I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, growing grapes has as much to do with mother nature as it does with the vigneron. We are at the mercy of what she chooses to serve up and something as simple as too much wind or rain on the wrong day can drastically affect how the crop will turn out.
Each year we hope for a “perfect” season, one featuring rain at the right times, a slow increase in temperatures, no prolonged heat waves, no hail, long sunny days and consistent overnight temperatures for even fruit ripening. More often than not, one of these things goes wrong and we do what we can to mitigate the damage or help the vines along with pruning or thinning, disease management, and watering techniques, but nothing can truly replace a good season.
2021 was one of the best seasons I have seen for our Hard Hill Road vineyard, as it was for most of the Grampians region. At the beginning of the season things looked bright, and when the fruit started to set it looked as though it was going to be a big crop. But so often in the agricultural industry, what happens at the start of the season does not always translate to the harvest. But this year it delivered – great fruit-set followed by a perfect ripening season gave us the biggest crop ever. All in stark contrast to last year, as this year we picked three times as much as we did last year!
In addition to it being a huge vintage, it was the most orderly and serene harvest I’ve seen in a very long time. All the grapes were extremely polite and ripened in their correct order. The end of the season stayed cool, with none of the usual extreme heatwaves, which saw the whites ripen one at a time before the reds started and they too spread themselves out in an orderly fashion.
This was particularly important this year, as it wasn’t just our vineyard that saw bumper crops. Everyone in the region did, and as I make wine for quite a few of my neighbouring vineyards, this slower, spread-out ripening of fruit was a critical factor in the constant juggling act that vintage is in the winery. Grape deliveries, crushing, fermenting, plunging caps, pumping over, pressing, malo ferments, racking into barrels, shovelling out must, and cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning in between each movement of each grape/wine parcel. It’s a hive of activity.
In a normal year, this is more than enough to keep you busy over the many long days and nights of vintage, but because I’m a sucker for punishment, I decided to install a bottling line into our small winery earlier this year. So, while we were pressing reds, we were bottling whites, which is not only unusual but adds a whole other layer of complexity to the logistics and planning.
The weather has cooled off quickly in the lead up to winter this year, and lots of rain has thankfully come with it. This rain will now regenerate the deepest layers of the soil and start to repair some of the deficits the last few hot and dry seasons have caused and will set our vines up for another good crop next year.
In addition to its positive effect in the vineyard, the cooler weather has caused the malo ferments on the reds to slow down. This slowing creates a more complex and layered wine, so it's nice when it happens, despite the extra waiting. All the wines are looking great this year – the whites are very elegant with a beautifully crisp acid structure, especially in the Rieslings, and the reds are full of pepper and spice and deep berry flavours.
Operating as a contract winemaker in a small region like Great Western and the Grampians gives me unique access to see all the exciting varieties now growing in the region, and participate in the changing face of wine styles that have become synonymous throughout our region. So, if you think you know what the Grampians are all about, think again, and come and try what’s new for yourself.
Our 2021 white wines have now all just been released – our Pinot Gris was bottled as soon as we could get it ready, in early June. The Riesling was bottled the first week of July and the Rosé just last week. The 2021 reds will be a while away yet as they all need to be tucked into their barrels and mature, but I have already started planning for a relatively early release of the 2021 Chockstone Shiraz, as we will likely run out of stock by the end of December.
Well, it's back to the winery for me, still lots to do!
Sit back, relax and pick up a few glasses, and grazing platters to enjoy.
Tickets $30 ea. (not inclusive of wine or food) BOOK HERE
Bill continues to tour the world playing in daughter Kasey’s band and also his own solo shows, playing anything from house concerts and coffee lounges to major festivals.
If you’ve been in the audience at a Bill Chambers concert you’ll notice he always travels with a swag of guitars showcasing his connection to different styles of music that he’s been influenced by over the years.
“I grew up listening to the Hillbilly music my mum and dad played when i was a kid. I discovered early Rock’n’Roll, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. In recent times I’ve been particularly influenced by the Texas Singer/ Songwriters”.
When he's not on the road you'll most likely find Bill producing and playing on some other artists album.
'I consider myself lucky to have worked in the studio with so many talented people over the years, it's always exciting to discover new artists and work on great songs'. Bill has produced albums for Catherine Britt, Audrey Auld, Amos Morris, Jessica Belle, Sandra Humphries and HalleyAnna Finlay from Texas.
When you see Bill Chambers live on stage its evident that his music reflects his early influences and resonates with stories of his life on the road.
Join us in our new WINE LOUNGE on Sunday 2nd May to taste our new single varietal addition to the Hard Hill Road Range - our Tannat!
Tasted in a flight with our two Hard Hill Road cutting-edge blends - Mule Variation and The Field - you'll experience what the incredible climate of Great Western can produce when you think outside the box.
Tasting flights will be $5 each and regional grazing plates will be available for purchase on the day.
Bookings are advised to avoid disappointment - call or email Michelle on 0457 922 400 or email@example.com
Have you ever wondered how a wine changes from vintage to vintage and ages over the years? It is not often that you get the chance to experience a "vertical" run of vintages of a single wine; an experience that gives you a unique insight into the true nature of the vineyard and the honesty of the wine.
I have recently had a dig through my cellar of ATR wines and going back 10 years, I have patched together a handful of vertical packs of both Chockstone Shiraz and Chockstone Riesling in consecutive (or near consecutive) vintages from 2010 to 2017.
The Chockstone Shiraz pack features a run of six consecutive vintages from 2012 right through to 2017 inclusive. All these vintages scored between 94 and 97 points in the Halliday Wine Companion.
The Chockstone Riesling pack features six vintages from 2010 to 2017 (excluding the 2013 & 2015 vintages). All these wines scored between 94 and 95 points from either Halliday or Huon Hooke.
It's hard to put a value on a selection of wines like this, accounting for age and rarity, so I thought I would leave that part up to you.
If either of these vertical back vintage packs sounds like something you must try, then I invite you to send a silent auction bid with a value you feel matches these wines. As a guide, normal retail pricing is $25 per bottle for the Riesling and $28 for the Shiraz.
All the details on the mechanics of the auction can be found below - good luck and happy bidding.
To place your bid simply click on the link below and email your bid for one or both of the packs. You will then be contacted if your bid is successful. In the event that we receive multiple bids of the same value, we will contact these bidders and give them the opportunity to submit a second bid.
Bidding will open at 4 pm Friday 26th March and will close at 4 pm Monday 29th March.
Amber, our marketing guru, will be facilitating the bidding process and you can contact her with any questions via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The successful bidders will be contacted on Wednesday 31st to organise delivery and payment details.
Mar 8, 2021 | James Halliday | The Weekend Australian Magazine
Over the past 50 or so years I have come across many unusual stories of how people have migrated from different careers to the world of wine. One was a nuclear physicist; another a marine biologist; doctors and lawyers, a dime a dozen.
Adam Richardson spent the first 10 years of his working life flying aircraft around the world for the Royal Australian Navy. In that time he visited many countries, absorbing their cultures and lifestyles, which included wine, sowing a seed. So when the time came to either seek ever-higher command or transition to civilian life, he chose the latter and enrolled in the Charles Sturt University oenology course.
In 1998, Richardson went to California to join Gallo’s research department, headed by Australia’s Dr Terry Lee, and made 3000 batches of wine in the next two years. In 2004 he left Gallo and became president of international winemaking for The Wine Group LLC, second only to Gallo. He introduced the Cupcake brand in 2005, putting his name on 70m back labels before joining Treasury Wine Estate’s Americas as chief winemaker in 2013. He spent the next 18 months extricating it from a much-publicised morass, then all aboard for the Grampians.
The high-speed leap from flying supersonic fighter aircraft to corporate winemaking was made possible by the instant problem-solving and discipline learnt in the air. And there had been a patient 10-year search for a retirement vineyard for his wife Eva (a high performer in her own right), their eight-year-old twins Madeleine and Jackson – and Daisy, a red heeler cattle dog rescued from a pound in California. They found Hard Hill Road in the Grampians in 2005 and planted an exotic mix of varieties (used in The Field blend) using techniques that no amateur should even dream of undertaking.
2018 ATR Hard Hill Road Close-Planted Great Western Shiraz
Open-fermented, multiple small batches, part whole-berry and whole-bunch, matured in used American puncheons for 18 months. It has an Aladdin’s cave of highly spiced black fruits, high-quality tannins a feature of the mouthfeel and lingering flavours. 14.5% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2043, $45 | Buy it here
2020 ATR Chockstone Grampians Riesling
The low pH (2.9) and high acidity of 7.5g/l, coupled with the fruit intensity, largely obscure the 5g/l of residual sugar. There is a Germanic cast to the wine, and its surging layers of Meyer lemon and lime fruit. Drink now or enjoy a 10-year payday. 12.5% alc, screwcap 95 points, drink to 2030, $24 | SOLD OUT
2018 ATR Hard Hill Road Great Western The Field
A 52/22/10/9/5/2% blend of Shiraz, Riesling, Nebbiolo, Durif, Tannat and Viognier progressively added to a single open-topped fermenter. The flavours are as complex as the vinification suggests, the bouquet fragrant, likely lifted by the riesling, the palate a cascade of flavours. A brave yet unqualified success. 14.5% alc, screwcap 95 points, drink to 2028, $45 | Buy it here
Thanks to James Halliday, The Weekend Australian and the team behind The Cellar Door Challenge for sharing our story. You can read the original story and many other fascinating tales here.
Grampians winemaker Adam Richardson evidently likes Tom Waits’s music, which is something we have in common. Life would have been poorer without Wait’s albums Swordfishtrombones, Blue Valentine and Small Change.
Now Richardson has declared his love by naming a wine after the Tom Waits album Mule Variations. It’s a little cryptic but bear with me.
Describing the origin of the album’s title, Waits once said in an interview:
“My wife said, ‘I didn’t marry a man, I married a mule.’ That’s what she said. You know, it’s like the Goldberg Variations. Only these are the mule variations… It’s just one of those titles that stuck. I don’t know what people are going to think Mule Variations are.” Etc, etc.
Apparently, the band played the song Get Behind The Mule, several times, as a raga, cha-cha, a capella and a Chinese version. They were nick-named the Mule Variations, and the name stuck.
Waits is a unique talent. There’s no-one that sounds like him. Is winesmith Adam Richardson trying to tell us he aspires to that uniqueness?
The wine, ATR Hard Hill Road Mule Variation 2018, is more beautiful than the song, and equally poetic. It’s a blend of what Richardson calls his most enigmatic red varieties: nebbiolo, tannat, petite sirah (durif) and shiraz, in roughly equal proportions.
“Like Waits’s music, our Mule Variation is an unexpected take on an otherwise regular theme, creating a surprisingly harmonious yet subtly powerful wine.”
It’s a glorious wine. I don’t usually use multitudes of adjectives to describe a wine, but this one had me waxing on about an array of herb, spice and fruit characteristics, including angelica, star anise, violet and fresh garden herbs, as well as berry aromas – blueberry uppermost. It’s a full-bodied, firmly structured wine, deep and generous, with a good solid backbone – but it can already be drunk and enjoyed, especially with food.
It’s also a typical Great Western red: it has that curious ferrous stoniness of Great Western red wines. An intriguing blend and a seriously smart wine, with a bright future, if you can bear to cellar it a while.
Otherwise, open the bottle and put the record on.
“Got to get behind the mule in the morning, and plow…”
Due to the easing of Stage 3 restriction in regional Victoria, we are able to re-open our Wine Lounge on Saturday 19th September 2020.
As there are continued restrictions on the numbers of guests we are allowed to have at any one time, we ask that you phone ahead to make a booking for your free tasting.
We hate to turn anyone away, so to avoid disappointment, please call Michelle on 0457 922 400 or email us on email@example.com to book your place.
We look forward to welcoming you back to enjoy our new ATR Wine Lounge.
Due to the introduction of Stage 3 restrictions in all of regional Victoria, for the next 6 weeks our Wine Lounge will be open from 12pm to 3pm on Saturday for TAKE AWAY sales only.
Please call ahead to place your order with Michelle on 0457922400.
Trade Customers: Collect your orders directly from us on a Saturday and save 10% or call Michelle for weekly delivery options between Halls Gap, Ararat & Ballarat.
Why we are making the distinction
When you think of Durif it might conjure up thoughts of big, deep, dark brooding wines filled with black fruits and robust tannins, more often than not, hailing from Rutherglen.
My Durif is not like that.
When in 2006 I "dared" to plant Durif in the cool climate of Great Western (still the only grower in the Grampians and Pyrenees regions, as far as we can tell), it was evident straight away how different our Hard Hill Road Durif was to many of the big robust Durif wines on the Australian market at the time.
Ever since my first release in 2012, I have spent years explaining how and why our version of Durif was different in approach and style to the “standard” Aussie Durif. So, I decided to separate it; by re-naming the wine as Petite Sirah from the 2018 vintage onwards.
Back in my US winemaking days I spent many years making countless versions of Petite Sirah in California; especially for Concannon Vineyard, who were the first to produce Petite Sirah in the US. My experience there taught me that it’s not just the pursuit of ‘big-ness’ that’s important, but finding balance by allowing the more subtle complexing elements to have a say in the final wine.
From the get-go I set out to craft a wine that was reminiscent of my ideals and experiences, regardless of the Australian “standard”. I wanted to create a Grampians version of the variety that although considers Durif’s boldness, is not dominated by it. Rather the tannins are complex and fine, the fruit is intense but not overly heavy or ripe.
One of the ways I achieve this, is by using 60-80% or more new American oak. This amount of oak is surprisingly easily absorbed into the structure of the wine, softening, and drawing out the floral and vibrant elements of the palate rather than adding a clunky layer of oak flavour.
If you’ve never tried a Petite Sirah, then now is the time to give it a go and do let me know what you think!
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