By Melissa Walsh Photos Gary Sissons
Twenty years ago, an eager couple fresh out of university decided to buy some grapes and start their own winemaking business. For the two budding winemakers, it didn’t seem a huge task. Looking back now, the owners of Phaedrus Estate are both surprised and thrilled at what they have achieved. Maitena Zantvoort and Ewan Campbell still work every day on their vineyard which has become a family affair. They are just as passionate about the grape as the day they started.
“We met at university in Adelaide where we were both studying winemaking,” said the couple. “By the third year, we were dating.” These days the couple have four teenagers who all help work on the 10 acre estate in Moorooduc.
For Maitena, winery life was always in her blood, growing up on Stumpy Gully Winery which her parents, Frank and Wendy, started in 1989. “My parents moved here from Holland with myself and three siblings when I was only four. They bought their first block of land here in 1981,” said Maitena who remembers being surrounded by vines and winemaking.
“I remember them planting the first vineyard at Stumpy Gully when I was as teenager and it was a natural progression for me to study winemaking after that.”
Wanting to be together in the industry, the young couple bought their own grapes and made wine from the Stumpy Gully site for the first two years. “We had two vintages starting in 1998 and within two years decided to buy our own property,” said Ewan. “Maitena was three months pregnant when we moved in.”
As for the name of the vineyard, ‘Phaedrus Estate’, the couple decided long ago what their winery would be called after reading a book at university called ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’.
“Phaedrus comes from Greek philosophy originally but it was when we read ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, which was a 1970s book with a cult following, that the notion stuck with us. The main character is obsessed with the idea that quality is the place where art and science meet, and we could see real parallels with our winemaking,” said Ewan. “There is both science and creativity in the process. When you decide to pick the grapes is creative, it’s knowing when the grapes are ready and scientifically what is going to produce the best outcome.”
Within the first year of moving to the Moorooduc property, the young couple, along with their new son, opened the cellar door and four years later, the winery.
“It has been a time-consuming venture but we wouldn’t change a thing. In that first year, I would do the pruning while our son slept in the pram beside me,” said Maitena of the vineyard maintenance that went from dawn till dusk. “Our wines have always been well received and we grow a variety of grapes used for making pinot, pinot noir, chardonnay and shiraz.”
For the winemakers, growing pinot is their favourite although Maitena loves a white wine.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into a pinot, with more variables to take into account. There are more things you have to control so if you get a nice pinot, a lot of hard work has gone into it. It is rich and complex and a pinot from ten years ago will bring back memories of the season it was grown,” said the couple who want to bridge the gap between science and creativity.
“There is nothing better than using knowledge and passion to turn grapes into a wine that people enjoy. We approach each aspect of the vineyard and winery with an open mind and a holistic approach but we question everything even if it has already been proven.
The great thing about working with a living system is that there are no absolute rights or wrongs, what might work well in a vineyard over the hill on volcanic soil might not work well in our sandy-loam vineyard. We respect the plants and the soil and everything we do has to be sustainable in the long run. In the winery the main aim is to make beautiful wines as simply as possible.”
Phaedrus Estate is at 220 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Moorooduc
Ph. 5978 8134