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The Barossa Valley and Kabminye Vineyard

The Barossa Valley and roads to it….

I have fond memories of the Barossa valley. I arrived here in March 2000, slightly bedraggled after a five week tour of New South Wales and Victoria vineyards and then a drive up the gorgeous coast highway past the Twelve Apostles and into South Australia. I was keen to get involved in the ensuing vintage that was about to envelope this region and also running out of cash fast.

After driving north from Adelaide I arrived in the valley at the Southern most point and started asking for work, by literally going from door to door. It did not take me long to find it since it was early March and  picking is about to start so there should be much need for quick hands. I met a lovely man, looking in my journal back from 2000, his name was Ross Koch and he owned a number of vineyards just south of Grant Burge that were contracted grapes for vineyards like Grant Burge. He was of German heritage ( Silesia to be exact) as are many here in the Barossa, when in the mid 1850’s they fled their homeland ”en masse” protesting against certain new religious formalities.

Ross allowed me to put my little one man tent right in the middle of his vineyard: it was close to a lake which I bathed in at night time after 10 hours picking and I had a lovely three weeks living out there. The truck would pass at dawn, or very soon after, and pick me up and off we would go to meet up with the gang. I shall recite a few words from my journal:

“….worked all week picking grapes. Hard work, back killing me. A week of sirens waking you up and rounding off your day, quite surreal in some ways, SMOKO (this basically means cigarette break in Australian wine pickers lingo), sirens for lunch and sirens telling us we can go home. Hard work but great fun: fellow workers are incredibly odd but lovely, laughing at the same things every day whether it’s the tractor, siren, buckets or grape clippers. All seem to grow grass, in the hope that they might make $20,000 and then live a life of luxury for a few months.”

After a few weeks here, I must admit I needed a change, but it was a wonderful experience and Ross Koch’s kindness and trust in me showed me that the people in this region are kind and good. I then landed on my feet, came up smelling of roses, when I traveled north through the valley to the north and to Truro. Here I found a little café called Zilm’s and a winery called Craneford, owned by John and Bev Zilm. I then spent the next two weeks working with John in the winery, pressing and mixing grapes and also spent some time in the café with Bev re-designing their service strategy. With this came a lovely bed, a double, and a bath which was most welcome!!

We spent the next three weeks rising with the sun, to avoid the intense heat that would kick in after ten in the morning, picking grapes in little nooks and crannies dotted around the Barossa valley before returning home in the early afternoon, tired and bedraggled, like a tuk-tuk driver in the far off city of Varanesi in India and then beginning the crushing and pressing of the grapes we had picked. We would generally finish at twilight. It’s a long day in the vineyard during vintage. One eat’s, washes and collapses watching Australian rules, which in this part of the world means the Crows from north Adelaide. I found it difficult to get into this game despite John Zilm’s urgings. Much more of interest was tuning into world service on short wave on my battered yet faithful Sony radio, trying to find out what was going on in the outside world and in the world of sport too. I remember one night soon after this as I toured the impressive Flinders ranges which is north of Barossa heading up into the outback, where I walked around Flinders Ridge which was a good days hike and listening to Liverpool, my team, beat Newcastle 2-1 at 2 am by the light of my campfire out in the wilderness. Shouts of joy from inside the tent lit up by a candle in the middle of this vast red soiled landscape, could be heard for miles around!. These were fun times. By the way if you ever get up to the Flinders do try to visit the wonderful Prairie hotel at Parachilna where there’s a great menu and wine list. I ate Emu pate and a burger and then remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable by the looks from the local’s when I ordered a Ricard! Stick to beer up here Simon! From here I ventured up the Oonadatta track as far as the falcon would take me and until the smell of sulphur and loneliness propelled me back south. Also, rain from Queensland were on the way, gushing west along old creeks now flooded with water and this was no place to get stuck!

I enjoyed most of all, picking grapes one morning in an old Grenache bush vineyard which I seem to remember was almost one hundred years old, at least they are now, ten years later. The grapes were few and far but the quality was gorgeous and it stuck home that this wine area has some history and stature behind it. I also remember one morning, driving over to Ardrossan ( of Ayrshire heritage I presume) on the Spencer gulf, on a road which heads west to the Nullarbor. John Zilm had promised me a day of crabbing, for large angular blue crabs on the beaches. Fun I thought and indeed it was. Funny for John that is. He had only bought one pair of Wellington boots and the water was up to one’s knee’s which made it very difficult to move at speed. The hook that we used to catch the blue crab, by hooking it round one of the legs and putting it in the bucket, was harder than I thought it was going to be, and the problem was if you were unsuccessful first time the crab didn’t like you disturbing him and he therefore swung into attack mode with his large pincers spread wide in front of his body. The sight for John was wonderful I am sure, as I tried to flee the crab every few minutes whilst unable to move very fast in the water. I am sure John purposely forgot the Wellington boots. I caught two crabs in about an hour, spending most of my time splashing around in the water and John caught the remaining one hundred or so! We returned home, delighted and full of verve and cooked all the crabs up in a large pot and ate them with a homemade Thai chilli sauce washed down with some aged Semillon. It was a wonderful day. I have lost touch with John and Bev Zilm which is a pity. I know that he is no longer involved in Craneford wines, which is sad. If you out there or if anyone knows where they are please let me know.

Mr Whirly says:

“The southern Rhone experience and in particular Hermitage, yet this wine is from the famous Barossa valley in South Australia. Hand picked Syrah, Mataro (Mourvedre to us Northern Hemisphere’s), Grenache and the final “ Coup de Grace”, 10% Marsanne and Roussanne ( white varietals) with six years bottle age make this soft, alluring and spectacular for Autumn and winter drinking.”

Alcohol: 15.0%

Kabminye Vineyard, Barrossa valley

Kabminye is an aboriginal word meaning “Leading star”. This wine jumped out at me in February 2006 on my last day in South Australia before flying home via Perth to London. It’s a unique blend of Southern Rhone red varietals with a touch of the Hermitage influence, with the 10% addition of white varietals with some Marsanne, Roussanne and Ugni Blanc.

Irma Adeline 2003

This wine honours a unique woman: Irma Adeline Dallwitz.

Irma is descended from one of the first Silesian families to settle in the Krondorf area. The piece of land in which the winery nestles has been in her family since their settlement in the mid 1800’s. In upholding traditional Barossa valley family values while embracing modernity with enthusiasm she truly embodies Kabminye’s philosophy of celebrating the past, present and future of the Barossa valley.

This wine combines the Rhone philosophy of blending Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre with the Hermitage style of adding Marsanne and Roussanne.  Balanced flavours of plum, black cherry, marzipan and mocha.

This unique wine is made with 60% hand picked and pruned premium Shiraz from Tanunda with 20% Mataro ( Mourvedre) and 10% Grenache from Lyndoch, and the balance of white wine varieties including Marsanne, Roussanne, all from the Barossa valley. Each parcel of wine was matured in seasoned French Oak barriques for fifteen months. The result is a very complex fruit driven wine. Drink now or cellar for seven to ten years.

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Pinot Noir, “ The Bonython” 2007

Mr Whirly says:

“ A single vineyard Pinot Noir from one of the most intriguing cool climate Australian wine regions that is indeed a great area for this fickle grape. I love that this wine has a little bottle age and also that the intensity of the fruit on this wine combines with some really soft, subtle characters.  A little “farmyardy” on the nose but not oppressive. Only available, as are all wines from this vineyard in very small quantities. I expect this wine to be quite a long lasting wine that will only get better in the coming 2-4 years.”

Winemakers notes:

“ The Bonython is produced predominantly from the fruit of ten year old vines grown on our Bonython vineyard in the Piccadilly valley. A truly handcrafted wine from vineyard to bottle, it shows strawberry and cherry fruit characters with early complexity which will develop progressively with time. Unfined and unfiltered.”

Alcohol: 14.0%

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Merlot 2005

Mr Whirly says;

“ Mr Whirly’s first straight Merlot, moulded in Saint Emilion over centuries this wine is up there with some of the lovely wines from the right bank of the Gironde. Its a big wine mind.  It need’s a decanter!  I love the fact that it’s now almost 6 years old and when I tasted it recently it was still quite young in its makeup, surely a positive thing for a top quality Merlot from this great winery. Lovely intense autumnal berry fruit.”

Winemakers notes:

“ Grapes were sourced solely from the estate’s Bonython Vineyard planted in 1997. The wine was matured predominantly in French oak barriques prior to blending and bottling.”

Alcohol: 14.5%

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Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Voted second best Sauvignon Blanc by James Halliday in his wine companion for 2007.

Sadly this wine is now sold out, and a new vintage will I hope arrive in 2014

2009 Sauvignon Blanc ( arrived November 2010)

Mr Whirly says;

“This is probably the most beautiful compact wine region in Australia and possibly the most exquisite homestead to match. Benchmark, grassy and Bramley apple Sauvignon Blanc. Wonderful exuberant, mineral Sauvignon that impresses with its vitality from the single vineyard Bonython vineyard. I am not normally a massive fan of this varietal but this wine really does knock me sideways with its length and energy. Gooseberries on the palate big style!! This fruit is now so difficult to find in the UK it seems the only way I can get a smell of  it is to stick my nose in a bottle of this wine: it has  some Elderflower too with an added tropical pineapple depth. Gorgeous with a dozen Colchester or Belon natives down at my old haunt Bibendum Oyster Bar, which I managed for 4 years from 1994 to 1997.”

Winemakers notes:

“ A complex spectrum of aroma’s and flavours from grassy, herbaceous and citrus through to ripe tropical fruits will delight you. The Palate is fresh, dry and crisp. Grapes were hand-harvested from three small blocks on Stony rise, a south facing hillside at the Northern end of the Piccadilly valley.”

Price: (Sold out)

Alcohol: 14.o%

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Lillypilly Shiraz 2007

Mr Whirly says:

“Like the tactful 2003 Shiraz this wine does not suggest it’s in any way Aussie Shiraz at almost 10 pounds a bottle. Not as much toffee as the very popular 2003 vintage yet a wonderful example of a lighter, fresh Shiraz from Australia which is a welcome relief from the majority of bigger styles of this grape that we are normally use to. This is quite a feminine Shiraz from Australia, not at all “ big and brash and manly.”  Still holds some lovely sticky toffee pudding and caramel essences and more proof of how clever the winemaker is here at Lillypilly.”

Alcohol: 14.5 %

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Lillypilly 1998 VP

Mr Whirly says:

“ The 1995 vintage of this wine created quite a storm in the UK and this 1998 vintage, made from Chambourcin and Cabernet ( not Shiraz as in the 1995) is a little softer and rounder than the previous vintage, still with a rich caramel intensity but also with some Mocha coffee and dark Chocolate. Match this with Chocolate puddings, Plum pudding at Christmas and Rich Blue Cheese. I tasted this wine again a few days ago with Jason Atherton’s sommelier at his new restaurant that opens in April 2011 and its really come on well. Incredibly complex and layered now.”

Alcohol: 18.0%

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Lillypilly Tramillon 2008

Mr Whirly says

”  This exciting blend that has now been in the UK top end “ on-trade” and private client market for six years. Lychee, floral and spicy with a stronger hint of elderflower this year.”

75% Gewurtztraminer and 25% Semillon. Floral, limes and elderflower on the nose, with extra depth given by the Semillon. This wine looks after the “ off Dry” crowd that are sometimes so hard to look after ( that means there is very little of quality to look after you!). Great pouring wine for all year round, especially the summer and a wonderful alternative to Champagne.

Press article:

” The 2005 Tramillon is a great partner on the table with Indian food, its perfumed bouquet, fruitiness, slight sweetness and crisp finish making it an ideal match for this and other Asian dishes”

David Ellis, Melbourne Observer, March 29th 2006

Alcohol: 10.5%

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Lillypilly Noble Harvest 2006

2006 Noble Harvest

Please see the 2002 notes on the website for this wine. However,this year, the 2006 is made from a slightly different makeup of grapes, with Chardonnay replacing the Muscat and there’s a little more Semillon and Riesling in this wine and a little less Sauvignon blanc:

35% Semillon

25% Sauvignon Blanc

30% Riesling

10% Chardonnay

Robert Fiumara, winemaker:

“Even at 10% the Chardonnay definitely builds complexity in the wine, adding stone fruits to the bouquet and an extra dimension to palate texture, The aromatic varieties give real lift to the bouquet and there is plenty of zestiness and freshness on the palate.”

Mr Whirly says

“Its very similar to the 2002, a little fresher and not quite so rich but still the tropical fruits shine through like Mango, Kumquat and passion fruit. The alcohol is low at 12.5% and the wine is still a great match with more acidic puddings like Tarte Tatin and Lemon tart.”

Alcohol: 12.5%

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Lillypilly Noble Blend 2002

2002 Noble Blend:

See www.Lillypilly.com to see awards. 80% Sauvignon, 10% Semillon, 5% Muscat of Alexandria, 5% Riesling. Beautifully structured, more Coteaux de Layon than Sauterne, rich honey middle with passion fruit finish that goes on and on. Classic Tarte Tatin wine, multi faceted and talented and would match also summer fruit puddings, lemon tarts, mango sorbet and most tropical fruits.

Mr whirly says:

“This wine has received many accolades over the last 3 years and this has meant that the wine has sold very easily. The stock of this wine has now been reserved as a Museum wine here in the UK since there  is only a very small amount still available.”

Alcohol: 12.5 %