Luke McGaghey, Bill Crowe and Aaron Harper are behind Three Lads wine.
Luke McGaghey, Bill Crowe and Aaron Harper are behind Three Lads wine. Photo: Graham Tidy

Alexandra Back

It took two childhood buddies and one experienced winemaker to create Canberra's newest wine label, the eponymous Three Lads.

Working together to create a wine was a natural progression for public servants Luke McGaghey, 30, and Aaron Harper, 41. The pair, who met at church in Canberra nearly 20 years ago, are wine "enthusiasts" who started hosting their own tasting nights after fielding more than one desperate call from friends at the bottle shop.

"We might do a Barossa night, and we'll do all the reading and all the homework, which is the wine nerd in us," McGaghey said. "We appreciated how exciting it was when you'd have a "wine moment" ... where you're sitting there going, I remember the first time I understood chardonnay. I never liked it but then 'boom' someone opened an amazing chardonnay and 'bang' you have a wine moment."

Things got more serious when one weekend of touring around Canberra brought them to the door at Four Winds Vineyard and they met the third "lad". The vineyard's new winemaker Bill Crowe, 35, had barely unpacked after spending 10 years in California's Napa Valley, but the three bonded over shared interests in skiing and the outdoors, and McGaghey and Harper invited Crowe to one of their tastings.

There was soon a productive collaboration in place where McGaghey and Harper would help build Crowe's vineyard, prune the vines and harvest the grapes in exchange for Crowe's winemaking knowledge and eventually access to the equipment needed to make their own wine.

Three Lads made their first batch of 100 cases in 2013, doubled that in 2014 and then doubled it again in 2015. It took almost that time to decide on the name.

"Probably one of the hardest aspects of winemaking I found was picking a label," McGaghey said.

They wanted something that said they were serious about making wine. But they also wanted a label that would speak to younger people who might be intimidated by the culture that surrounds it. "It's just three lads and that's what we are, we're mates, mates making wine."

Theirs was a whole of Canberra approach that went beyond using the local district grapes. It was important to the "lads" to also register the business here too, and be part of a developing food and wine culture in the capital.

"It's just such an exciting time to be a Canberran," McGaghey said, adding that support from others in Canberra came freely while the two newcomers were learning.

"Being able to call up guys like Alex McKay (Collector Wines) or Nick O'Leary, all the guys at Eden Road, these guys are seasoned experienced, award winning winemakers and ... [they're] happy to take a call, happy to help you out. It's an amazing place to have access to that calibre of individual, it's really unique to Canberra."

Three Lads wines will include a Canberra district shiraz, a riesling, a rose and a sangiovese.

The wine will be available in a select few bars and restaurants, including New Acton's A-Baker, but otherwise can be ordered online through the Three Lads wine club.

Three Lads launches on October 7 at Pulp Kitchen.