And, yes.. Ben does have a vineyard
Located at Kangarilla on the edge of the McLaren Vale designated region, Piebald Gully is a recently planted patch producing fine grade Shiraz, Viognier and Petit Verdot from low yielding hand tended vines. Besides 22 vintages in Australia, Ben has presided over a further eight overseas. Experience has been gained in the Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Greece, Italy and the South of France which gives Ben a broad appreciation of wine styles and winemaking practices. A graduate of Roseworthy (in 1985), Ben has made a major contribution to regional wine industry activities having served 10 years as a board member of McLaren Vale Winemakers Inc. Three of those years saw Ben in the role of Chairman. He also chaired the McLaren Vale Wine Show over a 5-year period. Wines made by Ben have achieved considerable Wine Show Awards success including winning the first two Great Australian Shiraz Challenges. More than 20 trophies have been won and in 1993, Wirra Wirra 1991 Angelus was declared the winner of the Sydney International Top 100 wine awards.
As a winemaker, Ben achieved Bushing King status in 2000 - a unique award that recognises the maker of the best wine at the McLaren Vale Wine Show. Ben's most recent award was winning the Consumers' Award at the 2004 South Australian Hyatt Advertiser Wine of the Year Awards with his 2003 Mr Riggs Shiraz Viognier (the first release of this wine, by the way). Married to Annie with young sons, Baxter and Austin, Ben is committed to championing McLaren Vale's global Shiraz reputation, as well as exploring wine styles from other regions. It is that passion which is driving him to do things his way and showcase not just the region's greatest winegrape variety but to give a free rein to his particular winemaking and wine marketing skills.
Located at the base of the Willunga Foothills in the central part of the McLaren Vale wine region, Monapilla vineyard is virtually dry grown, as the soil has excellent water holding capacity, and the focus is very much on low yields of high quality grapes. The warm Mediterranean summer temperatures are moderated by the often-fierce gully winds, which come down from the hills in the early evening. Monapilla vineyard is a prime McLaren Vale Shiraz vineyard. Mr Riggs' very own vineyard, Piebald Gully is located in the cool subregion of Clarendon at approximately 265m, to the east of the McLaren Vale wine region. Ripening occurs at Piebald Gully sometimes up to two weeks later than in the rest of McLaren Vale, and the area averages some 30% more rainfall (700mm pa) than the rest of the district.
Angas Vineyard at Langhorne Creek is the result of the happy coming together of a group of wine industry mates who decided in 1997 that the region was a great spot for vines. Consisting mainly of floodplains, the region has fine, deep and generally fertile soils and is quite unique, in that it benefits from winter flooding from the Bremer River. Planted over fertile sandy loams, Angas Vineyard provides Mr Riggs with both Shiraz and Viognier, which has made its way into both the Viognier and the Shiraz Viognier.
The Penny's Hill vineyard departs from the McLaren Vale norm as far as vineyard set up goes. Established by Adelaide advertising man Tony Parky Parkinson and his wife Susie, the vineyards were set up by industry mogul, David Paxton, and are managed by David's off-sider, Toby Bekkers. Located in the central foothills of McLaren Vale, soils are unprepossessing, being shallow and stony, with low vigour and low moisture holding capacity. Perfect for growing high quality grapes, as it turns out.
Set up in 1987 to provide a cool climate alternative to McLaren Vale, Kuitpo vineyard is located in the southern Mount lofty ranges of the Adelaide Hills. Cooler, wetter and with a heat summation similar to areas of the Napa, Sonoma or Bordeaux, Kuitpo's average January temperature is only 19.8 deg C, as compared to that of McLaren Vale's, which is 21.7 C. This appears to be a small difference, but proves significant in grape ripening terms. Mr Riggs uses Viognier and Riesling from the Kuitpo vineyard. Viticulturist Geoff forms part of the sixth generation of the well-known Australian Hardy wine family. Breakneck Creek is adjacent to the Penny's Hill vineyard in the central foothills of McLaren vale. Planted in 1993 by respected McLaren Vale grape grower, Ian Leask, the vineyard benefits from all of the McLaren Vale climatic positives which help make McLaren Vale such a high quality wine region. The site, as with the Penny's Hill vineyard, also derives additional cooling influences from the gully winds, which spring up in the evenings and come down from the hills. By combining a high-tech water monitoring system, minimal drip irrigation and smart viticulture, these sensitive soils are a prime site for quality Shiraz, a fact Mr Riggs was very quick to recognize.
Quandong Farm is situated in the Seaview district, one of the 5 recognized subregions of McLaren Vale to the north of the region. Vines were planted on a west-facing slope in 1996. The vineyard benefits from the cooling sea breezes that come off the Gulf St. Vincent on summer afternoons even more so than the vineyards on the valley floor, in fact. Soils are shallow sandy loams over limestone. Planted to approximately 17 hectares of Shiraz, only a fraction of that is used in the Mr Riggs wines. Quandong Farm is yet another superior site for Shiraz.
Yacca Paddock was set up by film director Scott Hicks and wife Kerry Heysen Hicks to create their very own paradise in the Adelaide Hills. A cool, temperate climate, with temperatures on average 2.5 C cooler than vineyards only 5km down the road as the crow flies in McLaren Vale, this is a premium site for the Tempranillo and Riesling, which Ben uses for Mr Riggs. The site also receives considerably more rainfall than down the road an average of 850mm per annum, as compared to the McLaren Vale average of approximately 650mm. Ancient podzolic soils combine with modern viticultural tactics as well as being next door to Geoff Hardy's Kuitpo Vineyard, the vines are also managed by Geoff.