Gary Crittenden is getting better with Age
HIS name is synonymous nationally and internationally with fine wine produced at Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, but few people realise Garry Crittenden is a Queensland bloke at heart. He is a regular visitor to Brisbane and the Sunshine and Gold Coast, always bringing with him a welcome supply of his renowned Crittenden Estate wines.
Brisbane born and raised, Garry moved to Victoria for job opportunities as a young man but found work at the Post-Masters General department as a telephone technician not to his liking.
He shifted into horticulture, founding a plant nursery, and from there realised the potential of the terroir for vine planting on the Mornington Peninsula.
That was 36 years ago, and now at age 75 (in April) Garry Crittenden is still making wine despite handing over the reins of his established business to his son Rollo and daughter Zoe.
"I started this business and I've been intimately involved with every step,” he said. "I planted the vines, I made the wine. But I began to acknowledge I'm not immortal.”
With a typical professional approach to winding back from the family business Garry brought in experts to advise how he could bow out gracefully but continue in a useful role.
"The kids wanted to run the business, but wanted a smooth succession,” he said. "It was clear I was not going to get a gold watch and walk out the door. I am now still in the family business with the title of Governing Director, whatever that means.”
Like one of the excellent wines from his collection, Garry Crittenden was determined to get better with age.
As he slowly cut himself adrift from day to day issues in the business, he came to an arrangement with his son and daughter that he would make a batch of his own wine every year without any intervention at all. It had to be hand made every step of the process, making it a truly artisanal wine.
"I want to do this for as long as I am physically able,” he said. "It will always be estate grown Pinot Noir and I will make it using old-fashioned winemaking techniques.”
One of those techniques involves Garry foot- stomping 500 kilos of grapes.
"(This vintage) was personally foot-stomped and basket-pressed by me,” he said. "Quantities will be small. A few hundred bottles only, and distribution very limited. This is my first vintage, 2016, and by my estimation now ready for release. Having said that it will age for years under good storage conditions.”
Late last year, Garry gave a sample of the wine to prominent visiting UK wine writer Sarah Ahmed with the instruction that any mention of it was embargoed until late November.
"Then I promptly forgot about it,” he said. "Imagine my surprise when on the evening of Friday November 24, I received one of Sarah's meticulously researched blogs reviewing the wine in glowing terms.”
Every element of the wine, called Big Chair Pinot Noir, has been created by Garry alone, right down to the label design, even a poem that goes with it.
"It represents a small slice of my history and my heritage,” he said
"I want to continue to keep the brain and body active. I believe you should never give up work. Do what you can. I walk five kilometres every day before breakfast. It is critically important when you age.”
Sarah Ahmed's quote from her respected wine blog sums up the legendary Garry Crittenden. "Just this week he received the Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Legend Award. Twice a legend in your own lifetime (and counting.) Not bad going for the Brisbane lad made good.”