Stonier Masterclass Standouts
It’s a rare experience to go to a tasting where so much attention is paid to just one or two varieties, where the magnifying glass is really positioned over a grape variety so you can see just how much small changes in site can completely transform flavours in the glass. Burgundy’s noble varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the focus of Wednesday’s event, hosted by Mike Symons, Chief winemaker of the Mornington Peninsula’s Stonier Wines, and he showed us how a different aspect, slope and position, as well as some intervention from him and his winemaking team, can totally alter how a grape expresses itself.
A handful of determined clients braved a blustery and cold Sydney evening to attend this Masterclass, and were rewarded with a fantastic selection of wines (the pick of which you’ll find offered below). Mike walked us through the significance of each vineyard, how a slightly warmer site gave richer fruit flavours, how a site that only received the morning sun tasted different to one that got the afternoon sun, why stems were thrown into the ferment in some years and not others, why a vineyard that needed irrigation tasted different to one that was dry-grown, the information was coming thick and fast. What I got out of the evening however, was the sense that while these wines can be difficult to grow in the marginal climate of the Mornington Peninsula, and that the struggle to make better wine year on year is constant, ultimately it is worth it. This was summarised when a client asked the interesting question of “In an ideal world with no financial limitations, what would you like to be growing 10 years from now?”, and Mike answered “Exactly what I’m growing right now- they’re challenging and you have to work your arse off, but look what you can get!”. Sometimes by focussing in on the small things, by concentration on achieving perfection in one or two things, happiness can be found. Geez, that sounds like something out of a philosophy book, doesn’t it!
Below you’ll find my pick of the wines (this was tough to narrow down I must admit), and as with most of the producers we deal with, stock levels on some wines are very limited, so get in quick if something catches your eye!
Stonier Cuvee Rose 2008
Only the second release of this 100% Pinot Noir wonder, all hand-picked and sourced entirely from their home Merricks vineyards, this was the perfect palate-cleanser to start an evening. A beautifully delicate salmon colour, originating from very gentle, cold pressing and a very short (4 days) time on skins, the aromas of bright red fruits (red cherry, raspberry, redcurrant), rose petals and an earthy/savoury element of stewed rhubarb were backed up by an intensely filling and creamy mouthfeel, gained from just shy of 4 and a half years on lees (please keep in mind, Vintage Champagne must be kept for a minimum of 3 years!). Intense and mouth-filling, but finishes clean, crisp and wanting more. An absolute bargain for the amount of time this has been held in the Stonier cellars, and there would honestly be some Rose Champagne drinkers out there that would be bowled over by the quality of this wine. Stonier KBS
Sourced from one of the coolest and most Southern sites right next to the Stonier cellar door in Merricks, this is delicate, elegant Chardonnay in all its glory. The vineyard is named after founder and winemaker, Keith Brian Stonier, who was also one of the people who put the Mornington on the map. This also happens to be the first vineyard Stonier ever made a Single Vineyard wine from, way back in 2000- we definitely saw last night why this plot of land was seen as so special! Mike said that if you were to measure oak in wines of a scale of 1 to 10, where those over-oaked monsters of the 90’s are a 10, and Chablis is a 1, “this sits at 6 or 7”. Generous for a cool-climate chardonnay, but far from overwhelming, this wine was a complex mix of citrus and tropical fruits; lemons, limes, grapefruit, then peach, nectarine, mandarin and flecks of mango and pineapple, along with coconut and cream, and a touch of struck-match from the lightly charred French oak barrels and a finish of lemon meringue and sorbet. Yum. A fine, citric line of acid makes the mouth water- this was the perfect bottle to start the night with with appetisers (or on its own to be perfectly honest!). A lot of wines made in this style are harvested early to retain freshness, which can sometimes result in searingly obvious acidity when they are picked too early, but not this one; all elements in balance, with the acidity it was meant to have rather that designed to have.
Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
This was the most complex wine of the night, and for very good reason. The fruit is sourced from 6 small plots from all over the Mornington Peninsula; some from cooler sites to bring lift and freshness, some from warmer ones to give power and tannic structure, some high on hills and some from low valleys. The end result was a complex beast of a wine; stewed strawberry, green, minty sap, vanillin oak, gamey duck, turned red earth, milk chocolate tannins coating the mouth with a long, lingering finish. This was one of those beauties that is fantastic now, but different elements of this complex melange will keep popping up over the coming years. We poured this about 2 hours before starting the tasting, and had a try every half-hour or so (for quality assurance purposes of course!), and this just got more and more complex as it warmed. Killer wine, and honestly a standard-setting Aussie Pinot. Stonier
‘Merron’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2012
Sourced entirely from a tiny 1.7 hectare plot on top of Red Hill that grows nothing but Pinot Noir, and bloody good gear at that! This was far and away the most Burgundian wine we tried, and I honestly don’t think that was Mike’s intention at all. But, with low yields, older vines, a spectacular site suited to premium Pinot and meticulous attention to details both in the grape growing and the wine making, it is inevitable that similarities are made between this and France’s finest. A savoury-and-spice style of Pinot, with layers of tobacco leaf, cedar, oak and a bright core of rich black cherry. Most impressive however was the weight of the wine on the palate. The wine sat in your mouth, never cloying or viscous but also not light and forgettable- it just kept expanding, throwing off new flavours as it was warmed by the tongue. A few guests at the tasting accused us of putting holes in the glassware seeing as it just kept vanishing! Best seller on the night too.