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A Gradual Ascent: Jayden Ong

Images: Bec Smith

Cumulus Inc. co-founder and winemaker Jayden Ong shares his top regional destinations and restaurants (spoiler alert: they’re all in Victoria) – and tells us about his upcoming wine- and paella-making experience with chef Mauro Callegari from The Independent in Gembrook.

It’s been 10 years since you first opened Cumulus Inc. Eating House and Bar with Andrew McConnell. What has been the key to maintaining its popularity over such a long period of time?

Synergy and team effort. We have great staff, suppliers and guests. Having developed our own in-house training system has been crucial. We continue to work on it, constantly evaluating our efforts and performance to make improvements. Also, the opportunity to travel and refresh the senses helps a lot.

When did your passion for wine start, and how did you learn the craft?

It has been a gradual ascent, something I continue to learn and develop. I think it stems from the satisfaction of growing something exceptional. Travelling to other parts of the world where grape growing and winemaking are an integral part of daily life also enhances my understanding, along with my university study.

Learning about wine is an ongoing, lifelong process and I’ve been fortunate to have a number of inspiring mentors along the way.

You are a proponent of the Guyot-Poussard pruning system, how did you learn about this method and what are the benefits?

I first heard about this method in Burgundy. I had seen an approach with similar objectives used in spur pruning at uni and more recently when the Simonit and Sirch presentation came to Australia. Now, viticulturist Tim Brown and a number of other notable Victorian producers are using this method and it makes a lot of sense to me. It’s about sap flux and taking care of the vine to allow it to perform well over many years.

What is another interest or passion you have that not many people know about?

One thing I am really enjoying at the moment is travelling with my father who lives and works interstate. The discussions we have about the places we go, the history and how it may relate to our family, ancestors or the people who lived there, has been inspiring and rewarding. We have recently been to Japan and Malaysia, and we are heading to China later this year.

Favourite place for breakfast, lunch and dinner in your region?

A long, relaxed breakfast at home with my wife and daughter is a real luxury. Cooking lunch outside on our custom-made open fire grill, with vegetables from our garden, and a local wine in hand, rates highly. If we are heading out, then Meletos and Oakridge in Coldstream, The Independent in Gembrook, Yarra Valley Dairy in Yering and the Healesville Hotel are fantastic local establishments.

Besides where you live and work, where is your next favourite part of regional Victoria?

Two places I really enjoy spending time are Melbourne and Wye River. Recently my wife, daughter and I took a week to explore Melbourne together – visiting the galleries, museums, parks, attending sporting events, and catching up with friends reminded us how good it is living in Victoria. Also, getting down to Wye River/Separation Creek always freshens me up. Our dogs love the beach as much as we do, even in winter.

How did the  ‘Wine, Paella, and the Way we Make Them’ event come about and what can guests expect on the day?

Mauro makes great paella and is a pleasure to be around. He is really down to earth. Our rustic winery, not far from Mauro’s restaurant, is perched on Mt Burnett with beautiful views of the rolling hills and countryside. This is a fabulous opportunity to work together to create something enjoyable and truly memorable. Guests can expect a relaxed afternoon with intimate discussions about paella and winemaking, and plenty of laughs to go with it.

What: Ong and Callegari: Wine, Paella and the Way we Make Them
Where: One Block Winery at Chestnut Hill Vineyard, Mt Burnett
When: Sat, 27 Oct. 12.30pm to 3.30pm
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