Jeir Creek Wines: A story of rejuvenation
Anurag and Divya Pandey arrived in Australia from Singapore just one day before borders closed in 2020. They chose to move to Canberra to be closer to family and fell in love with Jeir Creek at first sight.
Jeir Creek Wines’ first 40 acres were planted in 1984, during the early days of the Murrumbateman wine region. The owners, Rob Howell and his wife Kay started selling their grapes to larger wine distributors and eventually expanded their offering as the fledgling wine region became recognised for its premium grapes.
By the time Anurag and Divya stepped foot on the vineyard, Rob was a widely celebrated winemaker but was no longer able to tend to his vines. Anurag and Divya were excited to return to their Indian family’s agricultural roots in wheat, rice, and sugar cane.
The views of the bold Brindabella Ranges, which also inspired Miles Franklin, had an impact on them. Coming from a background in IT, they saw working in the vineyard next to this beautiful backdrop as the best way to spend time during the lockdowns. A slower and more grounded way of life was calling to them, so they set out to restore the vines.
For two people who are so in tune with nature, they took a very pragmatic approach. On the first of January, they set up their roadmap and started work. The first step was to improve the landscape and set the right foundations to make traditional, low sulphur, low-intervention wine.
After restoring the existing vines of Chardonnay, Shiraz, Viognier, and Muscat, they started planting new varieties, such as Fiano, Riesling, and Sangiovese. Reveling in the cool climate and high altitude, they knew that they could experiment with different varietals and produce premium wines that many people could enjoy. Then, they started planning out how to add a restaurant and some cottages to the property, so that anyone who enjoys wine could stay there.
Rather than trying to fight the seasons, they play with them as they come through and continue to nurture the vineyard. Every vintage is touched by the year that has passed and no matter what, they apply a minimalist approach.
Anurag and Divya spent all of their time caring for the vineyard during the lockdown period. They had 12-15 hour days working in the vineyard, mowing the grass, learning about the vines, and researching new ways of producing. It was hands-on, especially when 2020 brought hail damage and 2021 brought the fog and wet weather. They don’t see those climatic challenges going away with 2023 starting to get hotter.
Rather than trying to fight the seasons, they play with them as they come through and continue to nurture the vineyard. Every vintage is touched by the year that has passed and no matter what, they apply a minimalist approach. In their words, they ensure that their “wine is carried on its journey from where it began in the vines.”
They try to do everything by hand harvest and avoid chemicals. They also plant cover crops in the vineyard to increase biodiversity, reduce fuel emissions, avoid the use of herbicides, and lower their requirements for water. Trees and flowers have been planted to help attract native predatory insects, naturally reducing the threat of pests in the vines.
The pH and sugar levels in the grapes are checked daily, ensuring that they are harvested at the right time and the flavours are balanced. Since they own the winery, the grapes can be processed the same day and they can use less sulphur and preservatives. Rather than running a “facility”, they have created a nurturing environment that celebrates the natural form of the wine.
The taste of their wine emerges from the flavours in the ground, giving their wine a boutique feel that can’t be replicated through machine harvest.
Finding a balance
Their experimental methods are a reflection of the broader attitude to winemaking in the Canberra District, a wine region established by ex-CSIRO scientists. Traditional approaches are celebrated, but experimentation and progression are just as important. Just like the other winery owners in the region, Anurag and Divya have a willingness to test, observe, and learn.
Their drive and patience have seen them win the 2023 Wine Awards Top Gold Medal at the International Cool Climate Wine Show. All of the hours spent in the vineyard have also resulted in a new type of winery and cellar door, where kids, parents, foodies, and wine lovers can all spend time together and connect.
Anurag and Divya enjoy the experimental dynamic of the wine industry. Inspired by their new environment and driven by their roots, they are completely immersed in making wines differently.
Experience Jeir Creek Wines
Want to have boutique wine from Jeir Creek Wines delivered straight to your doorstep? Shop their boutique wine via Wine Valet.