Bill established his own label in 2003 after working between Australia and France for several years as a winemaker, where on returning to Australia he started making Pinot Noir from three different sites; Gippsland, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. Here the wines were similarly vinified, allowing for pure expression of soil and climate in each of the wines.
Bill’s wines emphasise purity, time and place, and what you see across his entire range is that the wines taste of where they come from. In a pure, uninhibited fashion, you can taste the saline minerality of the Mornington Peninsula through to the dense, rich, red volcanic clay of the Yarra. The grape varietal (Pinot Noir) becomes less of the focus and more the vehicle for the wine from the vineyard to the glass. It’s also fair to say that without Bill, Wine Diamonds New Zealand would not exist.
Guendulain Farm is Bill’s family home and vineyard that he shares with wife Rachel and their three kids. Guendulain Farm was planted around 2012 with mostly Pinot Noir and some Gouais Blanc at a vine density of 20,000 vines per hectare on a steep slope. The vineyard has been spray free since inception, the vines are mostly staked rather than trellised, and all work in the vineyard is done either by hand or by horse. The wine they produce from this vineyard has an energy and purity to it that I have not seen in anything else. Just a few hundred bottles are produced every year, we receive just twelve.
Update: In 2017 Patrick Sullivan and Bill Downie purchased a well established 11 hectare estate in the rolling hills of Gippsland, Victoria together. The vineyard is farmed organically (certification due 2019) and they each share the rewards of their hard work, with Patrick taking most of the whites, and Bill the reds. From 2018 onwards Bill’s wines will come from these vineyards.