What a year! I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that it was an ‘interesting’ one to say the least, especially if you work in hospitality, no thanks to the ongoing pandemic!
The beginning of the year saw a fresh start at Victor’s Place and Varney Wines in McLaren Vale. This next welcome phase of my sommelier/hospitality career sees me working the floor of a restored 1870s heritage-listed shearing shed-now-fine-dining-restaurant, at the very edge of the spectacular Onkaparinga Gorge, on beautiful Kaurna Country.
The place is a labour of love for co-owners Alan Varney and Kathrin Dressler. The kitchen is led by award-winning chef Chris Bone. His stunning food is complimented by the award-winning wines of Alan Varney (his Grenache is to die for btw). And I’m happy to say we also have an ‘A’ team on the floor!
Where possible – in between the ‘busyness’ of work – I also had the chance to do some regional wine tastings and official Enjoyment Aficionado ‘research’ in the Mildura, Clare and Adelaide Hills wine regions. See below for my photo essay. Good times!
MILDURA: In my humble opinion, Chalmers Wines are ground breakers – and a beacon – for our industry. For decades they have brought alternative varietals into Australia to enable Australian winemakers and viticulturists to future proof our industry with climate appropriate vines. They bring in the goods – as do their beautiful, fruit-driven, Mediterranean-inspired wines. A-listers.
CLARE VALLEY/ADELAIDE HILLS: And it’s so good to see the brilliant Koerner Brothers, great champions of southern Mediterranean grape varieties, taking the world by storm with their beautiful wines of the Clare and the Adelaide Hills. Utilising ceramic ‘eggs’ and large Slovanian oak barrels (along with bariques and ‘hogsheads’), they really get the best out of their grapes. Koerner Classico 20 is one of the best wines I tasted this year. I was so impressed!
BLEWITT SPRINGS: My recent wine travels also took me to the famed Blewitt Springs sub-region of McLaren Vale to visit talented low-intervention winemaker Matt Walker-Brown, who recently launched his Lo Bo May Wines label after working as a winemaker at Mollydooker for over a decade. A most humble and lovely fellow, Matt is definitely ‘one to watch’ in low intervention winemaking as his recent Pet Nat and Nouveau releases clearly demonstrate. Illuminating!
All three tastings were stellar and palate-opening. Thanks so much Tenille at Chalmers Wines, Damon at Koerner Wine and Matt at Lo Bo May Wine for the amazing, 1:1, intensive tastings!
I’m looking forward to 2023: I’ll be working with Alan Varney during vintage to (finally!!) learn how to make wine. Plus I’ll be immersing myself in study again, undertaking the renowned Italian Wine Scholar course, gratefully supported by a grant from the Food and Beverage Development Fund SA. It’s time to ‘go deep’ into Italian wine – so important for the SA wine industry…
This will allow me to ‘close the circle’ as a ‘somm’ and ‘wine fanatic’. Getting my hands dirty in the vineyard and winery – my happy places!
All the best for the season and bring on 2023!
Enjoy yourself ruthlessly,
All photos: Oliver Budack (c) 2022 unless otherwise credited. Feature image credit: Otto Knappstein, E.W. Castine & Oliver Budack, Clare Valley. Mural artist: Vivian Ziersch. Pic: Megan Spencer