Lyrebird Ridge Organic Winery is tucked away in the bushland near Budgong, NSW. My hubby and I went up to have a look round and I chatted with the owner, Anne, about her experience winemaking, why organic is best and what life is like at Lyrebird Ridge Organic Winery.
Lyrebird Ridge Organic Winery is actually quite easy to find online but onsite, the only connections you’ll find are offline at this bushland retreat. The humble winery is 30 minutes drive from Shoalhaven, our Easter weekend destination, and not only off the grid to guests but also pretty self-sufficient overall.
You’ll find sheep, ducks, chickens, a turkey (Henry – once a visitor, now a resident), a veggie patch and fruit trees, all on a site powered by solar panels and bore water.
You’ll also find the vines and grapes used in Lyrebird’s wines just outside the house under the cover of nets as the birds are smart enough to know what’s good for them and organically grown Chambourcin grapes are on the menu. No chemicals or nasties on the vines means a tasty meal for the local wildlife.
Lyrebird is a small scale operation, bringing in around two tonnes of grapes each year with the vines managed by Anne and Greg and their family and friends joining to pick during harvest time. The red and fortifieds available are made on site and mostly consumed there too although we picked up a couple of their reds to take home of course! A deliciously light red with a punch of flavour on the palate that’s locally and organic made, it would be rude not to (and to my home cellars detriment).
After a short stint on unsealed roads, we’re welcomed to the house on the hill by a smiling Anne. The sun is shining and it’s a lovely day for wine tasting. But enough from me, here’s Anne.
How did you get into winemaking?
My husband and I decided to look for a few acres around the Cambewarra/ Tapitallee area after living in the Shoalhaven for about 13 years. We came across Lyrebird Ridge whilst hosting some families and friends over Easter of 2004 and loved the simplicity of the property. The vineyard and all infrastructure was established and although we had not gone looking for a winery, it all just fell into place and we moved in during Feb 2005. We did not have experience living on property, farming or viticulture. We loved the fact that the property was off-grid and we were interested in learning to become self-sufficient.
Winemaking is a skill that we continue to learn with each year’s harvest and with the help of an experienced winemaker.
Which grapes are you growing and how do you keep the vineyard organic?
We currently grow Chambourcin on our property. Due to the rainfall and humidity in the Shoalhaven, Chambourcin is well suited. We grow our grapes without any synthetic fertilisers or chemical sprays and all our inputs are organic.
What types of wine do you make and do you keep winemaking as organic as possible too?
Each vintage we make a red wine and a small quantity of fortified wine as well, both using Chambourcin. Our wine is made as naturally as possible with very few additives. We do not add preservatives to our wine and they are only lightly filtered.
Why did you choose to be an organic winery?
The winery has always been run as an organic winery & vineyard. The previous owners established it and we underwent certification over a 3 year period when we first started. Having a suitable grape variety for the region is important, as is healthy soil and ensuring good airflow through the vines. During the growing season these are some of the things we try to maintain year after year.
Does being an organic winery mean you need to work harder?
It is often quite labour intensive. Thinning the canopy and thinning the number of bunches on each vine helps reduce problems of mildew and allows the vines to concentrate on ripening fewer berries. We produce a very small quantity of wine and the quality of the grapes is the most important aspect.
The grapes are also hand picked and basket pressed using very modest equipment here at our winery. We have a small bottling machine and the labels are applied by hand too.
Who designs your wine bottle labels?
The labels are kept to a similar design each year and just the relevant information is changed. We look after this ourselves. We are currently looking at some changes to our logo so there will be some changes with our labels next vintage.
How do you market your wine? Is it local only?
Our wine is available at our Cellar Door by appointment. As we make small batches we like to ensure we have available stock for our guests staying in our accommodation and for those wanting to come by the property. We do not sell our wine at any other outlet.
What’s the best thing about being a winemaker on the South Coast?
The opportunity to meet both locals and tourists through our Cellar Door and at various events over the years.
Anne’s wines include a lovely, light 10.6% Chambourcin red which is rich in berry flavours with light tannins and good acidity. The leading fortified is a port style wine that’s sweet without being sickly and is named after the resident golden retriever, Rosie.
Anne also has a more experimental fortified wine on the menu which is nearing the end of it’s stock. “The Poet” as it’s named is another port style fortified wine infused with honey and spices and is at a slightly higher, 20% than the Rosie’s 18%. You can only buy on site or have some delivered locally so it’s a must visit if you’re in the area!
Big thank you to Anne for showing us around Lyrebird Ridge. We loved our personal tour experience and seeing how everything works! Visit their website for more information here.
Where are you going on your next ad-vin-ture?
If you want to read about more awesome women in wine like Anne, read my list here.
Or if you want to find out more about Shoalhaven Coast Wineries, see where I went here.