Just under an hour out of Ballarat lies one of the best-kept secrets in wine, and while most will say it’s because of the quality soil and cool dry climate, for Jane Baker from Wimmera Hills Winery it’s the beauty of the place that makes it so perfect.
“The Pyrenees Ranges are so beautiful and the air is so clean, you get very happy winemakers out here,” Jane says.
Overlooking the Glenpatrick Valley towards Mt Avoca, Wimmera Hills Winery is one of those regional gems. Boasting an abundance of native wildlife - think eagles soaring overhead, kangaroos and echidnas – the winery’s natural surrounds were one of the reasons Jane and her young family decided to make the tree change.
“We moved our young family from North Fitzroy, looking for clean air, wild spaces and adventure. My husband Ben grew up in the country and always wanted to move back and I was persuaded by romantic ideas of what living in the country would be like,” Jane explains.
The winery, known for its Shiraz production, has evolved since its first harvest in 2005, with dry reds, sweet reds, a sparkling Shiraz and a dry rose called ‘Nude Shiraz’ in production. More recently, Jane and her team have delved into distilling and producing their own gins, liqueurs and fortified wines.
“We have been distilling for nearly two years now under the brand of Mrs Baker’s Still House. It has been extremely popular and a personal favourite of mine. We make Gin, Blueberry Liqueur and Triple Sec.”
While still staying true to their Shiraz, distilling is an area that the Wimmera Hills Winery continues to develop. Come wintertime, and they look to plant their own juniper trees so that one day they will be able to use estate-grown junipers in the distilling process. Among the unique offerings is also the Wimmera Hills delicious mulled wine syrup which, inspired by a trip to England over Christmas time, is a more instant option to traditional mulled wine.
“Normally mulled wine takes at least 24 hours to make properly, but with the syrup, all the steeping of spices is done before we put it in a jar,” Jane says.
With flavours of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, orange, lemon zest, fresh ginger and a number of other secret family spices, the ‘Smoking Bishop’ as it is known, sounds and tastes like a little bit of Christmas heaven to brighten up your winters.
Visitors can experience something quite different at Wimmera Hills Winery, with bonfires, marshmallows and mulled wine experiences to cocktails and sunsets and even chocolate and wine pairing events. The property itself has a cottage available for guests who want to indulge in the winery and the natural landscape offers great walking and mountain bike tracks in close proximity to Mt Cole and the Beeripmo Walk for added hiking options.