The Yarra Valley. It was almost a decade ago that I first visited, back in March 2006. It was a lovely trip owing much to the generosity of Tony Jordan, who hosted me and arranged my appointments, Now, it was time to revisit.
I started off right in the south of the region, at Gembrook Hill, with Andrew Marks. This is a picture-perfect vineyard planted in 1983 by his parents, who live on the property. Andrew makes the wines here with the help of Timo Meyer, and also makes wines under his own label – The Wanderer. In addition, he’s making a very smart gin (Melbourne Gin Company) that is taking off big time. He uses 11 botanicals and distills each separately, and then blends the final gin. ‘Putting this together and learning how to make gin is one of the most fun things I have done,’ says Andrew.
The Gembrook Hill Pinot Noirs are one of Australia’s undiscovered secrets. 2012, 2013 and 2014 are all profound efforts with lovely detail, complexity and freshness. The 2000 vintage showed that these wines can age. Also check out the Wanderer wines, which are quite beautiful.
Next stop was Bobar, with Tom and Sally Belford. The story here? Syrah and Chardonnay, naturally made. They’ve been going since 2010, but in 2014 made a change, largely driven by Sally. The colour in the Syrah dropped considerably, through picking at 11.5 Baume and pressing to stainless steel at 8 Baume. ‘I thought it would be unsaleable,’ says Tom, ‘but it sold out in 15 minutes.’
These are very lovely, delicate, elegant wines. And the Belfords are just lovely people.
The evening saw a joint session at the Mac Forbes cellar door, with Luke Lambert, Gary Mills (Jamsheed), Austin Black (winemaker, Mac Forbes) and Timo Meyer. What a line up!
We began with Luke’s wines. Sparkling Chardonnay 2011 was a great start, and regular Chardonnay 2013 was lovely. His Crudo 2015 is a very drinkable, vivid wine that acts as a second label, and the main Syrah 2014 is a real star. My favourite of his, though, is the celebrated Nebbiolo 2013 which comes from the Denton Vineyard.
Gary Mills’ Jamsheed wines are quite wonderful, and I’ve sung their praises here before. His whites are lovely, but the core of the range is red, with Syrah predominant. ‘Instead of Syrah,’ says Gary, ‘If I made Pinot I reckon I’d be a very rich man: there’s no ceiling to Pinot prices in Australia.’ Top wine here: Garden Gully Syrah from a 135 year old vineyard in Great Western.
Timo Meyer is larger than life. Bearded and grinning, he has an infectious enthusiasm, and the wines he makes are just fabulous. Such a shame that Rousseau copied his labels! [For the legally inclined, that is a joke.] The 2014 Syrah is just beautiful, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the same vintage are also excellent.
Mac Forbes has a wide range of wines, and I think he’s really nailing it now. In the past, some of the wines were a little lean for their own good, although most were excellent. Now, they have lovely balance across the range. RS56 Riesling is one of Australia’s best, I reckon.Reds are uniformly lovely, with the Wesburn Pinot Noir 2014 the stand-out. This is a brave line-up of wines.