The Australian wine world, unlike most of Europe, is based upon regional blends as wines. In the past ten to twenty years, a few remarkable individuals started the trend of making individualistic wines from specific sites. Such examples are Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz in the Eden Valley, Jasper Hill’s Emily’s Paddock in Heathcote and the Wendouree wines of the Clare Valley. These are wines that come from a certain site; they are terroir driven wines made by terroirists.
Michael Dhillon from Bindi wines is also an example of how well certain varieties can be grown on sites which happen to be perfectly suited for those varieties. In the case of Bindi, the varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Bindi winery was established near the town of Gisbourne in 1988 by Michael’s father Bill Dhillon. The name Bindi came from the ornamental dot worn on the foreheads of women in India, Bill Dhillon’s native home. The cool climate of the region made it clear to the Dhillons that the only grapes that could possibly ripen on their property would be Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The first vines planted were Pinot Noir and the wine from these vines is now called Original Vineyard Pinot Noir. In 2005, the Original Vineyard Pinot Noir was acknowledged in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines. The vineyard is made up of quartz, with a thin layer of volcanic topsoil that makes these wines instantly recognizable. Bindi’s original winemaker was Stuart Anderson, the man who was responsible for much of the resurgence in the area, and who planted the Balgownie Vineyard in 1969. Michael Dhillon served as assistant winemaker until 1998 when he took over the reins. Michael learned his craft working vintages in Europe, where he spent time with the Champagne house of Jean Vesselle in Bouzy, with Allain Graillot in Croze-Hermitage, and in Tuscany at Tenuta di Valgiano. He also did a stint in Amador County with Shenadoah Vineyards.
There are currently seven estate wines in the Bindi portfolio as well as a shiraz produced from purchased fruit from the neighboring Heathcote region. Michael has not stopped innovating and planting, most recently with the plantings of the 11,000 vine/hectare Darshan Site in 2013, which produced its first crop in 2017. Michael named it after his father’s given name, which Bill had dropped when he emigrated to Australia from India. In 2015 Michael also planted Block 8 to an astounding 22,600 vines/hectare! His goal is to find sites that showcase their personalities without manipulation. He also focuses on ultra low-density plantings, which yield minuscule bunches and demonstrate this ideal.
There may be no finer caretaker of the land who produces soulful wines of consequence than Michael Dhillon.