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Mike Press adds value to Adelaide Hills

Mike and Judy Press (Photo: Mike Press Wines)

Mike Press (tastings), who sells quality Adelaide Hills wines at $15 a bottle, must cause some embarrassment in a region which is producing more and more expensive wines.

How does he do it? Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, rosé and even pinot noir – all between $13 and $16 a pop.

The answer is that he and his wife Judy work damn hard, and they run a very lean ship. There are just four employees. Mike and Judy even do their deliveries around the Adelaide area themselves. Mike’s son James is vineyard manager and Judy’s daughter Sarah O’Halloran works in sales and marketing. And they have a substantial vineyard, which means they don’t need to buy grapes. They have 23 hectares of vines in the Kenton Valley, between Lobethal and Gumeracha, and in a normal year, grow 300 tonnes of fruit. The altitude is high at 480-500 metres.

Mike is a veteran of winemaking, who has ‘been around’ for 40 years. He started out at Penfolds under Max Schubert, moved to Seppelt, and then Mildara Blass where he was chief winemaker. He planted his vineyard in 1998 with the aim of selling grapes to the big wineries, but his timing wasn’t great and Kenton Valley Vineyards came on-stream just as the ‘grape glut’ arrived. Mike and Judy soon realised they would have a lot of grapes left over unless they started making wine for themselves. The first few vintages were marketed as ‘cleanskins’, and sold out quickly every year, building something of a cult following in Adelaide.

Then the Mike Press label was born, a decision that bore fruit immediately as the media started to get excited about the wines, especially their value for money. Their wines also regularly excel at shows, especially their local, the Adelaide Hills Wine Show. Indeed, three of their wines (shiraz, cabernet and merlot) won gold the first time they ever entered a wine show.

“We sell 20,000 cases of wine a year and it all leaves from this kitchen,” says Judy.

“I don’t know any other wine company that does so many cases with three paid employees, great wines, affordable prices and is so hands-on,” says Mike.

The 2016 Mike Press Sauvignon Blanc is outstanding value at $13, less if bought online, and the 2015 shiraz and cabernet sauvignon (both $15) are likewise remarkable. My reviews of all of the current Mike Press wines are online now.

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