Day two on the James Busby trip (please note that reading this part of the blog in a geordie accent is obligatory!) A packed day so far. An early start to meet Sandro Mosele of Port Phillip Estate, we met him at a gorgeous view point at Arthurs Seat in the Mornington Peninsula where he gave us a brief overview of the local topography.
Mornington Peninsula is fast growing a reputation as a leading producer of Pinot Noir in Australia. Indeed, in January 2011, it will play host to the biennial Pinot Noir Celebration; ‘the’ Pinot Noir event in the country. The sedimentary soils that are found in this part of the world, as well as the tempering influence of the sea and its altitude all add to the unique combination of factors that help create the regional identity of the Mornington Peninsula.
As we drove up to the Port Phillip Estate winery, you could have believed you were in Bond film; an impressive modern building with clean, sweeping lines and doors that you don’t realise are actual doors! Once you figure out how to get in the building, you are immediately blown away by the magnificent vista that faces you from the floor to ceiling windows. Vines growing on rolling hills in the foreground with lakes in the distance. Simply stunning. After braving the bitterly winds in the vineyards (it seems my clothing for the duration of my trip here is woefully inadequate!) we got onto the important task of tasting the wines. The pinot gris we tried was beautiful:unctuous, bonbons anglais, very Oregon-esque as Mike, fellow travel companion put it. Sandro explained that he wanted to make a pinot in the ‘gris’ style rather than ‘grigio’ in order to complement the Asian influenced food that is a major part of the restaurant scene here. On to the Chardonnays. A splendid selection of Kooyong’s single estate Chardonnays, one that was top of the pops for me was the 2008 Farrago. The iron rich soil contributes to the oyster shell mineral aspect, a beautiful purity of fruit and an exceedingly long finish. Then onto the reds. Again, we were spoilt with Kooyong’s finest Pinot Noirs from its single estates. The Haven 2008 was intensely perfumed, violets and cherries predominated on the nose leading to silky smooth finish. The overall group favourite however had to be the 2000 Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir. It’s liqueur cherry nose mingled with hints of chocolate and an intensity that you find in fortified wines. A rare treat to try such a wine.
After a delicious lunch at Port Phillip Estate, we were back on the coach for the second stop of the day: Ocean Eight. As luck would have it, as we arrived at the winery, the sun decided to make a brief appearance – it was nearly as welcome as the Sydney Rock oysters that Mike had generously laid on for us, washed down by a delicious 2005 Ocean Eight sparkling wine. The cool climate of the peninsula again ideally suited for this type of wine. Ocean Eight itself was established in 2004. After selling Kooyong to Port Phillip Estates, the Aylwards set up Ocean Eight, with a focus on high quality and relatively small scale production. The attention to detail that is put into all aspects of production is reflected in the final wines that we were lucky enough to be trying. The Verve 2008 Chardonnay had an exceptional purity of fruit, picked early to retain acidity and very little interference from Mike the winemaker.
After several more oysters we made our way underground to the barrel store where we were able to try barrel samples. Whilst clearly not the finished article,tasting such samples allows you to understand the wine makers choices more clearly. These clonal samples that we tried to me clearly illustrated that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Whilst some of the samples were delicate, perfumed and light, others showed more power and intensity. Blended together they make delightful wines that have the delicacy, perfumed aspects that the winemaker is seeking together with the possibility for longevity.
Ocean Eight, together with Kooyong and William Downie that we visited yesterday have had many things in common, however the most recurrent theme is that each winemaker is striving to make the best wine he can that is true to its region. Finding the speciality for that place and doing it justice is the order of the day it seems.