The Castle Hill farm was originally owned by John Bear who had bought the land on the 24th November 1842, under a “Deed of Grant Purchase”. Section 20, Parish of Yan Yean, County of Bourke, lot 52 consisted of approximately 932 acres.
John Bear died in 1851 and in 1855 John’s son, Thomas Hutchings Bear entered an indenture under which he agreed to sign away his life interest in the Yan Yean holding except for about 50 acres bounding on Section 13 in the south. This being the vineyard block and where the Castle farm remains today.
According to Francois de Castella, writing on Early Victorian vineyards in “Victorian Historical Magazine “ Vol 19 Dec 1942,he gave a brief mention to Bear’s Castle Hill Vineyard.
“ Adjacent to Whittlesea is Yan Yean where T H Bear, brother of J P Bear of Tahblik, owned Castle Hill vineyard. This seems to have been planted at an early date and as late as 1891 comprised 40 acres of vines”
It seems that John Bear was awarded several medals by the Victorian Horticultural Society exhibition in 1850 for his wines. Hence making the Castle Hill one of Victoria’s earliest producing vineyards.
John and Tess Wilkinson had asked the Historical Society for information regarding the old vineyard after finding an old wine bottle at their property in the 1990’s. It bore the trademark of capital letter B in a square. And more than likely came from the Bear’s Vineyard.
Ross Mugavin of Parks Victoria had discovered some vines in the catchment area of the Yan Yean Reservoir a few years ago. He believed them to have originated from the vineyard of John Bear at Castle Hill. He propagated vines from this stock and upon our visit presented John and Tess with one of the vines along with a research document written by Lindsay Mann.