Welcome to the Artisans of Barossa blog where we will highlight news and events from around the Barossa.
‘MAX & ME’ or Sarah & Phil, back in the Artisans house this weekend.
As I walked in the front doors of the Rex in Tanunda at 6.40am on Wednesday to face my weekly thrashing at the hands of Jess the personal trainer, the BOM app on my phone reminded me how bloody cold it was – a touch below -2 degrees Celsius. And whilst I considered for a moment the insanity of anyone being out and about at this time of the morning (paying to be thrashed!) in these alpine conditions, my heart went out to the folk living high up in the hills of the Eden Valley. For we in the wine business recount time and again of the cooler nights and crisp morning conditions of that fair Valley, and the powerful impact these special micro climates have on the wines produced from the vineyards dotted across what must be the most Australian looking of Australian vineyard landscapes. (cue kangaroos, gnarly old gums, rolling hills and big blue skies etc).
Concerned, I dropped Phil “Lehmo” Lehmann a text this morning ‘Morning mate… random question. How cold did it get at your joint in the EV this week?’ I then prepared to wait a little while for a response, giving Phil the time to take of his gloves, warm his digits, blow the steam off a mug of coffee, shoo away the kangaroos and file his response. ‘Cold as penguin’s feet mate – would have hit minus 0.5 I reckon.’ Now that was not what I expected, and I conveyed my surprise at reports of positively tropical conditions coming in from my similarly hirsute mate from Eden Valley in a follow up question. ‘Bugger me, I thought you blokes would be colder up in them thar hills?’
‘Closer to the sun’came the reply in an whip crack of an instant of time. The Lehmann dry wit that has spanned generations is still hard at work.
Phil & Sarah Lehmann’s Eden Valley property produce some brilliant wines under their Max & Me label, and we’re very excited to have them in the house at Artisans pouring their wines this weekend. And why is their estate label ‘Max & Me’, and not ‘Phil & Sarah’? That story starts with a chance meeting of Sarah with Phil’s dog Max, which marked the start of their journey together. Sarah, a professional ballet dancer and passionate dog lover, was performing at the Barossa Music Festival. She met Max at rehearsal, and meeting Max led to meeting Phil. Max was always with either, or both; whether working in the vineyard or winery with Phil, or at work or University with Sarah. He went to the wedding, and tagged along on their honeymoon. So what to call their wines made from their beautiful Eden Valley vineyard? ‘Max & Me’ of course!
The full range is on tasting this weekend, and the Lehmanns will be in the house from 12-4pm Saturday and Sunday with the latest weather and vintage reports from their beautiful Boongarrie Estate property in the Barossa Ranges. A place where biodiversity is encouraged and where pest and disease pressures are minimal. Where sheep and cattle graze the vineyard grasses during winter, and where dung-beetles do what dung-beetles do – eat animal poo to produce dung-beetle crap to serve as fertilizer to improve the vineyard soils. This philosophy of managing the land to look after the soils, and deploying minimal chemical inputs makes for special dirt in a special place. And with special people in charge, there’s one thing for sure. These are exceptionally special wines!
Cheers, Howard from Artisans.
This year, John Duval Wines are celebrating the 15th anniversary of their foundation vintage, and have added a sixth wine to their range. Plexus was first in 2003, followed by Entity (’04) and Eligo (’05) in quick succession before a short hiatus leading to the release of Plexus White (’10) and Annexus Grenache(’13).) 2018 sees the release of the first vintage of Annexus Mataro from the stellar 2016 vintage, and this is what John had to say about the new wine.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Mataro, it’s a critical element of Plexus and a grape variety that deserves to be celebrated by Barossa winemakers. We’ve sourced fruit from this dry grown 100 year old vineyard at Light Pass for all the years we’ve produced Plexus - and with 2016 being such a great vintage the time was right to release a small quantity of Mataro under the Annexus label. We’re very happy with the first release wine - it shows plenty of classic savoury spiced fruit on the nose and powerful, yet restrained black fruit flavours on the palate, supported by ample, long flowing waves of tannin. It sits very comfortable amongst our small family of wines. Will we make an Annexus Mataro every year? I think the answer to that is entirely dependent on the qualities of future vintages.”
Also this weekend, the new vintage of Eligo will be available for tasting - the 2015 vintage. John’s aim with Eligo is to produce a structured but elegant expression of Barossa Shiraz - a wine with restrained power, rich texture and palate length in the classic John Duval Wines mould. From a master winemaker with access to exceptional and rare Barossa vineyards, the release of the 2015 Eligo will be one of the highlights of 2018 at Artisans.
John will be our Winemaker in the House this weekend at Artisans, from 12-4pm both Saturday and Sunday presenting these brilliant new release wines along with the rest of the family of wines that has been carefully framed over the past 15 years. Not to be missed!
Jaysen Collins from Massena is in the Artisans house this weekend. (And because winemakers are real people too, he’ll be a little late on Saturday as he heads back from Adelaide after watching the kids play soccer.) Catch him from 2-4pm Saturday, and 12-4pm Sunday.
A Massena tasting can be best described as an adventure – the wines once described by Lisa Perotti-Brown of The Wine Advocate as “…exciting departures from the status quo.” This weekend’s tasting will definitely have you venturing off the high street – the Eleventh Hour Barossa Shiraz surrounded by a bedazzling collection of diverse varietals including Saperavi and Primitivo, and red and white blends that reflect the eternal willingness of the Massena winemakers to take a path less travelled in the pursuit of making wines that are a sheer pleasure to drink. If you happen to make the journey to Artisans this weekend, you’ll also be treated to a sneak pre-release tasting of the first edition 2017 Massena ‘Stonegarden’ Grenache. Jaysen has smuggled a few bottles out of the winery ahead of the official release (which is on June 6 at Rockpool in Sydney) making it well worth a drive to the top end of Magnolia Road over the weekend.
Massena celebrates 20 years of winemaking next year, and I sense it’s a coming of age moment for founders Jaysen Collins and Dan Standish, along with their new collaborator - vigneron Glen Monaghan. Jaysen and Dan were young blokes in their early 20’s when they thought it might be ‘a bit of fun’ to partner up to make ‘a bit of wine’ – an opportunity to express some artistic licence free of the restraints of their respective day jobs at Turkey Flat and Torbreck. With the benefit of hindsight, those founding ideals of ‘a bit of fun’ and ‘a bit of wine’ now appear to be equally gross understatements. Plenty of wine has been made (albeit in small batches), and plenty of fun has been had… some would suggest fun on a scale previously unimaginable in the business of making wine.
2017 was a watershed year for Jaysen and Dan’s, bought about by the decision to head out in search of a peerless Barossa vineyard to produce a new range of top tier wines for Massena. They say fortune favours the brave, and an introduction to Glen Monaghan who’d only recently purchased the Stonegarden Vineyard in Eden Valley saw a partnership of two winemakers grow to include a vigneron. The platform for Massena ‘Stonegarden’ wines was in place and the first wines are now released. The 2017 Riesling was an impressive debut, as was the 2017 Fruit Salad Block White – a brilliant example of the power of collaboration between committed grape grower and innovative winemaker. Few would think to hang onto a vineyard block containing 20 something grape varieties – and I suspect only Massena would think to have a go at making a wine by blending the lot! The 2017 Stonegarden Grenache is next on the release schedule, followed by a 2017 GSM blend, then a second vintage of Riesling and a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon. And there is talk of a Mataro and a Malbec made in tiny quantities from fruit picked from individual vines found here and there amongst plantings of other varieties at Stonegarden. All exciting examples of extreme and rare Barossa provenance.
For 20 years, Massena has lived and celebrated the Artisan ideal of individual expression in Barossa winemaking. And whilst the Stonegarden wines might represent (dare I say it) a ‘maturing’ for Massena, the determination to keep making sure it’s fun has not diminished. To prove the point, Jaysen tells me they’re testing a new Shiraz-Tannat blend from the 2018 vintage – apparently it’s going to be called “Shitnat”.
If there were such a thing as 'Barossa Shiraz divining rods' then Pete Schell, proprietor at Spinifex Wines must own a set! This winemaker's ability to seek and find the patchwork of small vineyards that supplies an incredible array of superb expressions of this wine region's hero grape variety is certainly impressive. If not uncanny. Or possibly god-like if you really love your Barossa Shiraz. Either way, a tasting with Pete of his myriad of Spinifex Shiraz (at least 7 different ones at last count) is what we're offering this Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 up at Artisans. This is your chance to meet, talk and taste with a true Shiraz Sifu. (Or 'master' if your Cantonese is a bit rusty.)
Pete is clearly comfortable with the idea of embracing diversity. In contrast with some of the bigger wineries, his wines are driven by the landscape and his preference for expression of varietal and site typicity rather than the winemaker's influence. This is a winemaker who both understands the land, and respects the importance of building relationships with good growers. He rejoices in the differences. and that shows in the wines on tasting this weekend.
The 2015 La Maline is a fine and elegant example of Shiraz produced from mostly Eden Valley Vineyards. Just 60 dozen of the 2012 Old Vine Shiraz were produced, from a 110 year old vineyard at Nuriootpa. A great vintage and as good an example of Barossa Shiraz you're ever likely to taste. The 2016 Indegine introduces a good dollop of Mataro blended with old vine Shiraz from the Eden Valley and Moppa - it's a bold, tannic and structural expression of Shiraz, in contrast to the elegant La Maline...the sort of Shiraz you'd drink listening to ACDC at 80 decibels. The 2015 Bete Noir is fine - it's lean, it's structured, it's athletic - I think it to be cast in the image of Michaelangelo's David. And then there is the youngster produced from 20 year old vines grown at some of the higher points around Barossa - the 2017 Syrah is loaded with soft, plush and bright primary fruit. Barely a hint of oak, and so pure! Finally 2015 Miette - made with a singular mission in mind - to bring drinking pleasure to the table.
One winemaker, six diverse expressions of the art of making Barossa Shiraz on tasting (with the winemaker) this weekend at Artisans. Don't miss out!
Cheers from Howard at Artisans.
Browse/buy the Spinifex range here.
Congratulations to Sons of Eden whose 2015 Remus Eden Valley Shiraz has just been awarded Best Shiraz at the 2018 Winewise Championship.
The Winewise Championship is open to gold medal-winning wines from regional and the National Wine Show. It is judged by winemakers, media commentators, retail trade people and Winewise to decide the “best of the best”.
Buy wine: /product/Sons-of-Eden-Remus-Shiraz-2015
John Lienert seems to be known by more names than I’ve had hot lunches - the impressive sobriquet ‘Jack West’ graces the labels of his ridiculously delicious Western Ridge reds – wines made from the fruit he grows himself in a part of Barossa locals like to call New Mecklenburg. (Seems like one name is never enough out on the western ridge – others may know this part of Barossa as Gomersal.)
John’s/ Jack’s Barossa wine story is a familiar one. He's part of a Barossa family tree with a solid trunk and roots that go deep down, and with plenty of branches producing aunties and uncles and cousins here, there and everywhere across the district. He was born here, grew up on the family farm here, spent his school years here and graduated from Faith Lutheran College under the guidance of the Lutherans. They don’t come much more local than John Lienert, which may be what motivated him to create the alter ego Jack West to name his wines. “Jack West just sounded a whole lot more interesting than John Lienert of New Mecklenburg.” John’s words… and point taken, perhaps a good strategy to stand out from the pack of Barossa Lienerts many of us know.
John started off in wine growing grapes in Lienert country at one of the higher points on the Western Ridge, out along the Gomersal Road. 100% reds – this is no country for white wine. He had a ‘dabble’ with winemaking back in 2005 with a bit of Sangiovese that no one else wanted, which became the itch he just had to scratch when he launched Jack West Wines in 2014.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to make, I’d think about making my own wines as I was going to bed, dream about making my own wines through the night, and then still be thinking about it the next morning as I was ploughing through my bowl of cornflakes. Sometimes you’ve just got to follow your gut feel, and gives things a crack. I’m 5 years down the track, and very comfortable with where I’ve got to. The wines reflect my bit of Barossa dirt, and me and my approach to winemaking and wine enjoying. I like to keep things simple, I like wines that express a sense of place, but wines that have a distinctive personality. For me, that means making the rich and juicy reds for which the Western Ridge is known for, wines with plenty of flavour and a good strong backbone. And making wines that people love to drink.”
And then almost on queue, ‘Wazza’ a local grapegrower passes by and slaps John/ Jack on the back - "John - that Grenache of yours is bloody delicious, send me another case." This winemaker has plenty of local and vocal fans.
As for a perspective on the 2018 vintage from someone who grows it, picks it and makes it?
“It sure was slow to get going. January was very cool, and apart from a spike of heat at the start of February, things were fairly cool out our way through February and March. I think we cleaned and polished our new harvester plenty of times before the Shiraz got ripe. The Grenache came in straight after the Shiraz, and then the Mataro did what Mataro does – hanging around longer than a single bloke at the Tanunda Footy Club Social – we ended up picking it in late April. The yields were good this year, and the fruit looked great. The ferments smelt awesome and the wines have amazing colour, flavour and texture. This will be up there with the best of them I reckon. All up, 2018 was a great year for the grower, and also for the winemaker, lucky I’m both!”
Jack West joins us in the house at Artisans on Saturday 12 & Sunday 13 May from 12- 4 pm. Stop by for a chat and introduce yourselves to these brilliant wines – and take time to talk to the farmer, the winemaker and now the sales guy - all wrapped up in one, and known only as Jack West of the Western Ridge.
The Hobbs' were always guaranteed to arrive in the Artisans house a little later than the others. Their vineyard in the high country of Eden Valley is generally the last to be picked of all of our Artisans' vineyards, and it wasn't until the last week of April that the call was made to bring the last of the fruit into the winery. With the hard slog of vintage now behind them, Greg and Allison join us this weekend to present the latest releases of their imperious and delicious reds alongside a superb Viognier.
Anyone that knows Greg Hobbs can appreciate he's a man not to mince his words. Nor is he a chap prone to hyperbole. In short, Greg calls it as he sees it. When I asked him early this morning for his thoughts on the 2018 vintage, he was emphatic. "At this stage, it's as good as Allison and I have seen since we bought the vineyard back in 1995. Plenty of power, but balanced with refined, silky and beautifully elegant tannins. We had a near perfect run up here at the home block - the early February heat didn't affect the fruit, and from that point all the way through to the last pick, the conditions were nothing but absolutely perfect. We couldn't be any happier with the quality that we've been tasting in the vineyard."
On tasting this weekend will be the 2015 vintage Gregor Shiraz, alongside a first showing of the 2015 Tango Shiraz Viognier and the excellent 2017 Viognier. Apart from the opportunity to have a good yack with Greg and Allison and taste some exceptional wines, this weekend also provides you the chance to get to understand a little more about what makes the high Eden such a very special part of our Barossa wine world. We've also got a few tables available at Harvest Kitchen....a Hobbs red with the Hutton Vale lamb, or Viognier with the field mushrooms (or both) would turn your good weekend into a great weekend. Call ahead on 8563 3935 to make a booking.
Sons of Eden are back in the Artisans house this weekend from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday presenting the produce of a partnership between expert grape grower Simon Cowham and expert winemaker Corey Ryan.
They’ll have on tasting new vintage releases of the twin Shiraz’s Remus and Romulus, along with the current release, and much loved and much consumed, Freya Riesling. Also on tasting is the first release of ‘Studium’, an Eden Valley Sagrantino of which just 1,000 bottles were produced. All of this plus up to four claret stained hands on show to tell the story of the fabulous 2018 vintage that’s just wrapped up.
We look forward to seeing you up at Artisans this weekend. Come say g'day and taste some brilliant expressions of Barossa winemaking… and let it be said… grape growing. Enjoying a glass of Studium or a shared bottle of Freya on the deck overlooking an ocean of some gold, some green and even a little red vine leaf is simply good for the soul.
the team at Artisans Of Barossa
Tim Smith, the one-man band that is Tim Smith Wines Barossa, is a busy bloke during vintage. But with the harvesting and the crushing, and the fermenting and the pressing almost done for vintage 2018, we finally got a chance to spend some quality time with the man who answers the phone… "Tim Smith Wines, Tim Smith speaking”.
2018 marks the 10th and final time that Tim Smith will make his wine at the Home of the Brave winery… a tiny Lichtenstein carved out of the continent sized former Kaiser Stuhl, come Southcorp then ‘Pennies’ winery at Nuriootpa. Sometime this year, Tim will move (subject to the usual approvals from Council of course) to his own shed on his own land at Vine Vale. A momentous moment for any winemaker to secure their own digs… and for Tim just 17 years on from that day in 2001 when, whilst necking Condrieu on the doorstep of the famous Hermitage Hill Chapel, the decision was made to launch Tim Smith Wines. Further proof that there is no such thing as an overnight success story in the world of small batch winemaking. A moment of inspiration (or madness) to make a start, 5 years of soul searching and questioning whether you can make a go of it, followed by 10 years paddling as fast as you can to keep your head above water, before you reward yourself with your own shed. It’s a hard slog. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love it. And you wouldn’t succeed if folk didn’t love what you created from the fruit grown in the vineyards of Barossa. Tim Smith is a man who has ticked all those boxes, and we wish him all the best for the big move in 2018.
With vintage almost done and dusted, Tim can now turn his attentions to other passions which typically take a back seat at this time of the year. And whilst playing the drums and riding classic Triumph motorcycles are high on the list, a quick look around the winery suggests the Port Adelaide Football club probably ranks alongside Tim Smith Wines in equal first place in the order of important things, well above all else in life.
Despite the mighty ‘pear’ pulling on the jerseys against Geelong this Saturday night at the Adelaide Oval, Tim will be back in the Artisans Of Barossa house this weekend and if you happen to be in the Barossa, we encourage you to drop in for a quiet chat. Along with the freshest stories of vintage, which are often the truest, Tim is also showcasing plenty of new releases.
Tim Smith - in the Artisans house this Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm, just before he heads out the door to take his seat in the house of the 'pear'... no doubt with a glass of Viognier in hand.
the team at Artisans
We believe the keystones to delicious and exceptional Barossa wine are caring for where it comes from and how it is made, and encouraging and promoting individual expression. And our promise is to share the very best of these wines with you – wines from the established names, but also wines from a growing pool of exciting, emerging talent that energises and refreshes the collective output of the Barossa winemaking community each vintage.
Andy Cummins and Emma Welling impressed us with the ‘hearts on sleeves’ approach to wine when they first appeared in the Artisans house back in January this year. And the story of their journey to what is just a third vintage in 2018 rekindled great memories for our more established Artisans. Memories of the early days as a new winemaker, trying to find your feet, setting your course and then growing in confidence each year as you sense more and more that you’re on the right track.
We had a quick chat to Emma this week… Andy’s days are still fully consumed with balancing his day job at Henschke, ongoing commitments to his winemaking studies and working on the third vintage instalment of Rasa Wines.
“I’m amazed with his energy levels, and that he’s able to find the time to get everything done. If he manages to get a day off from vintage at Henschke, he’s instantly immersed in working on the Rasa Wines. It’s been a great vintage – brilliant quality and all at a nice, steady pace. There’s been plenty of long days and hard slog, but you don’t mind doing that when the quality is there to taste. We’ve taken Semillon from a new vineyard at Williamstown for The White, and also some Riesling from the Eden Valley. We like the idea of incorporating small portions of Riesling into our wines as a natural way of balancing acidity in our wines.”
The first of the 2018 wines won’t be released until late this year, and there are only tiny quantities of selected current releases still available. Emma (and maybe Andy) will be in the Artisans Of Barossa house this weekend from 12-4 each day, and this is your chance to come talk to the winemakers and grab a few of the last remaining bottles of Rasa Wines before they sell out.
We’re also featuring their wines at Harvest Kitchen… We're thinking a glass of the 2017 Bright Red with the field mushrooms, truffle oil and white bean puree would be a mighty fine tonic on a day like today!