History of Balgownie Wines, established 1969

Balgownie Bendigo is a 33-hectare vineyard situated on a gentle slope overlooking Myer's Creek at Maiden Gully. A remarkable combination of alluvial clay soils and optimal climate (long warm summer days and cool overnight temperatures during the ripening months) made superb growing conditions for producing Balgownie’s intense and age-worthy wines (in particular, red wines).

Stuart Anderson who was a local pharmacist and a winemaker with a passion for classic French wine, planted the first vines at Balgownie Estate Bendigo in 1969. Before that time, it had been more than 80 years since a vineyard had been planted in the district.

Inspired by Dr Max Lake of Hunter Valley fame (Lake’s Folly – Australia’s first boutique winery), Anderson initially planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz in Bendigo, which celebrated their first vintage in 1972 and are still the mainstays of the vineyard today. Other sections were dedicated to Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier and Sangiovese vines. Merlot, Viognier, and Sangiovese produced several classic and highly sought-after vintages.

Anderson and Balgownie Bendigo became pioneers of commercial winemaking, influencing a rapid expansion of winegrowing in Victoria’s central goldfields region and emerging as a serious red wine producer in the 1970’s. The Balgownie wine profile established was rich savoury flavours rather than simple fruity ones, with moderate alcohol and intelligent use of oak. The result was variety of wines with a rare combination of vibrancy, genuine sense of honesty, and capacity to develop in the cellar.

In 1999 brothers and passionate wine lovers Des and Rod Forrester heard the rumour that Balgownie Estate was to be offered for sale. Digging out a couple of prized bottles of Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Rod's cellar, they found themselves hatching a plan to buy the vineyard and the winery in Bendigo. The Forrester brothers and their long-term family friend Bill Freeman submitted a tender that same day, and with little to-ing and fro-ing the vineyard was theirs.

Excited by the potential to restore an iconic Victorian brand, the Forrester family set about refurbishing Balgownie Bendigo’s vineyards and winery. They planted additional vineyards including the first Sangiovese vines, and modernised their winery operations with stainless tanks. The improvements proved vital to the quality and aging ability of Balgownie wines.

In 1999 the Forrester’s purchased the Yarra Valley site. The first Yarra Valley vineyards were planted in 2001. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the two varieties best suited to the cool climate region. Construction of a cellar door, restaurant, conference centre, 70 spa suite apartments and a state-of-the-art day spa followed – the first stage of the development completed and open to the public in December 2005.

In 2013 winemaker Tony Winspear was excited to discover that the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards had matured and were producing fruit that were of such exceptional quality, that they could be used to produce Estate wines for the very first time. The 2013 Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir both proved to be extraordinary wines with complexity and a depth of flavour that reflect the brilliance of the Estate wines from Bendigo.

In June 2016, Balgownie was sold to Hang Tai Yue Group Holdings Ltd a Hong Kong public listed company who remain the owners of Balgownie today.

In 2020 - in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic - the business shifted its focus to restore and evolve the Balgownie brand with the launch of a new website, rebuild of Yarra Valley Restaurant and Cellar Door (which sadly burned down on 25th June 2020), and refurbishments at Bendigo Cellar Door and Restaurant. Now exciting new experiences are on the horizon for the Balgownie brand.

Winemakers at Balgownie have been notably loyal and long standing. In over 50 years, there have been just five: impressive in an industry with a pursuit for excellence in wine and where winemakers are prepared to travel the globe in search of it. Winemakers to date began with founder Stuart Anderson. He was succeeded by Mildara Blass winemaker Lindsay Ross. Tobias Ansted was the first winemaker under the Forresters, starting in 1999 and leaving just before his 10 years were due in December 2008. In January 2009 winemaker Mark Lane joined the team and he was succeeded by the Assistant Winemaker Tony Winspear in 2012.