Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A day in Heathcote!

There is so much to love about Heathcote. The rolling hills, the rocks sitting in the most odd formations and places yet maintaining graceful balance, the eucalypt lined roads, and of course the wine.

Being my second trip to the region a week ago, I was keen on dropping in on another small winery or two which I had not previously experienced nor had their wines.

Stop one landed on the doorstep of McIvor Estate. Wow, what a setting! And what fabulous service and people! Upon arrival we were met by Cynthia. She introduced herself and then remembered all our names over the next hour and a half, plus the other dozen people who came and went in that time. Being the wife of the winemaker, she knew the product back to front, but it was her warming personality and charm which made this experience even more memorable. We were also introduced to the latest member of the team, Lucy the 12 week old Blue Heeler, and then walked through each wine by our host. A bonus being the side by side tasting of some previous vintages of Nebbiolo and Shiraz.

Winemaker Gary wandered in later and shared a few yarns with us. A genuine good bloke with his heart and soul in his product.
As we tasted and chatted in this most relaxed and warm setting, Cynthia also shared McIvor's estate grown Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Caramelised Balsamic. All splendidly delectable.

Walking through the wines which are all estate grown:
Marsanne Roussanne 2010: The only white wine in the line up. Typical traits of honeysuckle and lemons. Some creaminess on the palate with some good acid. Drink now. $25

Sangiovese 2009: A rustic style with a boot load of sediment suggesting no filtering. Rose petals and the usual cherry nose with a gentle whiff of spice. Palate was tight with ample fruit to support it. Chalky tannins to finish up. Tidy effort. $25

Cabernet Merlot 2008: A blend of 51% Cabernet and 49% Merlot. Impressive deep colour with a hint of mint on the nose along with some savoury characters. Chocolate on the palate. Long length with juicy tannins. $25

Shiraz 2008: Coming from a cooler year, a nose of dark concentrated fruits with admirable depth. The colour was vibrant and intense - as was the palate. Fleshy fruit wrapped up with a fine and smooth finish. Damn! Well worth the price tag. $35

Shiraz 2009: Hello Heathcote Shiraz! My goodness. And I thought the 2008 was great. Whoa! From a hot summer, the nose here was a bomb waiting to explode. More concentrated and even more depth than the '08, yet softer and more elegant. Dark chocolate, black cherries the highlights which flowed beautifully onto a full and delicious palate. Ten years left in this guy. $40

Nebbiolo 2008: A cooler vintage, produced an aromatic nose with cherries prominent. This Nebb is starting to hit its straps with the tannins softening and leaving you dry and grippy. $35

Nebbiolo 2009: Amazing the difference a year makes. The aromatics here are completely different. Some spice and black olives obvious. I liked the fruit here and the intense flavours. A lick of spice adding to the package nicely. The tannins were a lot firmer and no doubt will soften well with more bottle age. One for the bank. $35

The wines from McIvor Estate are available in some Melbourne Restaurants and small independents, so best bet is online for interstaters or Cellar Door.

McIvor left a superb impression on our travelling party, and I suggest you get yourself there if in the area. If you are organised and have a tribe of at least 8, Gary and Cynthia will light up the wood fired pizza oven. What more incentive do you need?

A quick drive to the "neighbours" at Shelmerdine was the next stop. The service wasn't a patch on Cynthia and Gary up the road, as these guys appeared more focused on the restaurant customers than the crew we had lined up at the bar.
The wines were of good quality and well made but some appeared over priced in some respects. The highlights here:
Pinot Rose 2011: The wine was barrel fermented in French oak after being whole bunched pressed (12.5% abv). Good salmon like colour with savory elements and some texture for interest. Soft and clean finish. Very approachable. Fruit from the Upper Yarra Valley. $25

Heathcote Shiraz 2008: The fruit comes from Tooborac (15%) just up the road with the remainder coming from the Willoughby Bridge vineyard to the north of Heathcote. Hand picked and thirteen months in a mix of new and one year old French oak produced a wine with cherries, spice and dark fruit on the nose. A palate of distinct savoury characters, well integrated oak, and a long finish. A bargain. $33

Heathcote "Merindoc" Single Vineyard Shiraz 2008: The flagship wine. All estate grown fruit from the Merindoc vineyard. Hand picked, basket pressed, and wild fermented. Fourteen months in French oak and bottled unfiltered. A dark crimson appearance. Concentrated fruit and earthy on the nose which follows through to the palate bringing a savoury component, dotted with gentle spice and a touch of mint. A smooth, long and supple finish. Stick this away for a few years for sure to see it at its best. The price tag doesn't ooze value though ($65), but gee it makes the Heathcote Shiraz a ripping deal.

With our stomachs calling it was off to Flynns for lunch - a very late lunch indeed, where we were greeted by winemaker Greg. As with Gary from McIvor, a warming and welcoming individual who loved to share his passion and vision for his wines. Lunch was ordered and we sipped away a range of splendid wines in the interim.

We kicked off in the tasting room before Greg ripped out the barrel thief and called us all into the winery next door for some unscripted and off the cuff barrel sampling and blending. More on that soon...

Being my second trip to Flynns, my reason for returning was made obvious very quickly. Here's why:
Viognier 2011: A gentle whiff of honey, spice and apricot. Partially barrel fermented (13.2% abv) and those creamy and buttered toast flavours are evident. Yum. $28

Verdelho 2008: Greg has moved away from the clean and fresh Verdelho many wineries pump out opting for a more complex flavour and oak integrated wine (20% in French oak for 3-4 months), and it works well. Tropical fruit still prominent on the nose but much softer. The oak integration adds some inviting texture on the palate. Creamy with an edge of freshness and gentle lingering finish. $25

MC Shiraz 2009: MC standing for multi-clone as there are four clones of Shiraz in this wine. The wine sat in 40% new American and French oak for fourteen months. Deep purple in colour, an earthy and zippy nose with a cheeky spice and a shade of mint. (That mint characteristic synonymous with Cabernet has really been jumping out of the glass on this trip from Shiraz which was impressive!) The palate is gutsy and full (14.5% abv), yet elegant and polished off nicely with tannins which are a shade away from powdery. Gee I love this drop and summarises what Heathcote Shiraz is all about!
At this point Greg invites us into the winery. Saddle up! His passion went into over drive as he gave us a look at the Shiraz '10 with the trusty barrel thief.

The first sneak peak was from the Upper Hill Shiraz '10. Sweetness from the American oak was obvious, along with chocolate and cherry. The oak was dominant and it was a great example of how the use if different barrels for blending really builds a wine.

A sample of the B Block Shiraz '10 was next. French oak this time with a much deeper colour and softer palate profile. Acid was good too. These two barrels will combine beautifully when blended.

Vermentino was next on the agenda. A first vintage for Flynns and Greg was excited to show where it was at. Firstly a tank sample. The wine threw out lemons and a touch of spice. Aromatics were strong with tropical fruit too. The palate was clean and refreshing. A barrel sample was then produced. Three months in oak contributed to a softer wine with creamy aromatics. Two totally different samples - yet the same wine. Some crafty blending from Greg then kicked in producing a blend in quick time. The resulting wine was outstanding! A blend of 80% tank and 20% barrel. The spice from the tank sample was levelled out creating a clean nose yet still maintaining fresh and lemony characters. Moreish deluxe can't describe the palate any better. A great profile and damn, I can't wait to see this in a bottle.

The lunch bell rang and I set off for my lamb shanks which were washed down with some MC Shiraz, and they were tremendously delicious! A big thanks to Greg and his staff for their excellent hospitality and for sharing their wines, knowledge and passion.

A magnificent day shared in some magnificent company and with brilliant wines. If you have never been to Heathcote, best you get yourself there!

McIvor Estate
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Shelmerdine Vineyards

Flynns Wines
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