Winning team: Husband and wife celebrate success of Swan Valley’s Faber Vineyard

Faber Vineyard in the Swan Valley is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Faber Vineyard in the Swan Valley is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

JOHN Griffiths and Jane Micallef have had a 20-year love affair with the Swan Valley.

In 1997 they borrowed to establish their Faber Vineyard in the Valley.

It’s been hard work for the husband and wife team, but through their journey they have grown to love the culture of the wine growing region and have contributed to the evolution that has seen it become a highly regarded wine region.

To celebrate Faber Vineyard’s 20th anniversary celebration will be held from 11am to 5pm on Sunday, September 24 and Monday, September 25 over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. A large range of wines will be available for free tasting and wines will be available for sale by the glass. Food will be available from 11am to 4pm.

As well as live music there will be vineyard walkabouts and masterclasses throughout the day (voucher required).

When John and Jane started out they hadn’t been able to afford to build on the property, but they’ve invested heart and soul into Faber to become leaders in the Swan Valley’s wine industry.

“Energy and winemaking skill have been the two most important elements in our success,” he said.

John was a highly respected winemaker at Houghton Wines when he and Jane took a huge gamble on the Swan Valley at a time when the region’s wines were not as well regarded.

“But I’d worked in other hot areas and I had no doubt that quality wine could be made here,” he said.

The winemaking was a bit old fashioned in the Valley at the time, with hot sheds and old equipment, but the 1990s saw modernisation and there was an explosion of new wineries.

Grape varieties like the chenin blanc, verdhello, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon that were already well established in the Swan Valley were given a new lease of life.

John says he loves the character of the valley.

“I love there are all these winemakers who have been here many years, and often their father and grandfather before them, and I love the history and culture.”

John and Jane bought the property in May 1997. The first vines were planted in spring of 1998 and the first shiraz grapes harvested in February 2000. That 2000 Shiraz was released in January 2001 and quickly sold out.

The winery was built in time for the 2005 vintage and cellar door sales were opened in 2008. The barrel hall was built in 2010. The last of their land was planted to vines in 2016 and 2017 providing 11 acres in total.

Faber Vineyard has allowed John to realise his ambition to be a successful winemaker, being able to consistently make high quality wines that wine lovers enjoy again and again.

“It is a great joy to be involved in every aspect of the winemaking process, from selecting the land and planting our vines, designing and constructing and equipping our winery, making each year’s wines, developing our brand, meeting wine lovers and selling our wines. We have developed a successful business that is our home and sustains our family.

“Besides striving to make great Swan Valley wine we’ve made it our ‘thing’ to be as close to our customers as possible. From the beginning we’ve invited wine lovers to get to know Faber – who we are and how we go about our business. Originally we even invited customers into our home to taste our wines. When we did build our cellar door a few years later we modelled it on our farm-style kitchen! We still work in cellar door every weekend to ensure visitors get a chance to meet the owners.

“Jane has worked exceedingly hard on our hospitality, catering for regular wine club events that combine her hearty home style cooking with real warmth, generosity and friendliness. As a result we have a ‘tribe’ of very loyal customers who come back again and again – and not just for the wine,” John said.

John had wanted to be a winemaker since school, and after leaving school in 1981 he studied Oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural College. After learning his craft he came to Houghton Wines as winemaker in 1993. Over six years he came to know the potential of the Valley for high quality wine and got to know the Valley’s community of grape growers and winemakers.

“We are very proud to have been party to a renaissance of winemaking in the Swan Valley over the last 25 years,” he said.

John has spent eight years as president of the Wine Industry Association of WA and six years as president of the Swan Valley & Regional Winemakers Association. John has contributed throughout the state as a wine judge at Perth, Mt Barker, Swan Valley, Geographe, Margaret River and Blackwood Valley wine shows.

He was employed as Lecturer in Wine Science by Curtin University for six years, and has consulted extensively. John is proud to have trained, mentored and guided many young winemakers who have developed successful careers for themselves.

Faber Vineyard’s wines have a track record of winning awards since its earliest vintages.

Australia’s leading wine critic James Halliday recognised Faber as one of Australia’s 10 best new wineries in 2002 and one of 10 “Dark Horses” to watch out for in 2006. He rated Faber’s current release 2014 Reserve Shiraz as gold medal standard.

The 2013 West Australian Wine Guide recognised Faber as “Small Winery of the Year”. GT Wine Magazine has awarded Faber “Best Small Cellar Door” and “Best Cellar Door Tasting Experience” in the Swan Valley in 2016 and 2017.

Tickets are available from www.ticketebo.com.au/faberbirthday