Eastern Peake is a small project that evolved from very humble beginnings.
Dianne Pym & Norman Latta purchased a property during the late 1970s in the tiny township of Coghills Creek,
Western Victoria - just 25 km north west from the City Of Ballarat.
The idea was to build a mud brick home and vegetable garden producing the bulk of their food.
Aiming for self sufficiency on the land was their dream as they escaped from Melbourne.
They successfully built their own home, grew vegetables and had livestock on their beautiful piece of land looking East over the Creswick Valley.
A dramatic backdrop to the West, the granite outcrop of Eastern Peake on Mount Bolton which now features on the Eastern Peake labels.
Dianne loved wine, there was something about it that fascinated her.
The Australian Wine industry was pretty small at that time, you could visit wineries generally meeting the family who produced it.
This really resonated with her how you could capture a season of work in a bottle to preserve it for generations to come.
In 1981 there was an advert in the local news paper from a young winemaker Trevor Mast, based in the Grampians wine region working as winemaker at Best’s of Great Western alongside Viv Thompson. He was looking for someone to grow Pinot Noir for him on a cool climate site. Dianne jumped at the chance sending off a letter of interest that their property seemed like it had the potential for fine pinot noir.
Around forty other applicants also applied.
Trimmed down to five potential sites with two getting a green light.
November 1983 Norman & Dianne planted the first pinot noir cuttings at Eastern Peake. Asking all the right questions, executing instructions then becoming very successful at growing fine pinot noir straight away.
In January 1984 son Owen was born, with their daughter Claire following in 1986.
They planted more Pinot Noir in 1989, a rare clone from Best’s Vineyard called Morillion. Chardonnay was planted in 1991 - 1993, then in 1994 they planted the last block of Pinot Noir. This brought the acreage under vine to 12.5 on their 21 acre property.
It was at this time the Australian wine world was changing dramatically, especially for the late great Trevor Mast. He had purchased a vineyard with a small winery called Mount Langi Ghiran in 1987, which was gaining huge success from the shiraz & riesling.
He really set the benchmark for the industry in 1989 the vintage was wet and terribly cold, he decided to leave the shiraz out longer - this proved he was scared of nothing!
The risk paid off resulting in a beautiful wine.
He was described by the specialist media as a ''whiz-kid'' and ‘’guru’’.
We later found out at Trevors funeral in 2012 that one of the cellar hands in the winery had ‘accidentally’ blended the pinot noir from Eastern Peake with all of the Mount Langi shiraz during the 1989 vintage
Norman & Dianne had been growing Pinot Noir for Trevor for almost 10 years when he suggested they start their own winemaking adventure. Norman never had any intention of making wine he had thought he’d always be a grape grower.
This was quite a lot of information to process, then they decided why not?!
Let’s start the next chapter.
Eastern Peake Winery 2022
Owen 1986 - with 1983 Block Pinot in background.
Norman Latta and Dianne Pym - late 80's
Trevor being the extremely generous human he was gave them a basket press, a destemmer and some barrels - all from the goodness of his heart to see them succeed.
A winery was designed by Norman, with the help of Trevor insisting on the use of small 3000L open concrete fermenters,
urging not to use stainless steel.
The winery was constructed in 1994 just in time for the first 1995 vintage on the property.
During this time proof the right decision was made by Norman & Dianne with Mt Langi going from strength to strength, with Trevor now having his time limited for a Ballarat Pinot Noir.
Tyson Stelzer has written in the Wine Spectator, a prestigious American publication: ''Trevor Mast was a visionary decades before cool climate became a buzzword in the Australian wine industry.’’
Norman Latta - Eastern Peake Winery 2003
In 1996, Trevor's 1994 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz was splashed across the front page of the Wine Spectator, accompanied by 1990 Penfold's Grange and 1993 Henschke Mount Edelstone with the headline: ''Shiraz - Australia Hits the Big Time.’'
Mind you that was the 8th vintage of Langi, amazing being positioned next to generational Australian wine icons.
With all the fame it was still business as usual.
Trevor suggested to Norman that he could buy back the excellent 1993 & 1994 vintages of Pinot Noir so that there was wine to make an income to get the business off the ground.
Trevor shared nuggets of his great knowledge learnt from studying winemaking in Germany.
Another great piece of advice was to make a dry rosé from the pinot while the chardonnay was coming into production.
He gave Dianne & Norman a bottle of Bandol rosé, Domaine Tempier, suggesting they
make something like this.
That bottle cemented their style.
The late great Trevor Mast
Winemaking seemed to come naturally to Norman, he listened and acted on great advice received from mentors such as “the vineyard is truely the key to making great wine, the winemaker is just there to help the progression, don’t interfere too much with what you have already.”
A hands off approach has always been the philosophy here at Eastern Peake.
Norman was excited by the world of wine, especially after some exposure to drinking wines of Volnay and Meursault through a good friend.
He was keen to expand the vineyard knowing he had planted the vines in the right place under the right guidance.
He convinced his neighbours, the Walsh’s, to plant pinot noir for him in 1995. Frank then was keen to plant Shiraz which Norman highly encouraged. Frank went ahead with planting 1.25 acres of Syrah.
Norman had created quite the small operation, beautiful vineyards producing fantastic fruit requiring no intervention in the winery.
From 1995 to 2004 Norman had a string of great vintages.
Of course, a few learning curves along the way! Seemingly essential to make mistakes as they help make better wine. Some of the most challenging wines from difficult vintages tell the greatest stories with age such as 1996 & 2003.
1999 was the Vintage Norman threw Owen straight in the deep end, by default.
Owen’s first vintage - 1999
Owen Latta - Winemaker... How it started
Owen came home from school one afternoon to find out that Norman had an accident, tripping over a winery hose which resulted in severe concussion.
Norman was side lined for the remainder of vintage.
Owen’s parents said he would have to step up to look after the cellar & do as Norm would do.
Owen was 15 yrs old and grown up around wine & vines all his life, so wasn’t intimidated, more felt he had to get on with business.
Punch downs in the morning before catching the school bus - sometimes getting in trouble from teachers for having wine stains on his shirt, they probably thought he was drinking!
This was a great experience requiring a balancing act with school work.
These years cemented the fact that Owen wanted to be a winemaker, grape grower & farmer for the rest of his life
- to be a part of this unique family business.
In 2002 Owen got an offer to go to University, a brand new Wine Science course opened that year in Geelong.
This set the stage that he was going to pursue winemaking as a career path.
Owen worked his way through the course doing a few stints here and there at nearby vineyards & wineries.
He then decided to move back to Eastern Peake in 2006 to help take over from Norman & Dianne.
This decision was a tough one as the business was small & couldn’t provide an extra wage.
2020 Eastern Peake Orginal Block Pinot Noir - released 2022 with new look label by Artist Clare O’flynn perfectly capturing the rocky outcrop of ‘Eastern Peake’ that sits behind the winery.
During this time Owen also worked at other wineries in the region and in 2008 picked up a vintage for a big winery in the Yarra Valley gaining experience on larger scale operations.
Later that year he travelled to Europe and explored Burgundy.
His time in Europe drove home the fact that his family had something truly special back in Australia.
And it was time to get serious about taking over from his parents.
From 2009 - 2016 Owen did dual vintages, having to work at another winery an hour away as their winemaker to
assist with the growth of Eastern Peake.
It was a rather full on time for Owen managing two wineries, two vineyards, doing contract winemaking, launching the Latta label, saying yes to everything & helping his wife Jenny set up her wineshop in nearby Daylesford.
In 2018 Owen was awarded the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Wine - Young Winemaker Of the Year - such an unexpected reward.
Owen - Eastern Peake Winery 2002
The Vineyard at Eastern Peake sits at on a high plateau 430metres above sea level on the great dividing range, the climate is marginal continental on volcanic weathered basalt grey loam soils. The vineyards were dry grown for almost 20 years until recently. Climate change has changed the weather pattens resulting in a lack of rain at the right time during the crucial moments of the season. Fortunately the region sits above an underground artesian water system accessed via a bore, if needed irrigation can be used.
Established with organic principles by default in the 80's as chemicals were too expensive to purchase, conventional methods
have been used on a soft approach up until 2006, regenerative farming then took place into the transition to more
sustainable farming leaning on organics.
From 2013 onwards organic methods have been the principle farming methods.
The plan now is to move quickly towards biodynamics via Quantum Farming practices.
The future is all about healthy soils so that healthy vines can thrive on this land.
Winemaking is the relatively straight forward part - farming for the future is the true key to success.
Owen - Eastern Peake Winery 2022
All of this wouldn’t be possible without my parents Dianne & Norman, my wife Jenny, our neighbours, the Walsh’s & our
community in Coghill’s Creek - Thankyou.
My mates who have done their time at EP in between jobs -
Chris Dilworth who jumped in full time from 2017 and Scott Gerade, long time winemaker friend also jumping in over the years.
Current winemakers Dave Morgan and Charlie Mann and our solid cellar hand Elijah.
Our amazing growers, distributors & importers.
Most importantly our friends & customers of Eastern Peake & Latta - YOU make this all possible with your continuing support & interest in what we put in the bottle - Thankyou.
It’s pretty hard to believe 2019 marked my 21st vintage -
21 YEARS - making wine at the same place
FROM the same grapes
GROWN at the same place.
And working with the best of the best grapes from the best growers in Western & Central Victoria - what a ride.
It is truely remarkable how fast this time has gone.. absolutely insane.
We now look forward to celebrating 40 years of Eastern Peake and 10 years of Latta in 2023.