originally cultivated and nurtured by one of McLaren Vale’s pioneering vigneron families, the Rayner family, the stars aligned.
There’s five acres in total at 36 Twentyeight Road, four of which are under vine split between 30-year-old low-yield Shiraz and old-vine Grenache, tipped to be the oldest in the Vale. Tanya and Leon had bought their family home, vineyard, and soon-to-be cellar door in one of the largest growth zones for organic produce and in a region renowned for stellar reds – Organic Hill had its home – and a darn good one at that.
Nurture to nourish
Tanya and Leon acknowledge that producing organic, preservative free, vegan and sometimes even biodynamic wines can be labour intensive and due to the processes involved, exposes the vineyard to losing an entire vintage. But the end result – delicious organic wine – is why this passionate couple are doing this in the first place. And they have vowed never to lower their high standards.
“We’re organic first and foremost. What happens in the vineyard depicts our qualities,” says Tanya. “We have a gentle, minimalist approach to our wines and let them flourish for the varieties they are.”
Their organic philosophy extends beyond the likes of Organic Hill’s recent releases of Nero d’Avola Rosé and Blanc de Blanc, or the old-vine Grenache in the works for 2019. There’s a thriving orchard of fig, lemon, apple and avocado, along with a newly planted vegetable and herb garden, which will soon be nourishing the neighbourhood, and any lucky visitors to Organic Hill’s cellar door. And while the cellar doors aren’t wide open yet, private bookings are welcome.
Meet Tanya and Leon for yourself. Call 08 8323 8814 or visit organichillwines.com.au