Accessible any time.
Starting from the Merbein Rotary Lookout at the top of the white cliffs, which are a unique geological feature and the district’s highest point, to the right are Victoria’s first Government-owned irrigation pumps, and the left is Pioneer Plantation – through which you can follow Blandowski Walkway.
The walk passes the distillery/winery that was established by WB Chaffey in 1913 and where he died in 1926. The original Mildura Distillery is heritage-listed. The sandstone walk takes you to the internationally-recognised scientist’s campsite of 1857, known as Chaffey Landing.
As soon as the settlement of Merbein was established in 1909, WB Chaffey built a distillery on a cliff top overlooking the Murray River. Mildura Winery Pty Ltd was formed a year later, with WB elected Chairman. His son, William Herbert Chaffey, was elected Secretary/Manager.
Sadly, WB died in 1926 while on his rounds at Merbein.
This fortified brandy and spirit trade disappeared during World War Two. After the war, Mildura Winery Pty Ltd prospered, with Mildara Brandy winning show awards and being bottled in increasing quantities. Supreme Dry Sherry and Chestnut Teal also become nationally known. The 1950s saw major changes for Chateau Mildura, with all grape intake, winemaking and distillation centralised to Merbein. Chateau Mildura had customised vats installed and became Mildara’s main Sherry production base.
In June 1961 the company changed its name to Mildara Wines Limited. WH Chaffey retired in 1962, with Syd Wells appointed to succeed him. Mildara Wines Limited acquired Wolf Blass Wines Limited in 1991 and the company’s name changed to Mildara Blass Limited. 1998 was the last year of Sherry production and Chateau Mildura served as a storage facility until its sale in 2002.
In 1996, the Foster’s Group purchased Mildara Blass. When Foster’s acquired Beringer Wine Estate in 2000, the company then became known as Beringer Blass in 2001. In 2005, the Foster’s Group sold the Mildara site to McGuigan Simeon and it is now known as ‘Australian Vintage’.
DID YOU KNOW
This lookout is the highest point in the district. Connecting walking tracks reveal areas known as ‘The Common’ and sites of early Merbein sporting activities.
The Mildara Blass Distillery, including the distillery, brandy store, boiler house, cask store and water tower have state significance, and are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (Number H1099).
WHAT IS HERE TODAY
The cairn at this site commemorates Captain Charles Sturt, who travelled by a whaleboat along the river for the first time in January 1830. Sturt was on his way to the junction with the Darling River and then the Murray River mouth. He made the return journey in March.
To the right is a walking track to one of the first government-built Pumping Stations (1909), which still lifts the water 90 feet (approximately 25 metres) to supply the district properties with a gravity irrigation system.
To the left is a walking track that takes you through a Pioneer plantation, passing the historic Mildara Winery/Distillery on the left, established by WB Chaffey in 1913, following the success of Chateau Mildura (1888). This is the place where he died in 1926. The Distillery/Bond Store area is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
The riverfront area below is known locally as ‘Chaffey Landing’. It was here that barrels of spirit were loaded onto paddle steamers bound for the river port of Morgan in South Australia.
This site was also a key part of Merbein’s earliest history. In 1857, German explorer, natural scientist and artist William Blandowski, and his assistant Gerard Krefft, camped here for seven months collecting specimens of flora and fauna on behalf of the Colony of Victoria. The local Aboriginal people, who knew the area as ‘Mondellimin’, assisted the men.
This area was also the site of housing during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Known then as ‘Bagtown’, many local families lived here in makeshift housing until they could afford to move into the township.