From humble beginnings in 1948, Paul Conti Wines has become one of WA’s most reputable and respected boutique, family-owned wineries. Located only 30 minutes north of Perth, the Woodvale property, which now houses a modern winery and restaurant, was the original homestead of Carmelo (aka Charlie) and Rosa Conti who, in 1927, immigrated to Australia from a small town in their homeland of Sicily.
The Conti’s raised eight children in the beautiful stone house which has since been converted into a fine dining restaurant, however the property was once the hub of a rural self-sufficient lifestyle. Based on black, fertile swampy soils the conditions were ideal for growing vegetables, planting an orchard and of course nurturing vines.
Cheese and milk, (thanks to the resident cow), pasta, sausages and of course wine were all produced at the property. Today, small historic reminders remain with the old fruit and olive trees still growing strong.
In 1948, Charlie began expanding the modest vineyard to cater to a growing domestic market. The original cellar located directly beneath the family home and which remains today, was dug out by two of the Conti brothers by horse (a stubborn creature, but fondly remembered as Mary) and scoop.
It was from this time onward that a then, young Paul learnt the traditional art of wine making and decades later, became an industry pioneer in his own right.
“It has always been our mission to produce full flavoured, elegant wines that reflect the unique qualities of the regions where our fruit is grown.” Paul Conti.
From 1968 Paul began upgrading the small winery and became the first vigneron to produce premium bottled wine from Tuart soils (a direct result of Tuart trees grown along the coastal strip where the vineyards are located). Early success was achieved with his award winning Mariginiup Hermitage [now called shiraz], an exclusive wine still made from the original vines planted on the Mariginiup vineyard in 1958.
Chief Winemaker & Proprietor
Considered a pioneer of the WA wine establishment, Paul Conti has witnessed much evolution in the wine world since the beginning of his career. In the late 1960s there were few wineries based in Western Australia. It was at this time Paul released his award winning Mariginiup Hermitage [now called shiraz] – a wine still produced from old non-irrigated shiraz vines planted in 1958.
As a young vigneron he established a small family business selling bulk wines to European migrants, however in 1968 foundations were laid for an upgraded modern winery and the first premium bottled wines were created.
With a huge heart and passion for wine, he has assisted many first-time winemakers along the way who have inevitably taken the road to success.
Paul’s track record has seen him reign as president for the WA Wine Industry Association, judge at the Perth Royal Show, member of the Perth Royal Show Wine Show Committee, past councillor and dedicated rotarian as well as being one of the founding contributors to the unforgettable crazy and hedonist event of the 70s – the ‘Wine Festival’. One has to wonder whether Paul had time to make wine at all!
A keen aficionado of vintage cars (and all things vintage actually), Paul retains an active involvement with the ‘Variety Club Bash’ where he regularly showcases his beloved bright yellow, 1948 Humber Super Snipe aptly named ‘Passion Lips’.
A former Jack Mann Medalist Paul is renowned locally as a “full-bodied” wine maker – his wines display great gusto and intensity, combined with elegance and wonderful full fruit on the palate – his big, flavoursome reds and fruit driven whites have become his trade mark throughout the industry.
Today, Paul can enjoy the fruits of his labour through third generation and son Jason Conti, now the full-time winemaker at the family estate.
Back in the depths of the winery among stainless steel tanks and damp concrete, Jason is the quiet achiever with big dreams.
It’s true – winemaking is in the genes. From embryonic beginnings, Jason was destined to occupy his time in the wonderful world of wine. Amongst a list of passions, including pasta, his drum kit and surfing, wine most definitely rules supreme – oh, and of course his four gorgeous children get top billing!
Jason studied wine marketing at South Australia’s notable Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1988 and occupied full time work at the family winery in 1991 gaining hands on experience through his father’s watchful eye. Paul has gradually taken a step back and in 1998 Jason embraced the role of full-time winemaker.
His winemaking style is on the edge of radical in comparison to his father’s traditional winemaking methods. Jason was inspired to produce a traditional methode champenoise sparkling shiraz after his first ever ‘Rockford’s’ experience back in his Roseworthy College days. His own bubbly has since been named in honour of the late adored family cat – ‘Nero’ – a jet black Burmese/Siamese feline with a killer personality to-boot.
With a very hands-on approach, he owes a lot of gratitude to mentors such as Dorham Mann – one of Perth’s leading winemaking pioneers, and of course, his father. Keen to experiment with different varieties and always keeping a close eye on consumer trends he is careful to retain the renowned Conti style of rich, smooth, full-bodied, fruit driven wines – with a modern twist thrown in for good measure.
Jason’s credits include being associate judge at the Perth Royal Show, Tasmanian Wine Show, The Mount Barker Show and the Sheraton Perth Wine Awards. He also maintains great memories of his first European vintage in the Rhone Valley in 1995 and consequently a stimulating vintage season at a boutique winery in southern Tuscany followed.
Proprietor and heart of business
They say that behind every successful man is his wife and in this case the saying definitely rings true.
Anne is the ‘engine room’ so to speak, and a woman who wears many hats, from being mother of two, dedicated house wife, babysitter and grandmother, avid rose lover, business – crisis – and cellar door manager, chief accounts manager and creator of the best pasta sauce in town – Anne however, prefers to remain quietly and modestly behind the scenes, ensuring every last detail of the business is managed to perfection.
Those who visit the cellar door are likely to find her tending to paper work, or selling a bottle of Conti’s. Her saving grace is her subscription to Gourmet Traveller and Vogue Entertaining & Travel which keep her in touch with the outside culinary world!
We’d be utterly lost without her and love her dearly. Guaranteed she’s counting the days before she can retire to a Tuscan villa for a relaxing year or two – which she deserves!
Berlinda came into the family business a little later in her career with aspirations to make positive changes to the branding and public profile of the winery. One such objective was to upgrade the family’s wine labels which was a direct inspiration from living in Tuscany in 1998.
Realising the importance of supporting a good product with equally stylish packaging, the resultant labels were modelled on the traditional elegance of the styles prevalent throughout Italy combined with subtle contemporary features that fit within the Australian ethos.
Her influence has helped raise the profile of the estate and among other projects, she oversaw a refurbishment and branding project for the family restaurant in 2002.
While she ultimately concentrates on a freelance career in public relations, Berlinda’s commitment to the family business and its social media and online presence, remains close. A true Conti through-and-through, her passions revolve around good food and wine, great travel experiences and strong ties with family and friends.