Kim Longbottom was pregnant with her daughter Margo in 1998 when Kim co-founded Australia’s Henry’s Drive Vignerons with her husband Mark.
Twenty-one years later, that daughter joins the company as her mother’s new business partner. It’s a celebration of family and skill, along with a moment of memory for Mark Longbottom. Kim’s husband tragically passed away a decade ago from leukemia, after which Kim single-handedly ran the family’s winery and brands.
A mother’s triumph has turned into a daughter’s legacy. As Margo joins Kim at the head of the family vineyards, the company has shifted into a new venture known as Vintage Longbottom.
“When I turned 50, I decided that I wanted to make wines that my daughter likes to drink,” Kim says. (The drinking age in Australia is 18.) “I knew it was time for the next generation, time to bring her in.”
This next chapter also moves the company’s focus from its traditional home in the South Australian Padthaway region to the trendy winemaking areas of McLaren Valley and Adelaide Hills.
The grapes will change, but the house style will not. Fans of Kim’s work will continue to recognize her family’s trademark flavors of mint and black olive.
The company’s Henry’s Drive series will maintain its ripe, rich style. But these are not the “fruit bombs” of price-driven Australian brands, of course, but complex wines that balance fruit-forward flavors with tannin and oak.
“A lot of Australian wines tend to be overripe,” Kim says. “We try to be fresh and lively on the palate.”
Working with her daughter Margo, Kim has launched a label redesign for her “H” Series Wines. They now have a patchwork look, contemporary and refined. That matches that label’s distinctive style.
“These are more elegant wines, more sophisticated,” Kim explains. “I always think that wine should look like how it will taste, both in color and in packaging.”
Imported by Quintessential Wines, the latest vintages available in America include “H” Series 2019 Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99), “H” 2018 Chardonnay ($29.99), “H” 2017 Syrah ($29.99), Henry’s Drive 2017 Shiraz ($49.99), Henry’s Drive 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend ($49.99) and Henry’s Drive 2017 Magnus Shiraz ($79.99).
A number of these wines still contain fruit from Padthaway as the company transitions towards new vineyards.
Vintage Longbottom also marks their new venture with an expansion onto the shelves of Whole Foods. This is yet another indication of how far Australian wines have come in the U.S. market since the dominant days of Yellow Tail.
“I’ve seen a lot of change with consumers here since Australian wine first broke into the U.S. market,” says Kim. “Six-or-eight years ago, you would walk into a store and overhear consumers say of Australian wine, ‘What do you have that’s under $15?’ That’s all U.S. consumers wanted from Australia. Now you see stores with sections that are 100% Australian, and we’re on the lists of the best steakhouses in Manhattan.”
“People are open to new Australian wines,” she adds. “They understand the elegance, the regions, and the subtleties.”
Subtlety is the ideal word to use when tasting through the latest releases from both the “H” Series and Henry’s Drive. There’s delicate art to balancing these bold aromas with elegant palates — blending a balanced complexity of floral and fruit. It’s a statement of excellence in Kim’s handiwork, now continued with the help of Margo.
“You have to have authentic wines with authentic stories,” Kim says. “You can’t have one or the other. You have to have both.”
With mother and daughter now side-by-side, Vintage Longbottom would seem well positioned for authentic wines and inspiring stories, long into the future.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his piece Previewing the 2019 Kim Crawford Vintage.