Cousins Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith decided to make wine together over a long lunch in 1989. Both had already established a fine reputation within the Australian wine industry: Martin worked with the legendary Brian Croser at Petaluma and consults around the globe, while Michael Hill-Smith was the first Australian to pass the rigorous Master of Wine exams in 1988 having grown up as part of the Yalumba clan in the Barossa.
They are based in the rolling Adelaide Hills, part of the Mount Lofty Ranges east of the city of Adelaide, where they own several vineyards in a wine region that is cooler than most in Australia. Up in these hills temperatures are lower on average than many areas of South Australia by about 4 degrees centigrade during the day and 8 degrees at night; music to a winemaker's ears if trying to make wines of purity and balance.
That sauvignon blanc is one of the grape varieties upon which they have focused much of their attention amply illustrates the kind of wine they are seeking to make in these fresher climes and they have produced what many consider to be Australia's finest example, leaner and less pungent than , say, Marlborough sauvignon. 'Martin would trade herbaceousness for palate length every day of the week' said Michael in a Decanter interview a few years ago. Chardonnay, shiraz and pinot noir are the other varieties made in styles that seek to reflect the quality of their Adelaide Hills fruit, all elegance and poise, but without losing sight of intensity.
Martin, with the help of Adam Sadewitz, makes the wines while Michael evangelises about them around the world. They built a state of the art winery, cellars and offices, to a contemporary design, in 2000 and took the opportunity to incorporate the same environmentally aware philosophy they have always employed in the vineyards into the nuts and bolts of the heavily insulated buildings, including reduced water use, collecting rainwater and treating waste from the site, and they are pioneers of a state-wide initiative to monitor greenhouse emissions.