We asked wine educator and author Clare Burder (The Humble Tumbler & Vintuition) to share her tips on how to get the most out of cellar door visits. And Clare should know: In the last year alone she has visited 11 Australian wine regions, as well as international wine destinations as diverse as Central Otago, Napa and Stellenbosch. Check out Clare’s hot tips below...
Cellar Doors are a magnificent tradition in Australia, which might be considered the windows to the soul of any wine region. It’s a privilege to be able to visit a producer and taste their wines, meet the people and experience their winemaking approach and way of life. There are more than 1,200 cellar doors in Australia, so there’s almost no end to places to visit, and you just never know what gems you’ll discover.
TIP 1: Plan, plan, plan – but leave room for local recommendations!
Before I go I do loads of research, whether it be Gourmet Traveller Wine mag, a social media call-out for recommendations or other peer review sites like TripAdvisor. When I arrive in a wine region, my general approach is to start at a notable cellar door and then ask them for the local gems – I find that a personal recommendation is worth more than any guide. Secondly, I generally aim for three to five venues per day, maximum – being in a hurry defeats the purpose; I’d much prefer to amble along with the locals and enjoy the scenery.
TIP 2: Make appointments
Some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had have been at wineries that only open by appointment. This enables you to get up close to the producer, giving you a richer experience and time to really explore their wines and their approach to winemaking. In recognition of this generosity of time, I personally think there is an (unspoken) obligation to buy when you’ve made an appointment – even if it’s just a bottle to show to your appreciation.
TIP 3: It can pay to pay
Many producers now offer both a free tasting and a paid option. I always try the paid option as it’s almost guaranteed to be something memorable – whether it be older releases, some inventive food or cheese matching, or just the chance to taste the premium range.
TIP 4: Ask questions!
All of those things you’ve always wondered about wine can probably be explained at the cellar door, so go forth and ask all the questions. It is, after all, the point of visiting a winery… you never know what you might learn – and most cellar door staff love questions and conversation!
And a few more things:
Followers of Scion have been introduced to a series of ‘project’ wines over the years. The resulting wines form a vital part of winemaker Rowly's passion and learnings.
The latest project ‘PRC’ was dreamt up with two great wine mates of the North East – Chris Catlow (Sentio, Beechworth) and Pete Graham (Domenica, Beechworth) – to challenge winemaking skills while working together to achieve a focused result. This Chardonnay is the inaugural PRC release, co-crafted by Pete, Rowly and Chris.
Fruit was sourced from one of the country’s most revered plantings of chardonnay: the Lusatia Park Vineyard in Victoria's Yarra Valley. One parcel of handpicked fruit was divided three ways, with each winemaker setting out to craft a wine shaped around their individual interpretation of the fruit.
A code of silence kicked off production across three wineries, using one second-fill hogshead barrel and five pre-loved barriques. Nine months later, the trio sat down with samples of the resulting six wines to assemble the final wine together. Minor blending tweaks were made with the aim of best expressing the Lusatia Park Vineyard.
The vineyard produces elegant Chardonnay, with the 2016 vintage showing excellent concentration of flavour. From this premium fruit we’ve crafted a focused, modern Chardonnay that would benefit from a little cellaring. Only 110 dozen produced. We hope you like it as much as we enjoyed making it!
The PRC Chardonnay 2016 is available now in our online shop.
Vintage at Scion is off to a (wonderfully) slow start! Thanks to a wet winter/spring, cool nights and only a handful of really hot days, vintage is very slowly unfolding. This generally makes for excellent sugar/flavour balance in harvested fruit. With additional ‘hang time’ for grapes on the vine, we're expecting good complexity and flavour intensity. Our bird nets are on, vines have a generous leaf canopy and are well set-up for the long haul.
This season reminds us of 2006, which saw Durif harvested in early April and just so happens to be one of my favourite wines. Being a full 25 days behind the harvest of 2016, we have only hand-picked Orange Muscat so far. This fruit is showing vibrant citrus characters along with hallmark orange blossom aroma.
Cheers from Winemaker Rowly!
We now have 4 x Gold medal winners and 5 x 90+ point scorers among our current-release wines.
Scion’s Rosé, Durif and Durif Viognier have had some ripper scores and reviews, which you can check out below.
Scion Rosé 2016 -- 93/100 in The Wine Front (Campbell Mattinson):
It’s dry and savoury and boasts a distinct firmness. A few sips and it has you singing out for another round of ‘plates’. Cut, polish, detail, satisfaction. Uncompromising in an entirely praiseworthy (and enjoyable) way. On song.
Scion Durif Viognier 2014 -- 94/100 in The Weekend Australian magazine (James Halliday):
Vigneron Rowly Milhinch has made the traditional image of durif stand on its head. It's vibrant and fresh, imposing red nuances in the foundation of dark berry fruit flavours. Its balance is such that you can enjoy it now or in ten years.
Scion Durif Viognier 2014 -- 93+/100 in The Wine Front (Campbell Mattinson):
It takes time to coax it forward. It has a pretty face but the mainstay of fruit isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Slowly does it. Leather, rust, iodine, blackberry and anise. A distinctive palate, slaked with tannin, fruit-driven but with a clear pitch towards savouriness. Viognier seems to have been dialled back from previous releases, adding a sheen to the wine and not much more. We’re in excellent territory here.Scion Durif 2014 -- 93/100 in The Wine Front (Campbell Mattinson):
When we’re not behind the Cellar Door, we love going on food adventures in our region!
If you haven’t already checked out these spots (all within 40 minutes of Rutherglen) we recommend adding them to your next North East Vic itinerary.
Just 15 minutes down the road from Rutherglen, Hub 62 is an inviting creative space for breakfast or a casual lunch. Local owners Craig, Beth and Amy have given a fresh, contemporary lease of life to Chiltern’s historic Masonic Hall, where they’re dishing up satisfying, flavour-packed dishes.
Hot tip: Great for early birds - breakfast starts early + the coffee is good!
NEW MENU @ THOUSAND POUND
Rutherglen’s main street wine bar Thousand Pound has introduced a new dinner menu on Friday and Saturday. The juicy hanger steak (grilled over charcoal) has been a bit of a hit (perhaps because it goes so well with Durif?!), though every dish we’ve ordered has had us calling for another glass.
Hot tip: Book ahead; the place has been pumping!
A scenic 40-minute drive from Rutherglen, Saint Monday in the pretty village of Yackandandah serves beautiful food and excellent Coffee Supreme coffee in the sort of space that invites you to slow down. Owners Chris and Lauren founded Saint Monday on strong social justice and environmental principles and genuine relationships with local food producers. The creative, plant-based menu champions vegetables and ethically sourced meats with delicious results.
Hot tip: Leave room for a house-baked treat for what we call "breakfast dessert".
EBDEN & OLIVE
We’ve been chasing chef and front-of-house duo Jodie and Steve around the border region over the last decade (most recently, Broadgauge restaurant). Their latest offering, Ebden & Olive in South Albury, doesn’t disappoint. Swing by this deli to pick up restaurant-quality sandwiches (think Pork belly, kim chi & mayo, or Soft shell crab & slaw), artisan cheese and charcuterie, or take-home dinners.
Hot tip: The canelé are as good as in France (read: caramelised crust)!
Bonus: Next door is Nord Bakery, who bake beautiful sourdough, rye and pastries.
In 2015 we made our first Syrah (Shiraz), released under our explorative Ron Diamond label, a savoury, restrained wine that takes inspiration from the structured and delicate wines of the Rhone in France. Fruit is sourced 9km north east of Scion, from a tiny four-acre vineyard called Terravinia. First planted over 100 years ago, friends replanted a portion of the original site in 1996.
We’re excited to announce that we will manage this vineyard ongoing in exchange for fruit produced. It’s a great opportunity for us to breathe some love and commitment back into this wonderful little site. It has a proven history of producing exceptional Shiraz: Terravinia fruit is finely structured, exhibits complex savoury characters and a lovely persistence of flavour. There is some hard work ahead, but lucky are we! The 2016 vintage is settling beautifully into French oak in the winery – stay tuned for the release next year under our Scion label!
Image: Georgie James Photography
Three new vintage releases have landed in Cellar Door and our online store, each handcrafted from Durif in signature Scion styles.
Durif is a red grape variety with history in Rutherglen dating back to 1906. It typically exhibits preposterously deep, inky colour, firm and dry tannin with flavour intensity second to none. Winemaker Rowly’s vision, however, is to challenge this expectation by expressing Durif in a number of ways: a Rosé, two elegant yet contrasting dry reds (straight Durif and co-fermented with Viognier) and a moderately fortified after-dinner wine that references the south of France. This is possible through viticulture that's aligned with a winemaking vision. When the left hand talks to the right, the high-fives begin!
SCION ROSE 2016
Early release due to popular demand! Inspired by the Provence region in France, this Rosé is dry, savoury and refreshing. Perfect with charcuterie, salmon or just because!
I've made this rosé with Durif, especially hand-picked early during the growing season. Fruit is pressed immediately upon crushing into the basket press. This is a gently handled wine, filtered only once before bottling. Colour, acidity and flavour are completely natural, having been derived purely from the Durif grape. –– Winemaker Rowly
SCION DURIF 2014
An elegant and complex dry red showing characters of cherry plum and dusty oak. Structured with firm tannin to enjoy with well flavoured dishes. Cellaring 9+ years.
Vintage 2014 was one my favourite years for reds at Scion. We experienced relatively cool conditions and a series of rain events that resulted in wines exhibiting restraint and beautiful structure. This wine saw 20 months in French oak, 35% new. Texture is long, fruit is vibrant; I'm really proud of this drop! –– Winemaker Rowly
SCION AFTER DARK 2014
Gold medal, semi-sweet fortified Durif. Perfect with dark chocolate or hard cheeses, chilled or at room temperature. Cellaring 9+ years.
Fruit vibrancy is a standout character of the 2014 After Dark. Fortifying spirit is integrating really well and while this wine will cellar wonderfully, I'm more inclined to open it with a handful of mates right away. –– Winemaker Rowly