FACES OF THE FLEURIEU: WITH MELISSA BROWN. CO-OWNER & VITICULTURIST AT GEMTREE WINES IN MCLAREN FLAT.
Meet Melissa Brown, chief viticulturist and co-owner of Gemtree Wines. The godmother of Gemtree's sustainable farming philosophies, and a fearless leader in South Australia's winemaking industry. Melissa has laid out a path for other budding female viticulturalists while putting her heart and soul into normalising biodynamic winemaking practices in Australia.
Melissa and her winemaking husband Mike consider themselves the stewards of the land that Gemtree Wines sits on, just outside of McLaren Vale – 45 minutes from Adelaide. They have been certified biodynamic and organic since 2007 after Melissa realised her purpose of working with and amongst nature. Melissa and Mike have an overwhelming level of respect for the land and a great desire to protect it for the future.
The vineyards of Gemtree are bordered by hills and surrounded by the rivers and oceans of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Gemtree's sustainably built tasting room takes in elevated views over McLaren Vale to the ocean beyond. Here you will find the Gemtree Biodynamic Hut, and informal interactive experience providing visitors with a deeper understanding of biodynamic viticulture. Adjacent to the tasting room is the 1km Gemtree Ecotrail, a meandering path through 10 hectares of regenerated natural bush land, offering visitors a connection to the surrounding land that inspires Gemtree's gilding philosophies.
Visitors to Gemtree Wines can choose from a number of experiences that deliver a perfect blend of nature, food, and wine only 45 minutes from the Adelaide CBD and 15 minutes from the pristine beaches of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
HI MELISSA. IT IS AN ABSOLUTE HONOUR TO LEARN OF YOUR FLEURIEU PENINSULA FAVOURITES, AND THE PLACES HERE THAT INSPIRE YOU. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHY YOU LOVE YOUR CORNER OF THE FLEURIEU PENINSULA?
We live on the vineyard and have an amazing view across the valley all the way to the coast. It’s very quiet and there are lots of birds and wildlife where we live. There isn’t a lot of traffic in McLaren Flat which I find appealing, along with it’s a great little community.
HOW DOES THE FLEURIEU PENINSULA INSPIRE YOU & GEMTREE?
I truly love where I live and want to preserve it for future generations. This inspires me to farm the land we are currently custodians of using regenerative farming practices with the aim of improving the soil fertility and increasing the biodiversity. Nearly every decision we make we consider how it impacts on the environment and what we can do to minimize any detrimental impacts.
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE GO-TO DINNER SPOTS IN THE REGION? CASUAL, AND A LITTLE DRESSIER.
There are so many fantastic restaurants in our region! Our favourites are Muni in Willunga, Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale, and The Star of Greece in Port Willunga. A little less dressy would have to be the Victory Hotel on Sellicks Hill.
Our tip: Venture down to Sellicks Beach for a pre-dinner sunset. Nothing beats a golden evening spent here, gazing up at those red & orange cliffs. It's a spot that encapsulates the incredible parts that make up the Fleurieu Peninsula's distinctive landscape. The breathtaking rolling hills plunge gracefully towards the blue waters of Gulf St Vincent. Here you're only a stone's throw from McLaren Vale, Willunga, and Sellicks Hill, making it the perfect spot for a pre-dinner and vino stroll in the fresh coastal air.
WHERE IN THE REGION IS YOUR FAVOURITE COFFEE NOOK?
Bracegirdles in McLaren Vale do a great coconut milk coffee that I love and their chocolates are top notch.
Local Knowledge: Winter in McLaren Vale wouldn't be the same without a visit to Bracegirdles for a quality coffee, or hot chocolate made with the finest Belgian chocolate. Set off the road in a lovely, garden environment, the warm and inviting atmosphere here will make you feel right at home.
WHERE'S YOUR TOP PICK FOR AN AFTERNOON TIPPLE?
Chalk Hill Collective is a great spot for a wind down. Wine or gin and a great view of our region, plus delicious food on offer for nibbles.
Local Knowledge: Perched on the top of a hill in McLaren Vale, you'll find a collective like no other. The first of it's kind in South Australia and the Fleurieu Peninsula, you'll discover three separate venues housed under the one roof. Never Never Distilling Co., Cucina di Strada and Chalk Hill Wines have created the ultimate food and drink hub at Chalk Hill. The Chalk Hill collective blends tradition with forward-thinking, delicious drinks with food curated to match. Nestled into the heart of McLaren Vale, enjoy an afternoon here admiring the views of the Mount Lofty Ranges all the way through to the Fleurieu Peninsula's iconic coastline.
IS THERE A HIDDEN GEM IN THE REGION THAT EVERY VISITOR SHOULD EXPERIENCE?
Port Willunga Beach.
Local Knowledge: Port Willunga Beach sure is magical, a dream location where pristine coastline meets the rolling hills & rolling vineyards. Just 45 minutes from the CBD, this beach is an easy day trip location in the Fleurieu Peninsula region. What makes Port Willunga Beach incredibly unique is the famous beachfront caves. You'll notice a handful of these epic caves carved into the rock face down here... once upon a time, the local fisherman stored their boats in there. Nowadays they are just a beautiful spot to set up a picnic with your friends and enjoy the views of the white sand & crystal-clear waters.
WHAT ARE THE TOP TWO ESSENTIALS EVERY VISITOR TO THE FLEURIEU PENINSULA NEEDS IN THEIR ITINERARY?
- The new Flat to Vale walking & bike trail
- The Gemtree Ecotrail