Our History

Our History - Celebrating 40 years

What happens when 'The Princess of the Hunter' meets 'The Young Turk' in the industry?

In the late 1970's, Ann, the daughter of one of the most prominent figures in the Australian wine industry- Murray Tyrrell, met one of most talked about young winemakers of the time- John Ellis, and the rest they say is history. At that time Ann worked in her family’s business- Tyrrell’s and John was the first winemaker of a big new winery in town- Rosemount Estate. Despite some local fame and notoriety they decided to pick up and move to Victoria.

Their first move was to Echuca, an unlikely spot to start a winery. John had been asked to start up a new winery called Tisdall's. It was owned by Peter Tisdall, a local doctor. Together they pioneered a lot of wine styles that are staples today, including: Australia’s first cool climate Chardonnay, first commercially made Merlot and the first Cabernet Merlot blend. After a few years John & Ann decided it was time to start their own venture- The Hanging Rock Winery.

The Beginning of Something Great

In 1982 John and Ann were fortuitous enough to purchase 'The Jim Jim' property in the picturesque Macedon Ranges. They chose The Macedon Ranges because of its climate. The region is arguably the coldest in Australia, perfect for making sparkling wine- their great passion. Over the next couple of years the first grapes were planted and the winery/ house was built.

Athol's Paddock - The Heathcote Story

While driving from Echuca to Newham in the early days John noticed that the soil that was being ploughed for wheat was a beautiful rich red colour. He wondered how good this soil would be for growing grapes. John was asked to make the wine from the Mt Ida Vineyard for Leonard French and his love affair for Heathcote wine began. He decided to lease a vineyard on the Mt Camel range. Unfortunately after a small number of years the vineyard all but died from salt leaching through the soil. In 1994 Athol Guy from The Seekers fame decided that he needed a vineyard. He and John agreed to form a partnership. Although we bought the vineyard from Athol a number of years ago it will always be known as Athol's vineyard, for without him it wouldn't exist. Today this 20 acre amazing vineyard is entirely planted with Shiraz. It is dry grown and in a good year produces 1 tonne to the acre of fruit. These grapes go to make our Heathcote Shiraz and Reserve Heathcote Shiraz.

The Winery’s 40th Birthday

In 2023 the Ellis family celebrated 40 years since the first vines were planted in 1983. The Jim Jim property was purchased bare in 1982 and all the vineyard, buildings and property enhancement have happened since with the winery grew to a much bigger size than the Ellis' originally anticipated. Both John & Ann's children, Ruth & Rob have come back to help run the winery. Ruth is General Manager Sales & Marketing and Rob is Chief Winemaker and General Manager Production. John and Ann are very proud of what they have set up and the winery community they have built. They feel that they have achieved what they set out to do - To make great Sparkling Wine and Heathcote Shiraz and to build a business that embodies all that they hold dear.