JOHN BRAND AND ERIN-MARIE O’NEILL
Nine One Six Pinot Noir origins are fortuitous, and full of goodwill.
After inner-city living, looking for a bucolic lifestyle on the outskirts of Melbourne, Erin-Marie O’Neill and John Brand moved to the Yarra Valley in 2008. The five acre vineyard they inherited as part of the purchase of their twenty acre property had been planted in 1996 and was originally used to supply fruit to a large local commercial winery. However, the previous owners had already discovered that the fruit it was producing was of significant quality and value to warrant its own label. After several vintages with an up and coming local winemaker, the owners decided to sell, and they most kindly handed over not just the keys to the property but a most valuable relationship with highly respected local viticulturist, John Evans. Through John’s professional guidance (and patience), John and Erin-Marie began to learn and invest in developing the quality of the fruit even further.
In 2009, bushfires impacted much of the Yarra Valley. The first Nine One Six harvest was only a couple of weeks away when fire swept through Steels Creek, taking John and Erin-Marie‘s home and all of their possessions. The vineyard was hit hard with around 10% of vines completely destroyed. Another 70%+ were significantly affected. Advice about what to do next was mixed and varied. After much thought and research, it was decided that an aggressive pruning strategy – and a lot of tender loving care – would be the preferred approach.
Fast forward a few more years and the vineyard produced its first viable crop again in 2012. The tonnage was extremely light; only about an eighth of an average harvest. However, the quality had returned and the vigour of the vines was noticeably improved.
Coincidentally around that time, John Evans had also come across a young and enthusiastic winemaker, Ben Haines. Ben had recently won the Young Winemaker of the Year award and was looking to expand his experience with like-minded peers. John and Erin-Marie immediately saw the potential in Ben and asked him to produce the very first vintage of Nine One Six Pinot Noir. The results were outstanding.
Since then, Ben Haines and John Evans have become an integral part of the Nine One Six Pinot Noir story. John’s focus on balance in vineyard management has continued to produce consistently outstanding fruit. Ben’s passion for the consummate blending of new and old world winemaking techniques has brought new soul to Nine One Six soil, and seen him internationally acclaimed as the only Australian winemaker in the Bloomberg Top 10 Wines of the World with his own branded Syrah in 2015.
Now it is time for these legacies, life events and long-standing friendships to, dare we say, bear fruit. When a glass of Nine One Six Pinot Noir meets a discerning palate, the goodwill is shared!