Rockford Winery, traditionally at harvest in the Barossa Valley

Apr 01, 13 Rockford Winery, traditionally at harvest in the Barossa Valley

Posted by in Australia, Travel

Although Australia is the ‘New World,’ I was surprised when I visited recently to see how, at least in the Barossa Valley, they like to make wine the old fashioned way. It seems like many of the boutique producers there put a lot of effort into using grapes and making wines that both have a history in the region and in a very traditional style of winemaking. Rockford Winery is one of those that takes great pains to remain true to Australia’s grape growing history. Robert O’Callanah started making wine in 1984 but originally bought the circa-1850’s stone settler’s cottage in 1971 and gradually built his winery around the cottage and in the same style. I immediately was charmed by the low slung stone buildings that comprised the winery. I visited during harvest which is one of the best times to visit a winery in my opinion and the action was in full swing when we pulled up to the entrance. As a matter of fact, the entrance was blocked by the old pickup truck used to haul grapes to the winery. A cellar rat was busy heaving pitchfork fulls of shiraz grapes from the bed of the pickup into the mouth of the 100 year old destemmer as we walked by. As well as the destemmer, there was the traditional Bagshaw crusher and within say 5 metres, were assorted open fermenters, tanks and the barrel room. It is a compact winery, to say the least. That day they were working with shiraz and there were various open tanks, including slate tanks, at different stages of fermentation. After the tour, I tried a variety of Rockford wines. Robert wanted to stick to the grapes that were originally grown in the area and so he makes his wines from shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, mataro, semillon, riesling, white frontignan and the one exception to the rule, alicante bouchet. Robert had worked with that grape in France and thus wanted to make wine in Australia using that...

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Steingarten riesling and Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre

Mar 14, 13 Steingarten riesling and Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre

Posted by in Australia, Travel

Laying by the pool at the Novotel Hotel in Barossa Valley, the last thing I wanted to do was leave, especially considering this was my last chance to get some sun before returning to grey England but I had an appointment with  Jacob’s Creek and so I reluctantly left the pool, headed for the Steingarten riesling vineyard. However, once I met up with James Keane from Jacob’s Creek and we were standing on top of the Hill of Grace, I was glad I had abandoned the pool. We were standing on a hill overlooking the vines of Steingarten, a legendary riesling vineyard of the Barossa Valley. Colin Gramp originally dynamited the hills to plant the vines in the rocky soil and planted roughly 1000 vines on side of the windy hilltop. Jacob’s Creek still uses grapes from this plot to make the Steingarten although they do source grapes from the Eden Valley, which the vines face, in the distance. Steely, pure and intense, James and I had a glass of the Steingarten riesling before toasting the vines with the leftovers in our glass. Afterwards we did a brief tour of some of the other vineyards of Jacob’s Creek before lunch. After that we headed over to the new visitor’s centre recently opened by Jacob’s Creek. Now I know Jacob’s Creek has a bit of a reputation in the UK as being a cheap supermarket wine but the Australians keep all the good stuff for themselves. I have to admit I had certain prejudices regarding Jacob’s Creek’s wines but over there they have lots of interesting wines available. We sat down to lunch and I had a choice of 3, what James called, ‘new varieties’ of Australia, fiano, vermentino and arneis. Jacob’s Creek likes to experiment and these 3 are part of ‘cellar door only’ wines available to the public. The other ‘new varieties’ included montepulciano, tannat, negroamaro, mataro (mouvedre, not really a ‘new variety’ so to speak as it’s been grown in the Barossa...

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Oldest vines in Australia (and maybe the world) at Langmeil Winery, Barossa Valley

Mar 09, 13 Oldest vines in Australia (and maybe the world) at Langmeil Winery, Barossa Valley

Posted by in Australia, Travel

That’s James Lindner, hanging out with the 170 yr old shiraz vines that he and his family own and use to produce their top wines. Australia has some of the oldest pre-phylloxera vines in the world and the Barossa is where you will find these 170 year old survivors. The Freedom vineyard was planted in 1843 by German immigrants fleeing religious persecution. See, here’s the plaque: Over the years, it went though various owners and at one point was abandoned but in 1996, the Lindner and Bitter families bought the old winery and resusitated not only the winery but also the small patch of old vine Shiraz that still bore fruit every year. With lots of love and attention, they are now producing a wine called the 125 yr Freedom Shiraz. I meet with James (Jim) Lindner for a tour of the winery and quick tasting while they were going harvest was going on. Like many of the boutique wineries I visited while I was there, they use a combo of old and new technology to produce their wines, so while they may use carefully calibrated hydraulic presses they also do open vat fermentation. I got to taste some shiraz just pressed and it is mighty impressive stuff even when just pressed, a deep dark colour but still sooo sweet, definitely hadn’t started fermentation. I asked Jim to give me his assessment of the juice and 2013 harvest – a small and early harvest this year: (apologies for the link only, this is from Vine, at least you know it’s only 6 seconds long!) Afterwards we headed to the tasting room for a tasting of their iconic wines. They make a series of Old Vine Garden wines, the Freedom Shiraz – made from the oldest shiraz vines, the Orphan Bank shiraz which is made from vines that were rescued by the winery (the vines were about to be bulldozed over when they stepped in, dug up the vines and replanted them on their property),...

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Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time

Mar 04, 13 Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time

Posted by in Australia, Travel

I’ve never actually visited a winery while they’re in the middle of harvest so it was fun and exciting to be there. Dodging tractors, forklifts, hose pipes, wet floors and empty barrels while de-stemming, crushing and fermenting is going on literally right under your nose makes it a whole lot more exciting then the usual “…and here is where we keep the barrels…” Although I still did spy roomfuls of barrels. *Geek Alert* I never get tired of the sight and smell of resting barrels. My guide was the effervescent senior winemaker of Ch. Tanunda, Stewie Bourne. A bundle of energy who came bouncing into the tasting room and immediately offered to make us all espressos, (although I don’t think he needed another one) before we visited the vats. Stewie compared the winery to a hospital emergency room and he and his staff are the ER staff. Their job is to take the car crash victim (the ripe grapes) from the vineyard and get them in the vats (IC) as soon as possible, hopefully they make it through IC and then off to the wards (tanks) where they can rest up before being discharged to the general public. An funny but apt metaphor for harvest. The winery was originally founded in the 1890’s and the ceiling of the huge tasting room is still fitted with the original wooden beams that came over as ballast with Australian settlers. At Chateau Tanunda they make wine in the traditional way, with open vat fermentation and minimal intervention. When the grapes come in,they only de-stem them but don’t crush them at first so that the result is lifted fruit and soft tannins. They have hydraulic presses which are programmed to exert just the right amount of pressure during press, not too much, not too little. The aim is to produce wines that are authentic but not aggressive. While we were there, Stewie literally plunged into the open vats and came out with a glass full of fermenting grape...

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Artisans of Barossa – John Duval Wines snapshot

Mar 02, 13 Artisans of Barossa – John Duval Wines snapshot

Posted by in Australia, Travel

On my flying trip to the Barossa, I stopped into visit the folks at Artisans of Barossa on my first afternoon. Artisans of Barossa is a collection of 7 Barossa wine makers who have banded together to showcase their different wine styles as well as the diversity of the terroir of the region. The 7 producers are: John Duval Wines, Hobbs of Barossa, Massena, Schwarz Wine Co. , Sons of Eden, Spinifex, and Teusner. They have a tasting room set amidst the vines which is set on a small hill and boasts lovely views of the area. Chef Mark McNamara has created a tempting selection of wine friendly food to have after you’ve finished tasting. Every weekend, one or two of the winemakers are on hand to pour their wines and chat with visitors. The day I visited, John Duval had taken some time out away from the harvest to man the tasting room. John was formerly the chief winemaker of Penfold’s for almost 30 years before finally setting up his own winery. He only makes 4 wines because he wants to put all his energy into making the best wine possible. John poured his 2012 Plexus white, a blend of marsanne, roussane, and viognier, first. John deliberately added only 10% viognier because he wanted the viognier to be evident on the palate but not on the nose and it is a rather subtle wine with delicate aromas emanating from the glass. The viognier does contribute a textured but not oily feel to the wine with honeysuckle, white fruits and a clean citrus finish on the palate. The Barossa has some of, if not the oldest vines in the world in the form of shiraz and the next wine, the 2011 Plexus  comes from vines that were planted in the 1850’s. It’s a blend of shiraz, grenache and mataro. Smooth and rounded tannins, spicy and savoury but still showing bright red fruits on the palate. An elegant wine with minerality and balanced acidity, delicious but...

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