Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia

Meet the Characters: Nick Toy, Feathertop

As Feathertop’s Head Winemaker, Nick Toy has his work cut out for him. In their “patch of paradise” in the Ovens Valley beneath Mount Buffalo, he oversees production of 22 varietals and over 50 clones on a modest 50 acres. “Obviously it adds some real diversity and challenges to my role, which I really love,” Nick says. “I make about 25 different wines each year and they’re all in very small volumes; all hand-picked, handcrafted wines.” But then, Feathertop has never been about doing things the easy way.

The winery was the outcome of a single-minded quest by its founder Kel Boynton. “He spent years looking for what he believed to be the perfect growing conditions in Australia, and he was willing to go anywhere,” Nick says. Kel found it in Victoria’s Alpine Valleys, transforming a blackberry-choked patch into the area’s first commercial winery in 1988.

Kel’s instincts bore fruit, with the region’s sunny days and crisp nights offering extended ripening periods and grapes with complexity. “Its growing conditions are definitely its greatest asset,” says Nick, who joined seven years ago. From the outset Kel favoured alternative varietals, letting traditional blenders such as Petit Verdot and Pinot Meunier shine. Over the years, he and Nick have introduced sub-Alpine European vines including Friulano, Vermentino and Savagnin, applying a hands-on approach that respects the fruit’s characteristics. “The ethos I live and die by here is that I love the individual varieties and clones to be able to express themselves,” says Nick. “We’re learning about them all the time and that’s one of the most exciting things – there’s no rulebook for this.”