As far as wine regions are concerned, Whitlands barely exists.
Your mobile phone will not work, there are no signs, no post office, no shop and most concerning of all: no pub. The inconspicuous ‘Burders Lane’ street sign is on a blind corner and it’s almost a guaranteed that you will drive straight past it. Most conversations end with “if you get to Mansfield you’ve gone to far”. And when you get lost, you can’t google map it – you have to do the old ‘stop in at the next house‘ trick.
Which means that by the time you actually make to the farm – for whatever reason, you’ve generally got a decent story up your sleeve about how the neighbor down the road answered the door wearing only socks. Or perhaps you were offered scones and tea – either way – it’s clearly win-win.
Whitlands isn’t even an official region. Nope – we are part of the King Valley ‘Geographic Indication’ (GI); a classified subzone. And, in the 10 minutes it takes to drive from one end to the other, you probably won’t even see any grapevines. So what is my point? My point is two things: Despite the fact that you’ve probably never heard of Whitlands before now, and will most likely never go there – and even if you do you might not even realise it, the Whitlands High Plateau grows some seriously good grapes.
Case en point: Brown Brothers won the Best Sparkling of Show Trophy at this years Royal Melbourne Wine Show for their Patricia Sparkling – made exclusively from grapes grown on their Whitlands Vineyard. Exciting stuff for a place with no sign. Domaine Chandon, Yalumba and Neil Prentice all source grapes from Whitlands for sparkling and table wine – yet chances are, you’ll never see it on a label.
My second point is how wonderful it is to be in a place with no cameras, no signs and no bloody billboards. I think myself the luckiest person alive when I leave Melbourne once a week and head for the beautiful hills and freshest of air. It’s remote, cold, and my phone only works when I stand a specific distance from the front fence – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.