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Wine Australia Tour , November 2016, Yarra Valley

Inland Australia is  massive, equivalent to  the size of the United States. This leads to a continental effect. Warm North Westerly winds come  from inland. However a cooling effect comes from the  Southwesterlies from the southern ocean giving  Yarra Valley a cool climate. The geology is ancient, 550 million to 800 million years old, much older than most regions . There’s not many mountain ranges .The impact of  climate change  over the last 20 years has led to a harvest one to two days earlier each year .The length of the  growing season is the  same. This spring has been much wetter than usual. Higher red loam volcanic soils gives low tannin ideal for sparkling wines.

Oakridge Winery David Bicknell – Chief Winemaker and CEO gave us an insightful introduction to the region.

Eight chardonnays from 2015 similarly made, approximately 20% to 30% new oak for 10 months, whole bunch press, wild ferment, low or no Malo, low sulphur, leave on lees most years, bigger barrels. Chardonnay is very successful in the cool climate of this region. Typical flavours of white peach and melon.

De Bortoli AA5  Creamy, vanilla ,smokey, toasty, touch pineapple, less texture on the palate lacking length.

Yering station 2015 Lovely nose, complex, sl butter, toast smoky  nice toasty length.

Layla 2015 Helen and Joey Estate Less on nose, pineapple, hint toast,closed.

Giant steps 2015 Chardonnay melon,passionfruit, pineapple, background toast lovely texture mouthfeel balance length complexity ++ core citric backbone.

Seville Estate 2015 Flint smoke toast oak lovely texture crisp acid backbone length.

Oakridge 2015 Willow Lake Vineyard Ripe honey dew melon, finish crisp and citric slightly bitter.

Elmswood estate 2015 Some Oak smoke toast nice acid prominent.

Coldsteam Hills 2015 Toasty clean crisp vanilla integrated.

Winemaker thoughts -earlier picking keep sun off vines, good acid,low oak, fresher style, lovely integrated wines, cool climate grapefruit pith, keep compact fruit. This has changed over the years. The feeling is that previously the wines were overmade,  making big flashy wines. The changes have been spurred by multiple issues including market forces such as the proximity to the well informed Melbourne clientele and the need to counter the surge of New Zealand sauvignon. The confidence and increased expertise of local winemakers have helped enable this.


Eight Pinot Noirs 2015 Vintage

What is Yarra Pinot about? Red fruit and elegance, prettiness and food friendly. Soft tannin due to continentality. No fining, some unfiltered with a gentle approach. Whole bunch wild berry ferment helps promote perfume and elegance. Low percentage 10% to 15% new oak.  300L to 500L barrels, levels of toasting more subtle with careful selection of  oak. Low intervention, ‘my children could make this’ Hoddles Creek winemaker. Pinot Noir ranges from light to medium bodied with flavours of plum strawberry and raspberry.


Punt Road 2015 Red fruits long finish perfume and floral wild strawberry warmer part of valley more Malo

Giant steps Sexton Vineyard 2015 Red fruits  perfume spice length good acid core

Elmswood Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Herbal greener note candied cherry finish

De bortoli Riorret Lustatia Park vineyard 2015 More colour richer nose spicy notes strawberry ripe cherry summer pudding.Floral ripe fruit nice sl bitter finish,Cedar pencil shavings more tannin graphitic note

Journey Wines 2015 Sl more toasty smoky savoury earth forest floor good long finish +

Hoddles Creek Estate Pinot 2015 Medicinal mint herbal eucalyptus finish surrounded by forest

Oak ridge Willow Lake 2015 Spicy oak rich nose textured mouth feel long finish

Coldstream Hills Deer Farm 2015 Savoury long richer creamy mouthfeel uses 50% new oak sl smoky toast to finish

The wines showed lovely  freshness and purity with complexity and length and demonstrated what the Yarra Valley  can deliver. The wines were greatly appreciated over an exquisite lunch at Oakridge .


Four Pillars Gin with Cameron Mackenzie Juniper from Macedonia makes up 80% of the botanicals it gives a pine forest character. Coriander is the second most used botanical then  Cardamon from Guatemala, Star Anise  from Vietnam, Cassia a close cousin to cinnamon. Native Australian botanicals include, Lemon myrtle, cinnamon, leaf of Tasmanian pepper berry, green tea, white pepper 170 g in 600 litre, Lavender, Angelica root gives a  dusty old soily note and  acts as a  fixative. The base used is  wheat spirit. Fresh oranges are used  in the head of still,  leading  to infusion and  delicate extraction of citrus oils.



Rare Dry Gin  Mediterranean character

Navy Strength  Gin58.8% more Asia native Australian finger lime dried almost like Thai  basil leaf / Vietnamese mint, lime caviar ginger and turmeric .

Four Pillars Barerender Series Spiced negroni gin more orange and Indonesian pepper to combat Campari bitters . Cubeb Grains of paradise  from Africa

Four pillars Rockpool Pomelos schezuan peppers other,dry elegant

Coloured gins

Bloody Shiraz Gin Version of sloe gin acid ++  from sloes  add sugar,Trials of Yarra Shiraz worked best (Cabernet too herbaceous)  destem soak for 8 weeks 37.8 c No colour no sugar added 95 gl sugar colour stable,Nice sweet touch long delicious.

Four pillars barrel aged Gin  French oak barrels

Four pillars Christmas Gin in old rutherglen barrels distilled Christmas puddings,Aromatics flavor balance weight texture


Dinner at Gembrook Hill

This is the last winery in Yarra, 3 km from border with Gippsland owned by the  Marks family. Andrew Marks makes Gembrook Hill with  Timo Mayer. He also has his  own label The Wanderer, and started The  Melbourne Gin Company.

We were surrounded by some of Australia’s most talented winemakers – Luke Lambert, Gary Mills from Jamsheed and  Timo Mayer and were lucky enough to try a wide range of their excellent wines accompanied by slow cooked lamb falling off the bone.


Shiraz and Cabernet focus at Yering station

Cool climate, selection of wines to show diversity, some cofermented with viognier others with Marsanne.Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Yarra Cabernet ranges from full to medium-bodied with silky tannins and aromatic,floral and herbal characters.

Seven Shiraz’s from Yarra Valley

Innocent Bystander 2015 Savoury pepper spice black fruits,low crop not much length, drying finish grippy tannins.

Punt Road 2015 Tim Shand , Lighter esters fruity red, and black fruits pepper lighter tannins chalky nice length good acidic core tension freshness tension Pinot technique whole bunch

Giant Steps 2015 Richer riper complex nose dense core ripe blackberries dark plums spice pepper savoury lovely ripe grippy tannins savoury finish sl salty +

Paynes Rise 2014 Smoke rubber pepper savoury meaty chalky tannins good acid balance

Yering station Old Beenak road 2014 Sl smoke toast spicy peppery core good long length black fruits length +

Yering station Shiraz viognier Reserve 2014 Alcohol spice closed chalky sl green tannins

Yarra yering 2014 more old school, complex nose of turmeric  spice vanilla pepper black fruits touch oak savoury meaty salty long finish + + violets

Seven Cabernet Sauvignons from  Yarra Valley

Looking for ripeness picking has to be late to avoid greeness and tomato leaf. The feeling is  that an edge of leafiness is best , site sensitive, different from Margaret River and Coonawarra dry red if picked too late.

Punt Road 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Chalky drying tannins, closed hint cassis

Tokara Estate 2015 Oak spice delicate tobacco cedar full richer coffee tannins chalky ++

Warramunda 2014 Cassis mint menthol  tannins, blackcurrant finish

Yeringberg 2014 Cedar mint drying chalky tannins

Yarra yering 2014 60 % cabernet Complex liquorice spice oak cassis tobacco ++ softer but still lots tannins sillier long length

De Bortoli Estate 2014 Cassis spice mint herbaceous not vegetal

Yering station 2014 18 months barrel mint menthol cedar cassis Length ++ Power elegance Length lovely +


img_1675-copyWe finished the day with fine dining in Fitzroy, Melbourne with a selection of wines from the tour.

Best Western  Pinot Meunier 1999 was  remarkable, so much fruit for a wine of this age and great balance and length.

Huge thanks to Wine Australia and our tour leader Mark Davidson  for their generosity and organisation of this memorable journey through some of Australia’s fines wine regions.