Nothing earthshattering and my little corners of the universe seem to be colliding anyway so I thought I might as well put it up here to remind myself later – I have a bad habit of forgetting stuff I write and it sometimes amuses me to look back later. The odd photo might be good, too, in case my computer dies and I haven’t backed up: again, a bad habit of mine that you’d think I would learn from but don’t.
It was for our company website and I can’t make it link other than cut and paste so I won’t. Below is the text version.
One of the venues that our company uses is Water’s Edge estate in South Guildford. Beautifully positioned on the banks of the Swan River, it is a little know winery that the casual by passer would drive right past, thinking it part of the residential or light industrial development around. However, it is an integral part of our wine history in Western Australia: the site of the first vineyard in the state.
Water’s Edge was originally Olive Farm, settled in the first year of the Swan River colony. Thomas Waters was a botanist from England who had previously worked in the wine industry in South Africa; he was given an acreage on the river by the British Government in lieu of a salary for his professional work and planted vine cuttings from Cape Town as well as olive trees. The Mediterranean climate suited his cuttings extremely well and, four years, after colonizing, he produced the first commercial wine vintage in WA.
By all accounts it was a fairly rough red (there was a shortage of cash in the fledgling colony and he ended up swapping it for a plough rather than good money) but his skills as a winemaker did increase and he obviously enjoyed it because he ended up digging an underground wine cellar and olive oil manufacturing room for the results of his labour.
Some accounts claim he was a tee-totaller; some that his wife was the lush, who tasted all of his products and said ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. He died at the age of 75, either by rescuing a horse that fell in the river or going for a midnight swim and drowning – history is always very anecdotal when written records are sparse. Regardless, we know that he was our state’s first winemaker and that his underground cellar was the oldest one in WA. From his original vines sprang all of the initial Swan Valley grapes.
Olive Farm eventually became Olive Farm Wines, run by the Yurisich Family until about 8 years ago. The original acreage had been so depleted by modern land requirements that the family relocated further out into the Swan Valley and the last vines were pulled out. The property was bought by a tourism company who renamed it Water’s Edge estate to commemorate Thomas Waters and his work in West Australian viticulture. it was used as a wine tasting venue and a functions centre.
Now, sadly, the property has been sold again and the underground cellar is to be made inaccessible to the public: there is to be a housing development on top of it and no more wines will be served in that 184 year old repository of history. This is the last week it will be open.
I find this very sad and every tour I have taken there over the last month has been so bittersweet for me. It is a heritage loss but I have also associated it with much more personal meaning, as the timeline of the winery decline has so closely mirrored that of my father. When I first heard the property had been placed on the market my father had just received a cancer diagnosis. When it sold, we had just received word that the cancer was incurable. Now that the winery is to be no more he, too, is in his end days.
I look out from the cellar door, across the beautiful rose fronted vista, to the sparkling river beyond and I grieve. My father’s heritage will live on in me, his daughter. I hope that Thomas Waters’ legacy also lives on, in every glass of wine we raise in the Swan Valley.