With such a grounding in the best basics of viticulture and wine making, we continued to experiment with small batch wines from all over Australia.
Fruit was sourced from McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Yenda near Griffith, The Shoalhaven on the south coast of NSW; the Hunter and Mudgee to name a few vignobles.We became active members of the Sydney amateur wine making club and began successfully showing our back yard brews across the extensive amateur circuit in Australia. When a Chardonnay and Shiraz made from grapes from Alf Kurtz's daughters vineyard at Mudgee in 1980 took all before it at the national show conducted in the shadow of the Bushing Festival in McLaren Vale, we decided we had to get serious with our passion for wine.
While Rhonda continued to explore the rapidly evolving restaurant scene in Sydney, I enroled in a post-graduate wine qualification through the lost and greatly lamented Roseworthy College in South Australia. The major component of the course was the topic of site selection for viticulture conducted by Richard Smart and Peter Dry. With my professional librarian qualifications behind me, I didn't need another piece of paper, but I did need in-depth skills in assessing the potential for viticulture in previously unexpolred areas of Australia.
From 1975 we had looked closely at areas like the Margaret River in Western Australia, The Yarra valley in Victoria and plenty of places across NSW, particularly Mudgee. We'd already been making small batch wines from a number of locations around Australia, and now I was being schooled in the arts and science of selecting the best site for wine production. We needed to continue earning an income, Rhonda doing what she could for the unemployed and desperate of King's Cross in Sydney, me fine-tuning my Dewey and Dew-Point skills, and as Sydney was and is the major wine market in Australia, I decided my site selection explorations should be concentrated in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales.
We'd already had plenty of experience with the fruit of the Hunter, Mudgee, Wellington and the MIA and were fully aware of the quality of NSW wines from warmer areas. There was a developing fashion in cool-climate wines from areas around the Adelaide Hills, the Yarra and the Margaret River. Mr Andrew Hood was sniffing about northern Tasmania and New Zealand wine was beginning to take itself seriously.However New South Wales was largely ignoring this development. It seemed to us that the Expert Syndrome applied across the NSW wine industry. If you wanted to grow wine grapes, you grew them in previously recognised areas..and you planted traditional varieties. So the choice really was to plant Shiraz or Semillon in the Hunter, Cabernet, Shiraz and Semillon in Mudgee, and possibly Trebbiano or Semillon in the MIA.
No wonder young wine drinkers were looking for different experiences in their chosen imbibation. But NSW has the highest mountains in Australia, and as a percentage of its area, the Great Dividing Range, running from the Southern Alps to Queensland border was surely worth investigation if cool was what was needed. So the thesis took shape. Entitled “An Investigation of the potential for cool climate viticulture in the Central Tablelands of NSW” my grand plan was to systematically knock off the dodgy areas in Region 10 of the weather bureau's reporting map and identify the best area for the production of quality cool climate wine grapes in NSW. The area examined in depth extended from Crookwell in the South to Gulgong in the North, from Richmond in the Sydney Basin in the East and as far West as Cowra. Elevations varied from 20 meters above sea level to almost 1600 meters, Continentality figures went from around 9 to over 16.5, and Day Degree totals ran from 800 to over 2400...a big picture by any standard, but one which held some exciting prospects for further investigation.