Producer Feature - Best's Wines
PRODUCER REVIEW - PENLEY ESTATE
Greetings from Coonawarra
G'day everyone, this week's email comes to you direct from the beautiful, but very cold, Connawarra. It's one of our oldest wine regions and is known for it's "terra rossa" (red clay) soil and resultant classically structured reds.... but, as you are soon to learn, there's also a renaissance afoot....
The Coonawarra wine region is located in South Australia about 380km South East of Adelaide, close to the Victorian border. Vines were first planted here by John Riddoch in 1890 but it wasn't until after the 1950s that Coonawarra really came to the fore. Both Wynns and Penfolds established significant plots of vines here and the pure quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon they produced started something special. Coonawarra was to become a big driver of the transformation of the Australian wine industry from one that produced predominantly fortified wines to one recognised for dry table wines.
Fast forward 50 or so years and the lustre that was the Coonawarra has very much worn off. Coonawarra has slowly but surely lost its sparkle and whilst it's not 'flavour of the month' with all the trend setters, they still lay claim to very old vines producing exceptional fruit...... So, today, we went to visit Penley Estate, one of the regions top producers who have recently undergone somewhat of a renaissance. They are an old estate who had followed the Coonawarra's drift down the "trendy scale". As is often the case with family estates, they were faced with a difficult decision with the retirement of the driving force and chief winemaker Kym Tolley; sell up or try something new. Thankfully for us, the two sisters Ang and Bec Tolley stepped up to the plate, and have given the whole estate a new lease on life.
I have just finished tasting through their three very well priced ranges and bring you some hand selected packs below for you to devour. Click on the link, throw them in your cart, enter your deets and await these very contemporary, flavour packed beauties delivered free straight to your front door (with a 5% member reward and my money back guarantee of course.
These are special wines made for cellar door release only. They really speak to the Coonawarra whilst taking a modern, more restrained approach. The Tolmer Cabernet was the standout of the tasting for me so I'm loading this pack up with this sensual, chocolate and cassis beauty.
The classic Estate Range represents the highest quality fruit and winemaking from Penley. Personally, I think the Scottsburn Shiraz Cabernet highlights why this really is the "great Australian blend". It has a palate that just builds and builds and builds and as such it was a solid 96 pointer for me. The Stenning is super long and refined with great acidity and really well integrated use of oak. These are top flight wines, mark my words.
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NEW PRODUCER – THE STORY WINES
We like a good business model innovation here at From The Producer. There’s just something we like about having a go at changing the status quo and finding an alternative way of doing things that seems to ring true with us for some reason (can’t think of any reason why). To this ends, we are thrilled to welcome a very different type of producer; The Story Wines.
The story of The Story wines is very different indeed. The traditional story goes something along the lines of “Joe Blogs the Chemist/Engineer/Doctor/Lawyer falls in love with XYZ wine and has a dream of starting his/her own thing. They sell the house in the city, buy a small plot of land in a wine growing region, plant some vines and start making wine”. Well, the story of The Story couldn’t be further from this. Founder, winemaker, marketer and proprietor, Rory Lane has none of the typical attributes of a wine brand founder. He has no family connection to wine, he didn’t study Oenology (winemaking) or Viticulture, he’s not old and wealthy and he isn’t even a sommelier or such from “the trade”. In fact, he owns no vineyards, doesn’t have a cellar door or a big fancy winery and he makes all his wine in the suburbs of Melbourne – how different can you get?
The innovation and guile it has taken Rory to get The Story off the ground is one thing, but it’s the quality of the wines themselves that’s the real talking point. Rory’s aim is to bring wines into the world that have personality driven by the stories that surround the people involved in the process; hence the name. The wines are made from predominantly Grampians and Henty fruit from growers who Rory has established close working relationships with over the years. I have been watch the evolution of The Story for many years now so it’s fabulous to introduce you to some of these difficult to find and highly regarded wines.
The Story “R. Lane Vitners Westgate Vineyard” Shiraz 2014 ($75) – Usually when I do a producer review, I start with the whites and work my way up to the big guns at the end, but in this case I’m going to drop the bomb right off the cuff. This first time release represents the pinnacle of winemaking and fruit quality for The Story. Recently having taken out a spot in James Suckling’s (wine critic and writer for the worlds largest wine publication, Wine Spectator) Top 100 Australian wines of 2016, this fantastic release had me intrigued from the first moment I first saw it. It’s a full and rich wine on the nose with that unmistakable interest of whole bunch evident from the get-go. Savoury fruit, herbs and violets. I found it a bit full on when I first opened it; a bit like a colt at the gates. It really settled into its groove and was still running very strongly through blueberries, blackberries, black pepper, cloves and spice well into its second day open. Terrific wine and one for the cellar for sure – 96+points (will get better with time)
The Story Grampians Shiraz 2014 ($29) – This is a belter of a release of the Grampians Shiraz. Has world beating quality stamped all over it and at this price….. it’s just such a good proposition. I opened this late in the night at our Summer Drinking session this year and it was a BIG hit with the crowd. Coming from three great sites in the Grampians, this wine is quite simply GORGEOUS. Nice carry and great balance of spice and sweet blooded fruit. My wine of the night and one of my finds of the year truth be told, there’s no possible way you could regret a 6-pack purchase of this wine. It’s great now but will improve with a few years – 95 points
The Story Port Campbell Pinot Noir 2014 ($29) – Another well priced little gem here. With fruit coming from a tiny, unirrigated, isolated vineyard inland from the 12 Apostles in south western Victoria. Has a really inviting nose of jubey raspberry and boysenberry. It’s quite a lovely wine and one that I think a mother in law who doesn’t drink red wine would really get into. Such a great wine for just sipping and enjoying. Go on, grab a couple – 92 points
The Story Marsanne Grenache Rose 2015 ($28) – A very different style of Rose we have here. Atypical in that it’s not as straight forward and just plain forgettable as many Roses can be. It’s barrel fermented and aged on lees, giving a complex nose with very slight sherry-like character. This continues on the palate with a wine of great texture and interest. Definitely a rose looking to say something – 92 points
The Story Westgate Vineyard Marsanne Roussanne Viognier 2015 ($30) – Not a blend that many Australians are familiar with but one of the great white wine blends of the world. Classic examples hail from the Rhone Valley in France and every time I have one I remind myself to drink more of it…. and then promptly forget because we see soo little of it here down under. I loved this wine. It’s rich and complex and nothing like anything we usually see. I’d love this with a whole fish on a bed of buttered greens. Delicious – 94 points
The Story Whitlands Riesling 2015 ($29) – I haven’t personally tasted this yet so will refer to the tasting note: “From a 30yr old vineyard up at 800m elevation on the Whitlands plateau in Alpine Victoria. Water-white, pure lemon and lime flavours, subtle blossom and notes of fennel, with a gentle hint of residual sugar (8g/l)that adds balance to the acidity”
We also have a range of back vintages listed on From The Producer for those of you who might want to look at how these wines go over time. I’d recommend picking up a few of these and opening one next to a current release so you can check out what happens with time in the bottle.
PRODUCER REVIEW – FOWLES WINES
I have to admit that I haven’t paid as much attention to Fowles as I should have. They have been riding just below my radar for many years and I’m not sure why. Probably a result of not being in an established and popular wine region, maybe because they have a quirky kind of label that I din’t take seriously enough… or maybe because I just hadn’t gotten around to trying their wines.
Well, try their wines I have now done! Stopped at their cellar door at Avenel just North of Seymour I have now done. Eaten at their restaurant I have now done…. and served one of their wines (the “Are You Game” Shiraz) an my “what you should be drinking this summer” tasting event I have now done. All of this has led me to this one conclusion; drink more Fowles wines.
Let me run you through a few of the wines I’ve tasted recently:
Fowles Wines “Are You Game” Shiraz 2013 ($16.95) – A gold medal winner at the 2015 Royal Melbourne Wine show, the quality is completely evident of first spell. Nice spicy lifted cool climate shiraz on the nose. Real intensity in the mouth and just a really great drinking drink. Just such “happy juice” – you’d be happy you had opened this on any occasion…. and completely wrapped when you realised it’s just 17 bucks. Complete bargain for a wine of this quality – 94 points
Fowles Wines “Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch” Shiraz 2013 (34.95) – A bit of a step up from the “Are You Game” Shiraz but that’s not immediately apparent on opening. This was definately a “grower” for me. Took a while to warm to and hence could be easily overlooked in a show judging scenario. Its a beautifully long, perfumed and really well structured wine. Where the “Are You Game” shiraz is one you’d take out partying all night, the “Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch” is the one you’d take home to meet your mum….. over a rabbit casserole and a glass of shiraz of course – 95 points, excellent wine just needs decanting and a bit of time to open up.
Fowles Wines “Ladies Who Shoot Thier Lunch” Riesling 2013 ($34.95) – I had this with my quite excellent Salmon over lunch when I visited late last year. It was a warm day and sitting outside sipping this quite crisp, dry yet aromatic white wine was just great. I really liked this but think it’s maybe a bit overpriced for Riesling given what else is out there at this price point – 93 points
Fowles wines “Are You Game” Chardonnay ($16.95) – These wines are simply outstanding value, there is nothing more to it than that. No the biggest or most complex Chardy you’ll ever have but just a joy to drink. There’s plenty there for enjoyment as an aperitif or just to open with lunch. Lovely stuff – 92 points
A final note is that this is a great spot for lunch. It convenient and well worth a stop if you driving down (or up) the Hume. Worth a day trip too if you’re looking for an excursion from Melbourne.
NEW PRODUCER – VIRAGO BEECHWORTH
As a vigneron, putting all of your time and attention into just one variety is a pretty brave move….. but when that variety is the notoriously fickle and hard to master Nebbiolo grape, it makes the endeavour truly lion hearted. But this is exactly what Karen Coats and Prue Keith at Virago Beechworth have set out to do. An endeavour so devilishly difficult, you just have to take your hat off… and wave it around a bit.
Virago is the latest addition to the From The Producer portfolio (now nearly 300 producers strong) and I dropped in with the whole extended family to pay them a visit when I was in Beechworth a few weeks ago. I had seen the label around before but became more interested when the Virago Nebbiolo 2012 won a place in the Vic 100. I was also happily following along on Instagram when I realised that this little producer was going above and beyond in the pursuit of vinous enlightenment. I just had to see it.
Unfortunately, I did a dumb thing and was so engrossed in our conversation that I forgot to take a bloody pic of the beautiful 2,000 vine vineyard. It’s the ultimate small production operation with everything being done by hand. Planted by hand, pruned by hand, thinned by hand, picked by hand, driven in the ute (by hand) up to Giaconda and made into a wonderful wine by one of the masters in Rick Kinzbrunner. That Rick has taken this project on really does speak volumes about the wineries potential. Get behind them and buy some wine