Cannibal Creek Vineyard
Patrick and Kirsten Hardiker planted the first vines on their Tynong North property in 1997, and so Cannibal Creek Vineyard was born. They repurposed a rustic barn originally built by the Weatherhead family in the early 1900s and continue to make their award-winning wines there today.
From the outset they were determined to employ sustainable and organic cultivation methods. In recent years, they have focused even more on developing the soil culture; with the help of Dr Mary Cole, they have analysed and addressed issues of soil biology and chemistry. Compost teas are applied to improve microbial diversity and the population of beneficial bacteria, fungi and protozoa; humates (the technical term for prehistoric decomposed plant and animal matter), now recognised as vitally important to sustainable agriculture, infuses the soil with minerals and other trace elements. The result of such careful attention to the soil is healthier and more resilient plants that are better able to access the nutrients in the ground; these robust plants grow higher quality grapes that go on to produce some of the finest wines in Gippsland.
It should come as no surprise that the Cannibal Creek has received a raft of awards, most notably 9 titles taken out in the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Wine Show Le Concours de Vins Victoria 2014: amongst these, Best Wine of the Show, Best White Wine of the Show, Best Open Class Chardonnay, and a further three gold medals. The same year they won 8 medals at the Gippsland Wine Show.
Of course, it’s not just the top shelf wines that have everyone talking. While Patrick tends the vines and over-sees production of the wines, Kirsten manages the business side of things, and maintains quality assurance in their onsite restaurant. With a longstanding appreciation for fine food and wine, Kirsten ensures that the kitchen produces food of the highest standard. For this, Cannibal Creek has also taken out a number of awards for their excellent hospitality: the Hospitality award in the 2017 Casey Cardinia Business awards and ‘Cellar Door with the Best Food’ in Australia’s Best Cellar Door Awards 2018 sit among their accolades. The winery has not been spared its share of challenges, however. Over the last 10-15 years, the Hardikers have had to work hard to manage the effects of increasingly extreme weather, with soaring summer temperatures, heavy frosts, changing rain patterns and the ever-present concern of bushfires impacting the way they approach the business of viticulture. And of course, 2020 has brought its own set of struggles, with the vineyard forced to close its doors between March and November.
Fortunately, Patrick and Kirsten are not the sort to go down without a fight, and they’ve had the support of locals every step of the way. With the restaurant closed, Kirsten focused on building up Cannibal Creek’s wine club, which has become a lifeline throughout the pandemic. Club membership packs the value with two deliveries per year of a dozen bottles, hand-picked by the Hardikers or selected by the customer; with the vineyard finally open again, members can also take advantage of special discounts on cellar door purchases.
The restaurant has reopened as of early November and is currently taking bookings from Friday through Sunday, as they manage the loss of staff members and the new regulations and requirements that have been introduced this year. Kirsten and Patrick are deeply grateful for the support of patrons, who have kept them busy since reopening, and for the customers who have help keep the business afloat during the pandemic. While this year has been particularly challenging for businesses across Victoria, the Hardikers have shown that they can rise to meet everything life throws at them and continue to go from strength to strength.