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Founder of Red Hill Estate passes away

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing overnight of Sir Peter Derham, the founder of Red Hill Estate on the Mornington Peninsula.

Sir Peter’s health had been deteriorating for some time but his passing comes as a shock, and brings to an end a life of someone who was a larger-than-life character, and who will be greatly missed by many in the community and all in the wine industry.

Many would remember that Sir Peter worked tirelessly with others in the industry to achieve the WET relief from the Liberal Government of the time. As was always the case he would not take no for an answer and used his persuasive powers, his contacts and his dogged determination to help a core group of lobbyists achieve the final outcome, which eventually delivered the relief that saved many Australian wineries from extinction.

After purchasing three blocks of land facing Western Port Bay in the seventies, Sir Peter decided that retirement wasn’t for him so he planted a vineyard, becoming one of the founding fathers of the Mornington Peninsula wine region. He was told that 23 acres of his land was plantable and in his usual inimitable style he planted the whole lot making it the largest vineyard on the Peninsula at that time. After establishing the vineyard in 1989, the winery soon followed and the establishment of Red Hill Estate which has grown to become one of the region’s best known and most popular wineries on the Mornington Peninsula. After initially experimenting with many different styles and varietals Sir Peter focused on the core cool climate varietals of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. These varietals have now made Red Hill Estate one of the leading cool climate brands in Australia. His great vision and passion for the wine industry also saw him pioneer Sparkling wine on the Peninsula with two of the styles still flourishing in the market place today.

In 1993 Sir Peter in conjunction with Max Paganoni established Max’s at Red Hill Estate, one of the first winery restaurants on the Mornington Peninsula and which has developed into a multi-award winning restaurant and one of the “must visit locations” on the Mornington Peninsula.

Sir Peter was a great story teller and one of his favourites was of his early weekends spent on the Red Hill Estate property in an old caravan with his wife Averil in their search for the ideal location to build their dream home. He spoke of the beauty of the surrounding area and the magnificent views from a block of land that he couldn’t decide what to do with. They moved the caravan to a different location each weekend to thoroughly survey the land and select the site with the best view. One weekend a flock of Pelicans majestically flew over his land and “led” Peter and Averil to select that spot on the property where the Pelicans landed for their house site as Peter’s view was that the wildlife probably knew best! It was lucky they didn’t use Pelican in the winery brand name because those Pelicans never flew past that spot again but the choice for the house site was first rate!

From Pelicans to Pinot we will continue to enjoy the benefits of his vision and dedication to the Red Hill Estate wines which he so dearly loved.

Seeley International


New Holland


Rowe Scientific


WID 2017