Hanging Rock Winemaker - John Ellis
All that time spent working as a drink waiter and cellar manager while he was failing Veterinary Science, must have made an impression on John. He graduated as Dux of his winemaking course from Roseworthy College in 1971 and then began his illustrious winemaking career at Krondorf and Yalumba wineries.
In 1974 John went to the Hunter Valley to become the foundation winemaker at the newly established Rosemount Estate. Within two years John had put Rosemount Estate on the map internationally and made a name for himself as one of the ‘young Turks’ of the industry. In 1975 Rosemount won 2 Trophies and 17 Gold Medals with John’s wines.
The next move came in 1978 when John, with his wife Ann Tyrrell, went to Echuca on the Murray River in Victoria, to help establish the Tisdall Winery. Tisdall quickly became a high profile and successful brand in the seventies and early eighties, enjoying something of a cult following.
It was during this time in Echuca that John witnessed the early development of wine and food tourism and saw how this could play an important part in the growth of Australia’s wine and tourism industries.
Whilst finding the time at Tisdall immensely rewarding, John and wife Ann had for some time cherished the ambition to make a world-class sparkling wine, in the style of famous Champagne houses Bollinger and Krug.
To do this John and Ann chose, in 1982, to establish their own winery at Hanging Rock in the very cool (ideal for sparkling wine grapes) Macedon Ranges Wine Region of Victoria. In 1985 and 1986, while establishing the new winery, John served as Executive Officer of the Victorian Wine Industry Association and then served as a VWIA committee member with early responsibility for developing Victoria’s Geographic Indicators program to define and register new and existing wine regions.
Ann Ellis often says, with real gratitude in her voice, that she is very glad that her husband never worked for her father. You see Ann has two creative and determined men of the wine industry in her life, she is Murray Tyrrell's daughter. She was not only born into this business, the fourth generation in this famous winemaking family, but has worked in it all of her life.
Ann has worked as personal assistant to Don Ditter of Penfolds. Penfolds also sent her to Adelaide for a time where she worked with Max Schubert of Grange fame and John Davoren. And at the time when the whole Australian wine industry was shaking itself into new life and vigour, she was Cellar Manager at Bulletin Place for a chap called Len Evans.
The Ellis's Sparkling wine ambitions have been fulfilled, along with producing a number of other award-winning wines including the much acclaimed Heathcote Shiraz and ‘The Jim Jim’ Sauvignon Blanc. Over the years Hanging Rock has grown to become a major drawcard in the Macedon Ranges region for tourists and wine lovers alike.
Throughout his time spent building the Hanging Rock Winery business, John has somehow also found time to become heavily involved in wine and food tourism activities for the Macedon Ranges region and for Victoria in general. John served time as President of the Macedon Ranges Tourism Board, as a member of the Macedon Ranges and Spa Country Campaign Committee, as President and committee member of the Macedon Vignerons’ Association. These numerous activities culminated with John’s appointment in 2004 as Chairman of the Victorian Food and Wine Tourism Council, working closely with Tourism Victoria to develop strategies for wine and food tourism growth.
Today, as ever, John continues to work vigorously for the development of Wine and Food Tourism in Victoria. He is currently Chairman of Tourism Macedon Ranges and in March 2005 was invested as a ‘Legend’ of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. In 2007 John received the Tourism Victoria Award for the ‘Most Outstanding Contribution by an Individual’.
John's work in the wine industry has not gone without recognition and, although hard work may bring its own reward, John was delighted to be honoured, in 1994, with a Distinguished Service Award from the Victorian Wine Industry Association; in recognition of his service to the Wine Industry of Victoria.
In November 2007 John received the French Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry's French Flair Award. This award honours those Australian individuals, organisations or companies who have made an outstanding contribution to the fostering of French-Australian relations through his work with numerous young French winemakers.
John is currently a Board Member of the Winemakers ' Federation of Australia and Chairman of the WFA's Small Winery Membership Committee representing the interests of small wineries.
In addition to being a senior judge on the wine show circuit for many years, John is currently Chairman of the Royal Hobart Wine Show and a Show Judge at both the Rutherglen and Perth Wine Shows.