Welcome to the Artisans of Barossa blog where we bring you news and events from Artisans of Barossa, Vino Lokal and the Barossa region.
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!
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. When you visit Artisans of Barossa, we want you to be able to make sense of Barossa in its entirety by bringing together every possible expression of Barossa wine along with great stories and the flavoursome food from Harvest Kitchen.
As the 2018 vintage draws to a close, we’ll once again welcome our winemakers into the Artisans house. Every weekend beginning on the 14 & 15 of April through to the end of June, you’ll meet the people who make our wines, and talk to them about their approach to winemaking - learning more about where each of their wines come from, how they are made and what makes them so very special. Coming so soon after vintage, you’ll see plenty of purple hands and sense first-hand the excitement shared by all about the exceptional quality of this year’s harvest.
Along with the established names like John Duval Wines, Sons of Eden, Schwarz Wine Company, Spinifex, Hobbs of Barossa and Massena there’ll also be a few new names. John Lienert from Jack West Wines out on the Barossa’s Western Ridge will join us for the first time, Andy Cummins and Emma Welling from Rasa Wines, Tim Smith from Tim Smith Wines and Sarah & Phil Lehmann from Max & Me will return to Artisans for a second time this year.
The winemakers will be in the house from 12-4pm each Saturday and Sunday. Why not make a lunch booking with Harvest Kitchen, and either before or after lunch, spend some time with our winemakers getting to know a little more about them and their particular take on the art of small batch Barossa winemaking.
The next Winemaker in the House program begins on April 14 & 15 with Rasa Wines.
Keep in touch and RSVP to our events through our facebook page.
I grew up in Melbourne in an era when there were 12 VFL footy teams, and every game was played on a Saturday afternoon with kick off at 2.30. Harry Beitzel’s broadcasts on 3AW, then 3AK and later the ABC were legendary, especially his ‘around the grounds’ crosses to each of the games for regular score updates. Amazingly he could do all that, still call the game he was at and at the same time promote Pelaco shirts - ‘It is indeed a lovely shirt, Sir!’ His sidekick Tommy Lahiff was an accidental comedy genius. With a nod to the nostalgia of the good old days when Saturday afternoons in the middle of a Melbourne winter were spent listening to the footy on a National Panasonic transistor radio powered by 2 ‘D’ sized batteries, here is our first ‘around the wineries’ report on the 2018 Grenache Project.
This vintage, all six wines are being made from the ‘Kylie’s Garden’ vineyard at Stockwell. A 40 year old bush vine vineyard that yielded a crop of small, intensely flavoured berries. Each winemaker was allocated a single row, and each picked one tonne of fruit…which will make around two barrels of delicious Barossa Grenache.
John and Tim Duval are all business, and we received a detailed and precise ‘game update’ from Tim just 5 minutes after we ask for it - “The ‘Duval’ component of the AoB Grenache project is happily fermenting away in a small open top fermenter. The fruit was hand-picked on Friday 9 March, and we tipped a single bin of whole bunches into the bottom of the fermenter. We destemmed and crushed the balance of the fruit on top of the whole bunches and the ferment started kicking off on Saturday. We are now four days in and the lovely red fruits of Grenache are really singing. There is some savouriness from the whole bunch showing through and this will intensify as the fruit sweetness reduces during ferment. We are currently sitting at about 7 baume, and so far we are very happy.”
Jaysen Collins at Massena is classically light on with the details - “100% destemmed fruit being tipped into a fermenter, with the lid on and shoved somewhere in the back of the cellar.” (In 2017, Jaysen completely forgot about the fruit he’d sealed in a tank until 45 days later, and then went on to make a sensational wine….glorious mistakes can produce glorious results, and inspire a new direction in winemaking!)
Allison Hobbs called in from Hobbs of Barossa ranges. Last year they rack dried their Grenache before fermentation. Sounds like they’re taking a different approach this year – “We picked our fruit a few days ago and destemmed it before fermentation. Not much movement in the ferment yet, but we should start to see some action over the weekend. Looking very nice.”
The first report we saw from Jason Schwartz was on his own Instagram page with a video of his 3 kids in a ‘Barossa jumping castle’ – shoes and socks off and 6 legs and feet leaping with unbridled joy across the top of a tank piled high with whole bunches of fruit. There’s nothing better for a Barossa kid than helping dad make some awesome Grenache. FYI - foot stomping is not just used to keep Barossa kids busy after school, but to release juice from the berries and give the wine a bit of extra crunch from the breaking the stalks.
I didn’t get much out of Pete Schell – vintage is never a good time to be asking winemakers for information. But he did say he’d pressed the fruit and everything looks tickety-boo….bright, fresh and juicy. He made mention a few weeks back that a similar approach to last year was the plan – extended carbonic maceration with berries on the bottom and whole bunch on the top. When things calm down, we’ll get a few more words from Pete.
As for Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham, I think they were both last sighted buried under a mountain of red grapes. We might have to wait for the traditional post-game interview to get their story!
First time around, The Grenache Project became one of the most loved and talked about initiatives in Australian winemaking in 2017. The energy and excitement is up another notch this year, and we can’t wait to get these wines into bottle and ready to release on December 1 this year. If you’re keen, make sure you get your name on the waiting list by heading to our website here to register your interest.
Howard - Chief Operating Officer AoB
Register your interest in the 2018 Grenache Project
Following a twelve-month search, Artisans of Barossa announced today plans to construct a new purpose-built home at a 56-acre vineyard property on the corner of Vine Vale and Menge Roads near Tanunda. The Barossa Council Assessment Panel approved the development application at their meeting last night, and construction will commence in April. Completion is expected by the end of this year and the doors to the new home will open in January 2019. In the interim, Artisans of Barossa will continue to operate from its Magnolia Road base at Vine Vale.
“Our aim is to make the new Artisans the keystone destination for any Barossa wine and food adventure – a place that enables people to make sense of Barossa in its entirety by bringing together every possible expression of Barossa wine along with stories, food and generous hospitality.” said Howard Duncan, Chief Operating Officer for Artisans.
“The best wine and food tourism destinations in the world share a number of key attributes, chief among them being a highly authentic expression of the produce of the region within which they operate. Throughout the process of designing our new home, we’ve challenged ourselves to create innovative and distinctive experiences around Barossa wine and food that encourage our guests to be more adventuresome and to discover more about this region’s brilliant produce - it’s culinary heritage, where it all comes from, how it’s made and the stories of the people who’ve made it. The new Artisans builds on our established position as the home of some of Barossa’s best small winemakers and, inspired by success stories from around the world, aims to set a new benchmark. Barossa is positioning itself as Australia’s global wine and food region, and Adelaide is known around the world as Australia’s ‘Wine Capital’. The new Artisans will play a leading role in supporting these twin endeavours that aim to draw increasing numbers of interstate and international culinary tourists to our State and region.”
With a new home comes the opportunity to set a new course, and from 2019 Artisans will deliver an integrated wine and food program through a single Artisans team of great Barossa wine and food people. Harvest Kitchen has chosen to remain at the current Magnolia Road location in a new partnership with Calabria Family Wines who purchased the site in 2016.
“Since early 2015, Artisans of Barossa has worked in tandem with Harvest Kitchen to become one of the most popular cellar door and restaurant destinations in Barossa. Peter, Tracy and Alex and their team have played a pivotal role, and we wish them continuing success working with Calabria Family Wines who have exciting plans for what we’ll always fondly remember as our first home.”
The new Artisans has been designed by local architects JBG, and Ahrens Construction and Engineering has been engaged as the builder.
“Through the construction stage and initial operations, the new Artisans home is expected to create more than 30 new full time equivalent jobs in addition to the team we currently employ. We’re all about offering our guests the best experience of Barossa they’ll find anywhere on the planet, and we’ll be bringing together a team that embraces our love of all things Barossa to deliver that. Recruitment should commence later this year.”
Artisans of Barossa is a group of like-minded producers with a common goal to protect and promote small batch, sub-regional winemaking. Our collaboration represents a shared way of thinking about winemaking and wine enjoying. The Artisans are Hobbs of Barossa Ranges, Schwarz Wine Company, Massena, John Duval Wines, Sons of Eden and Spinifex.
We look forward to welcoming you to the new Artisans of Barossa.
This weekend at Artisans, the Massena crew are our ‘Winemakers in the House' presenting their bold, adventuresome and exciting wines from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Come up to Artisans and have a chat with winemaker Jaysen ‘JC’ Collins and vigneron Glen ‘Glen’ Monaghan, both great guys, and both fully subscribed to the Artisans ideals of respect for provenance and guardianship of the art of small batch winemaking.
Well let’s call that ‘Plan A’…because the vagaries of weather and the demands of vintage have a funny way of turning plans to dust in an instant at this time of the year... so it may be that our winemaker in the house program will be more like a ‘winemaker in the house….winemaker not in the house…winemaker in the vineyard….winemaker back in the house….winemaker dashing off to the winery…etc etc’ affair.
Vintage in Barossa has kicked off big time this week with everything ripening up nicely - the fruit commencing its annual pilgrimage from vineyard to winery to transform from grape juice to delicious wine for our ever grateful satisfaction and refreshment. And because our Artisans are the genuine deal, proper winemaking folk whose hands (and most definitely on the occasion feet) produce the wine that finds its way into your glass - you can interpret ‘picked by Glen Monaghan and made by Jaysen Collins’ literally - as this is exactly what’s happening this weekend at Massena.
I put a quick call into ‘JC’ earlier today to get a heads up on his plans for the weekend… and he assures me the Massena team are good for their word and will be ‘in the house’ no matter what vintage throws at them. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s going on in Massena world right now, straight from the source:
- Early picked Durif from Krondorf Road at Kabminye is bubbling along nicely in the tank.
- A small parcel of cracking Marsanne from Stonewell landed at the winery this morning.
- Viognier from Greenock is probably coming into the winery tomorrow.
- They should pick their first Shiraz (from Basedow Road, east of Tanunda) over the weekend.
- Glen is working his way, snips in hand, through the Fruit Salad block on the Stonegarden Vineyard in Eden Valley - 20 different grape varieties all ‘tossed’ together to make one of the region’s most intriguing white blends.
- The basket press has ‘shit itself’ (a ‘JC’ technical term for temporarily out of service) and they expect to be jogging plenty of barefoot laps around the tanks over the weekend to press finished red ferments.
- Most importantly, someone remembered to fill the winery beer fridge with an eclectic collection of barley based beverages packaged in convenient 375ml can sized portions.
So this weekend is your chance to meet and talk to a real live winemaker or vigneron whilst they’re literally knee deep in the vintage action. I’ve asked JC to bring in a bit of fermenting juice, and Glen some freshly picked fruit, so if you or friends or guests head into Artisans this weekend they can get a taste and a feel for the fruits of the Barossa harvest. And if that’s not enough, there’s a first taste of the Massena ‘Caviste’ Blend - a blend of Shiraz, Primitivo, Petite Syrah (Durif) and Tannat.
Cheers, we hope to welcome you this weekend at Artisans.
We welcome Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham from Sons of Eden as our ‘Winemakers in the House’ this weekend from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Head up to Artisans either day to have a chat and taste through a range of wines that have made ‘the sons’ one of the most exciting names in town.
‘Winemakers’ in the house is actually a bit of a misnomer for the ‘Sons’. Corey Ryan comfortably fits the bill, but whilst Simon Cowham might not be ripping off the shorts, socks and shoes to squash Barossa grapes each vintage, the grapegrower/ viticulturist ‘son’ has plenty to do with ensuring what you discover in your glass of Sons of Eden wine is an outstanding expression of Barossa wine. The combination of winemaker and grapegrower working in unison defines Sons of Eden and makes them one of Australia’s great winemaker/grapegrower double acts - the quality of their wines living testament to the adage that one plus one can equal three.
Speaking to a grapegrower in February is like trying to speak to someone running late for a plane, and Simon politely asked me to keep the Q & A session brief. So I fired three questions at him over a sausage roll at Nosh last week (a very good sausage roll, worth a go)
Why become a grapegrower, when winemakers get all the fame & glory?
“I hear what you’re saying – I don’t think anyone at Artisans has ever asked to meet the grapegrower! But I’ve always been a bit of a nature boy and I just love getting around in the great outdoors, kicking the dirt and marvelling at what mother nature is capable of providing us. And whilst I may not be the bloke making the wine, I’m the one charged with delivering the fruit the winemaker wants, so I’m always conscious that what I do out in the vineyards directly impacts on the winery and what ends up in the glass. I need to have a foot in both camps – respecting the landscape and what it’s able to produce, whilst also considering what Corey needs. To that end, the onus is on me to have a very good grasp of what’s happening in the vineyards we source fruit from, and understanding how I can respond to ensure we get the fruit quality and flavour we want. I’ve also got a decent grasp of winemaking and have spent plenty of time exploring the dark arts of sales and marketing – so when I’m standing in a vineyard, I get a sense of the connective line between the dirt and the glass.”
Every year is different. How do you as a grape grower respond to changes in growing conditions to ensure you keep delivering top quality fruit to the winery?
“That’s true…every year is very different and presents a whole new challenge. You just have to adopt the mindset that you need to start each year with a fresh perspective, but be comforted that the knowledge of a vineyard landscape you’ve built up over many years will see you right. I started back in 1990, so I’m now well into my third decade. Over that time I’ve learned plenty about how different varieties, sub regions and individual vineyards respond to the changing conditions of each year. They teach you a fair bit at University, but it’s what you learn through experience that counts in this game. What I’ve seen and learned, and no doubt the mistakes I’ve made help me to respond to whatever the current season throws at me. But put me in the Hunter, or Margaret River and I’d be like a duck out of water because I’d have no feel for the landscape and environment.”
Now for the BIG question….how’s this year looking?
“Everyone’s always asking me how the vintage is shaping up, and it’s bloody tough to throw a blanket over the entire place and give it a single rating. Every variety performs differently each vintage, sub regions and individual vineyards respond in various ways (some good, some not so good) to the vagaries of the seasons and years. Barossa is an amazing place to grow grapes and make wine because there is no much diversify inherent in the landscape, but that also makes it almost impossible to get everything perfect every year. I’m a fan of rating vintages in terms of the number of highlights, whereby the great vintages have the highest number of individual highlights, and the average ones the lowest. And in a place like Barossa, no matter what the season brings, you’ll always find a good amount of highlights. For 2018, I’m excited about the quality I’m seeing in our vineyards, and how the fruit will land in the winery over the next few months. The cooler sections of the Barossa Valley and warmer sections of the Eden Valley look especially good. Fingers crossed”
And with that, I’m left with a plate of crumbs (did I tell you it was a good sausage roll at Nosh?) and Simon is off out the door. Do yourself a favour and head into Artisans this weekend…and make sure you ask to speak to the grapegrower!