Gold discovery at Ballarat in 1851 sparked Victoria’s famous gold rush bringing thousands of migrants from all over the world to Victoria. Brothers Joseph and Henry Best tried their hands at prospecting on various goldfields, but realised that feeding the miners was more profitable so they returned to cattle interests, setting up an abattoir at Great Western and supplying meat to the swollen populations at goldfields near Ararat and Stawell.
In 1865 Joseph planted vine cuttings (on the property presently known as Seppelt Winery, Great Western) he had obtained from the St Peter’s vineyard of French immigrants the “Trouettes and Blampieds”, the first wine growers in the Great Western district. Joseph also named his vineyard, St Peter’s. Joseph gradually forsook the cattle business and devoted himself to viticulture until his accidental death in 1887.
The mud brick Shaft House which served as a press-house and cellar is very significant in the history of the winery, as it was in 1868 while excavating for its construction, that Joseph Best discovered the layer of Decomposed Granite under the property, thus employing gold miners to commence digging the famous Drives (underground cellars).
The Shaft House is so named, as it contains the initial shaft and only access point at the time to The Drives.