Mountainside Wines: One With Nature

A bottle of Mountainside Wines Nebbiolo
Shane and Jane Goninon are tree changers who left the corporate world in Melbourne to reconnect with nature. When they first stepped through the front gate onto the Mountainside Wines vineyard at the base of Mount Cole, a sense of peace, calm, and beauty washed over them. In the dead of winter, they decided they were ready to make a leap.

Shane was working in media and knew that his career was starting to draw to a close. Rather than waiting for the time to come, Shane and his wife, Jane decided to take the opportunity to make the move to an established vineyard and winery at the south eastern end of the Grampians wine region. 

The 90-acre property they chose was an existing winery surrounded by a state forest, with ten acres of vines and rolling green hills. Nine years later, Jane is still glad that she reconnected with nature. Being outside in the Mountainside Wines vineyard, living in line with the seasons, and working hard from pruning to harvest has been the best thing for her soul.

Learning to work together

Shane and Jane had never worked together but soon found themselves with each other 24 hours, seven days a week. It was hard work, and they needed to teach each other everything they knew to make it through the learning curve. With time and the help of a consultant winemaker, they both found their own strengths and defined their roles. Shane taught Jane how to use machinery and Jane was able to identify when something didn’t look right in the vineyard. 

Although neither of them had a winemaking background, they now find themselves making make-or-break decisions in the vineyard together with ease.

Making wine from the ground up

The vineyard at Mountainside Wines
Two people cheering their red wine overlooking the vineyard at Mountain side Wines

Although neither of them had a winemaking background, they now find themselves making make-or-break decisions in the vineyard together with ease.

It didn’t take long for the duo to realise the importance of their soil. According to Jane, “The more you improve your soil, the better your water retention, the better your biodiversity. The more bugs in your soil, the better the soil structure, the better the grapes, the better the wine.” 

Their winemaking philosophy is informed by nature and they adopt a minimalist approach. Rather than intervening with chemicals, they let nature do the work. They let their neighbour’s sheep roam in the vineyard during winter because they eat the weeds and fertilise the grass. Holes in the soil are a good sign of biodiversity. It means that bugs are living in the ground and aerating the soil.

Jane and Shane also know that they won’t be caring for the vineyard forever and want to leave the soil in a better place for future growers. Mountainside Wines is a part of Sustainable Winemaking Australia and they use its benchmarks to continuously improve the sustainability of their own vineyard and winemaking processes. Knowing the value that the vineyard has brought to their own lives, they want to leave something with longevity for future generations.

Capturing a snapshot of time and place

Shane and Jane’s pocket of the world has its own microclimate and they don’t blend with grapes from other vineyards. They want to show what nature can create and don’t play around with it. They usually handpick and only machine harvest on their six-acre block so that they can process the grapes on the same day. 

Shiraz is a signature variety of the cool-climate region, known for its elegant red berry and pepper flavours and aromas. Mountainside’s version is light, fresh, fruity, finessed, and lively. The peppery flavours are emblematic of the region, which has high concentrations of a compound called rotundone in the skin of the grapes. 

Their Nebbiolo also has a savoury, peppery style. They only make about 70 cases and people who like an Australian Nebbiolo seek it out. They don’t use any fining agents in their reds, so in a hot year, their reds will be bolder and higher in alcohol with more integrated flavours. In cool years, they will be lighter in the mouth and lower in alcohol. The individual flavours also shine through.

Mountainside Wines’ Viognier is also anything but traditional. Normally Viognier is matured in oak, but Jane and Shane don’t use oak at all. That’s where its freshness and liveliness comes from. It’s light and fruity, yet dry. 

Shane and Jane Goninan at Mountainside Wines

Think slow, act fast

Both Shane and Jane work the vineyards every day and enjoy the opportunity they’ve created to make wines that truly reflect the terroir of the property. They did a lot of planning, research, and looking before embarking on their tree change. Together, they had long discussions about their wants and needs for the future, what they were prepared to do for them, and what they meant to them. 

If you ask Jane for advice on changing your life, she’ll tell you, “Ultimately, if you never give your dream a shot, then you will never know what it’s like to live it. No matter what you want to do in life, at some point, you have to make a decision and take the jump.”

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