Our family’s story here in southwest victoria began in the mid nineteenth century when my great grandfather Christian Nagorcka migrated from Sachsen in what is now southeast Germany. As part of a large migration of people from this area to the new world at that time, he first went to the Barossa Valley in South Australia, already home to many expatriate Germans, before finally moving to southwest Victoria to take up land near the village of Hochkirch, 14km east of The Grange, now known as Hamilton.
Like the Barossa Valley, Hochkirch was already home to many German Lutheran settlers, predominantly from the southeast region of Sachsen and during this period they took up and farmed almost all the surrounding land. As predominantly peasant farmers, their landholdings were small and subsistence farming was the rule, with most raising a few pigs, some cows for milk, vegetables for the kitchen and small areas of cereal crops for their own use. As well many small vineyards also sprang up with wine produced again for the settlers own use.
This now seems like a bucolic ideal life, although life was hard for these new settlers in a strange land. Everything changed however with the advent of the wool industry at the end of the nineteenth century. Suddenly a cash crop, easily transported to european markets was able to be grown, and over the next generation, subsistence farming gradually disappeared and with it a fledgling wine industry.
Our first plantings of vines was in 1990 on land farmed by my family for three generations. Over the next seven years 20 acres was established. Initial plantings trialled many varieties and were at Australian industry standard low density, however with experience it quickly became apparent in this cold climate that varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling were most successful and produced the best results when planted in high density with low fruiting wire to capture the most warmth for the plant.