Duncan McGillivray made a success of Two Dogs, an Australian brand of alcoholic lemonade, and a chain of brewpubs in Australia. When he sold it all to Pernod-Ricard in 1995, he finally had enough money to do what he always wanted: plant a vineyard and make wine.
His Longview Vineyards wines are finally becoming more widely available in the U.S., and they are darned good values. They sell for $20 or less, and I have consistently rated them in the 90-point range.
I interviewed McGillivray in Los Angeles last week. He was on his way home to Australia. I was in L.A. to review some restaurants. We met in a bar at a hotel near the airport.
McGillivray, 60, grew up in Coonawarra, one of Australia's premium wine regions, and was in the same class at Roseworthy (Australia's answer to UC Davis) with Brian Croser, who went on to found Petaluma. So he had the wine bug early on. It just took him a while to do something about it. The catalyst came when Pernod-Ricard put him on the board of Orlando-Wyndham, its Australian wine company. Seeing the wine business from the inside gave him the idea for Longview Vineyards.
It's a unique format. McGillivray owns 240 acres of vineyard in Adelaide Hills, alongside a cattle farm, a restaurant and a country inn. He has no winery. Instead, he contracts the winemaking to a roster that includes some of the area's top talent, and has them make the wines in their own facilities. This allows him to price the wines at $20 and under, remarkable for wines that good.
"I wanted people who really love to work with a particular grape," he said. "If you look around, you know which winemakers have a preference for what."
Martin Shaw of Shaw & Smith, known for its Chardonnay, makes the Chardonnay. O'Leary and Walker, who specialize in Riesling, make the Riesling. Chris Ringland of Rockford in Barossa, who leans toward serious reds, handles the Shiraz, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Christian Canute of Rusden, one of the bad-boy young winemakers in Barossa, makes the Block Series, reserve wines that will sell for a bit more when they are released next year.
McGillivray says he is just doing what he did with Two Dogs. In fact, the name Longview is a secret reference to that brand, which makes its U.S. product in Longview, Texas. In his mind, he's just transferring the same idea to wine. The experiment seems to be working.
"I learned as a brewer with plants in 47 countries that you must rely on other people who know what they're doing and can understand what you want," he said. "So, Longview reminds me of that. Also, when you plant your own vineyard, you have to take the long view."
Currently, Longview produces 25,000 cases of wine and sells about half its grapes to Foster's. McGillivray expects to increase his own production to 40,000 cases within three or four years. If he can ramp it up and keep the quality and prices where they are, Longview will be a wine label to watch.