Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir Masterclass
Australian winemakers are famously co-operative. A quality which, to my mind, explains why the country has such a dynamic, fast-moving wine scene. Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA) is a terrific case in point. For some years, this small region has very successfully nailed its varietal colours to the mast hosting a biennial Pinot Noir (from around the world) Celebration, while leading light Stonier hosts its 12th Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting in November.
These showcase events are as much about interrogating what makes this most quixotic of wine grapes tick. Mornington Peninsula’s flagship variety represents well over 50% of the region’s 950ha under vine.
Remorselessly pitting local examples against the world’s best is a useful barometer of success (vis a vis quality) and point of difference (style/expression). After all, progress is an iterative process. A point which the MPVA referenced with refreshing modesty in the introductory video to their recent Pinot Noir Masterclass in London, quoting Tim Atkin MW (a keynote speaker at a past Pinot Noir Celebration) quoting Samuel Beckett – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” In the tasting booklet too, which categorised the different decades of the modern era of winemaking in the Peninsula as “Dedication in the seventies,” “Experimentation in the eighties,” “Confirmation in the nineties,” “Celebration in the noughties” and “Exploration in the teens.”
With great emphasis on structure, the scale of the Peninsula producers’ ambition for their Pinots stood out at this tasting. It’s about making wines for the long haul with the scope to develop the haunting tertiary characters for which the variety is so renowned. A few of the older vintages from 2010 – a highly regarded year – fell short of the mark, especially given this was a year which experienced good winter and spring rainfall. On the other hand, some still seemed quite angular, a little awkward – perhaps just in a dumb phase, though I wondered if all of them had the stuffing to pull through.
It seemed to me that the younger vintages were invariably (and intrinsically) brighter, with greater tension. Asked about the ageing potential of Mornington Pinot Kate McIntyre MW of Moorooduc Estate replied, “we are getting more experience around how wines age. Now vines are 10-15 years old there is a big step up in quality. Wines of 10 years ago are drinking beautifully today but I reckon today’s wines will last longer – the 2012s and 2008s are a bit closed at the moment.”
The other point which struck me during this tasting was the diversity of style. There were some very singular single vineyard wines in this tasting. I love to see that, especially tracking across vintage. It makes sense when you consider that, though this region is small, it has a great diversity of terroir – for starters, maritime influence from three sides. Port Phillip Bay to the west, Bass Strait to the south and Western Port Bay to the east influence affect Mornington Peninsula’s producers to a greater or lesser extent, depending on proximity to these bodies of water and the topography of the land (maritime influence funnels up its valleys while katabatic winds funnel down them from the ridge at night).
Particularly cold, the Bass Strait – together with elevation “up hill” – impacts most on the Peninsula’s south (Red Hill, Red Hill South and Main Ridge), which is cooler with a longer ripening period. In this tasting one starkly experienced its ice cool influence and proximity (3km) in Nazaaray’s austere Pinots.
All wines were tasted at the masterclass on 10 May. I’ve included a short summary about the producer and key points from their presentation before my tasting notes. You can find detailed vintage reports for the region on the MPVA’s website here.
Garry Crittenden planted The Zumma vineyard in 1982 at 50m above sea level on the lower northern slopes of Red Hill in Dromana. Though it is significantly warmer than so-called up hill sites to the south of Crittenden Estate, Garry’s son Rollo, now in charge of winemaking, reckons that the cooling influence of Port Phillip bay 5km away means Zumma “often shows a level of elegance that belies our location.”
The E/W facing slope, originally planted to the champagne clone, D5V12, is planted on well drained sandy loam over black clay. Additional Pinot Noir clones have since been introduced (via head-grafting) – in 1993, MV6, and in 2008, the small bunches/structural Pommard clone (which features only in the 2012 Pinot).
For Rollo, The Zumma 2010 and 2014 “shows a nice transition” – the shift from “using any chemical available, with nothing invested back into the soil” to an investment in soil health, clones and the use of some whole bunch. Though the investment in soil health started in 2007, Crittenden believes that the rewards first became apparent in 2010, but it was in 2014 “we were really seeing difference.” A difference which, he added, “has given us greater confidence in the fruit…far better acid to tannin and sugar ripeness….” Better consistency too. The investment in more clones, using MV6, D5V12 and Pommard has resulted “in far greater quality.”
Rollo introduced whole bunch in 2012 (100% for the Cri de Couer cuvee which I showed at this Australian Pinot Noir masterclass last year). The winemaker looks to whole bunch to increase aromatics and structure – “I really like the tannin character….” To use it he emphasised you need to have very high quality fruit – “very clean bunches and a nice level of ripeness.”
Crittenden Estate The Zumma 2010
The 2010 looks very evolved next to the 2014. It has a sweet and sour note to its baked plum with liquorice spice, firm acidity and slightly dusty tannins. But with a bit of air and time it fills out in the glass showing plush plum and ripe strawberry fruit. Picked 3-5 March. De-stemmed but not crushed, it was aged for 16 months in French barriques and puncheons, 40% new. 13.5%
Crittenden Estate The Zumma 2014
I’m sure that the 2014’s relatively deep, youthful hue is also related to the low yields of this vintage – 2.2t/ha versus 4.8t/ha in 2010! But the relative concentration which low yields bring is managed with impressive levity and great precision. With no crushing and 20% whole bunch, this wine has a lively, very fresh nose and palate with hints of charcuterie to its wild black cherry fruit. It has a real lightness of being compared with the 2010 – a line of tannin and acid which deliciously animates this wine and makes for a tapering, long, precise finish. Going back, I was struck by its sense of tension – its uprightness/structure and firmness – compared with the 2010. The 2014 was picked 6 March and aged for 16 months in French barriques and puncheons, 35% new. 13.2%
Kooyong was established in 1996 by the Aylward family (who now own Ocean Eight). They sold it in 2004 to Marco and Melissa Gjergja, who also own Port Phillip Estate). It is a sizeable estate with 40 hectares under vine.
Since I last visited Sandro Mosele has moved on and winemaking is in the hands of his assistant of six years, Glen Hayley. Like Crittenden Estate, Kooyong is in the warmer north of the Peninsula, equidistant from Port Phillip and Western Port bays. With low fertility, sedimentary light, sandy clays, the north-facing site makes for tannic, savoury Pinots.
Introducing them on the owners’ behalf, Kate McIntyre MW added that the location tended to produce “darker fruit characteristics” and this particular single vineyard cuvee – Ferrous – “is always the prettiest and most structured.” The Ferrous vineyard is at 100m above sea level on Miocene duplex clay over Ordovician sandstone.
Kooyong Single Vineyard Ferrous Pinot Noir 2010
A deep plum hue with a garnet rim. Sweet plum and strawberry fruit with a touch of bake, but it is quite fresh and lively going through with a firm backbone of tannin and hard pan, dare I say ferrous, minerals which accentuate the firmness to the dark chocolate-edged finish. Going back the accent is on the strawberry fruit and tertiary barnyard/gamey notes are brewing. This cuvee is a blend of clones MV6 and D4V2 (average age 14 years old). It was made from 100% de-stemmed fruit which was picked 4-17 March and aged for 18 months in French oak, 30% new. 13.5%
Kooyong Single Vineyard Ferrous Pinot Noir 2013
The oak – a charry buttress with charcuterie and five spice undertones – makes its imprint on this young Pinot for sure. But there are lively fruits of the forest and sweeter, creamier quite languorous berry fruits too which rise to the occasion, pushing out a long, involving finish. Fleshy but with no excess fat and lovely balance I reckon this is a good each way bet – enjoyable relatively young (when the oak has calmed down a bit) but with the build to go some distance too. The 2013 was picked 9 March. saw 15% whole bunch and was aged for 16 months in French oak, 25% new. 14%
Established in 1983 by Richard and Jill McIntyre, Moorooduc Estate is typical of the Peninsula’s early players. When we met in 2010 Richard, who makes the wine, was still a full-time surgeon who takes a month off at vintage!
The original McIntyre vineyard is located on a gentle north-facing hill in the northern downs of the Mornington Peninsula. Altogether the McIntyres own 13 hectares of vineyard. Three other sites – Robinson, Garden & Osborn – are located within 5km of McIntyre.
The Robinson vineyard Pinot Noir is sourced from vines averaging 20 years old planted to clones MV6 and 777 at 60m above sea level on sandy loam on clay.
Moorooduc Estate Robinson Pinot Noir 2010
I well remember from my visit that McIntyre’s wines have lovely weight and mouthfeel. This is no exception and yet, while expansive, the raspberry and strawberry fruit remains firm and bright. There’s an attractive herbal edge too. A lingering finish is teased out by beautifully integrated acidity. Great fruit intensity with line and length. According to Kate, this wine is always more red-fruited than the McIntyre cuvee. Picked 27 March (clone 777) and 15 March (MV6), the fruit was de-stemmed not crushed and aged for 15 months in French oak, 20% new. 14.5%
Moorooduc Estate Robinson Pinot Noir 2011
Daring, I reckon, to show a wine from this atypically wet, cool vintage. Having just remarked on the weight and mouthfeel of McIntyre’s wines, here’s something completely different. But pulled off with equal aplomb. I liked this markedly paler wine a great deal. The green notes – lifted pine and pepper tree – are more pronounced, but they don’t detract or distract from this wine’s delightful delicate red cherry fruit. A cedar-dusted, lightly coltsfoot-spiced finish is finely etched but insinuating, with lovely perfume, freshness and echo. A wine of the vintage. And all the more interesting for it. Picked 8 April, the fruit was de-stemmed not crushed and aged for 17 months in French oak, 20% new. Interestingly Kate mentioned that they have stashed away a good deal of it – now that’s confidence. 13.6%
Nazaaray Estate Winery
Before the tasting I enjoyed a chat with Paramdeep Ghumman, Nazaaray’s affable founder. Like me, his name tends to prompt incredulity about his chosen profession. Ghumman claims he became addicted to the stuff after his first glass. It wasn’t the only new adventure. Said first glass was downed on the flight in which he and his wife Nirmal emigrated from the Punjab to Australia in 1981. The former IT specialist says he graduated from Black Tower and Blue Nun to Shiraz and, in 1989, tasted his first Burgundy. By 1991 the couple had bought land in Mornington Peninsula, just 3km from the ocean. And Ghumman was plotting the next big “my mid-life crisis” adventure.
“Not having a clue,” he duly checked himself into school to learn about winemaking. Ignoring the advice he received there, Ghumman went ahead and planted his land to vines in 1996. Known as pleurisy hill, he joked, because at 170m it is so exposed and windy, Nazaaray Estate is the Peninsula’s southernmost vineyard. But as Ghumman sanguinely put it, “I had the land, so I had to suck it and see.” He has planted trees for a wind break but admits that the wines were “terrible at first and he is still learning.” Planted on 2-3.5m deep volcanic basalt soils, the not-to-be-deterred winemaker is trialling close planting and trying to keep yields low – at 1.5kg per vine.
As for the wines shown, he pointed out that there is quite a difference between the 2010 and 2013. In 2010, he experimented with whole bunch big time – between 40-80% depending on clone (both the 2010 and 2013 feature mostly clone MV6, with 115, 114, 777, D2V5, D5V12 and D2V6). As for the 2013, the whole bunch component was ‘only’ 40%.
Nazaaray Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2010
A burgundy hue with a garnet rim. So far so Pinot. But whole bunch and site conspire to produce a singular wine. Earthy, yet fresh with iodine and kelp notes emerging when I return to the glass at the end of the tasting. The red cherry fruit has a medicinal cherry lips’ and liquorice note. There’s not much flesh here. Au contraire, this is austere, the tannins a touch astringent and Pommard-like firm. Picked 24 March, the wine was aged for 9 months in French oak, 65% new. It’s a bit hair shirt but I like this wine’s distinct character – especially the taste of the sea. But I’m not sure I’d want to kick back with a glass. 13.8%
Nazaaray Estate Pinot Noir 2013
A much deeper hue with deep red cherry fruit which really sings from the glass – lovely fruit and floral perfume – the cherries wild with a bit of bite, not pumped up. And that distinctive gout de terroir is there too – crystalline loamy earth with kelp notes as it opens up. Great sense of place, expressed with more charm in 2013 – less pleurisy, more hill – though the frame retains a firmness, almost a skeletal quality. Well intriguing! I’d like to see how this ages. According to the notes it was aged for 21 months, I’m assuming in French oak with more old than new if not all seasoned given the time this spent in barrel? The fruit was picked on 31 March and 1 & 3 April. 13.2%
Ocean Eight was established by the Alwyard family in 2004 in Shoreham in the Peninsula’s south east. Pinot Gris is grown on Shoreham’s richer soils, while Pinot Noir and Chardonnay comes from leaner, sandier loam soils. Total vineyard area is 15ha.
When I visited in 2010, Alwyard told me how his love of Burgundy combined with a desire to dispel stereotypes about Australian wines has seen him chase elegance over fruit expression. Speaking at the masterclass he told us perfume is what really stands out in Mornington Peninsula’s Pinots, so that’s what he focuses on. That said, he admitted “there are so many different things to get right I lose a lot of sleep over Pinot, but it’s the one I want to hang my hat on and get right….”
Ocean Eight’s juicy Pinots are picked at relatively low baume (note the picking dates – late February).
Ocean Eight Aylward Pinot Noir 2010
Quite cloudy with spurts of juicy wild red cherry and berry fruits. Gently sweet, Alyward’s Pinot is pretty but in a natural and, to nick a phrase from Filipa Pato, ‘wine without make up’ kind of way. As if the fruit/wine finds its own balance, saturating the palate without being groomed into place. So while it perhaps lacks the refinement of some, it has great raw appeal and immediacy to its vivid fruit, which is given free rein in the mouth. It is a blend of clones MV6, 114 & 115 from vines averaging around 20 years old planted on sandy loam soils at 80m. The fruit was picked on 20 February and was aged for 12 months in Francois Frere puncheons. 13.2%
Ocean Eight Pinot Noir 2013
Like the 2010, this Pinot is juicy with great saturation of flavour – an expansiveness delivered with vibrancy and elegance if not quite the structure of the 2010. A nice lick of spice and herbs too, with interesting (in a good way) Fernet Branca/Chinato nuances to the lifted finish. The fruit was picked on 20 February and was aged for 12 months in Francois Frere puncheons. 13.2%
I’ve visited Paringa Estate a couple of times. Teacher turned winemaker Lyndsey McCall produces among the Peninsula’s most powerful Pinots. Flagship The Paringa’s track record in the secondary market is acknowledged in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine, which categorises it as Outstanding. This tasting certainly burnished its credentials as an impressively ageworthy Pinot.
It comes from McCall’s original vineyard (pictured), next to the winery in Red Hill South at 140m and features some of the Peninsula’s oldest vines (the first planted in 1985). The winemaker attributes The Paringa’s structure to the lyre trellis, cropping at 2t/acre maximum and rich, red volcanic soils.
Paringa Estate The Paringa Pinot Noir 2010
A very well structured, imposing style of Pinot whose raft of juicy, animated fruit – plum, red and black berry and cherry – is beautifully framed by the oak, which brings enticing lifted and lingering sandalwood, cedar and smoky charcuterie nuances to nose and palate. Fine-grained tannins provide a firm chassis of support. This powerhouse has great concentration, complexity, balance and length. And looked by far the most youthful of the 2010s – a muscular but agile long distance runner. The fruit (a blend of G5V15, MV6 and D2V5 clones averaging 25 years old) was picked on 23 March; it was 100% de-stemmed and was aged for 11 months in French oak, 50% new. 14.5%
Paringa Estate The Paringa Pinot Noir 2014
McCall rates 2014 very highly for quality though, with an extremely cold spring, fruit set was very poor and quantities were “abysmal” – the 2010 cropped at 5t/ha versus 1 to 1.5t/ha in 2014. The concentration of low yields is readily apparent from a super-concentrated, brooding nose with a marked but attractive whiff of smoky bacon oak. This wine’s buttress of toasty oak provides ample support but knows its place, allowing the motile, palate-stainingly intense cherry fruit to express itself, both in flavour profile, perfume and silkiness of mouthfeel. Earthy beetroot and coltsfoot notes bring savoury nuance going through. The fruit (a blend of G5V15, MV6, D2V5 115 and 777 clones averaging 25 years old) was picked on 9,14,15 & 25 March; it was 100% de-stemmed and was aged for 11 months in French oak, 50% new. A bold yet beautiful super-supple Pinot. 13.5%
Founders Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy are best known for pioneering the other Pinot – Gris. Initially at T’Gallant; they established Quealy Winemakers following its sale in 2006. The couple make among the country’s best Pinot Gris and you can read up on their latest colourful releases (plus a skin contact Friulano) here.
Quealy make three Pinot Noirs. McCarthy showed the flagship 17 Rows Pinot Noir. It comes from 17 rows of the Balnarring Vineyard with which the couple have been long acquainted. Planted in 1982 by Stan Paul, an apple orchardist, it was just around the corner from Kings Creek Vineyard which they managed when they first arrived on the Peninsula in 1988. But McCarthy had come across wine made from it even earlier – in 1986, when he worked for James Halliday in the Yarra Valley. It was made by David Wollan at the then new Tarrawarra winery and, says McCarthy, “the power and presence of the wine was extraordinary….The site is unique.”
Quealy and McCarthy subsequently went on to make wine from these 17 rows for Donlevy Fitzpatrick in the early nineties. After they sold T’gallant in 2003, having taken stock of all the vineyards they had worked with, the pair determined to buy Balnarring Vineyard. It wasn’t for sale but they made an offer which was accepted. Quealy Winemakers have made 17 rows of Pinot Noir since 2004. McCarthy describes it as “the most wonderful learning experience working with such intense fruit” and reckons the use of extended maceration (for around a month) to polymerise and soften the tannins has been key.
The 17 rows are planted exclusively to clone MV6 at 50m on dark brown light fine sandy loam to varying depths of 20-30cm dotted with ironstone at depth. Yields are low at 1t/acre for both vintages shown. McCarthy described it as a warm site close to sea level. The vineyard is north-facing.
Quealy 17 Rows Pinot Noir 2010
Very deep in hue, this is a butch wine, the tannins a little drying. To a degree, this is off-set by the creamy oak. With chicory riffs and an almond/kernal note to its macerated red and black cherry fruit there’s almost an Italianate character – an uprightness/cusp of ripeness note. The firm finish reveals earthy beetroot and liquorice spice. Fruit was picked on 3 March and fermented with a small quantity of whole bunch. It was left on skins for 30 days post ferment and aged in French oak, 25% new. 12.5%
Quealy 17 Rows Pinot Noir 2015
Although it’s hard to assess such a young wine – it was a bit reduced on the nose and callow on the palate – there’s no mistaking the family resemblance with the 2010. Specifically, its almondy character and very cherry-sluiced palate. Fruit was picked on 3 March and fermented with a small quantity of whole bunch. It was left on skins for 30 days post ferment and aged in French oak, 100% new. Even the 2010 still needs time. so I’d put this one away for at least five years. 13%
Scorpo Wines was established by Paul and Caroline Scorpo in 1997. It is located in the rolling hills halfway between Port Phillip Bay and Westernport. The virgin site was originally planted (in the 1900s) to a cherry and apple orchard.
The vines are planted on red/blown, clay/loam soils derived from Tertiary Eocene (40 million years old) Older Volcanics, between an altitude of 70–100m on a North-North-East facing 10% slope – a brilliant suntrap and ideal drainage to slowly grow and ripen grapes. The selection of varietals and clones used are based on substantial research and experimentation; vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir (3 ha of MV6), Chardonnay (1 ha), Pinot Gris (3.5 ha), and Shiraz (0.5 ha).
Scorpo Estate Pinot Noir 2010
A firm Pinot with pithy tannins (for Paul Scorpo there’s no need for whole bunch) and small, tightly coiled, tart red currant fruit. Creamy oak asserts itself on a savoury, liquorice-edged finish. A strident long haul Pinot. Takes no prisoners. Fruit (average vine age 14 years) was picked on 6 March and aged in French oak (Francois Freres), 25% new. 13.5%
Scorpo Estate Pinot Noir 2013
Another very bullish wine, tightly coiled with pithy cranberry fruit and creamy oak which haven’t yet integrated. This needs time. But I really liked the Campari bitter florals lift to this wine. Fruit (average vine age 17 years) was picked on 8 March and aged in French oak (Francois Freres), 25% new. 13.5%
Established in 1978 by Noel and Brian Stonier, Stonier Wines is one of the Peninsula’s pioneering wineries. Anyone who has met Mike Symons knows that there is no resting on laurels. He is constantly pushing the envelope, as the second 100% whole bunch wine shown illustrated. Matthew Jukes (who chaired the tasting) surprised me when he suggested that perhaps whole bunch would be dropped as vines came of age. I’ve always thought that vine age increases your opportunity to use whole bunch because, with age and better balance, you’re more likely to get better lignification. When I asked Symons about this later he agreed that vine age is better for lignification and therefore better for whole bunch.
Stonier Windmill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
The Windmill Vineyard was planted to Pinot Noir (clone MV6) in 1996. It is located in Merricks on north-facing (warmer) slopes on red basalt loams over basalt clay. For Symons, who reckons “the savoury edge to our tannins sets us apart from other Pinot regions”, the warm location works well with whole bunch (better lignification). The approach at Stonier is to 100% de-stem, then add back stems. The aim, said Symons, “is always to make this wine so it doesn’t taste of stems…2015 is the closest we have got.” The 2010 is a very accomplished wine with lifted red cherry/cherrystone perfume to nose and palate and complexing Fern Branca, liquorice and earth. It is long, with a fine but gently firm backbone of tannins. Lovely poise. The fruit was harvested on 17 March and 20% fermented separately as whole bunches and macerated for 22 days post-fermentation. It was aged for 16 months in French oak, 45% new. 14%
Stonier W-WB Pinot Noir 2015
Only two to four barrels are ever made of this wine. The name indicates that it is from the Windmill Vineyard and comprises 100% whole bunch. Which perhaps explains why the yields are much lower for this wine – 2.5t/ha versus 3.85t/ha for the 2010. It’s a very deep hue, the nose and palate almost glancing such is its firmness and formidable concentration. With the whole bunch such a dominant force now this is a marmite wine (and far from ready). I must say its combination of energy, precision and wildness, worked well for me, though obviously it needs time to pull together. The wildness rests in its whole bunch stemmy, spicy, meaty/charcuterie notes, together with the Fern-Branca notes I found in the Windmill 2010 – nice gout de terroir then. As for the precision, this wine is extremely well structured, the tannins still a little raw and astringent, but that seems a good fit with its wildness/edginess. The energy – that raw punch of flavour is given legs by WB’s bristling acidity, which gives line, length and liveliness – a pulse. The fruit was harvested on 24 March and 100% was fermented as whole bunches and macerated for 21 days post-fermentation. It was aged for 10 months in French oak, 65% new. Symons reckons that the window for drinking the 2010 is 5-7 years while this wine is more like 20 years plus! 14.5%
Ten Minutes by Tractor
Ten Minutes by Tractor was established in 2000 and acquired by the current owner, Martin Spedding, in 2003. You will find a good overview in my earlier (10 year) vertical post here and masses of detail on the producer’s website, especially on terroir.
Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Pinot Noir 2010
The McCutcheon vineyard is, at 196-201m, Ten Minutes by Tractors’ oldest, highest vineyard. Planted on volcanic red ferrosols, the vines averaged 18 years old and the Pinot is 100% MV6. Bright ruby with a garnet rim and the merest hint of kelp to its sweet plum nose. In the mouth it’s more youthful than I expected, its concentrated red cherry and sweet plum fruit sitting firmly in the mid-palate. Complexing notes of cherry stone, bitter chocolate, hard pan minerals and Fern-Branca weave around the fruit. A rail of tannin and firm acidity give length and line. Great presence and structure. The fruit was picked on 23 March and aged for 14 months in 25% new French oak. 13.5%
Ten Minutes by Tractor Coolart Road Pinot Noir 2013
While McCutcheon comes from up hill/the south, Coolart Road is located in the north of the peninsula, downhill (at 58-62m) near Kooyong on sedimentary brown and yellow chromosols. The vineyard was planted in 2000; this wine is also 100% MV6. The 2013 was the first single vineyard wine from this site and it was fermented with 80% whole bunch. Spedding reckons the whole bunch works well with the very different fruit structure and tannins – “more masculine” – from down the hill. It’s a deep hue, with a smokier, meatier (bacony) nose and palate (as one would expect given the degree of whole bunch) and a slightly stewed quality to its black berry and cherry fruit; a hint of radicchio too. Not the clarity or focus of the McCutcheon. Spedding likes its brooding character. Be interesting to see whether the fruit emerges from under the cloak of whole bunch – I missed a bit of lift and energy – whether from sweet fruit, oak, spice or sappy acidity. The fruit was harvested on 7 March and this wine was aged for 15 months in French oak, 20% new. 13.8%
Willow Creek Vineyard
Ex-Stonier winemaker Geraldine McFaul is in charge of winemaking at Willow Creek, which is own by five Melbourne families. Having purchased the old grazing property in 1988 in Balnarring, it was planted in 1989 on degraded basalt/brown clay at 60m.
The second Pinot shown is the first single block example. It is named after Robbie O’Leary, Willow Creek’s viticulturist, who has tended the vineyard from the outset.
For McFaul, the estate’s Pinots are always characterised by “a certain earthiness and density of tannin.”
Willow Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
Yes, earthy, with damp clay, beetroot, tobacco and an interesting sweet’n soft but sour ‘n spicy chutney-like tang to the finish. Which sounds off, but it isn’t, because there’s still a good concentration of black cherry fruit. The whole is nicely framed by ripe but present tannins. Very expressive with an attractive mellowness/drinkability and balance right now. The fruit – clones MV6, D2V5, 115 and D5V12 (the vines averaging 20 years old) – was picked on 5,15 & 19 March and aged in French barriques, 25% new. 13.5%
Willow Creek Vineyard O’Leary Block Pinot Noir 2013
Cropped at 2t/ha (the 2010 was cropped at 3t/ha) this single block Pinot is very tight-knit with well concentrated and defined almond-sluiced black cherry. Going through, an earthier dimension emerges, damp leaves, incipient mushroom and firmer, lifted radicchio, which lends a tension to the palate. Fine grained tannins lend support. Lovely balance and length. The fruit – clones MV6 and D2V5 – was picked on 15 March. The wine was aged for 15 months in French oak barrqiues, 25% new. 13.5%
Yabby Lake is located in Tuerong, down hill (50-70m) in the northern part of the Peninsula. It was established in 1998 by the Kirby family who still own it. The winemaker is Tom Carson who delivered a very insightful Pinot Noir masterclass when I attended the Landmark Tutorial in 2010, subsequently paying my first visit to the Peninsula.
Carson has the distinction of producing the first Pinot Noir – Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir 2012 – to win the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for best red wine in Australia in its 52-year history.
Yabby Lake Single Block Release Block 2 Pinot Noir 2010
Still a deep, deep colour; oaky too. Its dark fruits seemed a little flat-footed, without the energy to lubricate the palate. Which perhaps explains why the tannins seemed a little dry on the finish and the alcohol a touch pokey. I was disappointed with this wine (this bottle?) given my other much more positive experiences of this estate’s Pinots. It was sourced from vines averaging 12 years old on light sandy loam over Callabonna clay – 100% MV6. The fruit was picked on 18 March and fermented with 20% whole bunches. It was aged for 11 months in French oak (some 500l puncheons), 20% new. 14%
Yabby Lake Single Block Release Block 2 Pinot Noir 2013
A very well-structured Pinot, with smoky charcuterie oak and whole bunch notes to nose and palate. The acid and tannins run deep, so it has no shortage of energy or line. The fruit (and foliage) keeps pace – dark berry and cherry, with earthier beetroot and a touch of Fern-Branca. Exudes huge potential. The fruit was picked on 6 March and fermented with 20% whole bunches. It was aged for 11 months in 500l French oak puncheons, 20% new. 13.5%