Taking the opportunity on Sunday 20 October to visit the Shaws Road Winery cellar door, was an obvious choice as this cellar door is only open every third Sunday of the month, so I headed out to Arthurs Creek.
Driving there was quite the adventure, with 80km 'lane way' (narrow and unmarked) roads with impatient P platers tailgating. Then there is the unsealed gravel road to the vineyard that at times is banked on both sides leaving a very narrow road, makes for interesting driving when a four wheel drive or ute is coming in the opposite direction.
A welcome sign is an A frame sign advising your arrival. The first thing that struck me is the combination of 'Aussie bush' and vineyard, unusual because most of the Yarra Valley (at least the parts I have visited so far) are pastoral (cleared) land meeting vineyard.
Driving in the short driveway past the vines, winery shed and parking opposite to the cellar door and cafe. The cellar door overlooks vast pastoral lands within the Strathewen valley, the view is picturesque. Conducting my usual reconnoiter with camera, the amount of traffic that was coming to and going was impressive. I was to later learn that apart from being the third Sunday of the month usual opening for Shaws Road, it was also the local "Open Cellars of Nillumbik" weekend with 14 local wineries opening their doors to the public.
Entering the Cellar Door, like Redbox Winery this is a small owner run vineyard and winery; the cafe is welcoming and unpretentious. A female pianist was playing and singing popular songs to provide additional ambience. The cellar door area is very small with the tasting area accommodating only 5 to 6 people at a time.
Tasting the wines was a little awkward at first as George Apted who was attending to the tasting area was very busy between people paying their cafe bills or purchasing wine; a symptom of a busy weekend for a small business no less. As the tasting progressed I had the opportunity to discuss the philosophy behind the winery, vineyard management approach, the vineyards the label changes and the reason for the vintage year gaps and release timeframes of the Shaws Road wines.
It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss this level of detail with owner, vineyard manager and winemaker.
Shaws Road Rose 2011
Shaws Road Chardonnay 2010
Shaws Road Pinot Noir 2007
Eltham Hills Pinot Noir 2001
Shaws Road Merlot 2006
Shaws Road Cabernet Franc Merlot 2008
Eltham Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2001
Eltham Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2006
Shaws Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Shaws Road Shiraz 2007
All the wines at Shaws Road a from local vineyards, hand picked grapes made in small batches. I was surprised to learn that most of the wines are barrel aged for between 1 to 3 years before bottling and release.
All the wines here were very drinkable, the stand outs for me were the Chardonnay (12 months is 1 year old French oak), the 2001 Cabernet Merlot and the Shiraz.
Shaws Road managers three Vineyards:
- The Shaws Road Vineyard - a 5 acre vineyard with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet. Originally planted in 1986 and expanded in 1996.
- The Eltham Vineyard - a 1 acre vineyards with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon planted between 1982 & 1983.
- The Strathewen Hills Vineyard - purchased in 2008, is a 6 acre vineyard with Cahardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and small parcels of Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Cinsaut and Grenache.
70% of the Strathewen Hills Vineyard was destroyed by the 2009 Black Saturday fires.
The current winery at Shaws Road was completed in 2007.
All 19 commercial vintages made under the Eltham Vineyards, Eltham Hills and Shaws Road labels are made by George Apted (Snr) and John Graves with assistance from Karl Helper and George Apted (Jnr).
It is great to visit cellar doors where you are able to converse with the owner, head viticulturist, and winemaker, in this case George Apted Snr. It translates to an informative, personal and personally richer experience as those details that I write about (providing information about place, history, philosophy etc) are covered through conversation.
Definitely worth a visit on a lazy Sunday afternoon to sit, eat and sip on a glass or two overlooking the Strathewen Valley.