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Behind The Vine At Helen's Hill

To celebrate the Helen's Hill Ingram Road Pinot Noir 2015 being our April Wine of the Month, we caught up with Allan Nalder from Helen's Hill.

What makes the Ingram Road 2015 Pinot Noir so appealing?

To answer that I need to take a step back. All of our wines are 100% single vineyard and are all made at my winery. Only fruit that we grow on our vineyard goes into the wines that we make. It's not that we don't trust anyone, it's just that we don't trust anyone. We think this is super important. Come visit and I can take you to the very vines that make the wine you are going to enjoy. Call us "control freaks". I'll take it as a compliment.

The Ingram Rd 2015 Pinot Noir benefits greatly from this approach. Pristine Yarra Valley single vineyard fruit, French oak maturation, careful "hands-off" winemaking and a great vintage all combine to produce a wine that expresses hallmark Pinot Noir characteristics. And its price point is extremely compelling.

You have over 50 acres of Pinot Noir, what makes you so enthusiastic about this often-difficult grape?

You're right, Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow and can really only grow well in specific, little tucked away corners of the world. The Yarra Valley, and the little patch of dirt I call home, is one of those places.

It also helps to be a bit of a Pinot Noir fanatic. To me, it is one of the most remarkable red wines in the world. I once saw a quote about Pinot Noir growers from a wine writer:

"its makers are lunatic-fringe, questers after the holy grail…" - Marc de Villiers wine writer.

We fit that mould.

Who is the Helen of the hill?

We bought the property from Mr. Fraser in the mid 90s. He had owned the pasture land from the early 1950s. The reason he bought the land was because he fell in love with a woman called Helen, who wouldn't marry him unless he owned a farm. True love prevailed and he bought the farm. Sadly, Helen passed away some 6-7 years after their marriage. Mr Fraser never re-married and throughout the property inspection, he recalled many stories of Helen and her time there. From his stories, it was obvious that she had a passion for the land. We share that passion and thought it appropriate to name the vineyard after her.

What makes Scott McCarthy a standout winemaker?

To be blunt, the fruit. We live by the very old, well used, but absolutely true saying: "great wine is made in the vineyard". The most important decision we make in the winery is deciding when to pick the fruit. The rest of the process is relatively simple. Pristine quality fruit allows us to rely on natural fermentation, minimal filtering and minimal winemaking intervention. Our ethos is not to describe "perfection" as when there is nothing left to add, but rather, when there is nothing left to take away. We feel this is the key to winemaking. Ensure that we do as little as possible so we can deliver mother nature in the bottle.

You also make a range of beers - why did you decide to go into brewing and what do you think makes a top beer?

It gets pretty hot and sweaty picking grapes. Added to that, I ain't getting any younger, so after a big day in the fields a nice, cold craft beer is a perfect tonic. As winemakers and vignerons go, we drink a lot of beer, so it wasn't that hard to come up with the idea of brewing our own.

Getting the recipe right, the choice of hops and quality malt is critical and keeping the fermentation process under control. The rest depends on what you like. We serve our brews at Cellar Door and luckily our customers reckon they're pretty tasty.

What are the top 3 attractions you'd recommend to a first-time Yarra Valley visitor?

The great thing about the Yarra Valley is the diversity. You can visit the YV Dairy and sample a variety of cheese, the Chocolate Factory, world class art museum, on-farm produce stores for things such as apples, strawberries, etc, 6 top golf courses, mountain biking, bush trails, historic buildings, micro breweries, gin distillery and of course the odd cellar door and vineyard restaurant. The valley really has a huge range of things to do.

Obviously, a great place to start is Helen's Hill. Full al-carte restaurant on top of the hill with sensational views or our Cellar Door and casual dining nestled down in the winery amongst the vines.

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Showcasing Shiraz with Australia's First Families of Wine
Words by Paul Diamond on 14 Oct 2017
A fabulous Wine Selectors dinner with Australia’s first families of wine revealed the bright future of this incredible variety. A red wine dinner in the middle of a chilly Melbourne August seemed like a highly appropriate thing to do and what better variety than Shiraz to chase the cold away. And so a four-course menu by the team at Neale White’s Papa Goose restaurant was devised and 12 great Shiraz from Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) were sourced and the tables set. By the time the Wine Selectors faithful started arriving, it was clear that the dinner was going to be one to remember. Designed to celebrate Shiraz through the expressions of 12 wines from the 12 families that make up the AFFW , the diversity of flavours and expressions from one grape variety was quite remarkable. On paper, the line-up looked simply yummy, but as the wines were being opened and tested before the guests arrived, the reality of what we were pouring and tasting started dawning on us; we were privy to a multiplicity of smells, flavours and textures that were being represented from 10 different regions and 1300+ collective years of winemaking experience. A Family Affair
On hand to help host, pour and manage 1000-odd glasses of Shiraz were Katherine Brown, Brown Brothers winemaker and Chairperson of the AFFW Next Generation, Justine Henschke, PR for Henschke Wines , Justin Taylor, export manager for Taylors Wines, Sally Webber, DeBortoli family ambassador and Jeff McWilliam, CEO of McWilliam’s Wines . The food was awesome and the wine a perfect foil for the cold and wet. And as the family anecdotes from each of the AFFW members were told, the conversation eventually found itself reflecting on the future of Australian Shiraz. “Shiraz is the past and it’s also the future,” Justine Henschke noted emphatically. “It’s the past in that it has established a lot of wine communities and it’s the future in that we now know how Shiraz thrives according to climate.” “So now it’s all about educating people on what style comes from where, so they know where to go for something specific.

Look at tonight, we have tried 12 different wines of the same variety across many different regions, showing small nuances from where they have been sourced and that’s pretty incredible.

- Justine Henschke, Henschke Wines
Sally Webber agreed that diversity is a key and that blends are going to play a big part in strengthening its appeal for future generations. “I love that it’s such a diverse variety and can blend beautifully with so many other varieties.” “The future for Shiraz is in blends,” she added. “It’s such an intense variety, you have pepper and spice and there are some varieties you only need a little of and it brings out all these other great characters. “Rhône varieties like Grenache and Mourvedre, and even varieties like Gamay and Tempranillo really add different expressions to Shiraz and as the Australian consumer becomes less conservative and more experimental, we’ll get to see the variety’s real potential.” A hint of spice
For Katherine Brown and Brown Brothers, fine, spicy cool climate Shiraz is the future and Heathcote is their chosen region. As Katherine described, “We think customers understand that Shiraz doesn’t need to come from a warm climate and we are on the search to make a Shiraz that you can call refreshing.” “Something you can drink at lunch, something that is more about pepper and spice than big jammy fruits. That’s where I see the future of Shiraz, we are starting to see these cooler climates like Heathcote, Eden Valley and Margaret River delivering these flavours.” So what about hot areas, those that built the wines that put us on the map like Barossa , McLaren Vale and the Clare ? Justin Taylor thinks that Shiraz is a variety that can deal with the heat and with careful winemaking, the future for warmer styles is still bright.

“Australia’s getting hotter whether you like it or not, and Shiraz loves heat, so we can keep making more Shiraz for the global market, we can do it with rationality, and we can do it with diversity. Our quality has never been as good as it is right now, it’s a great story for this country.”

- Jeff McWilliam, McWilliams Wines
Jeff McWilliam agrees and is happy that the diversity we are seeing has extended to a place where the expressions of Shiraz that emulate the O’Shea Hunter River Burgundies that the Hunter Valley does so well are gaining popularity again. “We are going back to medium bodied wines, just like the great old wines that came from Mt Pleasant,” said Jeff. “I love McLaren Vale and Barossa Shiraz , but I know the wines we do best are in that style of the old O’Shea wines. “We are talking about vineyards and the special wines they produce, but the Hunter is like that, you can have a great vintage and you can have a really poor vintage and that’s the excitement of it, just like the diversity of Australian Shiraz.”
Five Of The Best Rutherglen Wineries and Cellar Doors
Words by Ben Hallinan on 31 Jul 2017
Explore world-renowned wines and enjoy great country hospitality as we present the best Rutherglen wineries and cellar doors with this guide and interactive map . Forged out of the fortunes of the gold rush era,  Rutherglen   is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia and that history is on display everywhere. From the historic corrugated iron sheds housing dusty barrels of world-class fortified wines, to the old hand-tended vines that have lived through world wars, drought and pests, the whole region embodies the quintessential pioneering Australian spirit. Rutherglen is arguably the unrivalled king of Australian fortified wines, but there is also a great variety of robust reds and crisp dry whites.  Durif   is the region's speciality red wine. It's full-bodied with dark fruit and cola characters and high levels of alcohol and tannin, but there is also a great abundance of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Shiraz and alternative varietals on offer. To help plan your trip, we've selected a collection of Rutherglen wineries we feel provide the best cellar door experience, plus we've included a handy interactive map down below . Rutherglen Cellar Doors List Stanton & Killeen
The charming Stanton & Killeen winery is set amongst established gums and rolling pasture with beautifully landscaped grounds and rustic iron sheds. For over 141 years, this Rutherglen icon has produced full-bodied, robust reds, crisp white wines and luscious Muscats, Topaque and vintage fortifieds and there is a great range available to sample during your tasting. Their fortified tasting flights are outstanding, allowing you to sample different categories of Muscat and Topaque to learn more about the process, the importance of ageing, blending and the difference between each method and variety. The historic bond room, originally added for storing spirit, and the original cement vats and fermenters give a snapshot of what winemaking practices were like at the turn of the century. 440 Jacks Road, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Stanton & Killeen website Rutherglen Estates
  Rutherglen Estates  is proving to the world that Rutherglen can produce world class white wines in addition to the region's renowned fortified and red wines. There is a great range of traditional, Mediterranean and alternative varietals on offer from Viognier, Marsanne, Fiano, Savagnin and Roussanne through to Shiraz, Sangiovese and Durif. Located on the edge of the town in the Tuileries complex, Rutherglen Estates is the perfect place to base your stay in the region. There is a fantastic newly renovated cellar door, a unique Aboriginal art gallery as well as  boutique accommodation overlooking the vines  , a quality café, bar and a great restaurant. And you're just a stone's throw away from Rutherglen's Main Street to explore more after dark. Tuileries Complex, 13-35 Drummond Street, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 10:00 am to 5:30 pm Visit the Rutherglen Estates website Pfeiffer Wines
This charming winery is set inside a historic old distillery complex by the bank of the Sunday Creek. The father and daughter winemaking team of Chris and Jen Pfeiffer produce a world class range of wines that has garnered over 50 trophies and 350 medals from wines shows around the globe. After sampling the full range in the tasting room, you can then relax outside under an umbrella on the century-old Sunday Creek Bridge. With a glass of their world-renowned  Pfeiffer Wines fortified  or aromatic Gamay, you can try to catch a glimpse of a platypus in the creek below. Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Pfeiffer Wines website Cofield Wines
The Cofield family have been an integral part of the Rutherglen winemaking community since Frank Cofield first tendered to the St Leonards vineyards in 1909. Today, that family passion for wine lives on with third generation Damien at the helm of their wines with premium fruit sourced from Rutherglen, the King Valley, Alpine Valley and Beechworth. Cofield is a great choice when travelling with the family with lovely grounds, free BBQ facilities and outdoor games, bean bags, chess and totem tennis. And does spending the night under the stars with a glass of wine beside the vineyard where the grapes in that wine were grown sound like your ideal weekend escape? If so, then you're in luck, as you can camp beside the Cofield vines thanks to Grape Vine Glamping. Distillery Rd, Wahgunyah -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Cofield Wines website Campbells Wines
For over 145 years and five generations, the Campbells family have produced iconic, full flavoured Rutherglen reds and elegant Rutherglen Port, Muscat and Topaque. That heritage is on display as you walk along the 'muscat mews' lined with century-old barrels of ageing fortified wines in their cellars. There is a great range of emerging varietals, Rutherglen stalwarts such as Shiraz and Durif through to their renowned sweets and stickies to taste accompanied by local cheese and olives. Make sure to book ahead for a private tour and tasting or reserve a hamper filled with delicious regional treats to enjoy on the lawns beside the vines. 4603 Murray Valley Hwy, Rutherglen -  view on our map Open daily 9 am to 5 pm Mon to Sat, 10 am to 5 pm Sun Visit the Campbells Wines website RUTHERGLEN WINERY MAP Planning a trip to Rutherglen? Download our interactive Rutherglen winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here For more information on visiting Rutherglen, be sure to visit the official  explore Rutherglen website  or stop by the visitor information centre in the middle of town. But, if you'd like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit, explore our selection of Rutherglen wines and find out more about the wineries listed here in our  Meet the Makers section  . And, with the  Wine Selectors Regional Release program , you'll experience a different wine region each Release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel, plus you'll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our  Regular Deliveries  page to find out more!
Six of the Best Clare Valley Wineries and Cellar Doors
Discover the best Clare Valley wineries and cellar doors to taste and experience the region’s delights with our guide and interactive map . Less than a two-hour drive from Adelaide, the Clare Valley is home to some of the world’s best Riesling and offers fantastic food and wine experiences that are just waiting to be enjoyed. The region is blessed with a climate ideal for premium grape growing and the combination of consistently good winter rains, hot summers tempered by cool nights and a long ripening period produces grapes of exceptional flavours and balance delivering exceptional regional Riesling , Cabernet Sauvignon , Shiraz and more. With more than 30 cellar doors to choose from, visitors to the Clare Valley are spoilt for choice, and with many of the wineries family owned and operated, you’re bound to meet the people whose wines you’re tasting. Here are of our Top 6 Clare Valley Wineries to Visit. Claymore Wines
With all their wines named after popular song titles , Claymore Wines offers a fun, memorable and delicious tasting experience at their Leasingham cellar door. Meander your way through a mixed tape of top tunes – Purple Rain Sauvignon Blanc, Joshua Tree Riesling, Skinny Love Summer White Viognier Whole Lotta Love Rosé, Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz, Bittersweet Symphony Cabernet Sauvignon and more. Take a seat outside and enjoy the sunshine with a platter of South Australian cheeses and local produce with a glass of wine or prop yourself up on a stool at the bar and lose yourself in the wine tasting experience. You can also treat yourself to some local produce including olives and oil from Evilo Estate, sauces from Patly Hill, soaps from The Sugar Shack Soap Co., Chickpeas from Pangkarra and Hot Wine packs from Kooky Drop Co. 7145 Horrocks Highway, Leasingham Open daily 10am to 5pm Visit Claymore website Eldredge
Take a drive along the Spring Gully scenic drive route and you’ll discover the picturesque Eldredge Vineyards. Located directly west of Sevenhill, Eldredge is on the boundary of the Clare Valley and overlooks the Blyth Plains, with the vineyard rising to 530 metres. Their Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Malbec and Riesling are all produced using 100% Clare Valley fruit with the focus on creating premium quality, yet affordable wines that reflect the region’s unique character. A 98 year-old stone cottage houses their cellar door and restaurant, which was opened in 1994 after many months spent carefully renovating the lovely old building. Settle in for a relaxed tasting, enjoy a shared platter or a light lunch featuring a range of local products. Spring Gully Rd, Spring Gully Open daily 11am to 5pm Visit Eldredge Vineyards website Koonowla
Located just east of Auburn, Koonowla is one of the district’s most iconic properties with its historic stone buildings and rolling broad acre hills. The property was first planted in the 1890s by John Tothill, who also built a winery to produce wine for the thriving export trade to England. The business continued to prosper and expand until a disastrous fire in 1926 destroyed the winery and wine stocks, and the property was converted to grain and wool production. In 1985, eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were planted, relaunching Koonowla wines. Current owners, Andrew and Booie Michael, purchased the property in 1991 restoring the old homestead and boosting the vineyard plantings to almost 50ha of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Shiraz, Merlot and Semillon. Today visitors to the cellar door are welcomed to taste the fruits of their labour – Koonowla Cabernet, Shiraz, and Riesling, along with Merlot and Semillon. 18 Koonowla Road, Auburn Weekends and public holidays 10am to 5pm. Monday to Friday by appointment Visit Koonowla Wines website Mitchell Wines
Andrew and Jane Mitchell established their winery in 1975 and have created a fantastic tasting experience, showcasing a true Australian family-owned and run winery. On arriving at the cellar door, Jane welcomes you like you’re one of the family and you can tell her and Andrew are proud of their wines and vineyards. Mitchells Wines have four vineyards that are located in and around the Watervale, Auburn and Sevenhill sub-regions with vine age ranging from five to more than 55 years-old. Within their quaint cellar door, they present stunning single vineyard Rieslings, as well as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Semillon. “There is always something special about wines where the same family develops and cares for the vines, makes and bottles the wine and then sells that wine,” says Andrew “An old fashioned ideal perhaps, but our reputation is at stake with each bottle of wine we sell.” 246 Hughes Park Road, Sevenhill Open daily 10am to 4pm. Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day Visit Mitchell Wines website Paulett Wines
Located in the Polish Hill sub-region of the Clare Valley, Paulette Wines is owned and operated by winemaker Neil Paulett and his wife Alison. The couple established the cellar door 35 years ago and with fantastic wines and absolutely stunning views, it’s a ‘must visit’. "Thirty years ago, visiting a cellar door was not that common, so we felt we had to offer that extra inducement to bring people to the Valley,” says Neil. “Our cellar door, our premium wines and the spectacular views all enhance the sense of well-being that wine lovers have come to expect from Paulett's Winery." In addition to the staples of Shiraz and Riesling, you can expect to taste a Late Harvest Riesling, Sparkling Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet and Malbec blend and Cabernet Merlot. To top off a fabulous experience you can dine at the winery’s Bush Devine Café which is inspired and partly sourced from the adjacent Bush Food Garden that boasts over 80 different species and 1000 plants. Sevenhill-Mintaro Road, Polish Hill River Open daily 10am to 5pm – cellar door Open daily 11am to 4pm – café, bookings essential. Visit Paulett Wines website Stone Bridge Wines
Family-owned and operated, Stone Bridge Wines started out as a hobby but has turned into a successful business for Craig and Lisa Thomson, and their daughters Lauren and Sarah. Their boutique winery currently produces Shiraz from their own vineyard, plus Riesling, Pinot G, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec using select parcels from local growers in the Sevenhill, Watervale and Armagh areas. Drop into their earth-rammed cellar door to taste their award-winning wines, stroll around the picturesque grounds, and if you’re visiting on a Sunday in September to May, you can also enjoy a gourmet pizza cooked in their wood-fired oven. Gillentown Road, Sevenhill Open Thursday to Monday 10am to 4pm Visit Stone Bridge Wines website Clare Valley Winery Map Planning a trip to Clare? Download our interactive Clare Valley winery map. To save on your browser or device,  click here And, if you’re the energetic type or into pedal power, a day spent cruising the Riesling Trail on a bike is a must do. Wine Selectors Membership Consultant, Elliot Watt, shares all his tips for touring through this spectacular wine region on the Clare Valley Riesling Trail .
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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