FOREST HILL | Mount Barker, Great Southern
The original 2 acre Forest Hill Vineyard was planted in 1965 making it Western Australia's oldest cool climate vineyard. Prior to the planting, in the mid 1950's, Harold Olmo, Professor of Viticulture at the University of California, was tasked with searching out a region in Western Australia suitable for growing vineyards to produce European style wines. In his report "A Survey of the Grape Industry of Western Australia", Professor Olmo specified that Mount Barker showed great promise to produce premium wines and likened the gravelly soil conditions to Bordeaux.
57 years later, Forest Hill Vineyard is still family owned and run. The Lyons family are the current stewards of this historic property having purchased a farming property in Mount Barker in the early 1900s, and then acquiring the Forest Hill property in 1996, which was next door.
The Great Southern spans 125 miles from east to west and more than 60 miles north to south. It's big, it's remote, and it's truly one of Australia's most isolated wine-producing regions. But it's also one of the most exciting wine areas of Australia, as there are a number of smaller growers who are utilizing the vast and varied terroirs to make lighter, lower alcohol wines, often using single sites. The climatic conditions of the Great Southern range from mediterranean to maritime to continental as you move inland, and it is the the coolest wine region in Western Australia. Soils are mainly either lateritic gravelly and sandy loams or sandy loams derived from granite bedrock.
The vineyards on the Forest Hill property typically experience warm, dry summers with cool, wet winters. Influenced by the Southern and Indian Oceans, Mount Barker has warm days that cool down overnight, allowing for a slow, extended growing and ripening season. The extended period is a major contributor to not only elegant and varietal fruit but also a ripe tannin structure.
Situated next door to the original property is Highbury Fields, a site of historical significance in the Great Southern, which over the past century has been farmed for apples, dairy, grains, lamb, and wool. Purchased over 15 years ago, the wines coming from this site continue to improve every year, with the dry-grown vineyards occupying the best soils on this historic property.
Liam Carmody is the Senior Winemaker at Forest Hill Vineyard. After studying Viticulture and Oenology at Curtin University, Liam has built vast experience in cellars around the world, including South Africa, France, California, New Zealand, and Australia. Joining Forest Hill in 2008, Liam is a firm believer in the balance and fruit quality seen from dry grown vineyards, combined with a great passion for the subtleties of cooler climate winemaking.
Guy Lyons ignited his winemaking interest while working at Forest Hill Vineyard during his school holidays and moved interstate to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) at the University of Adelaide. With a diverse background, and experience in Australia, France, and Germany, Guy now works within all aspects of Forest Hill. An advocate of managing the vineyard to produce wines that reflect and respect the site as well as its history.