When AFL footballer Dylan Grimes and partner Elisha escaped to Daylesford for a weekend, little did they know it would transform their lives for the better.
The move would connect their family to a community, to the land, and provide an outlet for Dylan to kick some life goals.
What is your connection to the area? What has led you to Mount Macedon?
Both Elisha and I grew up in the Yarra Valley, and we knew we wanted to return to the country, to live out of Melbourne. We didn’t have many connections remaining in the Yarra Valley, and we were prepared to explore other areas surrounding Melbourne. We visited Daylesford for a weekend, and the idea started to form. The thing we noticed straight away was a strong sense of community and passion for quality produce. We fell in love with the Macedon Ranges; it was the perfect fit, a place for Elisha’s dream wedding venue, and a place for me to put roots in the ground and make some wine.
Can you tell us a bit about Mount Macedon Winery?
The site itself is almost 700m above sea level, on the western slope of Mount Macedon. We’re treated to panoramic sunsets and an unobstructed view of the ranges. What we are producing is a true representation of a high elevation cool climate wines. The volcanic soil is rich in minerals that are ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay. We get snow here at least half a dozen times a year, and that makes for an exciting blend of complex flavours. So, for us, it’s the perfect mix - cool climate, high altitude and quality soil - to make some really interesting and vibrant wines.
What does 2020 have in store for you, and Mount Macedon Winery?
In 2020 we want to celebrate our region’s growers by highlighting their products at our cellar door and our restaurant. We’ll be sharing what we can, and building a sustainable footprint to support our local farmers and allow people to experience the Macedon Ranges and its unique flavours and qualities. There is still a mountain of work to be done in the vineyard and working with old vines means some great heritage but also challenges. The vineyard was planted in 1989 with two different kinds of pinot noir and chardonnay. We’ve begun the early stages of planting out another 8 acres of pinot noir on the northern side of the property, so we’re excited to taste the distinct difference of the new vineyard. We’ll also trialing a few experimental plantings, so watch this space!
I have to ask... Would you consider moving to Essendon? If not, why not?
Unfortunately, not! (Laughing). I’ve been playing at Richmond for 11 seasons and I don’t think I want to change. What’s the saying? ‘Don’t fix what’s not broken’? I love the balance at Richmond. I can farm an 80-acre property in my time away from football, and I’m sure not every AFL club would be as amenable. One thing that’s interesting about AFL players, which in my opinion is undoubtedly true, is that when a player is happy off-field, he plays better on-field, and I can vouch for that. I’ve been so happy since moving to the area. I’ve felt a real sense of purpose away from football, and for the first time since I’ve left high school, felt like I’m more than just a footballer, that I’m building something meaningful. Richmond has been kind enough to let me pursue a passion, and in return, I feel it has made a massive difference to my football and life balance. So, no, I don’t have any plans to change anything.
What are the similarities between playing footy and managing a winery?
As a footballer or an athlete, you learn quickly that there is a strong correlation between hard work and success. What you put into your body, into your preparation and training, pays off in how you perform in a game. I find this applies directly to our farm as well, the effort, the nutrients, and attention to detail makes a difference to the wine, the taste and the experience. It all makes a difference in the end product, and it’s worth the extra effort.
I guess your weekends are pretty busy for nine months of the year, but what would your ideal weekend in the region be?
I’d suggest that you entrench yourself in some good cellar doors around the area, there is a lot of great wine being made right on the doorstep of Melbourne in the Macedon Ranges. I would visit as many as I could and get talking to those behind the bar; they’ll often be the owner or winemaker! This is the cool thing about the region which is vastly different from many parts of Australia. The owner pays special attention and care that you may not see elsewhere, and the result is that you can learn a lot more about wine, first hand.
Mount Macedon Winery cellar door is open four days a week, Thursday to Sunday. It is a popular spot for weddings and events year-round, and they have a cosy retreat available for a weekend away for two. Being 30 minutes from the airport and an hour from Melbourne, it’s convenient and within reach but feels worlds away.