John Gehrig Wines: Keeping history alive
John Gehrig was a fourth-generation winemaker. In 1976, he left the family farm in Rutherglen to establish his own vineyard and winery on the banks of the King River. After he passed away in 2012, Ross Gehrig and his wife, Meghan, purchased a property near the original homestead in Rutherglen and took on the challenge to guide the fifth generation of winemaking in the family.
John Gehrig Wines features its own grapes grown at its King Valley and Rutherglen vineyards and reinforces the old-school principle that “wine is made in the vineyard.” Ross Gehrig has taken on the mission of continuing his family’s reputation for fine wines, armed with a wine science degree, multiple overseas vintage placements in France and Israel, and a knowledge of the art that must now be innate.
The family started making wine in 1860 when they moved from Germany to Rutherglen. With so many continuous years under the family’s belt, Ross is in a unique position to produce a versatile range of French and German-style wines, such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, and Pinot Noir.
Benefiting from Victoria’s cool climate, they have a full collection of white, red, sparkling, and fortified wines that are steeped in flavour and history. John Gehrig Wines has a selection that can complement an entire meal from start to finish. People who have been driving along the snow road to Bright for decades are often delighted when they finally take the off-road and stumble upon the magic of the King Valley vineyard.
Planning for the future
The family’s succession plan restricts the next generation from walking straight into the business. They need to have another career first and Ross continues to work as an industrial electrician by trade as well as managing the farms.
The entire family lives and breathes vineyard life from the growing season to winemaking during harvest season. Life can be intense, especially during years of drought, fires, and floods, but they have each other as a family unit for support.
When they purchased back in Rutherglen, John Gehrig Wines became the second-largest grape grower in the area. As a result, Ross spends his waking hours ensuring that his customers are receiving exceptional grapes.
The vineyard at Rutherglen has just been accredited as a sustainable vineyard through the Sustainable Australia Program and Ross and Meghan are determined to ensure that their farms are in a strong position for the next generation in the future if they decide to peruse this career.
They are mindful of the classic aspects of their wine but enjoy trying something new and improving the breed, as long as the end product is the best wine possible.
Meghan didn’t drink wine before marrying into the family and has learnt a lot in a short period of time. She even makes some of their wine alongside her two children, who are mastering the family’s practices. Her daughter has been making Gamay the traditional way since she was eight, using whole bunches, yeast cultures, and foot-treaded processing.
While the family continues to celebrate its heritage, they have also started to add their own unique touch. They often receive compliments on their Shiraz, with people finding their style surprisingly light and delicate.
Meghan will say to them, “Well, that’s because I’m up on top of an eight-tonne fermenter, plunging and extracting the tannin from the fruit, then wrapping it in a thermal blanket-keeping it safe, while my tunes are on in the background from my Spotify playlist. I’m gentle, so I don’t extract the full tannin so you don’t get that full dryness that you get in your mouth from a full-bodied red. Maybe the grapes like the softer touch!”
Ross often delivers the fruit for processing and will help to crush the received fruit for their brand. But, it’s not long before he needs to leave to pick more fruit as part of the vineyard contracting business, and Meghan with her children, Grace and Conrad continue getting the grapes ready for the fermentation process and the fun task of clean up. It’s high-pressure work, but they get to create together.
Old meets new
The family’s obsession started deep in the vineyard rows and their ongoing approach to winemaking is about conserving the rich flavours in the fruits and creating wine that is true to the varietal’s style.
They are mindful of the classic aspects of their wine but enjoy trying something new and improving the breed, as long as the end product is the best wine possible. The Gehrig family has found themselves in a beautiful place in rural Victoria, using old-school practices to produce fine wines and appease the generations past. They are also devoted to the next generation, inspiring them to join in the family’s pride and joy.
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