Eldredge Wines celebrates a milestone 25 years

Leigh Eldredge graduated from Roseworthy College in 1991 with 15 years experience working vintages for Leasingham, Stanley and Annie's Lane Quelltaler.

He had always had a passion for wine which led to his decision to purchase 45 hectares of land in the Sevenhill Ranges in 1993 with his wife Karen.

It was this land, in the heart of the Clare Valley, where he planted his first Shiraz and Sangiovese vines.

Eldredge Wines was born and the cellar door was officially opened by Phillip White in October of 1994 after many months of renovating the 80-year-old stone cottage.

The restaurant opened in March of 1995 with Louise and Neil Haines in the kitchen and front of house.

The vineyard now produces Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Malbec and Riesling.

As a fifth-generation member of a Blyth Plains family which once specialised in mixed farming, Leigh has extensive knowledge of the Clare Valley and its surrounding areas.

His wines are produced from 100 per cent Clare Valley fruit, with a focus on creating affordable wines of premium quality that reflect the wonderfully unique Clare Valley.

His ability to produce wines that strongly reflect varietal and regional character has seen his wines challenge some of Australia's top producers.

Leigh has been acknowledged with several prominent accolades for his wines and has become one of the Clare Valley's top winegrowers. In 1997, Leigh was acknowledged for his deeply complex and well structured Cabernet Sauvignon at the Adelaide Wine Show, and awarded the Professor A J Perkins Trophy and Top Gold for his 1995 Eldredge Cabernet Sauvignon.

In doing so he left a wealth of Australia's top Cabernet producers and boutique vineyards envious of his achievement.

In 1998, Leigh produced his first commercially available Sangiovese.

In the 2004 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge, out of 264 entries and judged by the highly credentialed and experienced panel of judges including James Halliday, John Duval, and Stephen Henschke, the 2002 Blue Chip Shiraz was awarded a Gold Medal beating highly acclaimed names such as Kilikanoon, Wolf Blass, Fox Creek and Grant Burge.

This Clare Valley Shiraz was a gold medal winner at the Melbourne Wine Show in 2003 and also figured in the highly sought-after taste-off for the Jimmy Watson Trophy.

Some other highlights over the years have been when Decanter Magazine (UK) voted the Eldredge 2009 Blue Chip Shiraz in the Top 10 Australian wines from a huge field.

The Reserve Malbec 2014 won Gold at the 2018 China Wine & Spirits Awards.

It scored extremely well over the year, taking out awards at the Malbec International Competition held in France and taking out Wine of the Show at the 2012 Clare Valley Wine Show.

The Blue Chip Shiraz, saw the 2016 vintage take home a Gold Medal at the Melbourne International Wine Competition and the 2015 vintage awarded Double Gold at the China Wine & Spirits Awards.

The 2017 Spring Gully Riesling achieved Gold at the 2017 Canberra International Riesling Challenge and the China Wine & Spirits Awards, Silver at the Melbourne International Wine Competition, Bronze at the 2018 Cairns Wine Show and 4.5 stars with Winestate Magazine.

Last year saw the inaugural release of the Blue Chip Riesling.

It scored a Gold Medal at the 2018 Canberra International Riesling Challenge.

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In April, Eldredge Vineyards was awarded the title of Best Value Wine - $20 and Under for their 2018 Spring Gully Riesling and 2018 Kitty Sangiovese Rose.

Skye Eldredge is the sixth-generation of her family to live in Clare, and as Leigh's daughter, she is proud of how far Eldredge Wines has come.

"As a child, my dad collected wine labels, some kids collected stamps, but he collected wine labels," she said.

"He grew up on a farm and always helped out and then took over for his dad in the early 80s.

"He and a group of other farmers would come and work vintage.

"That's when he decided he had a passion for it.

"He attended Roseworthy College and would do a full day of schooling and then come home and finish the farming in the evening.

"Interest rates were high so he realised they were never going to grow the farm, so he decided to do something different for his family.

"They sold the farm and bought the property where the cellar door is now.

"We were the first winery to plant Sangiovese grapes, so they are also turning 25 this year.

"The vines were very much planted by a couple of old farmers, it was just my dad and his dad who got out there and planted them.

"They aren't like today's vineyards which are planted by GPS, they are barely even straight.

"It probably took around 15 years for people to recognise the variety.

"It's a funny story actually, for the first 10 years my dad had to clean skin it, then in around 2005 he won a gold medal for it at the London International Wine Show.

"It was an amazing accomplishment and the year after it he labelled it.

"My dad is the heart and soul of the business, he has a good palate, he is brilliant with the vineyards, right from picking the grapes he is there every step of the way.

"Down the track, we'd like to work on our succession training, I've been having kids so I haven't been drinking.

"He turned 66 this year, but I don't think he'll ever 100 per cent retire.

"My son's favourite food of all time is grapes, so it might just be passed down to another generation."

Over the long weekend, Eldredge Wines is inviting everyone to come and celebrate their 25th anniversary.

"We would like to say thank you to the local businesses who have supported us over the last 25 years," Skye said.

Skye would like to especially thank Tim and Pam Adams who have been a huge help along the way and are very close friends with her parents.

Original cottage.

Original cottage.

"Leigh has worked hard to get the business to where it is today, receiving a lot of support and guidance in the early years from other winemakers in and around Clare," Skye said.

"Local singing talent Caitlin Drew and local Vietnamese restaurant Ho Nai, will be joining us."

"We have pulled out some special museum wines from the cellar to try and buy as well."

"There's also a wine wall where you can try your luck at winning a special bottle."

Eldredge will also be hosting a private event to thank all of the local businesses who have gotten them to where they are today.