My first encounter with a Coldstream Hills wine was back in early 2000, I had just moved in with my girlfriend out into the suburbs, just a stones throw away from the Yarra Valley. This new neighbourhood has a very nice Chinese restaurant that we frequented almost once a fortnight on the way home from work. Many a meal at that Chinese restaurant was accompanied by either a Coldstream Hills Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
With this memory I ventured out to Coldstream Hills in early November 2013 to visit the cellar door and find out more about the vineyard and the winery that frequently accompanied my meal at that Chinese restaurant.
Arriving at the winery, a sharp little right hand turn off Medhurst Road onto Maddens lane up the hill under the shadow of the Warramate Hills, I pulled into the car park to find a large tour group were exiting and boarding a bus; always good to find a gap in cellar door traffic.
Entering the cellar door there were a few independent 'winery tourists' like me replacing the tour bus visitors. I was quickly greeted by Roland, who I was later to learn a long term employee in the cellar door at Coldstream Hills.
Enjoying the wine education and discussions based on the tasting and questions asked by those at the tasting bench, the tasting occurred over a very enjoyable 40 minute period as Roland provided stories and industry insights. The conversation was enhanced by questions and discussion from other visitors who joined in the conversation.
Coldstream Hills offers three tiers of wine: Varietal, Single Vineyard and Reserve. The list below are the wines tasted in tasting order.
2010 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir Chardonnay Sparkling
2012 Coldstream Hills Sauvignon Blanc (Varietal)
2012 Coldstream Hills Chardonnay (Varietal)
2012 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm Vineyard Chardonnay
2012 Coldstream Hills Rising Vineyard Chardonnay
2011 Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay
2012 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir (Varietal)
2012 Coldstream Hills Deer Farm Pinot Noir
2012 Coldstream Hills The Esplanade Pinot Noir
2012 Coldstream Hills Reserve Pinot Noir
The discussion with Roland ranged from the wines, the location within the Yarra Valley, and of course the health of the company that owns Coldstream Hills - Treasury Wine Estate. I was surprised by the laconic candour of specific opinions voiced about the state of the company. It was certainly enlightening.
- Coldstream Hills was founded by James & Suzanne Halliday in 1985, planting the house block and much photographed amphitheatre vineyard.
- Coldstream Hills has a principle focus on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller plantings of Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Pinot Gris, Pinot Menunier, Petit Verdot and Viognier.
- Grapes are sourced from 225 grape acres from vineyards in the lower Yarra Valley and two vineyards in the upper Yarra Valley
- The viticultural management is 'conventional' management with irrigation (by onsite dams fed by rainfall), and canopy and fruit yield management to produce 1 to 4 tonnes of fruit per acre. Vine density is at around 1200 vines per acre.
- The new winery was completed in 2010
- Winery management is 'minimal interventionist' to allow the expression of the vineyards to shine through the wine.
- The head winemaker is Andrew Flemming, with Greg Jarratt and James Halliday (consulting)
- The Coldstream Hills Cellar Door is open 7 days a week from 10 till 5pm (Closed Christmas Day)
The knowledge and engagement by the Cellar door team along with the information folders available on the tasting bench, provided plenty of detail about the vineyard, the winery and the wines. Roland is a big personality and provides stories and antidotes to entertain the winery tourists in the cellar door.
The cellar door itself is setup to host tastings and a chat, not a destination to sit and visit with a sip. Coldstream Hills is definitely worth the drive up to taste, have a chat and hear a few stories. I would recommend visiting the website prior and pondering a few questions to get the ball and the entertainment rolling.
I left the cellar door with 2 wines and a signed copy of James Halliday's autobiography - "My Life in Wine", which at the time of posting have completed. (A fascinating journey back in time providing insights on Len Evans and the development of Australian wine via Halliday's experience - the details probably better left for a book review).
A big "Thank you" to the cellar door team for permission to drive up and take a few photo's of the Amphitheatre Vineyard.