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Mount Prior Vineyard

Mount Prior Vineyard, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia

The majestic Mount Prior Vinyard at Rutherglen Victoria sits high above the undulating hills of the vine growing region. The homestead at Mount Prior was built in 1884-86 and has an imposing brick tower and flag pole, a symbol of 19th century wine growing grandeur. Mount Prior at Rutherglen was a major wine producer of northern Victoria. Currently, the 435 acre property has 100 acres planted to vines.

Property History

The existing residence of Mount Prior Vineyard was built for Alexander Caughey circa 1885 and a landmark in the district. Mount Prior is of historical significance for its association with the wine industry of the Rutherglen region of northern Victoria when it was first established by William Thorpe and George Rae in the 1860’s. After the Caughey family took over the property in the 1870s Mount Prior became part of their substantial business empire which included a Melbourne based wine and spirit business and the Chateau Tabbilk vineyard at Nagambie northern Victoria.

In the early twentieth century the property was unable to withstand the twin blows of phylloxera (an aphid-like insect which feeds on the roots of grapevines) and the destruction of its cellars by fire. More recently, in the late 1970’s, the vineyard was re-established to produce a variety of Durif, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, Shiraz and merlot wines.

Later, in the late 1980’s, the homestead successfully operated as a luxury bed and breakfast and prior to this, the property was sold to Barnawartha businessman and grazier Jim Sawyer. Today, the winery has new owners who are currently restoring the homestead and offer cellar door wine sales. Today, a solid brick and stone cellar are a memory of how the world’s most modem wine making equipment use to be. The workers’ quarters, a blacksmith’s shop, boiler house, engine room, cooperage, distillery and fermenting room completed this self-sufficient operation, which supplied huge quantities of fortified wines to its Melbourne warehouse operations.

Architectural Features

Mount Prior retains many of its original features including the brick tower which was unstable and demolished in 1951. The tower was later rebuilt on solid foundations in the late 1970’s and once again, typified Mount Prior as a grand winery residence in the Rutherglen region.

The majestic single storey brick residence has a landmark tower built from pressed red bricks founded on the property. Additionally, the homestead has many period features which include several original white Carrara marble fireplaces, polished NZ Kauri flooring, fine red cedar margin-glazing to the windows and doors.  The windows and doors display unusual circular and radial glazing bar patterns to the fanlights. Other period features include rendered mouldings to the windows, a finely detailed and rendered Dutch gable with an ornate stone and wrought iron finial at the apex, a return concave verandah with pediments to the entrance, as well as, tall well detailed and corbelled chimneys and balustrade to the tower and flagpole are visible from the main road. The homestead has an extensive two-level subterranean stone wine cellar built in 1896 with capacity to store 200,000 gallons of wine in 500 and 800 gallon casks.

Special Comments from Chris Wilmar, Architect

The majestic single storey brick tower homestead is clearly visible from the main road. During the late 19th century Alexander Caughey planted an olive grove to line both sides of the former driveway to the east of the house and today these mature Olive trees can be seen from the roadside as a strong reminder of their endurance with time. The olive grove to the east of the residence is a significant landscape feature and has local heritage significance.

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