The final layer of stones — once strewn across the vineyard — are being crafted into a wall-come-seat to take centre stage on the silver ash deck. Inside, the parquetry floor is having a final polish, and above, the linear skylight, which doubles as a channel for rainwater capture, is being tested. Windows are being washed and the former shipping containers, which now house bespoke tasting rooms, are receiving a final inspection.
All looks good.
And it is good — for this is much more than a sophisticated upcycle; this is an architectural nod to the company’s big-picture philosophy.
“We believe the best way to make wine is to make it sustainably,” says Chris Thomas, Dowie Doole’s chief winemaker and managing director. “Our story is about our place, our terroirs and our vineyards, and I think the best way for us to represent these elements is through sustainability.
“It’s why we chose shipping containers as the main building blocks — because 80 per cent of our wine is exported around the world in them — and it’s the reason we located the cellar door within our vineyards. They’re operational, with something going on all the time, so our visitors can see what happens day to day, and it’s why you’ll drive through our iconic old Grenache bush vines before you arrive at the cellar door.
“It’s our story, and it’s our way of offering visitors an immersive experience.”
Once at cellar door, Chris says: “you’ll have 360-degree views of the vineyards, so you’ll see the terroir of the wines you are tasting them, and you will have your host explain the nuances of that wine and the reason you get the taste you do. We also offer cool stuff, like drinking a glass of Rock Paddock Shiraz while sitting on the rocks from that vineyard, and down the track there will be trails and picnic areas within the estate.”
Participating in wine flights is a must-do. It’s more than a tasting, it’s where you’ll gain insights into each wine and the story behind it. “Our aim is to offer visitors the best wine experience we can and give them the best understanding of what Dowie Doole is about,” Chris says. “We want that to be the focus of the experience.”
As well as talking to you about wine, hosts would love an opportunity to espouse their cutting edge off-grid venture. The cellar door is 100 per cent solar powered with battery storage; there’s an electric car charger station; vineyards are composted and only watered when required to maintain a healthy vine; and in winter, sheep free range to prune away leaves and fertilise the soil. No chemicals are used at all; neither in the vineyard nor in the winery.
Dowie Doole is a major partner of the McLaren Vale Biodiversity Project, where volunteers remove feral weeds across the region and replant with native species. The landscape is changing, where indigenous flora encourages the return of indigenous fauna, particularly native birds. “They have less impact on the vineyard and are better for the environment”, Chris explains. “Our holistic approach is to have native vegetation and viticulture sitting side by side.”
Unlike many major projects, Chris says from concept through to (near)-completion, everyone has been on board. “They’ve shared our vision; our architect Ollie Scholz, our builders, and the council have been fantastic to deal with. We all want the same outcome: to pass on a healthy, thriving, environment to the next generation, and the ones after that.”
Dowie Doole entrance is on California Road, McLaren Vale. Look for its 24-metre inscribed metal sign. Or if you’re walking or cycling, there’s a gate entrance off the Shiraz Trail.
For more information visit Dowie Doole.