Innocent Bystander was high on the early visit list and I was excited to be on the way there for lunch followed by some cellar door action. When researching the cellar door list for this Yarra Valley wine project, I visited each winery/vineyards website and by far the Innocent Bystander site was fresh, up to date with what appeared to be an active social media presence via twitter and Facebook. The way this winery is presented to the world compared to the other websites whet the appetite to visit. Equally looking for something polarising compared to 'tradition' early in this journey was a too good an offer to pass up.
Arriving in Healsville a wonderful Sunday afternoon, the enormity of the building, the busyness of business on the deck running along the front and the door. I also couldn't help but notice White Rabbit right next door that was also jumping with activity. After a few photos we entered Innocent Bystander. We walked in a little after 2pm, late for lunch, and thankfully tables were clearing as we waited in a very shot queue. An interesting use of the waiting area is the fact that the public cellar door runs lengthways from the door to the 'Please wait to be seated' station. The idea being that you can taste the selection of wines on offer whilst you wait for a table. Nice idea, instead of a bar area; after all this is a winery.
We were lucky enough to be provided a table out on the deck in the beautiful winter sunshine (18 degrees C, if you can believe that for early August in the Yarra Valley). We enjoyed two shared appetisers (grilled Hervey Bay scallops with morcilla sausage and spanish peppers & "Fiore di burrata", fresh basil and mount zero olive oil with house baked break - seriously yum!) and a beautifully crisp, light (base) pizza. I went the puttanesca and Liza the roast mushroom, asiago, black truffle oil, garlic and parsley pizza. To drink I committed to the environment and the weather with a moscato early. Refreshing, light, bubbly ( small bead) and sweet. It was a bit like starting with dessert, however I had heard so much about it, I really wanted to try it.
Liza set the challenge of requesting an old world style Chardonnay, you know oaky with a bit of butteriness. To my surprise, they came up with the goods in the Giant Steps Arthurs Creek Vineyard Chardonnay.
Whilst we waited for lunch we read about the philosophy behind the Innocent Bystander / Giant Steps business, a local food culture reflected in the Innocent Bystander facilities. A winery, a bakery making their own breads, tarts and pastries, an operating restaurant sourcing local ingredients to create what is served to the public. Not to mention the onsite coffee roasting, and fromagerie. Plenty of good reasons to visit. The atmosphere, the vibe of this place is modern, relaxed, energetic and fun. Walking through the front door of this place you have to remind yourself that this is a winery.
With the palate recovered from the tasting in the morning, a great lunch in the belly it was time for some tasting. At the cellar door tasting table there were a few ring binders with laminated pages detailing the details of the wine including some of the technical facts such as the residual sugar percentage, total acidity, ph along with seasonal information vinification and tasting notes. Let the journey begin.
Innocent Bystander Pinot Rose 2012
Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris 2012
Willing Participant Chardonnay 2012
Innocent Bystander Chardonnay 2012
Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2012
Innocent Bystander Sangiovese 2011
Innocent Bystander Syrah 2012
MULE Gateway Vineyard (Mclaren Vale) Shiraz 2011
Willing Participant Dry Red 2012
Some facts about Innocent Bystander
An independent winery privately owned by Phil Sexton (ex Devils Lair - Margaret River, co founder of the Matilda Bay Brewing company and co-founder of Little Creatures Brewing Company) located in Healsville.
The company operates on a philosophy of natural, biodynamic and organic practices and expressing a harmony between the environment and the resulting wine.
The head winemaker since 2003 is Steve Flamsteed and head viticulturist is Stuart Marshall.
There are five brands made at the Innocent Bystander:
- Innocent Bystander
Are wines made from the various sites in the Yarra Valley
- Giant Steps
Wines made under the Giant Steps label are small batch, local single vineyard vintage wines representing characteristics specific to the site and natures influences over the year.
- Mea Culpa
These wines would be the "Reserve" wines, however Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps don't make reserve wines so these are limited release wines representing the best barrels of Syrah and Chardonnay released in selective vintages only.
- Willing Participant
The winery sources from 5 vineyards:
- Sexton Vineyard (Warramate Ranges, Coldstream)
- Tarraford Vineyard (Tarrawarra)
- Gladysdale Vineyard (Upper Yarra Valley
- Arthurs Creek Vineyard (Diamond Valley)
- Applejack Vineyard (Gladysdale, Upper Yarra Valley
I cannot resist placing a video from the Innocent Bystander Youtube channel - this one titled "Vintage Days"; a good demonstration of all the happenings around the business when vintage is in flight.
Innocent Bystander is a vibrant personality in the Yarra Valley. When you take a seat to enjoy the in house made produce, from specialty bakery items, in house roasted coffee, cheese from the fromagerie or locally sourced food (alright - the scallops had a bit of a journey from Queensland) but the focus is quality.
Upon being seated you are handed a menu that clearly (central section of thirds) provides the philosophy and approach to the business and the character aim for each of the labels with the invitation to go and try something at the 'cellar door'. Try before your order if you wish.
The is such a range of wine it is hard to imagine that anyone couldn't find something they would love to drink with their meal, or take home. From the young clean styles of the Innocent Bystander label, the character of single vineyards wines under Giant Steps, the speciality of the Mea Culpa releases and the fun and funky branding of the Moscato.
The staff despite being amazingly busy were really helpful and provided a advice and recommendations to address your requests, it really is an easy place to relax and enjoy.
Not your typical 'winery' and it only takes a trip to the bathrooms to walk past the viewing area into the winery proper, which of course was dormant during our visit in late August.