Koombahla by name and magnificent by nature, it doesn’t get any better than sipping under the shade of Australia’s largest brittle gum makes the perfect spot for sipping.
At Darling Estate, the specialties are Riesling, Bordeaux variety reds and – surprisingly – a unique tree that stands guard over the vines that grow your tipple.
“It’s a majestic tree. It hints at how rich and fertile the land is when you see a tree that’s several hundred years old and more than 42 metres high,” says John Darling. “My father, Guy, called the property Koombahla (an Aboriginal word for ‘gum tree’) when he bought it back in 1970.” John Darling says. “It’s a majestic tree. It hints at how rich and fertile the land is when you see a tree that’s several hundred years old and more than 42 metres high.”
The brittle gum (Eucalyptus mannifera) had always been admired, but it wasn’t until a botanist happened to visit the farm that they realised just how special it is. “He suggested the tree was worth registering with the National Trust,” John says. “We put in the forms and it was registered as a Tree of National Significance. There’s a brittle gum at the old Mayday Hills hospital in Beechworth that they thought was the biggest in the country, until our tree was registered.”
The girth measurement of 6.7 metres revealed the Koombahla tree, as it’s come to be known, as the largest of its kind in Australia. “The brittle gum is usually found in Canberra and southern New South Wales, which is a bit odd because there are no others around here,” John says. “The one in Beechworth is the nearest one we know of.”
The Koombahla tree has become the symbol of not just the Darling Estate wines, but the family itself. Guy’s ashes were sprinkled at the base of the tree after his death in 2008 and many family events have been held under its branches. “We held the launch of the winery under the tree in the ‘80s,” John recalls. “A whole lot of guests and media were trying wines – we started with some cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay – and admiring the tree.”
“It’s a nice connection to the farm and where we live,” adds John, whose family has been farming in the King Valley for four generations.
And if you want to see the magnificent tree for yourself, John invites all visitors: “Come and taste some wine and I’ll take you out to see the tree.”