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Quality cool climate wine from the Orange wine growing region in New South Wales, Australia

The new tradition

History Blog

We (that is, Rhonda and Stephen Doyle) planted the pioneering wine grape vineyard in the Spring of 1983.

Merlot Noir vines thrived in the warm, free-draining gravels of Bloodwood. The first vintage, yielding 650 litres of exciting varietal essence, duly followed in April 1986.

Over the last three decades, we have cared for and nurtured those original vines on our Griffin Road property. Today, in their maturity, they offer the best potential for the production of the highest quality, cool climate fruit which is the enduring foundation of all our Bloodwood wine styles.

The vineyard now is home to 21,274 Vinifera vines planted on their own roots and covering 8.072 Hectares of the best wine growing site in the wonderful Orange Region of Australia.

The new tradition

Stephen Doyle

The loneliness of Roy Doyle, a long distance vine planter preparing the Chardonnay vineyard for planting.

Out of all that inquiry,  a couple of areas emerged, and the most promising of those by a country mile was Orange...

..or more specifically, those elevated areas to the West and North West of Orange anchored by Middle Ordovician geology of the Orange Shadforth association of soils. These soils are low to moderate in vigour, warm and free draining gravel based soils which hug the northern edge of the Mount Canobolas volcanic red mountain earth plateau. They provide good air drainage for frost control and provide plenty of opportunity with their red clay base to construct hill side dams for irrigation. My work with Roseworthy and my experience in wine making to date had shown me the sublime importance of the correct soil type in limiting vine vigour to a level which would encourage correct cropping levels and appropriate fruit exposure. At Glenfinlass, there were two distinct vineyards planted to Shiraz, the Flat vineyard across an alluvial creek bed with unlimited underground water once the vine roots found their way through the rich river washed loams, and the other, barely a grey Fergie tractor width removed, on a poor, almost barren conglomerate rich valley slope adjoining. Both vineyards were dry grown. The sparse fruit from the Hill vineyard, in all but the driest of years was vastly superior in flavour and quality to the generous fruits of the much more vigorous Flat vineyard. This observation borne of experience and research informed our choice of Griffin Road Orange for the gamble of both our life times. We'd already travelled through Orange in all weather on our way north to Wellington and Glenfinlass, so it was a location with which we were both familiar. Orange, a very beautiful country town,  was close enough to Sydney to make it a day trip as transport improved; it was serviced by a dailyreturn XPT train service to Sydney; it had a regular air service to Sydney and areas further afield, and was host to a couple of television stations and a daily newspaper. Add to this a vibrant arts and music culture, a couple of picture theatres and a college of advanced education and we both felt we could make Orange our home. When the science of site selection identified the area as potentially amongst the most reliable cool climate areas in Australia, the arts or science debate evaporated..We realized we could have both with Orange and that the gamble, on paper, was well and truly worth taking. All we needed was much more money than either of us could imagine at the time, a magic pudding full of good luck, the very generous support of both our dear parents and the suspension of disbelief by as many of our friends who we could inveigle into a glorious weekend of vine planting and weeding whilst revisiting their rural roots. It would all be so easy.

The first vine, a lonely Merlot Noir, planted in the Blend Block of Bloodwood Wines.

So in July of 1983, after a few months of preparation and multiple lies to our bank manager, we planted the first commercial wine grape vineyard in the new and incredibly exciting Orange region of New South Wales. Today there are around seventy discreet vineyards and a dozen or so winemakers operating in the broader Orange region and a small percentage of the most successful of them have even planted their vineyards in the right place. The rest, they say, is history..and a fair bit of solid work, resilience and an ability to accept a life long gamble.

Planting vines is a generational matter. Stephen and his father Roy planting Chardonnay in 1984

Following the drought in 1982-3, there was a mouse plague at Bloodwood. There were so many of the desperate creatures that we found if we didn't plant our rootlings quickly enough after digging their respective planting holes and adding their allocation of organic matter, the mice would burrow through the ripped soil along each vine row and simply fill the holes in before our eyes. The curious thing about that was that they didn't seem to be interested in the newly planted and watered rooting themselves. We reckon they were excavating the cereal seeds from our mulched in cover crops which had been buried by the ripping of the soils along the vine rows.

First wine pressed in Orange

This is the most exciting few litres of wine we've experienced at Bloodwood. In their second year of growth, we allowed the vines of the Blend Block to set a very small crop. We were very anxious to see what flavours and colours Bloodwood grapes could produce. Would the prevailing Norms find them to be too thin and anemic, too high in acid and too low in alcohol, or would our educated hunches as to the suitability of Bloodwood for quality cool climate grape production be borne out? One swallow doesn't make a spring, and a few litres of new wine from any new area is not going to prove anything, but what we saw and smelled in the shallow depths of this yellow bucket was more than enough to give us hope that the odds our site may just work,  were shortening.  We saw deep crimson hues and a bouquet of violets plumbs and spice emerge from that co-ferment of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot Noir and Malbec, and a freshness in the fruit on the palate to set your palate singing. That was more than enough for us.


Tony Haigh, myself and Rhonda feeding a precious bucket of Bloodwood fruit into the crusher. Winemaking is a communal activity, particularly in the early stages. Even the crusher in this bucolic scene is borrowed from the Holmes' Glenfinlass vineyard in Wellington.

Tony Haigh, myself and Rhonda feeding a precious bucket of Bloodwood fruit into the crusher. Winemaking is a communal activity, particularly in the early stages. Even the crusher in this bucolic scene is borrowed from the Holmes' Glenfinlass vineyard in Wellington.

Yours Unruly and Roy with the new sign

Yours Unruly and Roy with the new sign

The bigger the sign, the better the wine..well at least we seemed to believe in where we were and where we were going!