When I arrived at Punt Road mid afternoon on Saturday 12 October, I was stoked to discover that not only was I arriving for the first time to the producer of one of my favourite Yarra Valley wines (the Punt Road Pinot Noir) but they were hosting a Crepes & Cider Social.
Driving between the apple orchard on the left and the grapevines on the right you can't help but feel the anticipation as you drive up the driveway toward the cellar door.
Camera in hand, wandering down the drive way Spring can not only be felt but seen in full swing with the development of baby grapes on the vine, the fruit trees blossoming; the property felt like a hive of activity. Happy snaps taken, I headed in to have a closer look at the festivities out back, the crepes and a listen to the band.
Soaking up the place for a while, it was time to head to the cellar door have see if I can find any information about the vineyard, it's history, what was planted there, or the mystery behind the name. Here I hit a snag, for one the cellar door is also quite busy for the two behind the bar, so no conversation to find out. I looked around for some literature and could only find two pamphlet sized cards with general information about the winery and the cider side of the business (named after the family who own the vineyard & orchard) Napoleone Cider. Moving on I found solace in the quality of the wine.
Punt Road offers tastings of their "Napoleone & Co Cider" choosing from the Apple, Pear, Apple & Pear or a Methode Traditionelle Apple Cider.
You can start with the two sparking wines, however I elected to stick to the whites, reds and dessert wine.
2011 Punt Road Pinot Gris.
I usually grit my teeth when Pinot Gris (or Viognier) for that matter mostly due to the length and strength of the acid structure, today however I copped an education on what Pinot Gris can taste like & boy was it good.
Fresh pear with a touch of spice on the nose, luscious fruit with a clean balanced finish. Could drink this till I fell over.
2010 Punt Road Viognier
With the first wine so good, I held my breath a little on how this was going to go.
Apricots and citrus on the nose, again silky with a slight sweetness with the apricot promised on the nose coming through with spicy citrus then again clean balanced finish. Wow.
2012 Punt Road Chardonnay
I am familiar with this one, with barrel ferment in French oak this is a straw colour chardonnay that deliverers on the promise of flavour with fruit, a gentle influence of the oak with a pleasant finish.
Then came the reds:
2012 Punt Road Pinot Noir
I know this wine well, it has been one of my favourite Pinot's from the Yarra Valley. Cherries and cassis with a complex array of hard to isolate 'spicyness'. This for a cold climate Pinot has a full mouth of juicy fruit with a fine tannin and balanced acid finish. I have enjoyed this with juicy lamb racks, chops and duck breast.
2010 Punt Road Merlot
This was an interesting wine for me, because Merlot generally has a softness and silk texture. The Punt Road Merlot was quote a strong flavoured wine with a slight astringency in orchestra with the tannins.
2012 Punt Road Shiraz
This is the wine I was introduced to the Punt Road label more than a decade ago. I drink less Shiraz these days, yet this is a cracking wine that will probably get me back to more Shiraz as we enter mid to late autumn.
A heady perfume of fruit, spice including a 'perppeyness' - not strong, but there. The wine is generous on the palate delivering the fruit, and zing with a satisfying mouth feel. The wine finishes with fine tannins and a clean balanced acid finish leaving you wanting to have another sip. A wine often accompanied by Chargrilled, aged, grass fed beef.
2011 Punt Road Cabernet Sauvignon
A nose of liquorice and spice noting cassis, another full bodied wine delivering a rich fruit, with the influences of oak and tannins that provide the wine a slight dryness with a longer finish. Another joy to drink.
Finally I was offered the dessert wine, thinking on the sweetness and having that be the last taste in my mouth before heading off I declined. I was not let off the hook that easily; so...
2011 Punt Road Botrytis Semillon
Sweet, slight pique citrus conserve on the nose then a luscious coating of apricot and orange sweetness with an acidity that balances the sweetness very nicely. A residual coating is left to roll around your mouth. I know who would really love this. For me this would go really well with an intense orange or cumquat souffle or strong cheddar.
The current site of Punt Road was the original 1860's site for St Huberts Vineyard established by Swiss immigrants Paul and Hubert de Castella (the same Paul de Castella who established Yering Station - see post here) with over 100 acres under vine. By the 1900's St Huberts was the largest Vineyard in the Yarra Valley with 260 acres under vine.
During the era of the Great Depression (1929 - 1932) and the Second World War (1932 - 1945) saw difficult economic times with vineyards in the Yarra Valley collapsing, returning acreage under vine back to pasture.
The 1960's saw a re-emergence in wine in Australia and replanting of vine had begun. In 1978 the Napoleone family, who were experienced multi generation orchardists in Australia, purchased the Coldstream Vineyard, the original site for the St Huberts vineyards and winery.
The vines at Punt Road Winery were planted in 1987, with the modern winery built in 1999. The first Punt Road labelled wines were released in 2001.
The name 'Punt Road' was inspired by a 1856 photo of the famous road connecting Melbourne's northern suburbs with the southern, crossing the Yarra river on the punt bridge. In the photo, up on the hill of what is now part of the "South Yarra" suburb is an 'expansive' vineyard, one of the first planted in Melbourne. The images are available on the Punt Road website - click here
- Punt Road is a family owned and run Vineyard, Winery & Orchard
- The Vineyard was originally planted in 1987, with the Winery established in 1999
- 2001 was the first release of wine under the Punt Road label
- Punt Road manages two Vineyards "Napoleone Vineyard" and the "Emperors Prize Vineyard"
- The Napoleone Vineyard planted in 1987 has 44 Hectares under vine
- The Emperors Prize Vineyard planted in 2001 has 32 Hectares under vine.
- Small parcels of fruit are also sourced from select vineyards within the Yarra Valley.
- The Chief Wine Maker at Punt Road is Kate Goodman
- Varieties planted within the Punt Road Vineyards include: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, with small plantings of Petit Verdot, Viognier and Cabernet Franc
- The Cellar Door is open from 10am to 5pm daily
- There are three labels produced at Punt Road. The Airlie Bank label produced with fruit driven, lightly oaked wines intending to showcase the varietal characteristics. The Punt Road is the estate label offing a premium product. The third is the new Chemin label (Chemin being the french word for 'path, direction or way'), is the exploration of a different approach to winemaking. These wines are focused more on whole bunch or whole berry ferments with skin contact and minimal fining and filtering.
If you have read this far, you will no doubt deduct that I am a big fan of Punt Road Wines, the feel of the winery, the cellar door and to have 'lucked out' to arrive on the Cider and Crepes Social day. Yet I would be remiss if I didn't highlight one aspect I intend as constructive criticism as a winery tourist.
In researching for this post given the little readily available information I was able to attain whilst visiting the winery I am excited and a little disappointed. Excited because the Punt Road site has a rich history and a good story. Disappointed because as someone who made the effort to visit the vineyard/winery this information wasn't available to heighten the experience when visiting.
Finishing the tasting, the standouts and this came as a complete and very pleasant surprise was the Pinot Gris (wine of the day) and the Viognier. Talk about opening my mind to explore these varieties some more.
For me visiting Punt Road is a must on any Yarra Valley wine exploration or tour. Visiting when there is a BBQ or the Crepes & Cider Social are fantastic opportunities to relax in a family friendly environment and whether it's cider, wine or the tucker, rest assured its a premium product.