“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





16 October 2015


O'Leary Walker Winemakers First Past The Post Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015 
$23 at the cellar; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points 

O'Leary Walker, aka David and Nick, were having a little trouble with merging the identities of their famous Clare wines with the Adelaide Hills beauties they make from the O'Leary family's long-held vineyards at Oakbank - David's grandfather bought his first vineyard there in 1912, but the tribe had been there before that. Various branches of the O'Learys have now assembled a fine suite of vineyards whose fruit is eagerly sought by various famous makers.

I assure you David and Nick get the best pick.

But folks were a little confused about this Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills dichotomy under the same O'Leary Walker labelling. So what did the lads do for clarification? They bought the old Johnston Family Brewery and cordial factory right beside the Oakbank Racecourse on the Onkaparinga, that's what they did. It's already open as the tasting room for their freshly-liveried Adelaide Hills wines.

Bits of one or more generations of most original Oakbank folks have worked at Johnno's at some stage or another. David's dad worked there. His grandfather was the company accountant. The Johnnos started work there setting up farms for making malting barley in 1840. Harry Dove Young and Old Man Johnson invented the Oakbank Races there in the stables.

This is a wicked little slip of a drink. Rather than coming decked with lumberjack sophistry from the cooperage, it has just the right splice of oak holding it tight without ever dominating its healthy clingstone peach and lime pith bouquet. It has a neat edge of the prickle of spring hay and flowery meadow and the faintest insinuation of white pepper.

As you'd then expect, the drinking is comfortable and easy. Those fruits are there, but by this stage they've become wine, not fruit. There's a touch of butterscotch; a crunch of cinder honeycomb toffee; just the right basement of natural grape acidity. While modest and polite, the damn thing is far too slippery. It went just dinky with the vongole at lunch in those renovated stables yesterday. It's the sort of flavour you welcome to lounge around your receptors as long as it likes. Which is what it does, without ever getting the way. About all it fails to do is the dishes. Just nice.

And a spiffing little price, too! 

O'Leary family vineyards at Oakbank ... that heirloom clingstone peach tree hiding behind the shed is locally famous ... all photos Philip White

O'Leary Walker Winemakers The Bookies' Bag Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2014 
$25 at the cellar; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points 

More complex than the Chardonnay - no surprise - this is its most appropriate follow-up. It's toasty and glowering in a way, with all those deep black and blue berries settling in a fine compote with the juice of ripe limes and a dusting of musky confectioner's sugar.

I reckon it even has some juniper. You find lovely blue tannins in dried ripe juniper.

The flavour is just verging on authoritative, but it's never threatening or opulent. It's slick of form, tapering into a fine funnel of gentle dry tannins, with that irreplaceable natural acidity winding the kisser into a dribbling anticipatory pucker.

There are many who measure the success of their lives by the number of ducks they've devoured. Every single one of these would add value by adding this to the equation. It is totally unpretentious, yet precisely Pinot.

If you don't do feathers, try shiitake with that exquisitely quirky dehydrated cucumber/loofah the Cantonese pronounce as chook sung, and reconstitute with a little ginger and garlic. Or shiitake with XO and bok choy. Friggin yum, China!

Once again, it's at a price that makes me giggle. This should be a delight for honest restaurants to stock. 

First long table lunch at the new acquisition: local restaurateurs and Negociants sales folks set to in the freshly-renovated stables building ... we started the day with a glass of the fine O'leary Walker Winemakers Hurtle Sparkling Adelaide Hills Pinot noir Chardonnay 2010, which is looking just schmick now, after four years on lees ... review coming soon ... we were then treated to a tasting of every vintage of the brilliant Watervale Riesling ... 2004 was my standout ... those worried about the cordials need not: if anything, I suspect we might see some fresh energy put into those very special old Hills favourites ...here's Johnston's Oakbank Cordial makers Nick (left) and David below, doing their Odd Couple thing in the fizz vineyard ... Mt Lofty's on the horizon,  and the Lenswood vineyards ridge

1 comment:

CW said...

What a lovely story! Quiet achievers those two. And both great winemakers.