The weather being unseasonably warm for early August, I completed my chores by mid afternoon, and headed off to a vineyard with the only criteria that it was close by. The selection - Redbox Vineyard and Winery.
Upon arrival to the vineyard you are greeted by two green structures, right behind the signage, is the winery and to the right is the car park and the cellar door. My initial thoughts were 'this is going to be interesting', especially after starting with the architecturally designed and manicured estate of Yering Station.
Pushing aside the plastic strips, to enter the cellar door, you find yourself in a small room with a very retro, inviting feel; you could be visiting a family friend, rather than a cellar door. I took my seat and was asked if I would like to try some wine? With those simple words the real story begins.
The first thing that stuck me was the hospitality by the owners, Devonshire Tea was being made and consumed; wines were being sipped, swirled and savoured over generous conversations discussing the vineyard, the wine making process for each of the different wines and of course the characteristics of each. Refreshingly unpretentious, genuinely friendly and as I found, a place to easily loose time and enjoy.
The first wine that was on offer was the 2013 Redbox Chardonnay, which as the person behind the bar stated, is young, only bottled back in June. As I learned through the conversation that the person offering the tastings is the winemaker - Colin Spencer.
I swirled, smelled, opened my note book and started to write. As I did so Colin handed me a copy of the catalogue, complete with tasting notes. A little sheepish and grateful I began to scribble on my copy of the catalogue.
The first word I wrote, (very unprofessionally, lucky I am a fan) once I tasted the wine was - Wow!
I have always considered my palette preference for the 'old world' style of crafting Chardonnay - which is to say oaky vanillin, creamy, buttery, lingering. This was really interesting because this Chardonnay is new world in style; meaning, fruit driven, typically tropical and stone fruit with an acidic finish - some call a clean finish. This wine was a bit of a revelation and I put it down to the balance between the fruit and the acid. Seriously good and a real eye opener given it was bottled in June - just a few weeks ago.
The second wine was another youngster in the 2013 Redbox Riesling. Now I am a fan of Riesling, but usually after it has had a couple of years in the bottle to mellow out a bit. This being a 2013 - a wine from this year, I was really quite nervous on how this was going to taste.
I agreed with what the tasting notes described, with the green apple and floral notes really dancing on your tongue, then finishing with what I wrote "a light clean sweetness".
Next up was a white wine made from a red grape; the 2012 Cabernet Blanc. As Colin poured this, he described the wine, "made from estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, pressed with minimal skin contact". Despite the lack of skin contact the wine has a tinge of colour to it, a light hue of pinkish straw.
This attained another 'Wow!' remark from me, the berries and cream were the highlight on a finish that was like an indulgent dessert that cleaned up after itself, packing everything away nice and tidily without over doing it. Another marvellous wine in my opinion.
First of the reds on tasting was the 2012 Redbox Cabernet Sauvignon.
The characteristics that struck me on this wine, beyond the tasting notes was the fruit and oak, being such a young wine the tannins were slightly overriding the fruit in the mid palette and then a long finish. For me this is a nice wine, however standing next to what I had tasted up until that point and the fact that this is a young red, the thing that I noticed was the slight lack integration between the front and the finish. I plan to try this one again when the weather turns cool again after summer next year.
The last of the table wines before we moved into the fizz and after dinner styles was the very special 2010 Redbox Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now there is still some cracking wines to come, but for me, this was the wine of the day. The fruit, the tannins, the structure and the finish on this wine were simply fantastic. A beautiful wine, suitable for a very special occasion. I don't usually put much stock in ratings books mostly because I different in opinion about most of the ratings, but in my humble opinion Halliday has this one right.
Over the course of the tastings we discussed a number of things from location, soil, where specific vines were planted, that Colin had almost finished pruning the cain from the previous season. One subject came up that I had been thinking about since my last winery visit - the topic of tasting. I won't go into detail here, yet there is one thing worth mentioning, the amount of wine poured into the glass for you to taste was somewhere around 20 - 30 ml into a tasting glass at Redbox whereas recent experiences at other cellar doors, that you might receive 10 - 15 ml for you to judge the wine. Too little and there is simply not enough wine to get a decent nose off, or insufficient to run the wine over your palette to form an opinion let alone assess the characteristics. More on this in another post soon.
The next wine on tasting was the Redbox Classic Tawny.
Typical to a fortified there was they heavy mouth feel / weight, the characteristics that were really jumping out to me was the coffee/chocolate (mocha) and espresso flavours, with a smooth finish. The thought I had when reading the tasting notes after tasting it was this would be my choice instead of coffee and definitely with chocolate or a cheese platter. Or even cheese dipped in chocolate... there, I think I just ruined any credibility.
The two ice wines were on tasting next starting with the 2008 Ice Cabernet. My first encounter with Ice Wine was when my brother and his fiancee brought me a bottle over from Canada only 3 or 4 years ago, which lead me to find out a bit more about it. I asked Colin how he made Ice Wine given we aren't subject to the cold climate where traditional Ice Wine is produced such as Rheinhessen German or Ontario Canada. Colin politely declined on how he makes it, however went through the story of how it is made in Germany and that when he was thinking about making an Ice Wine (or Eiswein) he contacted a wine maker friend in Germany.
The balance on the 2008 Ice Cabernet was really amazing. This was was sweeter than I was expecting, but delicious. Words failed me when I was tasting this one. Just yum.
Not to be out done the 2006 Ice Riesling had characteristics that reminded me of St Germain liqueur
The headiness of elderflowers in both the bouquet and on the pallet, a sweet lightness to it with a slice acidity to finish. Very nice wine.
Last but not least comes a wine with a story. The 2006 'Elena' Sparkling Rose. Colin poured a generous amount of this into my glass, introduced the grape varieties in the wine and the profile. Whilst I had my first taste, he started to tell the story.
In the glass it is essentially a light pink sparkling wine (methode champenoise) on the nose it has the flavours of summer berries and the light scent of CO2 off the small bead bubbles. On the palate the instant effervescence as the bubbles foam on the tongue, next comes the delicate fruit flavours all washed down with a pleasant dry acidity.
Whilst I was capturing all that, Colin was explaining that he has a friend that knew an up coming Opera Soprano from here in Melbourne, at times Colin would provide the wine for the show after parties. After completing a Bachelor of Music (Hon) and Grad Diploma, Elena Xanthoudakis who had won over 80 first prizes in Eisteddfodau in Australia when on internationally to win the the renowned International Mozart Competition 2006 in Salzburg. it was in celebration and acknowledgement that the 2006 Sparkling Rose was dedicated to Elena which bears her name.
After tasting all that was on offer, I requested a bottle of all of them, plus a second for two of the stand outs - the 2013 Redbox Riesling & the 2010 Redbox Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Whilst the selection was being boxed up and with permission from Colin I wandered around the vineyard taking some photos in the late afternoon sun (viewable in the gallery above).
I had the time to reflect on the fact that I genuinely enjoyed every wine I tasted and that they were all different, they had their own personalities. What gem to find. As I collected my swag, I thanked Colin for his hospitality and he countered by offering me a coffee before I hit the road. I politely declined.
His response was "coffee made by a winemaker is something special", next time and in the not too distant future I will take him up on that offer.
As a winery not on the common 'tour' circuit, I highly recommend the detour out to Kangaroo Ground to pay Redbox a visit.
- Redbox Vineyard is a 8 acre vineyard located in Kangaroo Ground (26km from Melbourne CBD) with Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet planted in 1986.
- Redbox Vineyard and Winery is a family owned and run operation with Colin Spencer managing the operation and crafting the wine.
- The cellar door offers Devonshire Tea with scones with home made jams and vineyard sourced Cabernet jelly and a Riesling jelly
- Redbox offers a Wine Club, where you will be sent the latest wines to try with each new release, receive a 20% discount on all cellar door purchases, receive an exclusive newsletter supplied with each new release 'tasting pack'. To find out more visit the Wine Club page on the Redbox website