The idea for Two Hands was born in September 1999 when founders Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz sat at a friend’s engagement party and decided it was time to make their own wine and market it on the world stage.
The original aim was, and still is, to make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized growing regions throughout Australia. With so much Australian wine being sold around the globe under multi-region labels in a formulaic style, the intention was to break the mould and showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional and vineyard characteristics by allowing the fruit to be the primary feature of the wines.
Two Hands’ first vintage was in 2000, after a modest $30k investment and starting with just 17 tonnes of fruit. The journey had started.
Michael’s wine contacts in the US and UK helped launch the brand and favourable critical reaction put Two Hands in the spotlight soon after. The early success helped Two Hands gradually increase production and venture out to launch the full Garden Series with the 2003 vintage, something truly unique in Australia. Gnarly Dudes joined its stablemate Angels’ Share in the Picture Series, and the portfolio was starting to take shape. Later that year, Michael was driving down a dusty track in the Western Ranges of the Barossa Valley and first saw the run down uninhabited cottage next to the Marananga Creek that was to become the home of Two Hands – Kraehe House. Michael’s vision was to reflect the Barossa heritage with the sandstone frontage and verandah, but create something modern and luxurious on the inside: the Cellar Door and Bakehouse opened in December 2003 just in time for Christmas and turned local hospitality on its head – anyone could walk in and taste Flagship Shiraz Ares, no matter where they were from or if they had money to spend.
Winemaking for me is a labour of love, a passion, and a craft. I have walked every vineyard, made every picking decision and tasted every individual barrel of each wine we’ve ever produced. I can’t imagine there are too many winery owners around the world that take the pursuit of quality that personally.
By the end of 2004 a state-of-the-art winery was built on the same site, specifically designed for small batch handling. To maximise the individual regional and varietal characteristics and to allow for greater quality control, every parcel of fruit, no matter how small, could be handled separately from crushing through to fermentation and oak maturation. The new winery revolutionised the winemaking capabilities and experimentation flourished, new varietals were tested, new techniques adopted, with a Cellar Door as a perfect outlet for some of the trials to test the market. As production increased, more varied sources of Shiraz from the Western Ranges in the Barossa were added to the mix and broadened the complexity and palate to choose from.
The Coach House vineyard at Greenock had already been in the fold from 2002, but the Marananga site also allowed for vineyard to be developed alongside Kraehe House, with 5 acres of Shiraz planted from 2005 for future grape supply as part of the long term goal of growing the estate. With the regionality of the Garden Series well established, the next logical step was to explore further down to the terroir of individual vineyard sites which had the X-Factor, and the Single Vineyard Series was launched. The 2005 Zippy’s Block was the first release and its introduction completed the now four-tiered portfolio.
Numerous accolades continued, including Robert Parker famously naming Two Hands ‘’the finest negociant south of the equator’’, and demand around the world surged in the following years as the wines expanded into export markets throughout Europe, Asia, North America and, of course, Australia. In November 2012, Two Hands was named in the Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 for the 10th consecutive year, an achievement without equal by any winery the world over.
Today, Two Hands is owned by Michael Twelftree, together with Colorado native Tim Hower. Tim’s love of the Barossa Valley led him to acquire several premium vineyards across the region and brought him into contact with Two Hands, culminating in his investment in February 2015. Since Tim’s involvement, Two Hands has gone on to secure additional estate vineyards, notably the Holy Grail site on Seppeltsfield Road, which is set for further vineyard development in 2016. With Michael and Tim sharing an ambitious vision for the future, Two Hands next chapter in the journey is sure to be exciting.