It’s funny how life goes. I grew up exposed to, surrounded by, in fact immersed in a household totally focused on wine -having Peter and Margaret Lehmann as my parents saw to this! But, (get this) back then, I never considered going into ‘THE BUSINESS’.
I had half the adults (who always seem to enjoy passing edicts to 8 year olds) telling me that with PL and Marg as my parents I’d “JUST HAVE to go into wine making…darling…” The Other half seemed to take great pleasure in pointing out that my life would come up ‘gravy’ if I just jumped aboard the Lehmann Wine Train… Well I took all of these sort of comments on board and thought to myself, “Fuck ’em, I’ll do my own thing!” From the day I decided that on I’d tell anyone who asked that I wanted to be a graphic designer.
My parents wisely kept their own council at this time. Mum and Dad obviously had the confidence that we (my younger brother Phil and I) had been brought up able to make the right choices in the long run.
Well they were right. We’ve both found the ‘faith’ (Phil has come into his own ‘winemaking skin’ to be Senior Winemaker for WD Wines – encompassing the Parker Coonawarra Wines, St Johns Road Wines and the Hesketh Wines after honing his craft at Yalumba, Peter Lehmann Wines and Teusner Wines… as well as being a qualified Electrical Engineer.) All the many paths we’ve trod to get where we now are have given us a big bucket of experience to dig around in that is always invaluable.
My first vintage ever was in the legendary year of 1992. I scored a night shift position at St Hallet Wines, working on the old Open Red Fermenters (Chilling digging out, making additions etc.). I worked directly under Peter Gambetta (now a Senior Winemaker at Yalumba) and Trev Jones (now of Trev Jones Wines, or is it Boots??). It was bloody hard yakka, but I was hooked.
In 2000 I managed to convince Dad to back me for a more serious vintage. I used the facilities at PLW to make my 2000 Reds in between pump-overs and working the 2000 vintage as a part of the PLW Red Chilling Team. Although it was a bloody difficult year I have a really soft spot for the 2000 Benjamin’s Promise and reckon the 2000 Georgie’s Walk is still one of the finest wines I’ve ever made. 2000, 2001 2002 and 2003 were all made under the roof of PLW. Until the end of the 2003 vintage, I worked Dads vineyards, did vintages and produced my wines at PLW.
From these years I took in a lot more from the PLW team than they probably realize. In particular a truly unsung hero at the winery, Leone Lange gave me the methodologies and tools I use every time I make my wines. Perhaps the other great influence from my time at PLW, Peter Scholz – of Willows Vineyard fame who comes in every vintage to join the winemaking team – gave me over and above everything else the belief in myself and my wines that still drives me today. Working at PLW gave me the practical day to day knowledge that enable me to actually make my wines properly. once you know the rules you are free to play anywhere on the field, confident that your wines will be sound as well as delicious!
After the 2003 vintage I was determined to finally shift everything home and make all of my wine under one roof… namely MY roof! I sat down and did some figuring and worked out that although it would be tight I could probably afford to do it – which invoked the inevitable question at times like this – “Hey Dad… Can I borrow some dosh…??
My first purchases (with mum and dad’s money) were an even dozen food grade “Nally” plastic grape bins. To my mind these are ideal fermenters. They have a great surface area to volume ratio, are small light and ‘plastic-y’ for easy handling and compared to stainless steel, cheap as chips. I managed to pick up through means both devious and clever sixteen food grade plastic thousand litre ‘plasticons’ for an absolute song. With these cheap purchases, I was well on the way to having the making of my small winery. Next I turned my thoughts towards separating the grapes from the stems.
Paul Lindner (Now Chief Winemaker at his families ‘Langmeil Winery) and I had been kicking around an idea on how to get the grapes into the fermenter with the minimum of handling. The idea was to crush directly into the top of the fermenter. Although Paul and I (and many others) had been forking grapes through the top of the de-stemmer into the fermenter for years, we wanted to take it one step further and do it out in the vineyard. Basically it took away the need to fork and left all the piles of stalks out in the vineyard where they could go back to the vines. With remarkably little planning and an ‘adapt as we build’ philosophy (and around 10 cartons of Coopers Pale Ale) Paul and I put together a successful ‘contraption’. It started with a second hand 5 tonne an hour Zambelli de-stemmer with the crushing rollers chucked away and the bottom cut off. We cut and welded together a frame, mounted the de-stemmer on top and added the front carriage from an old forklift which carries the fermenting bins underneath. The whole unit fits on the three point linkage on the back of a tractor and is all driven by the tractor’s PTO shaft. It does everything I initially wanted and more, because we can hand or machine pick directly into our fermenters out in the field!
Since those humble ‘shed built’ beginnings – 9 or so years ago I have made it a little personal mission to try something new every year. Each year I have made a little more in both quantity and in variety. Evolving my techniques as well as my craft – each year striving to be better at what I do than the last. I reached my glass ceiling after I managed to hand process 100 odd tonnes by myself in 2011. In the lead up to 2012 vintage, I finally cracked and admitted that I just couldn’t keep on doing it alone and my by now indispensable ‘right arm’, Matt Pfeiffer joined me at the Mt Lehmo wine forge. This year -2014 – as I sit and write these words during Easter Matt and I are putting the last few batches of vintage to bed. Together we have crafted the Golden Scrumpy made with Golden Delicious Apples (Fruit by Glyndon Flavel from Forest Range in the Adelaide Hills) Semillon and Riesling (Fruit by John and Karina Schaefer Long Gully Road Angaston) – The Eden Edge Blend of Semillon and Riesling (Fruit by John and Karina Schaefer Long Gully Road Angaston) – The Eden Valley Riesling (Fruit by Mick and Dell Hearnden Eden Valley)- The Long Gully Road Semillon Ancient Vine (Fruit by Steve and Bec Falland, Long Gully Road Angaston) – The Brother’s Ilk Chardonnay (Fruit by Jan and Theo Moskos, Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills), Red Rosé (Fruit by ME Lehmann Stonewell Hill, Kevin Bartsch in, Langmeil and Soul Growers at Seppeltsfield) – Blocker’s Road Pinot Noir (Fruit by Phil and Mary Broderick Basket Range in the Adelaide Hills) – Grenache (Fruit by ME Lehmann Stonewell, Steve Martin and Robert Lafort Light Pass) – Merlot (Fruit by ME Lehmann Tanunda) – Mataro (Fruit by ME Lehmann Stonewell) – Shiraz (Fruit by DF and NK Lehmann and ME Lehmann Stonewell and Tanunda) – Petit Verdot (Fruit by ME Lehmann Stonewell and Red Art in Nuriootpa) – Cabernet Sauvignon (Fruit by Fruit by DF and NK Lehmann and ME Lehmann Stonewell and Tanunda and Red Art in Nuriootpa).
So there you are… david Franz at a glance… well sort of I guess. Enjoy the fruits of our labours it is as honest as it is delicious and each wine is made to last.
Cheers, david Franz Lehmann – Vigneron – Winemaker – Artisan.