It was love at first sight when these novice winery owners saw Joadja Estate. And after a crash course on the job with the previous owners, the flirtation has become a full blown obsession with the vineyard.
Beyond its natural beauty, the Southern Highlands is known for attracting artisans, farmers and producers with a passion to chase their dreams. Four years ago, retail liquor worker Matt Toomey declared to partner Siobhan Maloy his dream was to become a winemaker. Maloy, a school teacher loved the idea. She put together a shortlist of wineries to inspect and within weeks the couple found themselves wandering through the vines of Joadja Estate, just outside Berrima.
‘This was the second winery we looked at,’ says Matt, ‘We saw it and fell in love with it.’
It’s easy to see why. Joadja Estate is the region’s oldest vineyard and has a relaxed charm that sits well with its artisan approach to winemaking. From the wisteria framed entrance opening onto a shady courtyard to the earthy hues of the cellar door, the historic estate is a delightful mix of family home, established winery and popular weekend picnic spot. Matt and Siobhan (along with Siobhan’s parents) became Joadja Estate’s new owners and have maintained the vibe that encourages visitors to stay longer and return often.
Original owners Kim and Frances Moginie planted the region’s first vines here more than three decades ago and started making wines that helped put the Southern Highlands on the map of Australian cool climate wine regions.
Since taking over in 2016, Matt and Siobhan have infused their own style, including the tasting room with a feature wall that invariably sparks conversation. Using the staves of discarded wine barrels, Matt spent countless hours seasoning the timber strips and fixing them individually to the wall to create an inspired work of upcycled art. Siobhan had a vision for the wine bottles and, with the help of a Texan based artist who happened to get in touch out of the blue at the right time, has created a fun series of labels celebrating local icons. Watercolour paintings of tulips, wombats, Old Berrima Gaol and a miner’s lamp and bagpipes from nearby Joadja Town give the bottles a distinctly Highlands appearance.
But as any vigneron knows, it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts, and getting that part right is a combination of long hours, quality vines and the right weather conditions at the right time. Joadja’s 15 acres of vines are hand pruned and at harvest time the grapes hand picked by a professional crew.
Matt worked alongside the previous owners for their first harvest on a crash course he described as ‘exciting but challenging’. He soaked up the tips and tricks from the veteran winemakers on the job, working up to 15 hours a day.
Joadja’s 2017 and 2018 vintages are the first produced by Matt and the verdict is positive. Their Summer Rosé, made from predominantly cabernet grapes, is a true crowd pleaser, with a deep pink hue and a hint of strawberry on the palate. At just 10% alcohol, it’s light and very drinkable, perfectly suited to a picnic lunch. Siobhan’s favourite, the 2018 Pinot Grigio is crisp and refreshing, a classic cool climate variety for the region and sure to be a big seller. For something completely different sample their boysenberry liqueur, a decadent rich red tipple Matt calls ‘ice cream topping for adults’.
Taking on a mature winery with the heritage of Joadja Estate could have been intimidating for a young couple fresh to the world of winemaking, but Matt and Siobhan are enthusiastic about their new lifestyle. Baby Cooper arrived in August last year and has adapted well to the family business, sleeping through most activities, including a live music event when he was just four weeks old.
Joadja Estate has many drawcards for visitors, from the family friendly picnic lunch, to lazy afternoons listening to music, enjoying woodfired pizza or a cheese plate and sampling a glass or two of some of the region’s loveliest wines. The cellar door is open Thursday to Monday and live music events are held every long weekend. Wines are available to purchase at the cellar door, online and through their wine club, De-Vine.
Cnr Greenhills and Joadja roads, Berrima
Weekends 10am-5pm; Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays 12-5pm.