Heathcote is situated about 100 km north of Melbourne in Central Victoria at altitudes between 160-380 metres. This is classic rolling Australian countryside punctuated by eucalypts and rounded hills. The defining feature of the region is the ‘Heathcote red snake’ a strip of ancient, deep, red Cambrian soils with good water holding capacity, imparting a distinct and unique flavour profile to Shiraz, the superstar of the region. The region is warm and strongly continental with low rainfall, but enjoys an even temperature range during ripening. Founded in the 1850’s Heathcote was originally a gold rush town. Vines were planted in the 1860’s, but were subsequently decimated by phylloxera with modern day plantings only re-established during the 1960’s. Although best known for its rich tannic powerful Shiraz, Heathcote also produces a wide range of varieties including Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier alongside the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Emerging varieties of Sangiovese and Tempranillo also show great promise.
Whistling Eagle Eagle’s Blood Shiraz
The Whistling Eagle property, located on the Greenstone Ranges of Heathcote, was originally purchased by Ian Rathjen’s great grandfather (a German immigrant lured by the Victorian goldfields) in the 1850s.
Henning Rathjens planted the first vines at Colbinabbin in the 1860s with red and white hermitage winning prizes. The vineyard fell into disrepair but the remains of the old winery still exist. In 1994 Ian and Lyn Rathjens planted a new vineyard on pre-Cambrian red soils.
Their first batch made in 1997 was only 10 bottles. However Ian’s Brother Daryl re-planted the old original vineyard in 1998. The wines have come along way in a short period of time. The Eagle’s Blood Shiraz is an impressively powerful but generously proportioned wine with dark berry/brambly fruit and rich ripe tannins. The wine has been lionised by American critics and is beginning to attract more home-grown attention.
Andrew Caillard MW, Langton's