Tasting the Trail Down Under

We taste a lot of wine at K&L. Plenty of speed tasting—sip, spit and jot down a couple of words to capture what you can. But every now and then it’s good to slow down and learn the backstory to a wine. Maybe take a bottle home and try it with some foods, read up on the region, learn what and why the winemaker did with this particular wine. I recently tasted a bottle of Chardonnay from Margaret River, Australia which merited just such an investigation.

Amelia Park is a small winery, and new. It’s only been around since 2009, but the winemaker, Jeremy Gordon is well known in Australian wine circles after winning the Jimmy Watson Memorial award in 2008. With the acquisition of this highest achievement in Australian winemaking, he promptly started his own winery, and like any artist, is enjoying the freedom to create wine his way. Of course, creativity flourishes within bounds. Specifically, the small region of Margaret River with its expressive, though sometimes challenging terroir. The soils which dominate this area are quite varied with gravel, granite, sandy loam, and gneiss all playing a role. The maritime influence tends to keep temperatures fairly even, aiding a consistent ripening of fruit. One of the principle dangers of the region is the strong winds that sometimes can affect flowering and the size of crop, but of course a smaller crop can often mean a more concentrated and flavorful wine. 

If any winemaker understands and expresses his terroir, it’s Jeremy Gordon. Yet his wines are anything but austere, minimalist, or wild in feel.  His Chardonnay is predominately Gingin clone, a variety producing bunches with both large ripe berries, and smaller more acidic berries. This choice of clone takes advantage of the region’s mild temperatures to produce fruit at once fleshy and ripe without losing the integrity of a good acidic backbone. Mr. Gordon’s work in the cellar is no less tastefully executed as his work in the vineyard. His wines, which I found so fresh and approachable, with pleasing fruit yet plenty of integrity and complexity, are certainly the work of an artist. Yet his approach is very sensible, it’s neither entirely hands-off, natural, and wild, nor too polished and composed in an artificial fashion. For his Chardonnay, he uses a variety of fist, second, and third fill French oak, and allows the wine to rest on its lees for a good nine months in barrel. In this case the oak complements, but does not overwhelm the fruit, and the texture is enhanced with a great nutty feel from the lees contact. All-in-all one of my favorite Chardonnays I’ve encountered recently. Did I mention that he makes a great left-bank style Cabernet-Merlot blend as well? We import the Amelia Park wines directly, of course. You can check out their producer profile here or by clicking the category at the top of the page.

-Heather Vander Wall

On the Trail