Jackson Family Wines Buys Historic Australian Vineyard

California company acquires Hickinbotham’s Clarendon property in McLaren Vale
Feb 2, 2012

The Hickinbotham Vineyard at Clarendon, the source of some of Australia’s finest Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, now has an American owner. Jackson Family Wines has announced its purchase of the 445-acre McLaren Vale property. The sale comprises 207 planted acres on rolling hillsides, some steep and wooded, and two architecturally significant homes. Although no purchase price was announced, industry sources estimate it was more than $10 million.

“It says something that an iconic American wine company wants to have a stake in Australia and in the Clarendon Hills,” said David Hickinbotham, who managed the family vineyard. The family put it up for sale after the death in 2010 of Alan Hickinbotham, David’s father, who bought the estate several decades ago and greatly expanded the plantings. “We had six offerings and we all agreed that this was the best fit,” David told Wine Spectator.

Although grapes from the vineyard have found their way into such iconic wines as Penfolds Grange and Hardys Eileen Hardy, the Clarendon Hills winery most famously put a spotlight on it. Proprietor Roman Bratasiuk, who labeled single-vineyard Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings as Hickinbotham Vineyard, will continue to have rights to the same portions of the vineyard under terms of the sale to Jackson. “They didn’t have to do that,” Hickinbotham noted, “but they agreed to honor what was a handshake agreement for the past 15 years.”

Jackson’s portfolio of high-end wine brands, mostly in California, also includes Yangarra Park, a 420-acre wine estate less than two miles from Clarendon. Yangarra winemaker Peter Fraser will make the Clarendon wines in that facility, which was modernized in 2009.

“We envisage a separate label that will be a single-vineyard designate from the estate, linked to Clarendon and the Hickinbotham heritage,” said Fraser. “We feel that our two distinctive vineyards will express the many facets of this region through single-vineyard wines, and show the world we can make unique and expressive wines with a great sense of place.”

One of the first vineyards planted at elevation in South Australia, Clarendon Vineyard was established in 1858 and sits between 600 to 800 feet. It has both dry-grown vines, some of which where planted in 1923, and modern irrigated vineyards.

The estate includes an 8,000-square-foot stone mansion, built in 1995 for Alan by the prominent architect Rob Cheesman. David lived in the smaller Earth Shelter House, designed by the celebrated German architect Gerhard Schurer in 1981 and built into a hillside. Jackson plans to convert both to hospitality houses for guests.

Although the Hickinbothams sold their 1,700-acre Paringa vineyard in the Murray River region last year for some $8 million, they still own a 400-acre vineyard in the Currency Creek appellation, about an hour’s drive south of Clarendon. David Hickinbotham kept the Paringa wine label and continues to produce the wines. He is also a partner with winemaker Chris Ringland in the 3 Rings brand.

Katie Jackson, daughter of the company’s late founder Jess Jackson and current chairwoman Barbara R. Banke, will be responsible for the Clarendon property. “We see more interest in Australia wines, especially at the high-quality end,” Jackson told Wine Spectator. “My father always taught me that it’s all about the vineyard, and this was a great opportunity to add a special one.

Jackson worked the harvest last year at Yangarra. “I know how beautiful that area is and how great the wines can be,” she said. “I have high hopes.”

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