Four wildly different Pinots from one source block
Our wines go beyond single vineyard. We’ve divided our small Piccadilly Valley hill into a series of carefully selected single sections, sometimes little more than a few rows, from which each wine is sourced.
Our east-facing hillside curves and rises so steeply it’s created its own Burgundy-style mesoclimate, sunny and warm in some sections, cool and shady in others. That’s how we make entirely distinct Pinot Noirs wines, all grown from the same 15-acre hill.
How we make our wines
We take our cues from traditional Burgundian winemaking styles, focusing on small ferments of rich Pinot Noir grapes picked at just the right moment and always remembering one golden rule (coined by Clarendon Hills’s Roman Bratasiuk in 1995): in winemaking, have the courage to do nothing.
All of our wines are made entirely from grapes picked from our Whisson Lake vineyard and have no additives of any kind, other than a small amount of sulphur added just before bottling.
Our cooler climate means our grapes ripen late, in many years just as the vine leaves are turning and the nights are growing cold. That presents a challenge for fermenting, as we follow the lessons of Burgundy and aim to get our ferments up around 30 degrees Celsius. We rug our ferments up in thick insulation and often need to put an oil heater inside the insulation as well.
This winemaking all happens inside the enormous stone shed Mark built beside our Whisson Lake homestead in 2000. It was initially designed to house his impressive collection of fast cars, among them a Porsche, a Lotus racing car and the RX-7 Twin Turbo that Mark raced to win the 2005 Australian National Hillclimb Championships.
While these cars have long since been sold, we think the shed arguably houses a much more precious cargo these days – the dozen or so barrels of Pinot Noir that are our entire winemaking output each year.
Le Gris de Noir
Vineyard location: Ten shady south-east facing rows directly behind our homestead.
- Wine score: 93 points – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front (2011 Le Gris de Noir)
This no-skin-contact Pinot Noir is neither rosé, white nor red, but rather a light peachy copper colour – which is why we named it Le Gris de Noir: the grey wine from the black Pinot grape.
To make a gris wine from ripe grapes with lively palate tension, we hand-picked fruit from 10 south-east facing rows of vines directly behind our homestead. This part of the vineyard is shaded by the hillside each afternoon, protecting the grapes from the sun at its hottest and yielding Pinot Noir fruit with high acidity and billowing floral and musk aromatics. We actually can’t make this wine in warmer years.
After picking, we cool the bunches before transferring them directly to the press. The resulting juice is then put into new oak for fermentation without any prior clarification or decanting. Once the wine is fermented to sugar dryness, and has also passed its malolactic fermentation, it is bottled with a first and minimal sulphur addition. This wine seems to age brilliantly and, according to Max Allen in 2011, was one of the best wines he tried all year.
White Label Pinot Noir
Vineyard location: The cooler top half of our hillside.
- 94 points – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front (2012 White Label Pinot Noir)
- 94 points – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front (2011 White Label Pinot Noir).
Fruit from the top half of our vineyard is used to make our White Label Pinot Noir, which embodies the hallmark characteristics of our block: intense wine with a strong natural structure that will age excellently for well more than a decade.
The characteristics of the land – low-vigour soils, light crops and a generally east-facing orientation – create the grapes’ personality. The resulting wine is naturally balanced and typically described as having “spicy” aromas of cloves, anise and cinnamon. Both our viticulture and vinification behind the White Label is very minimal.
La Storia Rosa Pinot Noir
Vineyard location: The warmer bottom half of our hillside.
- Wine score: 91 points – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front (2011 La Storia Rosa Pinot Noir).
La Storia Rosa comes from the bottom half of the vineyard where warmer daytime temperatures, cooler nights and richer soils create a wine that is naturally more feminine in style. The nose is perfumed and ethereal and the palate richer and less tannic than our White Label Pinot Noir.
While this wine is pretty and attractive in its youth, it is just as cellarable as the other wines from other higher altitude parts of the vineyard.
Vineyard location: The hot block directly in front of our homestead.
This is truly a one of a kind wine, made like no other in the world and inspired by the Amarone wines of Italy’s Valpolicella viticultural zone. In 2010 we noticed that grapes growing on the vines directly in front of our homestead would actually dry on the vine if we let them. This is the warmest part of our vineyard because it is a suntrap, sheltered from the cool southerly breeze by a row of trees.
Italy’s Amarone dry reds are traditionally made from grapes picked ripe then left to dry on straw mats (usually in special buildings), concentrating the remaining sugars and flavours. We can allow our Pinot Noir grapes to dehydrate on the vine, concentrating the remaining juice to create the epitome of vinous hedonism. We can only make this in warmer years and it needs a lot of bottle time to develop. The resulting seductive nectar, which pairs exceptionally well with blue vein cheese, places a well-deserved focus on one of the most extreme subsections of our vineyard.
Taste our Pinot Noir
While our property does not have a cellar door, our wines are available for tasting at Mt Lofty House’s Hardy’s Verandah Restaurant.