In 2017 the famous Sally’s Paddock vineyard celebrates 45 years, and in that time the building of a family obsession like no other; just like their famous Sally’s Paddock vineyard, the Robb family have their own roots planted deep in the Pyrenees soil.
With Neill’s father establishing the first Pyrenees winery, Chateau Remy (now Blue Pyrenees), in the early 1960s, Neill Robb shares a unique, passionate and life-long connection with the region and its exceptional winemaking potential. Now his daughter Sasha, a third-generation Pyrenees winemaker, continues the tradition by his side.
Brought up the wine industry, the son of pioneering Pyrenees winemaker John Robb, Neill entered the field himself in 1968. After experience with Berri Coop, Hardys and Remy Martin, Neill moved to establish Redbank Winery as owner/winemaker in 1973, at a parcel of hilly land on the Sunraysia Highway near the town of Redbank. Here, Neill and Sally’s three children Emily, Huw and Sasha, were raised.
Neill made his first Redbank wines in 1976. After hard work from both Neill and his wife Sally (the vineyard and winery’s namesake), the 1979 Sally’s Paddock vintage was made at the newly opened Redbank Winery—the first of many wonderful wines. Just like the winery through its 40 years, the building itself boasts a proud and intricate history. Built from recycled hand-made bricks (bearing the thumbprints of their maker), imposing wooden beams extend across the ceiling, while the rear section of the winery was built in later years with mud bricks sourced from the earth where the lake and island lie today. Resting on solid quartz stone, the winery is an iconic building, home to a series of iconic wines, and provides a fabulous ambience to taste the wines and also enjoy Sally’s delicious hand made dishes at the Flying Pig Deli.
The vineyards surrounding the winery (45 acres in total) produce small crops of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Malbec. These impressive, non-irrigated vines are cared for individually and grapes are hand-picked and hand-pressed (a level of care not often afforded in today’s competitive wine industry), producing wines of wonderful complexity and depth.
Alongside the Sally’s Paddock wines, Neill’s winemaking career demonstrates a similar story of authenticity and achievement. Extensive judging at major capital city and regional wine shows in the ’70s and ’80s led to great insights into wine development, and Neill released his wines outside Australia in 1984, exporting for the first time to the United Kingdom. As Chief Consultant to Dongni Winery in Qingdao, China, from 1997, further depth of knowledge was gained, while his Sally’s Paddock brand became synonymous with ultra-premium Australian wine.
Sally’s Paddock is proudly listed as ‘Distinguished’ on the Langton’s Classification of Distinguished Australian Wine, and has been listed in their catalogue since its inception. Langton’s Classification is now a cornerstone of the ultra-fine Australian wine market, and is based on the actual buying patterns of their clients (over 6,000 active members). Thus, it transcends personal agendas, pompous glorifications and endless accolades to truly present a selection of Australia’s best wines.
Today at Sally’s Paddock Neill is understudied by daughter Sasha, who also has winemaking experience overseas, namely in California’s Sonoma Valley. Despite Sasha’s modern winemaking education, Neill still contributes on a day to day basis, and the wines continue to reflect his distinctive style. Despite endless challenges, the development of the Sally’s Paddock institution has extended over 40 years and will continue into the future, while the winery continues to operate on the principles of those early days—producing exceptional quality, handmade, estate-grown reds.