Motton Terraces history – a ramble through time with Flemming

From nativity to marriage

In 1963, aged nearly 7, I arrived in Perth, Western Australia from Copenhagen, Denmark with my mother and sister. We moved to Victoria in 1966 where I grew up in Dandenong until 1973 then Cranbourne until 1979. Jenny’s family comes from Maryborough, Victoria but she was born and bred in Dandenong.

We met in 1978, married in 1980 and moved into our first home - a rental half house in Dandenong.

The journey begins

It was probably our first holiday (a camping trip around Victoria in April 1981) that started us on the road to where we are now. Although the touring included wineries we didn’t anticipate anything other than buying and drinking wine, but what we saw and experienced stayed with us

North East Victoria has some truly magnificent wines though we felt the flashy tasting areas were too impersonal, so it’s no surprise that the most memorable was rustic +. It was a very large old corrugated shed built partly into the hillside. The first thing that struck us walking in was the dirt floor and the smell of wine. Further inside, the rest of the shed had a raised wooden floor stacked high with wine barrels stretching back for a long way.

The owner, a crusty old fellow who sat at a rickety wooden table in the corner, presided over some bottles of wine and glasses; he led us through tasting some truly delightful red wines. We can neither recall where it was nor what it was called, and probably have some romantic reconstructed memories of it; but its legacy lives on in how we do things – simply, unpretentiously and definitely not flashy.

From the 'burbs to the bush

Typical of most young couples, we bought a house in suburbia where we landscaped, gardened, built the customary fernery, BBQ, paving and carport. Then we got ambitious and built cupboards and a massive lounge suite - exceedingly comfortable but way too huge. Our families’ legacies and passion for DIY (Do It Yourself) flourished.

Somewhere along the line self sufficiency became attractive, followed by the realisation that a suburban block was just not big enough. With the notion of buying acreage and becoming self sufficient farmers the intention was to check out various places around Australia. One trip to Tasmania and we were sold – never did get to check out the rest of Australia.

In 1986 we bought what is now Motton Terraces and designed and drew up house plans. In a leap of faith that is scary in hindsight we gave up well paid jobs, packed all our belongings into an old truck, caught the ferry and arrived in Tassie in April 1987. We had nowhere to live and all we owned was in Jenny’s car and the truck.

Some kindly neighbours put us up for the 3 weeks it took me to build a shack – bush poles clad in corrugated iron and a dirt floor – no running water, toilet or washing facilities – absolute madness! We lived in that for several months until our somewhat unexpected first pregnancy forced a move to rental accommodation with amenities. The next 2½ years were bleak as the money started running out, no jobs to speak of and the house building dragged on.

The plans start taking shape

Things picked up in late 1989 when I got temporary work at North West Pathology, followed by a permanent job with Social Security (Centrelink). As soon as the probationary period ended it was off to the bank for a mortgage. From then onwards (until I retired in 2012) it was “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go”.

We planted the Riesling vineyard in 1990 and boy was that a steep learning curve. The method we used for planting the rootlings was destined for a poor strike rate – dry clayey soil and no watering facilities. Then to really test things we had used electric fencing around the vineyard thinking that would keep out the wildlife – ppffft – the wallabies took a flying leap right through and fed mightily on the young shoots.

Next we fenced it with chicken wire, topped with three strands of electric fence. No more wallaby problems, but now it was clear that rabbits had also been a problem - and they could still squeeze through the chicken wire. There was also a problem with possums and they seemed to be impervious to electric fencing.

The problem of wildlife eating the vines was not solved until we installed permanent netting over the vineyard. This also had the benefit of keeping the birds out when the grapes ripened. Constructing it was ‘an experience’ and remains an ongoing affair as it was done on the cheap and we’ve played catch-up ever since by making improvements and repairs.

Grapes to wine ... and beyond

At Motton Terraces we grow three varieties of grapes: Riesling, planted in 1990; Chardonnay, planted in 1997; and Tempranillo, planted in 2007.

The first few years of the vineyard were a bit ‘hit and miss’ but we still managed to sell grapes to other wineries until 2001.

From 2002 to 2004 we started getting wine made for us by contract. That involved picking on a Saturday followed by a long drive on the Sunday to the Pipers Brook area to deliver the grapes to Richard the winemaker at Delamere. For the first year, we just left it to Richard to do his thing. For 2003 and 2004 we got much more hands-on with the winemaking.

In 2005, in another leap of faith and with a visit from our old friend ‘Mr steep learning curve’, we started making the wine on-site at Motton Terraces. We started with 2 stainless steel tanks and some borrowed equipment. Each year since, we have bought more gear as finances allowed – and that is an ongoing process.

We were happy enough with the wine we made (and there were some nice ones) but there was always the uncertainty – so when we scored a bronze medal in the Tasmanian Wine Show I was incredibly relieved – we were on the right track. These days we don’t try too hard to make wine that conforms to wine-show judges’ tastes. The soil gives us grapes with higher than normal acidity and we use that attribute, coupled with our own personal tastes in wine, to make wine that is ‘a daringly different drop’.

From just Riesling and Chardonnay, our range has expanded to now include two types of Riesling (dry and semi-sweet), Chardonnay (the ever reliable), Rosé, Tempranillo, Sparkling Chardonnay, and soon to be released, Sparkling Tempranillo.

As I’m writing this I am in the throes of rebuilding our web site – and if you are reading this it has worked. That has been a small adventure in itself, learning a new program that allows the site to adapt to different viewing devices from desk-top PCs down to small smart phones. Let us know what you think of it.

We’re not sure what the next stage in the DIY journey will be but it’s bound to have another steep learning curve attached – bring it on, I say!

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