While Rory Lane may have a story for each wine he makes, he freely admits his wine background is far from storied itself, with the history side of his ledger somewhat blank. This has certainly not stood in his way, though, with a keen eye for uncovering remote and forgotten vineyard sites of exceptional pedigree underpinning his project. Lane’s core has always been Grampians shiraz (and some Rhône whites), with forays into the cool of Henty, and also north-eastern Victoria for riesling and prosecco. His wines are built on balance and brightness, with sense of place at their core. Lane was the Young Gun of Wine People’s Choice winner for 2011.
Rory Lane is not the first winemaker to have taken a little time to come to his craft. Winemaking is strewn with professional careers put on indefinite hold, degrees left unused, vicarious parental ambitions shelved, and Lane’s story is no different. Suffice to say that his Bachelor of Arts majoring in Comparative Literature (Ancient Greek tragedy) probably didn’t earn him too many credits when he decided to complete a Masters in Wine Technology and Marketing.
Though Lane talks about himself being a late bloomer in the wine game, 25 hardly makes it a retirement hobby. With vintages both locally and in Oregon, Lane was no neophyte, either, but this idea of being a wine interloper stuck. Although his parents had a healthy appreciation for quality wine, and passed this on to their son, Lane had no wine connections, no natural affinity with place, and certainly no ancestral vineyard holdings.
When he took the plunge, in 2004, relegating his Comparative Literature Degree to the past, a shed in a light-industrial zone in Cheltenham served as winery, followed by marginally more salubrious digs sharing a larger shed with Crittenden Estate in Patterson Lakes. Today, Lane has stuck to his Bayside industrial roots, with a ridiculously well-kitted-out ‘shed’ in Bangholme, near Chelsea Heights, with The Craft & Co.
And while the history of Lane’s sheds may not be the most romantic of tales, the sources for his wines tell forgotten stories about viticulture in the state. Lane travels far and wide to uncover special sites and vines, including some deemed too marginal by larger companies, or simply obscured by remoteness or the passage of time. Lane focuses primarily on the Grampians and Henty, in Victoria’s extreme south-west, with forays into Whitlands, in north-east Victoria. His preference is for cooler, low-yielding sites, which knit into his philosophy for making more elegant, refined and food-friendly styles.
Each vintage generates a suite of stories, with Lane’s labels reflecting the cut and thrust of the year as it applies to each wine. With pinnacle syrah and pinot noir bottlings from his most distinguished sites under the R.Lane imprint, The Story range covers syrah, grenache, pinot noir, riesling, a blend of viognier, marsanne and roussanne, a col fondo prosecco and even a gin that goes long on Australian botanicals.