"I always enjoyed being involved in the vineyards growing up and dad was a strong competitor in the pruning competitions. They had junior sections so we would compete as well, it was a family outing for us,” Mark said. “After I finished high school, my parents encouraged me to get a trade and gain experience working for someone else, so I did a carpentry and joinery apprenticeship."
"But then dad had a knee operation and needed someone to come back and help, so I did and never left." Mark worked alongside his dad in the vineyards until he was diagnosed with brain cancer and sadly passed away in 2014.
"Dad laid a really good foundation in the vineyards, and while I gained formal training in viticulture, I learnt a lot from him and certainly miss our joking around – he was known in our family for his ‘steel cap’ slippers in the tractor."
When Jason founded Schwarz Wine Co. in 2001, he did it buying grapes from his family’s vineyard, allowing the family to be involved in the wine process from grape to glass.
“The Thiele Road Grenache and Nitschke Block Shiraz Jason produces are single vineyard wines, using only the grapes he buys from our family’s vineyards. It’s very satisfying to see what you grow in a bottle and to have that family link,” Mark said.
"I grow mainly shiraz, cabernet and grenache. Some of the grenache is 80-years-old and with these old vines you have to be very hands on and it must be hand-picked with no machinery involved."
Mark’s dad was one of few growers to keep these grenache vines in the 1980s vine pull scheme and Jason pays homage to both his father and these vines through the Thiele Road Grenache, which was the second wine Jason made when the winery began. It is a sophisticated yet mature grenache with a savoury palate, floral aromas and is known for its ageing potential.
The Nitschke Block Shiraz also has special meaning for the family, being vines planted in 1968, the year Mark and Jason’s parents married. It’s a rich and well-structured shiraz holding a subtle elegance and elements of old and new oak.
"While we have these old vines the remaining vineyards are on a program to target certain blocks with replanting so we can keep growing the best grapes" Mark added.
With a mix of Biscay and loamy soils in the Schwarz Vineyards providing the fertile soils for distinctive and delicious wines, there’s no doubt the legacy Ian started will continue to make its way into wine glasses for generations to come.
What Mark is drinking: In the summertime it’s a white, usually a riesling, but when the weather cools, it’s shiraz, cabernet or whatever red is going.