From the tasting team

Eldridge's new era

By Jane Faulkner

18 Apr, 2024

Eldridge (formerly Eldridge Estate) is under new ownership, but the focus on quality will remain key. Under the guidance of Steve Flamsteed (ex-Giant Steps), alongside Grace Jiranek (ex-Ten Minutes by Tractor), there's a new era at Eldridge. This weekend the first wines will be released – find out how Jane Faulkner scored the wines below.

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If you call Yarra Valley-based wine legends Steve Webber and Leanne De Bortoli friends and mentors, chances are you could end up buying a winery. Yep, that’s what happened to Vicki and Elli Tutungi who settled on Eldridge Estate on the Mornington Peninsula in mid-2022.

For these wine tyros, life is about timing, connections and definitely a journey. They are pragmatic yet have a dream. Vicki, with a background in law, has easily swapped the office life for work in the cellar door, outdoors in the vineyard, renovating and now running their newly established onsite accommodation and more besides. Husband Elli, still a practising anaesthetist, is also hands-on at the property in his spare time. Both are willing to learn, willing to listen yet importantly, willing to do things properly. Their aim is simple: produce premium wine (all allocation-based direct to consumers). 

What is utterly refreshing, they do not want to grow and expand: they want to stay boutique and focus on gamay, pinot noir and chardonnay.

Steve FlamsteedSteve Flamsteed.

“One of the problems with business models,” says Elli, “is people think growth is the answer, you must get bigger. But this is not how Eldridge will work. To use Webber’s words, do you grow great wine or make great wine? You can’t get great wine if you don’t have great fruit. We are starting with an important site with a vision to convert it into producing ultra-premium wines. That is a sustainable business model. This is going to be focused. It is a positive investment, and it is good for us emotionally; it is good for the community and we get to employ fantastic people.”

Enter Steve Flamsteed, one of the best winemakers in the business. The ex-Giant Steps winemaker, now consultant at Wine Network Consulting, is as much intuitive as considered. He is very good at reading the landscape, interpreting what the fruit can do, and translating it all into wine. Excellent, delicious wine.

Of course, he, Vicki and Elli are mindful of the Eldridge history. David Lloyd, with his late wife Wendy, started with little more than enthusiasm and a love of pinot noir and chardonnay respectively, buying the land in 1995. Over the years, they built, planted and transformed the place into something special. Vicki and Elli are doing the same to ensure the next incarnation flourishes and more so.

"It was always going to be a challenge with me based in the Yarra,” says Steve. “Elli, Vicki and I sat down to see how it was going to work. We needed someone strong. We needed someone who would be happy in the vineyard as much as in the winery and run the whole thing.” The right person turned out to be Grace Jiranek, most recently assistant winemaker at nearby Ten Minutes By Tractor.

Jane FaulknerJane Faulkner.

“Vicki and I are obviously the core and we want this to be successful. We can see how it can be but we need someone like Steve. We need someone like Grace and we need people like Steve (Webber) and Leanne inspiring us. Those are the layers, the strength underlying it all.”

Now, while the foundation has been set, Eldridge, as it is now named, is well on its next journey. Fans of the old should embrace the new. The fine-tuning has started with Steve crafting just one chardonnay and one pinot noir, whereas previously there were several. Those two wines (with new packaging featuring stylish sage-green labels) will be released in August. They are excellent. This weekend, the first tranche of wines are being released, three all up: a sauvignon blanc, the last to be made as the vines have been grafted over to gamay, fitting as the two other wines are gamays; one from estate fruit; and the other from one of Steve and Leanne’s Yarra vineyards. It’s a cool collaboration.

“I’m still learning about the site and its red soils,” says Grace, “and my focus is on the vineyard and getting that back to optimum health starting with organic composts. Getting it all back into balance.”

While Steve adds: “This is a finite area; a special place and my aim is for it to become a great single site. I want Eldridge and gamay to be two words that really stick, and for the pinot and chardonnay to be striking.”