There were two ways of seeking fame and fortune in the Victorian gold rush decades of the second half of the 19th century. One was to buy a miner’s licence, a high risk with an occasional high return. The other was to feed hungry miners and slake their thirst with wine and/or beer.

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Brothers Joseph and Henry Best were in the latter camp, opening a butcher’s shop in Ararat. Realising it was only a question of time before the gold ran out, Joseph planted his first vines in 1862. As they grew and came into bearing, and the gold became scarcer, he employed out-of-work gold miners to excavate the massive underground drives (or cellars) of today’s Seppelt. Henry Best followed suit in 1866 by planting vines on a 30ha property he acquired at nearby Concongella Creek.

One 1.02ha experimental block had 32 varieties, including what is now the oldest pinot noir and pinot meunier in the world, but there was also a small block of 15 rows of shiraz planted in 1867.

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