Craiglee has been a core member of the Victorian wine industry for over 40 years. But our history stretches back much further...
James Stewart Johnston, a member of the Victorian Parliament, and a prominent Melbourne businessman, originally planted vines at Craiglee in 1863.
The first plantings comprised about 16 acres, made up of a number of varieties, but over time, 2 varieties proved most successful. These were shiraz and riesling.
James S Johnston made wine at Craiglee for about 12 years, during which time he built a substantial bluestone winery that utilised the gravity feed system. Grapes were brought to the upper level by horse and dray, crushed, fermented on the next level and fed into barrels below. The building is constructed to take advantage of the natural slope, and nestling into the hill behind the house, it affords perfect cellaring conditions year round (that we still use today).
The most notable wine of this period was the 1872 Hermitage (shiraz) which was highly awarded at International Wine shows of the time. James' son, Wilfred, continued to make wine at Craiglee until the 1920s when changing economic circumstances and public tastes forced a change of enterprise. The paddocks were turned over to fat lamb production, and the doors were closed on the winery.
Patrick & Dianne Carmody
Patrick Carmody, an agricultural science graduate, took over the management of his family farm in Sunbury in the early 1970s. When several bottles from the original winery were opened at a function in Melbourne, it became clear that the Sunbury site provided a unique terroir ideal for the growth of cool-climate wines. As a result Patrick planted vines on the site of the original vineyard in 1976 and processed the first wine in 1979. The first commercial quantity was released in 1982 with the 1980 shiraz.
Craiglee has enjoyed ongoing success with numerous Gold Medals at the Melbourne Wine Show, and as an ongoing member of the Langton's Classification of Top 100 Shiraz producers.
Patrick continues to make wine from the fruit grown at Craiglee, and is assisted by his wife Dianne and sons, as well as the constant companionship of Border Collies, Bessie and Rowdy.