Meet the crew
Jeff & Wilma McMurtrie
McLaren Vale, South Australia
You recognise the name – McMurtrie? Jeff is brother to Nat McMurtrie senior (and uncle to Nat McMurtrie junior!), who was one of our first ever grape suppliers at RedHeads Wine. So inspired was he by RedHeads and what we were crafting with his grapes, that Nat went on to try his hand at being a winemaker too … and is now one of our ‘Greyheads’, making wine at his own ‘shed’.
That bit of history aside, Jeff remains 100% a grower of top-quality McLaren Vale grapes. His family have, in fact, been land owners in the region since 1882. The property was used for mixed agricultural farming at the beginning – raising sheep, growing grain, producing hay – and later on, as a dairy farm. Today, this farmland has become their Wilfrey Vineyard.
When their father, Colin, died, the land was divided and Jeff decided his 4 hectares were destined to grow grapes. Shiraz to be precise. So, at 47, he planted vines and became a grape farmer. He says “I continue today to be excited by the excellence of the fruit from each subsequent vintage and that gives me the energy to continue.”.
The vineyard is situated on the north-easterly slope of the property, on the intersection of Main Road and McMurtrie Road (yes, named after the family – the norm in the early days of settlers). The vines face north-south for optimum ripening. The soil is sandy loam over clay – sandy loam helps water drain, so the vine roots have to work to find moisture, while the subsoil of clay helps retain some of it. And that’s important in this hot, sometimes rainless, climate.
McLaren Vale, as a region, is actually one of Australia’s most consistent climate-wise as it rarely suffers frosts, floods and enjoys a great amount of sunlight. In addition to these, McLaren Vale is close to the coast, so benefits from the maritime influence; sea breezes that temper the heat. So, with that climate, the aspect of the vineyard and its soil, the grapes are able to ripen to their fullest perfection year after year.
The top of the list for Jeff is sustainability and fruit quality that he is able to consistently deliver thanls to his close attention to detail and hands-on care that he puts into every growing season.