It has been a long and interesting journey from Colorado in the US to the sun and surf of Margaret River, via Indonesia, for Eagle Vale Wines’ Steve Jacobs.
Like a few of its neighbours Eagle Vale enjoyed recent success in James Halliday’s 2005 Australian Wine Companion, having made the list of Australia’s top 10 new wineries.
The seed of Eagle Vale’s first vines was planted in 1995 when Mr Jacobs and his wife, Wendy, who is originally from Perth, travelled to Margaret River on holidays.
“I fell in love with Margaret River the first time I went, back in 1991, and after the trip in 1995 we looked at buying some property there,” Mr Jacobs says.
“The desire to be in Margaret River was pretty strong, and we could see the opportunities in the area so in December 1995 we bought the property.”
Before moving to the South West the couple had been living in Indonesia, where Mr Jacobs had built an industrial lubricants business.
And while this venture was a success, the passion for good wine proved more enticing.
This business in Indonesia was sold in 1997 to a large German company and the Jacobs started focusing on the development of their vineyard.
“I’m a basic entrepreneur; I never do the same thing twice but I do still have one small business in Indonesia, operating a charter boat,” Mr Jacobs says.
“We planted our first vines in September of 1998 and teamed up with Guy and Chantal (Gallienne), who look after most of the winemaking.
“In the beginning it took us a while to come up with a name for the label; it was actually about two years in the making.
“We thought about some Aboriginal names and looked into the history of the area but we thought these may be a little hard to pronounce and we wanted something that would be easy to remember.
“The name actually came from the eagles that visit our property. It was a bit of a problem at first as we had about 30 or 40 ducks on the property and they became prey for the eagles.
“We also had some guinea fowl but they were quick to adapt and learned to run away.”
“We’ve been able to create a label that has a simple elegance.”
The Eagle Vale label has taken a fairly low profile in Australia to date, with more emphasis being placed on the export market.
The Jacobs’ travels overseas helped them establish export networks, with Indonesia an obvious first choice.
“We lived in Bali which helped, but Jakarta was a little difficult to break into,” Mr Jacobs says.
“We now have a distributor in the UK who chose Eagle Vale after tasting about 200 wines, and we’re looking for a distributor in Japan.
“We’ve also just had our first shipment of wine to California, to San Francisco.”
Mr Jacobs says the Australian market has been slightly different to those overseas and the lack of brand awareness had made it difficult to justify pricing.
“The James Halliday book has been our most helpful promotion and the quality of our clientele has been better since it was published,” he says
“We’ve had some interest from the eastern States. In WA we seem to be spreading by word of mouth as well.
“We’re in a few good restaurants like Jacksons, Star Anise and Fraser’s and about 15 to 20 bottle shops here carry the label as well.”
But the boutique class is a place Mr Jacobs would like stay.
“We do have a cellar door here so we get tourists through but we also like being small and low key.”
We’re very passionate about producing quality wines, and haven’t focused on brand awareness and advertising too much.”