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Sunday 17 March 2013

Ridgemill Estate - Eloise: A Sparkling Debut

"You don't win medals for making Rosé" could well become winemaker Pete McGlashan's equivalent to Homer Simpson's "You don't win friends with salad". 

The Winemaker
As large as life, an affable bloke, McGlashan isn't afraid to share his opinions, and whilst he may not get everything right, in my opinion he is one of the few Granite Belt winemakers to try and reach out, to attempt to engage with an audience. 

Largely through twitter, an increasingly prevalent communications channel, especially for a region quite remote from its largest city, and also from the wider Australian wine community.  I think the region needs it.

The Wines  
The thing is McGlashan, and Ridgemill Estate, did win a medal for their 2012 Estate Rosé (87- Average, $18, 13%) - a wine showing soft berry aromatics, and even hints of gremolata.  Fresh, strawberries dominating the palate, a little spice and phenolics.

The portfolio also includes their premium Black Dog range, only made in better vintages. The 2007 Black Dog Cabernet (90 - Good, $25, 13.5%) shows varietal character of cedar, plum with hints of lavendar, coming across as fresh and elegant. 

Perfect for the coming cooler months, an open fire and bit of stew in the pot, is the 2009 Cabernet Malbec (89 - Good, $30, 13.5%) shows character from each constituent component, black fruits and tarry with hints of licorice, slightly smokey.

This post's eponymous wine, the Eloise (88 - Good, $30) is a good first effort. In a region where few wineries make their own sparkler, Eloise is an aperitif style, in youth it shows some bready character with citrus, and a good clean finish. With subsequent disgorgements you'll be looking to see some toasty complexity to emerge.  

The Winery - A bit of History...
The Ridgemill Estate brand came into being with the purchase of the Emerald winery in September 2004 by current owner, Martin Cooper. Studying engineering in Melbourne in the late 60s/ early 70s, Cooper earned extra money by working and living on a vineyard, including a couple of vintages with Yeringberg at Coldstream in the Yarra Valley.

Ridgemill's first vintage was in 2005, at the time the vineyard was planted to Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Tempranillo.  Over time Saperavi has been added, Lagrein too - but since swapped out for Verdelho - and Viognier.  Recently Grenache has been added with two rows grafted over, along with 2 rows of Malbec.

The Region - Strange Birds
I've often wanted to know what is seen as the Granite Belt's signature variety.  The Strange Bird initiative is one that McGlashan had a hand in creating, along with fellow winemaker Jim Barnes of Hidden Creek.  The premise is to celebrate the region's diversity through championing the varieties that are less well known.

But I've often had a nagging question about the region: What is its signature variety? And maybe the Strange Bird is it. Celebrated for the slightly unusual.

For Ridgemill I think that will become Chardonnay (not reviewed here). Ridgemill Chardonnay has shown an evolution in style over the last five years. Both Martin Cooper and winemaker McGlashan stated this was where they see the direction of the variety going for them. Not exactly a strange bird, but possibly showing some pedigree as per its name.
The Road Ahead
I speak generally about the region here, perception is a funny thing, but often reality. I see the region as at a bit of a crossroads. Quality is on the up, wineries and their wines are gaining some recognition. 

In addition to that nagging question above, there exists a perception of expectation. We come to certain points of the year when certain regional figureheads - and I stress I speak generally here - tout how well their wines are showing and how they should be supported by the on and off trade.

Expectation can only lead to disappointment. People buy from people, and regardless of how well your wines are showing - whether in a local setting or in any other regional, capital city or state show - you've got to work hard to sell your product.

That crossroads: stay as a largely boutique producer, selling 80% of product to cellar door and mailing list, or look to reach out to consumers and trade buyers. And do so consistently. 

Source: The Vinsomniac was a guest of Ridgemill Estate at the launch of their Eloise Sparkling wine.


You can follow Ridgemill Estate on twitter here:  or you can follow me:

1 comment:

  1. hi stuart,
    I agree our region is at a cross roads, i think of us as a gangly teen with no clear direction, strange bird has been a good thing for the region and in the past i have always said that our diversity was our strenght,but yes we do need to find a bit more direction, and engage more with our friends in the birs city and beyond.
    Relationships is where it is at from my point of view and to develope that so that we become part of the culture if you like.
    thanks for the well thought out comments on the wine the company the maker and our region.