Ever wondered how Epsilon became the niche wine so renowned throughout the world today? This short story, straight from the lips of the grape growers themselves, Aaron & Julie Southern, provides a brutally honest account of what Epsilon is all about, and ultimately provides many clues as to why it has become such a sought-after wine. Read, and above all, enjoy.
If my poppa, a grape grower like his Kalleske ancestors before him, could see the vineyards around town now, he would roll over in his grave. Back then you owned a vineyard - normally just a very small parcel of land - and it was tended to by you, and if you were really fortunate, the kids might have lent a hand on weekends and after school!
In those days, the vines got personal attention, but it was a shame that their hard work more than likely didn't pay off. Most grapes were only used for ports and sherries and with the price of grapes so bad in the mid 1980's the vine pull sadly became the only option for some.
When we bought our vineyard back in 1994, we were determined to keep this tradition alive. We wanted to keep our vineyard to a size we could manage on our own. Vintage was the only time when a grape picking gang helped us, normally filled with family, friends, and the odd backpacker or two. Every year the highlight was how many new people we were going to meet. If we could make a list of the friends we have made from other countries, you'd be amazed, and even after 15 years we still keep in contact with some. It's an honour to share and teach them our history and cultures along the way.
When we look back at the years we've had since 1994, times have been good and tough at the same time, and as we say, "it's not always beer and skittles". As our little boys said to me the other day, "what are skittles?" Like I said before, it's good to keep traditions alive.
Back in 2000 we had the pleasure of being introduced to Jaysen Collins and Dan Standish, by Jaysen's partner and now wife Tracy. Over these years we have worked together, we've shared many good times, and become very good mates. Our kids have virtually grown up together. It's a relationship that has bought trust and kindness, something you don't always find, but if you do, you cherish it.
It was in 2003 over a meal at Vintners that the making of Epsilon took shape. To put that special Shiraz, which we had dedicated our time to, in a bottle. Jaysen and Dan would help us do this. This was our dream, and then to have it loved by so many, makes that dream nearly unreal to us…so much so that we nearly have to pinch ourselves. But we know that we only help the vines. After all we believe we are in the right location with the right soils. We give the vines respect, and this is what makes them produce such fine grapes.
After writing all this, I have to mention my parents John and Barb Kalleske… without them, we wouldn't be where we are today. When they signed a guarantee paper for the bank in 1994, we didn't even think that was such a big thing. We were only in our early 20's, young and stupid maybe. But when we look back, we realise what a huge step that was for parents to take. They had a lot on the line. The vineyard we chose was extremely old and run down. They would've known our road ahead would be tough, but for us it was a dream come true
Not only did our parents do that, but they have helped along the way, lending us tractors and equipment, which we could never have done without. Even to this day their 885 international tractor still sits in the shed, along with a rotary hoe and some other bits and pieces. So not only have 5 generations taught us the ins and outs of grape growing, but they have worked so hard to get where they have today, and this work we have to look back on and most definitely thank them for.
So although we aren't fortunate to own a piece of soil that has been in the family for generations, we hang on to the memories and the things we have been taught. Ironic maybe, or fate that the original Kalleske homestead is only metres down the road. So when we walk around the vineyard, and wonder through one of the life lines to the very popular Greenock creek, we still find the odd horse shoe, old pieces of wire and old glass ware that must have been buried years ago and has now been uncovered by the deep ripper. I know my Great Grandpa, Poppa and Dad walked here. It's a thought we treasure…
If you have made it through to the end of our story, and if you have had a bottle or two of Epsilon, we hope you have enjoyed it. Because it is passion driven from the vineyard, through to the wine making that has made it what it is!
So although Epsilon is young it has been generations in the making!