It’s been a long and winding road but Dr Harry Marget of East Bentleigh Dental Group in Victoria is about to enjoy pinot noir from his own vineyard. Interview: Frank Leggett
“When I was an undergraduate student at Adelaide University doing dentistry, I had a job sweeping floors at Seaview cellars in McLaren Vale. One day, Mr Hardy came down and I told him I would like to learn about winemaking. He moved me on to picking and crushing grapes. I also learned about barrel making and the fermentation process. It was fascinating.
“I was also working as a wine waiter at the Australia Hotel in Adelaide. One day the head honcho of McGill Estate was there, we started talking and he offered me a job. The next thing I knew I was working in the Grange room at Penfolds, tasting all these amazing wines.
“Once I graduated, they offered me a full-time job but my father was against the idea. His exact words were, “You haven’t spent five years at dental school to be winemaking drunk.” That was the end of that.
“I never lost my passion for wine-making so six years ago, my wife and I purchased a run-down property and started a vineyard—despite everyone telling us the land was too steep.
“I found a young bloke to help me grade it but that revealed there wasn’t enough topsoil. I spent weeks adding topsoil until I was ready to plant. Once again, everyone said it was too difficult and couldn’t be done.
“I contacted John Deere to hire a couple of tractors and the rep put me in contact with a mate who puts in vineyards. The whole property needed to be graded again and more topsoil was required but eventually, the vines were in.
“That was the beginning of my troubles. We had a fire that killed all our plants. When we purchased new plants, they got stuck on the Tasmanian Ferry and all died.
“I finally planted vines from a tiny little vineyard in Gawler, South Australia, and a mere four years later, they sprouted. Two weeks ago, we picked all our grapes and had our first crush. We have 600 litres of the most beautiful-looking purple juice you’ve ever seen.
“In the meantime, I have managed to complete a degree in winemaking at Charles Sturt University.
“In November of this year, I will be enjoying the first bottle of pinot noir from my own vineyard. It’s going to be called Birchwood Lane and I simply couldn’t be more excited.”