Winemaker in the House - Jack West
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.