Our original vines; Peter Gherardi recounts early days
40 years ago a Perth agricultural scientist made a bold, and in his words ‘terrifying’, decision to plant a vineyard in Margaret River.
Peter Gherardi would drive down each weekend to work on his vineyard in 1978, which he named Freycinet Estate and would later become Voyager Estate.
He describes his lifestyle change as a ‘whim’ that started in the early 70’s. With wife Jennifer and a small family, he wanted to move to Margaret River so they began looking at land for sale.
The land he purchased on Stevens Road was pasture that had been used for dry stock farming of cattle. It had been classified suitable for wine by the Department of Agriculture so Peter purchased the land, put his trust in the department reports and started planting.
“When I think back I ‘re-terrify’ myself,” Peter said. “It was very rocky underneath. The week I decided to deep rip I came down on the Friday night, arrived at the gate with the headlights on and there I saw a monstrosity of a quarry, rock everywhere. It required a lot of work.”
Whilst it was hard work to establish the vineyards, these rocky, gravelly soils with a stony clay subsoil, form the basis for crafting the greatest wines from the Margaret River region.
Peter planted around 14ha of his 40ha block with a range of grape varieties, initially based on Bordeaux varieties. These vineyards are the blocks surrounding our Cellar Door.
“There was a lot of talk around the area was we were climatically similar to Bordeaux. Dr John Gladstones (who wrote the report on Margaret River as a wine region in 1967) had spent time in Bordeaux hunting lupin stock, so he knew the area,” Peter said.
“So I planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, a little bit of Cabernet Franc and then the Bordeaux whites, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and also Chenin Blanc.”
“Chardonnay came later and was more of a market-driven thing.”
Peter sold Freycinet Estate to Michael Wright in 1991 but is pleased his original vineyards are not only flourishing, but are producing grapes worthy of Voyager Estate’s pinnacle Tom Price label.
This year, Voyager Estate celebrates the vines’ 40 years with a commitment to protect and nurture Peter’s legacy to see them continue to produce incredible quality wines for another 40 years. So Peter had some advice for the future.
“Continue growing vines here, in this environment, on these soils,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to change with the times, or change varieties and clones. There has been such huge improvement in the clones, and the improvements will be ongoing.”
“The move to minimal chemical input, organic, is a fantastic move and it will bear fruit.”
To listen to Peter's chat with Voyager Estate co-owner, Alexandra Burt, visit our youtube channel.
Throughout 2018, we will have some fantastic announcements, special events and exclusive wine releases to mark this 40 year anniversary, so stay tuned.