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Fire damage still rising in Yarra Valley

By Louise Preece

Southern Farmer, part of the Provincial Press Group, including Winetitles.

Wineries and vineyard managers are still assessing damage from the bushfires that pillaged Victoria over the weekend and continue to burn across parts of the State.

Roundstone Winery in Yarra Glen was completely desolated by the fire, but fortunately, owners John and Lynne Derwin managed to narrowly escape with their lives.

They lost 20 acres of vines, a restaurant, a cellar door and their house.

“There was absolutely no warning, the fire came over the hills from both directions like a freight train,” said Kristy Phelan, (John and Lynne’s daughter), adding her parents had only a moment’s warning to jump in the car, before everything was alight.

“They are still in shock and we’re at the property now, just trying to sort through the rubble.”

The winery had weddings booked all through March, but now the Derwin’s have no way of contacting customers, because all records have been destroyed.

“The good thing out of this is the community spirit, everyone has been so helpful and it has certainly eased the horrible burden,” she said.

Dr Tony Jordan, president of the Yarra Valley Grape Growers Association, confirmed the worst hit winery was Roundstone.

“The winery was totally burnt out, but it is fortunate there have been no fatalities,” Dr Jordan said.

He said the small communities of Dixons Creek and Steels Creek were the worst affected and several other vineyards and wineries had received minor damage to vines and machinery.

“A tractor shed was destroyed at Punt Road Winery, while Yarra Glen Sexton and Train Trak reported slight damage to their vineyards,” he said.

“Some storage crates also caught alight outside a warehouse at Domaine Chandon with some partial heat damage occurring to stock, but the vineyard is all okay.”

Foster’s, owners of St Huberts and Coldstream Hills wineries, have reportedly lost two vineyards.

“Some people chose to stay and defend their properties, like De Bortoli’s who fought the fire and have managed to save everything, which is fantastic,” he said.

Dr Jordan said communication lines were still down, which had prevented him from contacting wineries in the Diamond Valley region.

“In perspective there has been minor damage to the whole of the Yarra Valley, but individuals will be suffering enormously,” he said.

As vintage draws nearer, Dr Jordan said harvest will proceed as normal, despite some road closures in the Dixons Creek vicinity.

This weekend’s Grape Grazing Festival has been cancelled.

A previous week of 40 plus temperatures has also caused minor damage to grapes and the heat from the fires has also caused fruit to shrivel in some areas.

Ryan Johnstone, Warramate Vineyard manager, in Gruyere was fortunate enough to have escaped the fire, but not the heat.

“It got within 500m of the farm, but our main concern now is loss of fruit from the hot weather, which will inevitably cause a significant crop reduction.”

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