Hillcrest Vineyards

Producer website

Hillcrest Vineyard is a micro-boutique maker of individual, classically styled wines. Its owners, David and Tanya Bryant, look to the best producers from the famous French regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux as both their inspiration and benchmark.

The style of the wines is clearly influenced by the art of Old World viticulture and winemaking, yet retains the added element of richness which is a distinctive feature of Australian wines.

Drawing on their small 44 year-old vineyard in Victoria's famous Yarra Valley wine region, David and Tanya have spent the best part of this decade working with one of Australia's most highly regarded winemakers, Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip. During this time, they patiently observed and learned, progressively assuming more winemaking control each vintage, and now blend what has been an invaluable education with their own style and meticulous approach in the vineyard and winery.

Consistent with the principles which Phillip himself follows, the vineyard is farmed on largely organic principles, with herbicides and pesticides, together with all other systemic spraying, eliminated. Canopy management is critical and season-long attention is provided to each vine. Tiny (some would argue, uneconomic) yields of between 700kg-800kg per acre produce intensely flavoured fruit which provides a clear expression of its terroir and the vintage.

In the winery classic techniques prevail. Use of wild yeasts and genuinely unhurried, minimal intervention winemaking maximise the potential of the wines. The resulting quality is stunning and the wines are unique with personality, structure, texture and complexity.

Grapes are only ever sourced from the Hillcrest Estate itself; fruit is never purchased from other sources. Annual production from the original 1970 eight-acre vineyard is rarely more than 400 cases, with further plots planted in 2000 and 2005 (each six acres in size) providing the fruit for the Village label, which produces around 600 cases per annum. The rare Reserve, Premium and Estate wines are drawn from the original 1970 plantings, with the fruit from the later plantings finding its way into Hillcrest's Village wines, often with a barrel or two of the wine from the 1970 plantings thrown in for good measure.

The wines are sold primarily via mail list and cellar door, together with a small number of selected retailers and restaurants. Also, Qantas regularly serves Hillcrest wines in its international first-class cabin - a huge compliment indeed, and if ever you are fortunate enough to travel at that end of the plane please do look out for them!

Trade sales for Victoria via Elizabeth Woods at Woods Wines and NSW Neville Yates at Eurocentric Wine Imports (please click on ordering wines for contact details).

The Vineyard

Hillcrest is located in the heart of Melbourne's picturesque Yarra Valley, one of Australia's oldest wine regions. Planted in 1970, it was one of the pioneers in the re-establishment of the Valley, and it is this vineyard which provides the old-vine resource from which the rare Reserve, Premium and Estate wines are made.

Purchased in 1999, the neglected 44-year old vineyard was re-trellised to allow for better canopy management. Now farmed along organic principles, herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers and other systemic spraying have been eliminated.

On the southern side of the Yarra Valley, the vineyard benefits from higher elevation and a cooler climate than the valley floor. The soils are low in fertility yet complex in structure. A thin layer of grey gravel top-soil sits over a complex yellow-grey clay loam, which changes in colour (to red/brown) and mineral content as the depth increases.

The entire vineyard is unirrigated and the vines must work to support themselves. Recent drought conditions caused little disturbance at Hillcrest as the older vines, having established their own deep root systems over 40 years, drew on moisture deep within the ground to sustain themselves. The result continues to be exquisitely concentrated and healthy fruit.

Typically the 1970 plantings, some eight acres of vines, will yield around 3 tonnes of Pinot Noir and 1 tonne each of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon - around 0.7 tons per acre! Yield per vine is the major determinant - around 400g each. Bunch weights are naturally low, around 35g-40g each. The berries are small and intense, often the size of small peas, allowing a high ratio of skin to juice. More recent plantings crop only marginally higher at around 900kg per acre as a result of denser plantings.

Two vineyard extensions, each around six acres in size (planted in 2000 and 2005), will over the longer term provide the necessary resources to expand, however we do not intend to include this fruit under the Estate label until the vines reach 15 years of age, and 20 years of age before they will be considered for the Premium label. A separate Village classification is used for these wines in the meantime. Consistent with the old vineyard, the newer blocks (if they can still be called that) are unirrigated and unfertilised, which means they require a number of years to establish themselves. Whilst many vineyards aim to produce a reasonably-sized crop in the third year, the newer unirrigated blocks took between 5 and 8 years to produce their first crops, but the quality was well worth the wait!

Fruit is picked at optimum ripeness - ideally between 12.5 and 13.0 baume. For our site this enables full physiological ripeness, and flavour and tannin development, yet also allows retention of natural acid, keeping the fruit in balance and providing the backbone essential for good ageing.


The perfectionist approach extends to the winemaking where in 2002 Phillip Jones, of Bass Phillip fame, assumed the role of winemaker, consultant and teacher to David and Tanya. Phillip's skill, experience and passion have been the perfect complement to their unrelenting, passionate approach, supported by Hillcrest's old vines and immaculate viticultural practices. Over this time, David and Tanya have gradually taken on more of the winemaking as their knowledge and experience has grown. In particular, from the 2005 vintage, the Chardonnay has been made primarily by them, and the highly acclaimed wines from the 2008 vintage are the product of their efforts.

At its most fundamental level, however, the great wine regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux are what most influence Hillcrest's winemaking philosophy.

Hillcrest wines are made for ageing and reflect many of Phillip's principles, in particular to make wines that have good structure, length and texture. High levels of natural acidity are fundamental to this and Hillcrest is careful to pick at optimum levels which balance ripeness and acidity.

The terroir of Hillcrest is one that provides great fragrance, rich fruit, with solid tannin structure and excellent natural acid for ageing. Vintage variation is accepted, even encouraged, and winemaking techniques are refined ever so slightly to suit the particular vintage. Whilst techniques may vary, some fundamental principles and the style of the wines do not. Only wild yeasts are used and under no circumstances are tannins or acid added to the wines. The wines must always be a natural expression of their terroir and vintage.

Oak is rightly seen as a background element to enhance the wines structure - it should never be overly dominant. Only the best barrels, typically Francois Freres, are used with around one third new each year, and another third one year old.

The wines themselves dictate the timing of new releases - we are in no hurry and know that our patience will ultimately be rewarded.

Hillcrest Vineyard - 31 Phillip Road (PO Box 22), Woori Yallock, Victoria 3139
Telephone: 03 5964 6689 Facsimile: 03 5961 5547

Last edited on 9/15/2014 by MyCellar01

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