Some people are born into a winery business, following a predestined path, while others choose a life of winemaking. For Colin Sheppard, a desire to combine his passion for wine and food led the former builder from Melbourne to the Barossa, to create a world-class boutique wine and food experience.
Colin and his wife Fiona established Flaxman Wines in the Flaxman Valley, a much-sought after stretch of high land in the stunning Eden Valley, in 2004. They built a winery and cellar door, offering delicious long table lunches, to showcase the produce of the region.
“We chose the Barossa to set up our winery because it is truly Australia’s best wine region,” Col says. “I’d been studying winemaking in my spare time and I’d come over to experience a vintage at Murray Street Vineyards. At the end of the four weeks, I rang Fiona and said, ‘I’ve bought a vineyard, get ready to move’.”
The vineyard, planted to two acres of 90-year-old Shiraz, three acres of 90-year-old Riesling and half an acre of Semillon, was productive but neglected. “We were willing to put in the hard work to bring them back to their full potential. We’re the first people to make single vineyard wine off of this site. These beautiful old vines have responded by giving us truly special fruit,” Colin says.
Flaxman wines are handpicked and made by Colin in his shed at the front of the property. The range includes the Estate Riesling ($30 a bottle), the Estate Shiraz ($120) and an Estate Semillon ($25) all made from Flaxman fruit, while additional fruit is purchased from other Barossa growers to make a Reserve Cabernet ($180), a Mataro ($50) and a GMS $30), amongst others. No more than 200 dozen of each wine are ever made.
Colin has a habit of making decisions without telling Fiona. He wanted to make a Cabernet, but Fiona disagreed. “Col made the wine anyway, and just wrote ‘shhh’ on the barrel, so I wouldn’t find out what it was until it was too late,” Fiona says. The Flaxman Shhh Cabernet ($50) was born.
“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask for permission,” Colin says with a wink.
Colin’s first career as a builder has come in handy at Flaxman. He has built a cellar door and pergola, where famous Flaxman Long Lunches are held. Colin, who reached the top 10 of Masterchef in 2014, is also the cook at Flaxman.
Long Lunches are held on the first Saturday of each month and can be a shared dining experience for 8-12 people, or a large group booking for the whole table. Colin designs his menus based on what is fresh and in season each month (“And what I feel like cooking”), and museum and current release wines are paired with each course.
“This is a unique intimate dining experience, where our guests get to enjoy lunch cooked by the winemaker and experience true Barossan hospitality, including meeting our winery dog, Gus,” Fiona says. “South Australia has the most amazing produce. Creating beautiful seasonal dishes is such a pleasure for Col.”
The food and wine experience on offer at Flaxman has struck a chord with visitors and reviewers. Long Lunches are often booked out and in 2018, Flaxman was awarded ‘Cellar door with best food’ in the Eden Valley in Gourmet Traveller Wine Australia’s Best Cellar Door Awards.
“Visitors are thrilled when they arrive that they are greeted by Col, the owner, the winemaker, the cook. It’s a true boutique wine and food experience that you can’t find easily anywhere else,” Fiona says.
Guests at the Barossa Wine Auction have the opportunity to experience Flaxman hospitality for themselves. Lot 5L is a Flaxman ‘Estate Shiraz and Long Lunch Package’ which includes six Estate Shiraz Magnums from the 2010 to 2015 vintages presented in a handmade timber box, and a four-course lunch in the cellar for six, prepared by winemaker Colin Sheppard, featuring the same six vintages of Estate Shiraz. Only 12 Magnums of each vintage were bottled, so this is a true collector’s lot.
The Flaxman cellar door is open to the public Thursdays to Sundays and cheese platters with both local and international cheeses are available each weekend.