Friday, December 12, 2014

Crittenden Wine Centre

Garry Crittenden, patriarch of Crittenden Estate, and an early mover in innovative marketing and energetic sales efforts in the UK in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, is looking on with approval at son Rollo and daughter Zoe as they release details of the new Crittenden Wine Centre. - JH

The press release explains the concept thus:

The Crittenden Wine Centre will give visitors to the Crittenden Estate family farm an insightful and fulfilling experience, encouraging them to taste and learn at their own pace in seated, relaxed environment.

Winemaker Rollo Crittenden said the Centre represented “a new model for wine tourism, designed to optimise the enjoyment and learning experience of an Australian winery. The Crittenden Wine Centre will be a place where people can come to learn as much as they desire about our wines and the local region at a pace of their choosing”, Rollo added.

Upon arrival, visitors will be welcomed and given an introduction to Crittenden Estate before being offered a place to sit and asked which varietals they are most interested in tasting. Visitors will then be presented with tasting notes in either written form or via interactive presentations on electronic tablet devices, and experienced and qualified wine educators will be on hand to guide them through the wines.

In addition, the Crittenden Wine Centre will be a place where visitors can learn about the many attributes of the Mornington Peninsula wine region as well as the grape growing and winemaking process.

Crittenden Estate is well known for the diversity of wine styles it produces, which makes it an ideal venue for a tasting centre of this kind, with up to 26 wines available for tasting.

Crittenden Estate produces wines from the Mornington Peninsula’s signature varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as Italian varieties under the Pinocchio label, and Spanish varieties under the Los Hermanos label. Visitors to the Crittenden Wine Centre will have the opportunity to taste and learn about not just what the Peninsula does best, but about the range of fascinating varietals from northern Italy and Spain.

Garry, who like the Cheshire cat, is slowly but inexorably fading from the scene, commented, “the time is right to create a tasting facility such as this on the Peninsula, as it is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading wine tourism destinations".

"We anticipate visitors will leave our new home feeling relaxed, engaged, fulfilled and well-informed about our wines. It’s a more personal approach to wine tasting, and I think people are really going to enjoy it”, Garry added.

This seated, self-paced model of wine education and appreciation is virtually non-existent in Australia. The Crittenden Wine Centre aims to broaden and enrich the cellar door experience in this country.

Zoe Crittenden, who looks after the companies’ marketing, pointed out the natural synergy that will exist between the Crittenden Wine Centre and the newly refurbished Lakeside Villas accommodation suites on the estate, together with the ‘Stillwater at Crittenden’ restaurant. "We hope to provide guests with the complete package in one location”, Zoe added.

Crittenden Estate first planted in 1982 and is now home to some of the oldest vines on the Mornington Peninsula. Its Garry Crittenden is one of the pioneers of the region’s wine industry. He has been acknowledged for his work in championing Italian varietals in Australia, for which he was inducted as a “Legend” by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Committee in 2012.

Son Rollo Crittenden is also awarded in the wine industry, being named “Young Gun of Wine” in 2010.

With Rollo at the winemaking helm and Zoe leading the marketing charge, the second generation at Crittenden Estate is poised to herald a new era in wine tourism.

For more information contact:
Crittenden Estate , 25 Harrisons Road, Dromana Ph: (03) 5981 <

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nature’s Cruel Tricks

Sad news comes from yet another region to join those previously hit by frost and hail. The Canberra District has had a fairly challenging few years (with the notable exception of 2013) to deal with, and now a hail storm has destroyed more than one-third of the vineyards of some of the Lake George district wineries.

Hail storm wreaks havoc on Lake George wineries

Wet weather and hail has hit the region's vineyards causing havoc for some wineries across the region but ideal conditions for others.
A hail storm destroyed more than one third of the crops at Lerida Estate vineyard near Lake George, and continued wet weather could ruin the rest.
Lerida Estate owner Jim Lumbers said about two feet of hail dumped down on his prized grapes on Saturday night, causing irreversible damage.
"It's extremely unwelcome," he said.

"I reckon possibly a 30 per cent crop loss and a few shredded leaves and broken canes."
Mr Lumbers said he has inspected the damage and some areas of the vineyard looked like they were still intact.
However, exposed bunches of grapes were bruised and split, and he said these will die and fall off the vine.
"Grapes and vines are resilient things so we can only watch and wait. Maybe the berries left will grow a bit bigger, but at the moment it's not a pretty sight," Mr Lumbers said.
Mount Majura Vineyard winemaker Frank van de Loo said rainfall was higher than average but not a disaster. 
"It's not my perfect scenario but we're able to cope with it. Fortunately it's early on. Right now, the grapes are pretty much resistant. It's just a bit more moisture than we would like," Mr van de Loo said.
Canberra District Wine Industry Association president John Leyshon said inclement weather did not seem to be a wider problem for the area.
"If it was March, we would be tearing our hair out, but as long as people have kept up their spraying programs and kept the downy mildew under control, I think people will be happy [with the rain]," Mr Leyshon said.
"It's a really early season. There's been so much growth in the vineyards it is setting up for a good time."
Despite the early optimism, Mr Leyshon said there was a long way to go before harvest in March.
"It could be an early vintage, probably talking about three weeks. Whether it will be depends on how the rest of the season pans out," he said.
"The weather really killed us last year because the rain came in March.
"The grapes were ripe and plump and when you get a lot of rain they tend to split, and the rain didn't stop [last year]. We're hoping for a good 2015, it's looking good at this stage."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bill Crappsley celebrates 50 years of winemaking

Bill Crappsley is one of the great winemaker warriors of Western Australia.  He celebrated 50 years of winemaking this year, and added a third medal to his previous recognitions in 1999 (the George Mulgrue Award) and 2007 (the Di Cullen Award), both recognising his services to the Western Australian wine industry.  Now he has received the Jack Mann Memorial Medal, again celebrating his long – and continuing – winemaking career, with Plan B!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hilltops winery Moppity Vineyards

Hilltops winery Moppity Vineyards has never been backwards when it comes to announcing its wine show successes and other critical acclaim.  But I have to admit its performance in the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge was amazing.  392 wines were entered in this year’s 20th Anniversary Challenge, retail prices for the wines going as high as $300 a bottle, and many over $100.  During this 20-year period, only seven wineries have had two wines in the top 10 (including Hardys, Grant Burge, Wirra Wirra and Kilikanoon), but this year Moppity had three wines in the top 10, all gold medal winners, two of the wines vying for the Trophy for Best Wine.  In the outcome, the 2013 Reserve (rrp $70) pushed the 2013 Eclipse (rrp $120) into second place.

Moppity’s show record with its five shiraz wines from the 2013 Hilltops vintage have put beyond doubt their quality.  That record is as follows:

2013 Eclipse Shiraz (rrp $120)
2 Trophies, 8 gold medals
2013 Reserve Shiraz (rrp $70)
1 Trophy, 3 gold medals

2013 Estate Shiraz (rrp $30)
3 gold medals

2013 Lock & Key Reserve Shiraz (rrp $25)
6 gold medals

2013 Lock & Key Shiraz (rrp $20)

3 gold medals (including 97 point gold and equal runner up to the eventual Jimmy Watson Trophy Winner (SC Pannell Syrah), Royal Melbourne Wine Show 2013)

Tony Walker and his latest release "Vintage Tasmania: The complete book of Tasmanian wine"

Tony Walker spent two years researching the history of Tasmanian wine from 1823 through to the present day for his Masters Degree from the University of Tasmania.  The 280-page, full colour book, Vintage Tasmania: The complete book of Tasmanian wine, is the outcome of his painstaking and original research.  I was asked to write an introduction to the book, and, having read it from cover to cover, was delighted to do so.  Rather than paraphrase that introduction, it follows verbatim:

This marvelous book is the culmination of a massive amount of original research on the 19th and second half of the 20th centuries, and extensive interviews with the key players in the Tasmanian wine industry of today. It shuts the door on any further book for several decades to come simply because there is nothing more to say.

It’s rare to talk of a non-fiction work as a page-turner, but this is one such. For not only is Tony Walker a researcher, and commentator, he is a skilled writer. If anyone doubts that, simply read Chapter 4: The Bernacchi Experiment. It adds a further dimension to the book – Walker’s wry sense of humour.

The genesis of the book was a thesis exploring the reasons why wine growing and making failed until the vinous torch was lit of Jean and Cecile Miguet in 1956, 130 years after Bartholomew Broughton made the first wine for sale in 1826. Put another way, the Tasmanian wine industry of today is the most vibrant in Australia, pulsating with success, and with virtually unlimited potential. What has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time?

Walker lays this all out in totally convincing fashion, aided by his understanding of wine in general. I have been a frequent visitor to Tasmania as a flyfisherman since Lake Pedder was filled, and as a wine show judge since 1991, co-chairing the Tasmanian Wines Show since that year, when 45 wines were entered, compared to 449 in 2014. I have hung up my judge’s wig, but the prospect of fishing is still attractive.

I also fulfilled a longheld ambition to be involved in making a Tasmanian Pinot Noir under the Coldstream Hills banner, and would love to make more. The problem is that Tasmania is the only region in Australia with a structural deficit of grapes, as a Federal politician or economist might describe it.

Brown Brothers’ acquisition of Tamar Ridge for a reported $30 million; the purchase of the White Hills Vineyard from Brown Brothers by Treasury Wine Estates; the House of Arras/Bay of Fires ownership by Accolade; and the purchase of the Parish Vineyard by the Hill-Smith Family Vineyards/Yalumba demonstrate the arrival of the Big End of Town in the Tasmanian industry. And this is only the beginning of what will be a golden period for and of Tasmania.

And so back to this book. Its design, printing and illustrations are impeccable. Its inclusion of the Regional Wine Routes is another important part of Tasmania today and tomorrow. Which leads me to Horace Greeley who famously wrote of America 150 years ago ‘Go west, young man, go west’. For Australia, it is a case of ‘Go south, young man, go south’.

The book will become available from the end of November, with reasonably wide distribution in Tasmania, but restricted access on the mainland.  Thus, Tony’s website – – will be the most effective way of purchasing it, at an rrp of $49.95 freight free.  Orders can be placed from November 15 onwards, and it goes without saying, I encourage everyone with an interest in wine – and, in particular, its history – to buy the book.  You will not be disappointed, nor will anyone who may receive it as a Christmas present.

What James is drinking - 2002 Salon

Arguably the most elite of all the elite Champagnes, with an annual production of 5000 dozen bottles to satisfy a thirsty world. Made from 100% Grand Cru vines at Le Mesnil, the wine was disgorged progressively over 2013 and ‘14. It does not undergo mlf, and at no time does oak feature in the elevage. The bouquet is exceptionally powerful, with a cross-cut of pure citrus and white peach on the one hand, creamy brioche and spice on the other; the palate has amazing length and focus, immaculate balance, and a farewell of yellow fruit, spice and lingering acidity. The $850-$950 price tag should not deter those looking for an ultimate experience. Cru Wines (T 02 8069 6974) handles the east coast distribution and Fine Wine Wholesalers (T 08 9314 7133) looks after WA, through fine wine retailers, restaurants and to the odd private collector. This is the 38th vintage of Salon, and, for the first time, a few magnums have made their way into the country. You will have to be quick, however. 

Vale Doug Crittenden 1923-2014

My friendship with Doug Crittenden began in the late 1960s when, on an annual foray to the Melbourne Cup (with friends from Sydney), we visited his Toorak grocery and wine store to buy wines that were simply not available in Sydney. One thing led to another, and he was one of the first members of the Single Bottle Club initiated by Len Evans in 1977.

Although I may not have the details exactly right, I remember Doug being apprehended by water police for not wearing a life jacket while on his sail board. When they asked him for his date of birth he said ‘’23’, to which the response was ‘Smartarse. I don’t want your age, I simply want to know when you were born.’ This incident occurred in the 1980s when Doug was in his 60s.

He had an encylopedic knowledge of the great wines of the world, but was also one of the most enterprising retailers in Australia, persuading Penfolds to sell him (with his labels) experimental vintages of what became Bin 389. More importantly still, he had a great sense of humour and joie de vivre, never taking himself or wine too seriously. His zest for life lasted for many decades, and I feel a keen sense of personal loss.