Many moons ago I used to go to a winery for work wearing the standard gear of Hard Yakka pants, Blundstone boots and perhaps a flannelette shirt. It was a charming look, to say the least. One day, I was requested by my winemaking boss to spend a weekend up at his farm in the Macedon Ranges to help plant a vineyard. I was keen as a bean to give it a go, as I had never had the experience before. I thought it was another accolade I could put on my resume: Has planted vineyard – tick! Had I known the amount of exertion involved in planting a vineyard, I’m not sure I would have held the same level of enthusiasm. How it worked was that a tractor would start at the beginning of the vineyard row and move along ramming holes into the soil and filling it with water. My job was to follow with the vine cuttings and ram them roots down into the hole and stuff it with earth. Then I would move to the next hole…and the next …and the next. Hundreds of cuttings later at the end of the day, instead of walking up and down the hill doing the task, I was crawling on my hands and knees from all the fatigue. Oh such cherished memories.
Silent Way Chardonnay is made from those vine cuttings I planted in the Macedon Ranges all those years ago. It is a project run by my dear friends, Matt and Tamara Harrop. The name, Silent Way, pays homage to a cracking record by cool jazz genius, Miles Davis. The label design includes symbols of love and connecting with the earth and was in fact used in their wedding invitations many years ago. While I should probably hold some bitter feelings towards this wine for all the knee and back pain it caused, I can’t help but sing its praises.
This Chardonnay is surprisingly flavoursome for a wine of relatively young vine age. It has good character with aromas of white peach, yellow nectarine and pine nuts. The palate offers gentle flavours of honeydew, lemon wedge and a hint of parsley with a smooth, creamy texture that is balanced by the typically taut Macedon acidity. This acidity is lovely and fresh on the front palate, and then mellows out at the finish. All elements are in balance, something that was probably assisted by the use of 100% old French oak barrels to not overpower the natural Chardonnay flavours. You’ll find this mouth-coating goodness at King & Godfree in Carlton.
COBAW RIDGE Lagrein 2008
Macedon Ranges, Victoria
My partner Jess and I were recently travelling through the Lancefield countryside on a lazy Sunday. We decided to take a shortcut to the town of Macedon by venturing through the serious dirt roads of the Cobaw Forest in our new 4WD. At one point, I had the bright idea of getting our manic blue heeler Billie out of the back seat and running beside the car. As usual, she ran berserk through the various pools of water along the road and kept pace with the car for most of the way. Towards the end, Billie began to lag behind. We came around a corner and saw a large pool of murky water ahead but naively assumed it would be shallow and drove straight through. Suffice to say that we did not make it out. Instead, the car sunk deep into the sloppy slurry that crept right to the base of the car doors. I looked out my window to the rear of the car to see if we could reverse back. At the same time, Jess revved the engine and splashed a bucket load of beige goodness inside the car and all over myself. I squealed with surprise and Billie just stood by the pool of mud looking bemused. We decided it was a wise idea to get out of the car and Jess would try and build sticks up around the wheels to get out while I would run for help. I continued on up the track with a wet and excited Billie running by my side. We had only run 100 metres when I came across a sign that read ‘Cobaw Ridge winery – Open’.
‘Tractors!’ I thought.
I turned right and pelted up the long dirt track and arrived breathless at the empty cellar door. After ringing the bell several times I was finally greeted by the gracious owner, Nelly Cooper. She saw my panic-stricken face and wandered into the vineyard to grab her husband, Alan. He kindly stopped kangaroo-proofing his fence and jumped into the tractor with a chain and pulled our newly christened vehicle out. In order to say thanks, we decided to head back to the cellar door and try some of their wines.
The 2008 Lagrein was one of a couple of bottles we bought. It is Alan’s homage to the red grape of the Trentino-Alto Adige region in far northern Italy. The Lagrein has an admirable deep inky hue followed by seductive Italian-like aromas of black cherries, plums and hints of violets. The wine is incredibly moreish with those intense flavours giving way to super supple medium-bodied tannins and texture that peters out to a smooth finish. Lagrein tends to be drunk young and can be underestimated because of its medium-bodied-ness, when in fact it can be just as fresh and delicious with 5-10 years of bottle age. You will find the latest vintage of Lagrein is available directly from cellar door from some of the loveliest people you’ll meet.
DIRTY THREE Pinot Noir 2012
South Gippsland, Victoria
“Wine is all about the dirt – from the vineyard soil, to the dirty purple hands of the winemaker”. This is the ethos behind the Dirty Three lads, Marcus Satchell, Stuart Gregor and Cameron Mackenzie, who work together to create this Pinot Noir out of fruit from South Gippsland, 150km south east of Melbourne.
The purity and silkiness of this vivid red Pinot Noir were what captured me. A collection of aromas jump out of the glass, including green plum, black cherry and kola nut. There is a charry cocoa note as well from the 11 months in French oak. The pomegranate-like acidity is youthful and keeps the wine crunchy on the palate. This light to medium-bodied Pinot finishes all class with its silky texture and finely grained tannic finish. If you can hold off finishing the bottle in your first sitting, try it the next day for an even more mellowed version. Available from the Prince Wine Store in South Melbourne.