When Michael Unwin established his winery Michael Unwin Wines at Windermere, just outside of Lucas, he was adamant that he wanted to plant Christmas trees on the land. “Some people hate pine trees,” Michael says. “But I love them. They grow and re-grow quickly, they support the health of the soil and they play a big part in the ecosystem.” Mycorrhiza, Michael goes on to explain, is a symbiotic association between a green plant, like a pine tree, and fungus; the tree feeds the fungus and the fungus feeds the tree. “All of that aside,” he adds, “There’s just something nice about how Christmas trees look, smell and feel.”
It's the real Christmas tree look, smell and feel that Mike wants to provide to his customers this December. Since purchasing the property at Windermere, Mike has planted approximately twenty-thousand native and exotic plants and trees, including around four-thousand Christmas trees. “We have Christmas trees in all different sizes,” he said. “We have some that are quite small and compact that might suit a smallish space. There’s also some large Christmas trees that would look beautiful in a home with a high ceiling.”
And shopping for a Christmas tree has never been so much fun. “We always have a wide variety of wines available to taste in the cellar door,” Mike says. “While getting the Christmas tree and some Christmas presents, why not treat yourself to a tasting or two at the same time?”
Mike is even happy for his customers to return their Christmas trees to the winery in the New Year. “I’ll add them to the compost pile,” Mike says, proudly pointing to one of the compost heaps that amasses approximately 100 tonnes of green and food waste, paper and organic material.
But it’s not just living Christmas trees that Mike and his team will have available for the festive season. They are currently bottling the renowned Tattooed Lady Muscat into unique Christmas-tree shaped bottles. “We’ve done these in previous years and they are always really popular,” Cellar Door Manager, Sarah Cuthbertson said. “They make a great present on their own or can be a fantastic addition to a to a gift hamper. They look really effective as decorations on the Christmas table too!” The Tattooed Lady Muscat is an intense, sweet wine with flavours of dried fruit and spices, making it perfect for Christmas celebrations. “It’s a warming dessert wine,” Sarah explains, “But you can actually pop it in the fridge and serve it cold too.”
Whether people visit Michael Unwin Wines to purchase a pine Christmas tree or a Muscat Christmas tree, Mike, Sarah and the team always love to do a good deal for locals. “Buy enough wine to get you through the silly season and you might just get a Christmas tree thrown in for free,” Sarah laughs.
Locals supporting locals has become more important than ever for Michael Unwin Wines. Through the pandemic they missed seeing a lot of their Melbourne clientele and customers who would normally stop on enroute when travelling between the city and the South West regions. “We’ve been really fortunate to have had continued support from Ballarat people, especially families so close by in Lucas and Cardigan Village.” Mike and his wife Cat employ a small team of staff who do everything from planting, pruning and harvesting the vines right through to bottling, packaging, wholesaling and selling from the cellar door at Windermere.
“We’re really excited to welcome visitors back to the winery and cellar door, and we’re always pleased to see our regular local customers too.” Mike says, smiling. “Obviously, December and January are always a celebratory time and this year, possibly even more so. If we can help families celebrate with a good deal on wine and-or Christmas trees, we will.”
The Christmas Trees and Christmas Muscat Bottles will be available from early December from the cellar door, while stocks last. Michael Unwin Wines is located at 10 Powells Road Windermere, just five minutes’ drive from Lucas Town Centre. They are open seven days a week.
Story by Naomi Irvin