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The Best Family

Joseph and Henry Best immigrated to Australia as children from Surrey, England in 1834, eventually setting in Melbourne where they were schooled at St James. In the 1850s, the brothers moved west to Ararat, Victoria during the Victorian Gold Rush. The Best’s saw more profit in looking after the miner’s requirements (rather than competing with them to find gold), so they formed a butchery business supplying meat to the goldfields.

The brothers noted the early success of the first wine growers in the district. In 1865, Joseph planted some vines with cuttings from the original St Peters vineyard nearby; while in 1866, Henry established his own vineyard a couple of miles to the west, named after the Concongella Creek. Henry planted 73 acres of vines with about two miles of frontage along the creek and named the property Concongella.

While his knowledge of wine was minimal, Henry’s capacity for work was enormous and his project flourished. He built the original winery and underground cellars, using the skilled labour of local gold miners; both are still in use today. He made himself a wine press from a tree trunk, a wooden lever thirty feet long and two feet in diameter fixed to two upright posts. He also excavated a large egg shaped pit underground which he faced with cement and covered to make his storage vat.

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Henry Best’s daily journal, dating from 1866, is still on display at our Great Western cellar door and shows his meticulous attention to detail, experimentation and desire to find the best grape varieties for his vineyard. 

After Henry's death, his son Charles sold the enterprise in 1920 to second generation local vigneron Frederick P. Thomson.

Viv Thomson, Frederick’s son, talks about some of the early history of Best’s in this short video.