Best’s Winery in Great Western, a sub region of the Grampians GI was founded in 1866 by Henry Best. Amidst Gold Rush territory, the winery remained in the Best family until Henry’s death in the 1920’s, at which point it was bought by the Thomson family. Now in the hands of 4th generation Viv and Chris Thomson, the winery has a great mixture of new and old; a rich history combined with modern aspects means this is an exciting place to be. Though Best’s has been around for nearly 150 years, it is still a relatively small outfit, with focus on quality, It is considered one of the hidden gems in the Australian wine world. At the heartland of cool climate Victoria, one of its specialities is Shiraz, though it has many other varieties planted. Unusually for Australia, the focus of Best’s has always been on dry wine as opposed to fortified wines. Also unusually, there is a nursery block of vines, planted in the 1860’s by Henry Best and his family. The nursery block is scatter planted, and even today, there are varieties that remain unidentified. Despite the sense of history that is omnipresent at Best’s, there is also modernity and innovation. This year at the beginning of September, in order to launch the new vintage of their Great Western range of wines, they organised a tweet-up. Embracing social media is one way Best’s is moving forward. Adam Wadewitz has been with Best’s since 2005, a young and dynamic winemaker, he is also proof that Best’s is forward thinking.
Adam showed us round the winery, from the Cellar Door, an old barn filled with memorabilia and wine making artefacts of years gone by, to the underground cellars filled with barrels, old and young. In the depths of these cool cellars Adam took us through a component tasting of Best’s flagship Bin 0 Shiraz. Blended from small vineyard parcels, it was fascinating to taste the individual different components. Some wines were fragrant, rose petals and violet notes coming through, others more robust. One in particular was quite heavy in eucalypt tones. As Adam has come to know and understand the vineyards, he knows when to pick to get the optimum from the fruit in order to get the correct final blend. In the Bin 0 Shiraz there is even wine that comes from the original 1860 vines. There are two parcels of the 1860 vines in the Bin 0, one block of four rows, and another block of 11 rows. When the conditions are right these will make a small amount of single vineyard wine. When they are added to the Bin 0, they add a depth, concentration and completeness to the finished wine.
After our morning at Best’s, we had a whistle stop tasting at Crawford River. In south west Victoria, the climate here is also cool, however has a maritime influence due to its relative proximity to the sea. Planted in 1975 by John and Catherine Thomson they specialise in great Riesling and Cabernets. In their modern cellar door facility we had a tasting of three whites, two reds and a ‘sticky’. The 1995 Riesling was surprising in that it didn’t display the aged characters that I was expecting. It had a hint of toastiness, but the primary fruit that was still present gave it a positive linear streak. Age had given it texture, and we all decided it would go really well with pate. The 2009 Riesling was picked early due to frosts. With balanced acidity, hints of delicate honeysuckle and white blossom it also had a certain minerality. Lovely!
On to the reds. We tasted the 2004 and 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. 2005 was a cool year, so the fruit was picked early. It showed lovely black fruit character, an hint of herbs and well integrated oak. The 2004, with an extra year’s bottle age and the different vintage conditions – 2004 was a cool year – there was less sweet fruit on the nose, more savoury characteristics and an aroma reminiscent of cold tea. These wines are restrained, balanced and had a long length.
After the tasting at Crawford River, we headed to Dunkeld for the Regional Producers Dinner held at the Royal Mail Hotel. With a beautiful backdrop of the Southern Grampians the setting was stunning. An evening celebrating wine beer and food produced in Western Victoria, what better way to finish the day?