• Winery Spotlight

    Posted on by Stew Went

    I don’t think I’m alone in stating Passing Clouds served as the initial foray into proper decent wine from Bendigo. The winery embodied an uncompromising spirit with respect to viticulture, such as a very tight rein on irrigation (forcing the vines to fend for themselves early in life) and organic principles, both of which still serve the winery well to this day. The wines? Deeply flavoured, dry, sometimes rustic and always classic in their make-up.

    What some of you might recall is that the Leith Family made the tough decision to relocate from Bendigo to Daylesford (Macedon Ranges) some 20 years ago following years of drought conditions and rising salinity levels, which in turn put a significant question mark of over the viability of the vineyards.

    The establishment of the Musk vineyard at 742m in 1998 marked quite a turn in direction for Passing Clouds which has seen a transformation of a gutsy red wine specialist to a now-expert in the production of elegant yet intense Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from some of the coolest and highest vineyard sites in the country. Don’t fear – the core of the Bendio range has been retained but the Burgundian offerings really are quite something else. A chance tasting at the winery several weeks ago compelled me to elevate a Passing Clouds offer to the top of the newsletter queue and in particular I was blown away by the ‘Estate’ Chardonnay from 2019. Simply the best Chardonnay I’ve tried in the past 2 years and the best wine I’ve tried from the Macedon Ranges GI.

    ‘Estate’ Chardonnay 2019 $47.00 / $42.30 in a 6-pack

    Stunning wine; best Chardonnay I’ve tried in a least 2 years!

    50% new French oak but you’d never know. The smartest of smart rich fruit with mineral veins. Expertly hung together. In the winery’s view the best white wine they have made (so far!). For me the standout Chardonnay I have tried of the past 2 years and, probably, the best Macedon Ranges wine I have very tasted!

    "It has some verve yet is luscious and inviting. Rich, Ripe stone fruit and ginger spice, clotted cream and honey with tangy acidity. Lots going on and a lot to like." 93pts - Jane Faulkner - Wine Companion

    ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir $47.00 / $42.30 in a 6-pack

    More fruit weight than the other Pinot Noir offerings and the oak, whilst supportive, is more noticeable through the palate.. Super balanced and no rough edges from the acid. Early days for this drop and the sour fruits / spice are beginning to poke through. It will be very good with a few years in the cellar. Site selection really singing here.

    "Deep red/purple, impressive colour for a young pinot. Deep rich, red and dark cherry aromas, spicy and herby, screams pinot noir and is all about fruit, not artifact. Pot pourri; a hint of clove. Complex and not easily described. The palate is full and rich, generous and rounded - lots of ripe, soft, rounded tannins. A superb young pinot that has what it takes to develop beautifully with age." 95pts - Huon Hooke - The Real Review

    'Elevation’ Pinot Noir 2017 $83.00 / $74.70 in a 6-pack

    Passing Cloud’s top wine and only released when vintage conditions permit (note no 2018 or 2020). Balance to burn; very understated at the moment save for some sour fruits but really needs to open up. One for the cellar. A reserve selection in the true sense with the fruit coming exclusively from the top 3 rows of the vineyard. Hand sorted fruit and vinified separately.

    'Graeme’s Blend' Shiraz Cabernet 2019 $32.00 / $28.80 in a 6-Pack

    A 60/40 Cabernet/Shiraz blend from the Serpentine and Axedale Vineyards near Bendigo. Balanced! Spicy fruits, slimy smooth, a touch of BDX-like game. Will be long-lived and possesses a supremely sensible fruit profile for a 15% wine.


    'Bendigo' Shiraz 2019 $32.00 / $28.80 in a 6-Pack

    Juicy with a core of darker fruit. Great layers of spice. Hard to believe it’s 14.8%. Have I mentioned balance? Unreal how calm these Bendigo reds are for the 2019 vintage. 100% sourced from the 23yr old Axedale Vineyard just south of Bendigo.

    "Smells of the Aussie bush with its eucalypt and paperbark aromas – not too much, just enough for enjoyment and a desire to be in such a location. Enmeshed within are flavours of red plums, baking spices and gritty tannins. A good drink in anyone’s book." 93pts - Jane Faulkner - Wine Companion

    'The Angel' Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 $53.00 / $47.70 in a 6-Pack

    Historically known as ‘Angel’s Blend’ reflecting a Cabernet mix but now produced as a 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. A selection of the best Cab Sav barrels from the vintage and no more than 500 cases produced. Juicy fruits combine with a spike of supportive acid late in the palate. Will be the longest living wine of the current Passing Clouds releases and is without doubt in the top handful of Bendigo Cabernet-based wines.

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  • Winery Spotlight - Frankland River Estate

    Posted on by Stew Went

    It seems to me that the Frankland River region, and Great Southern more broadly, have built some impressive momentum over the past 5 years, albeit with an almost shy subtleness. It’s undoubtedly WA’s best source of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Shiraz whilst the Cabernet is also of high quality but of course sits in the shadow of Margaret River.

    Frankland Estate, along with the likes of Howard Park, is a proper veteran of the region with a stella track record but there was never any danger of the wines selling out early. Well folks, that scenario has turned on its head as we have just been advised that for some of the new releases are subject to strict allocations such that we have only been permitted to buy 6 or 12 bottles (in total!). It goes without saying you’ll need to be quick! Full details on each featured wine below (plus another 5 wines listed on the website).

    ‘Isolation Ridge’ Riesling 2020 $44

    This wine is 100% Riesling from the Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. Riesling vines from two different clones were planted in 1988. The vineyard is farmed according to certified organic principles and this is reflected in the clarity and complexity of the pristine fruit.

    "Superb, energetic, taut and very complex white wine. Scents of ozone and green apple, fennel and talc. Beautiful perfume that reflects perfectly into flavours in the palate, a shimmering, glassy and tense feel drawn long and to a powdery, lightly puckering and, again, talc-like lingering finish. Epic." 96pts - Mike Bennie - WineFront

    Certified Organic

    ‘Isolation Ridge’ Syrah 2019 $44

    The core of this wine is “Winery Block” (original clone sourced from the Justin Vineyard). The wine contains 4.5% Viognier and 2% Mourvèdre. The resulting wine is one of style and real integrity.

    "Bright, deep purple colour, with a fresh and spicy aroma of cool-grown shiraz, the fruit doing all of the talking. White pepper, blue fruits, violets, dried herbs. The wine is elegant but full-bodied, the tannins tightly coiled and supple, a gloriously aromatic, elegant cool-grown Shiraz." 95pts - Huon Hooke - The Real Review

    Certified Organic 

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  • Winery Spotlight - Ricca Terra

    Posted on by Stew Went

    Ok - we admit it. Riverlands is hardly a region to get you hot under the collar with respect to quality wine but times are changing. 

    Ashely & Holly Ratcliffe established their first Ricca Terra vineyards in the region back in 2003. They quickly formed they view that it was Southern Italian, Spanish and Portuguese varietals that would work best in a warm dry climate - not traditional Australian classics. Makes a lot of sense when you stop and think about it. If you want to source the likes of Arinto and Tinta Barroca, honestly, Ricca Terra is your only option for Australian-made!

    All wines Vegan- Friendly

    Since that time Ricca Terra's reputation as a leader for the region and 'alternative' grapes has grown steadily and now hit some very impressive levels. How's this for a highlights reel:

    Trophy - Most Exciting Wine @ Australian Italian Varieties Wine Show 2020

    Top 10 'Upcoming Wineries' - James Halliday Wine Companion

    Gourmet Traveller 'Viticulturalist of the Year'

    ABC’s Horticulturist of the Year,

    Riverland’s Winemaker of the Year award

    The professional reviewers are falling over themselves when it comes to this winery:

    "they are among the most interesting wines to come my way lately.”
    (Huon Hooke)

    "Ashley Ratcliff is going great guns in championing a range of alternative varieties" (Tony Love)

    So if Italian / Spanish / Portugese varieties is your thing, but you want to support Australian producers, then you can't go past Ricca Terra.  While the range is quite large, your good folk at Cloudwine have picked the eyes out of these wines and today offer a selection of the most impressive.  Not expensive, a little different and very good.   

    Ricca Terra Aglianico 2019 $23.99

    Trophy – Most Exciting Wine - Australian Italian Varieties Wine Show 2020
    94 points at the Australian Wine Showcase Awards.

    Ricca Terra ‘Bronco Buster’ White Blend 2020 (Fiano Vermentino Greco)
    Trophy – Best Italian Variety Australian Alternative Wine Show 2020 
    Trophy – Best White Blend-Australian Alternative Variety Wine Show 2020  

    "Medium-intense green and gold colour. Smells like a freshly-baked peach pie. The palate shows rich stone fruits, short-crust pastry and a creamy note. All fills and flows through the mouth with a richness, but then a zip of salinity and acid cleans it up nicely. No single variety sticks out in the blend either."  Stuart Knox - The Real Review.

    Ricca Terra 'Colour of Calmness' Rose 2020

    Trophy – Best Rosé 
    Riverland Wine Show 2020

    "Peach skin pink colour. The aromas are intoxicating, wild flowers, baking spices, red berries and pastry. A delightful rosé, dry, savoury and moreish. Medium-bodied with a hint of grip and a sleek mouth-feel."  Amanda Yallop - The Real Review.

    Ricca Terra Tinta Barroca 2018
    Tinta Barroca is almost unknown in Australia. It is renowned in Portugal as a variety used to make port. Ashley Ratcliff had noticed Tinta Barocca during a visit to the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee’s vineyard in Monash, South Australia. He observed it was an early ripening red grape variety, with rich flavours and firm tannins. The subconscious thought Ashley had was ‘why had this grape variety been overlooked by winemakers in Australia?’ 

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  • New Releases & Updates February 26th

    Posted on by Stew Went

    Hi everyone!

    As per usual no shortage of amazing wine hitting the shelf. I have to say, after spending the last 5 years in Phuket Thailand, I will never ever complain about the sheer diversity of wine types on the retail shelves here in Oz (compared to a small sea of generic swill from France and Chile). And, believe it or not, the pricing is not so bad here either!


    Critics Favs      

    Longview cleans up again with its 2019 'Queenie' Pinot Grigio $22 from the Adelaide Hills.  "Top Value Wines of Australia" - The Real Review, Nov '20, "#1 of 24 2019 Pinot Grigio tasted from Adelaide Hills over 12 months" - The Real Review, Nov '20,  "Hot 100 Wines of SA" The Adelaide Review '19 + '20.

    Moores Hill from the Tamar Valley in North Tassie is the state's first 'off-the-grid' winery. They became Tasmania's first 100% solar-powered winery in 2017 and the wines are all made onsite. The just released 2019 Riesling $30 picked up 95pts from James Halliday. 

    Fiano is a vine variety the Chalmers (visionary grape-growing family) first imported into Australia in 2002 and made a first wine from back in 2005. This vegan-friendly wine from the 2019 vintage was made with no additions apart from a pinch of sulphur. It's a generous, balanced style with notes of lemon curd, dandelion and pine needle, finishing fresh with an appealing soft, pithy bitterness. "The unique flavour and killer structure make it a must-have drop for 2021." Toni Paterson MW - Gourmet Traveller WINE 

    New Releases

    Swan Valley's Corymbria has created plenty of buzz with recent releases such that our stocks of existing vintages is largely depleted. Thankfully the 2019 Tempranillo-based blend ($39) has just dropped (95pts Halliday) and again we are expecting big things of this wine.

    Battle of Bosworth has always been an industry leader when it comes to certified organic wines and in recent years they have shown impressive skills with preservative free wines. Let's be honest - there aren't a lot of decent examples around the traps but the Puritan Shiraz 2020 $23 certainly shows how good such wines can be in skilled hands.

    Margaret River veterans Woodlands have just rolled to the 2019 vintage with their 'entry level' Chardonnay $30. These guys established themselves about the same time as Cullen and Mosswood yet, sadly, rarely receive the same praise. Fortunately for the punter this translates into very reasonable prices for the quality on offer.


    Wine Show Results

    The Lake Breeze Winemakers Selection Shiraz 2016 $45 has picked up Gold Medals at both the Perth Royal Show and the Langhorne Creek Wine Show. As per usual wines from this region remain criminally under-rated.

    Lightfoot & Sons 'Myrtle Point' Rose from 2019 has again picked up the Trophy for 'Best Rose' at the Gippsland Wine Show which, impressively, makes it 3 years in a row for such a wine. This is good going at $23.

    Longview's Shiraz Barbera blend 'Vista' 2018 has picked up 3 Gold Medals around the country (Sydney Royal Wine Show, Adelaide Hills Wine Show, Australian Cool Climate Wine Show). This is an excellent result for a locally made Barbera blend as I think it's safe to say we haven't yet, as a nation, hit our straps with this variety (yet).

    Until next time......drink well!

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  • Winery Spotlight - Crawford River (Henty)

    Posted on by Stew Went

    "Crawford River is now a foremost producer of Riesling (and other excellent wines), originally thanks to the unremitting attention to detail and skill of its founder and winemaker, John Thomson." James Halliday

    "Pound for pound one of the greatest wines in Australia, by my reckoning, value and quality” – Mike Bennie (WineFront) on the 'Original' Crawford River Riesling. 

    Let's continue the theme of trail blazers and move further west from Geelong, 220km to be exact, to the rapidly emerging Riesling superstar region of Henty. Indeed, some say (myself included) THE best Riesling region in the country. Henty will never match the Clare Valley and Great Southern for output but I’m confident in time it be regarded as Numero Uno for top quality Riesling.

    Pioneering winery Crawford River singlehandedly put Henty on the map and in doing so firmly established itself as one of Australia’s greatest Riesling producers.

    John and Catherine Thomson planted the vineyard way back in 1975 at Crawford River. They were inspired the location's potential to produce superior quality grapes. Little did they know Crawford River would pave the way for the industry in what has been a traditionally a wool, beef and dairy region. 

    Since the initial plantings in the mid 1970´s, there have been 2 more small plantings. Believing in the fine quality of the Semillon included in the original plantings, John and Catherine added another 0.7 Ha in the early 1990´s.

    In 2000, another block of Riesling & Cabernet was added, which now produces the Young Vines Riesling & Rose wines. The cool southerly latitude together with the maritime environment, complex soil structure and favourable micro-climate create a terroir which has justified the initial vision. All vineyards are farmed organically.

    Belinda Thomson, elder daughter of John and Catherine, returned home at the end of 2004 after completing her studies in Oenology and Viticulture and pursuing several vintages in various European locations. 

    As it happens Crawford River have released a trio of new vintages and we have highlighted these below:

    New Release - 'Young Vines' Riesling 2019 $33

    This label was originally established to provide a home for more recent plantings of Riesling on the Crawford River property however these vines are now actually 21yrs old so not particularly young! (95pts Wine Companion, 94pts WineFront)

    New Release - Riesling 2019 $47

    The original wine which has become a bona fide superstar. “Pound for pound one of the greatest wines in Australia, by my reckoning, value and quality” (95 pts - Mike Bennie - WineFront)

    New Release - 'Museum Release' Riesling 2013 $77

    Awarded 96pts by James Halliday upon release

    Cabernet Franc 2018 $45

    A rare straight Cabernet Franc from a Victorial producer (95pts Wine Companion)


    Apis Gewurztraminer 2018 $24

    I was compelled to include an Apis wine to the Crawford River highlights. Apis is winemaker Belinda Thompson's side project - a small collection of wines that embody more experimental winemaking styles or non-estate fruit. In this case the grapes were sourced from the nearby (& highly regarded) Drumborg vineyard. Skin contact, wild yeasts, unfiltered.

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