Q&A with winemaker
We know that the Macedon Ranges is one of the coldest vineyard sites in the country. Can you paint us a picture of the region? What is the landscape, weather and culture of your corner of Victoria?
The Macedon Ranges is an hour’s drive North West of Melbourne and has beautiful rolling hills with gum trees. Native wildlife such as kangaroos and echidnas are abundant, with the aptly named Wombat State Forest situated here. Vineyards are small and tucked away in little nooks and crannies. The region has a higher rainfall and cooler nights than Melbourne due to its elevation, 400m to 800m. It is known as Victoria’s “Spa Country” with Melbournians in particular spending long weekends at picturesque towns such as Hepburn Springs, Daylesford, Trentham and Woodend.
What is the history of Shadowfax? Can you tell us the story of the winery and the vineyards? Is there a huge Tolkien fan in the team who inspired the brand’s name?
Shadowfax winery is situated half an hour West of Melbourne, next to the Australian National Equestrian Centre, so Shadowfax being Gandolf’s King of all horses, the name was only appropriate. We’re all fans of Tolkien so it was an obvious choice.
We especially love the Pinot Noir from your original plantings on the Little Hampton site. How does the unique climate in this spot affect the wines?
The cool elevated site of Little Hampton vineyard at 740 meters has a very long growing season. This means that the grapes on the vine ripen later in the season, well into Autumn and are often harvested in early May. The cooler days and nights during the ripening allows a very slow flavour ripeness, so tannins and concentration builds for a long time, making the final wines pure, concentrated with lovely precision and length. The red soils of the site combined with the altitude gives rise to a unique rose petal and spice that can only be Little Hampton Pinot Noir.
You are also now growing Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from this site, how are these showing themselves and can we expect any further exciting new wines from this plot?
There are 100 Chardonnay vines scattered in amongst the original Little Hampton Pinot Noir block. As there is such a small amount of fruit off these, we have never made a single vineyard wine from them. Saying that of all my time growing grapes and making wine in the Macedon Ranges these grapes have some of the best concentration and flavour profile I’ve seen grown here. I can’t wait until our young chardonnay vines mature to see what wine can make from the site.
You are obviously not afraid of new ideas or experimentation, what developments can we expect to see next from the team at Shadowfax?
As we learn more about each vineyard, we will see further attention on our single vineyard wines to focus on their reflection and individuality in the glass.
We hugely admire your focus on the vineyards and allowing these to express themselves through the wines. Was it a conscious decision to keep your production at such a small scale and does this present any challenges? Or does it give you increased scope for flexibility and trialling new things?
Production has been kept small so we can focus on the quality of each wine and not get distracted by corporate rubbish. The flexibility is still there, as we are always on the lookout for new vineyards coming up for lease in the Macedon Ranges, giving the opportunity to experiment with new wines.
You’re growing a lot of southern French varietals in your Winery vineyard at Werribee. What inspired this choice? How are these working with your climate there? Is this something you think we will see more of from the region?
Our Werribee vineyard is on the outskirts of Melbourne and lies on Port Phillip Bay. The more maritime site means warmer nights. It is also a drier and hotter site than the Macedon Ranges. The Southern French varieties such as Carignan, Grenache, Mataro and Roussanne all thrive in these warmer drier conditions. We grafted Shiraz over to these in the last ten years as they handle the very hot days that can occur there during a Melbourne summer.
Alister, you have spent much of your career at Shadowfax and must know the vineyards inside out. Have you seen many changes since you first joined the team? What are your ambitions for the brand since taking the reins as chief winemaker in 2017?
Yes, a lot. I have seen and been part of growing the oldest Shiraz vines in Heathcote Victoria. We sold these vineyards ten years ago now and took a deliberate step into the coldest mainland Australian grape growing region. Climate change forced our hand on this somewhat. The Macedon Ranges in the 1960s was originally planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for Sparkling Wine production. Over the years, as the sites have warmed up, the Chardonnay and Pinot wines produced from here now are some of the most expressive in the country.
You have a beautiful restaurant at Shadowfax. Are winery restaurants becoming an important part of the hospitality industry in Australia? How are these viewed within the industry?
The Winery Restaurant has become a great way for wineries to reflect their passion for wine and food matching. This helps give the customer an understanding of what our wines are all about, good food and wine shared with friends. Days spent at a winery restaurant are often long-lasting memories and when a customer buys a bottle or two for home, they can relive the story in the comfort of home. This in particular has been important during the COVID lockdown that Melburnians have recently endured.
Your head chef Ben D’Arcy has worked in many of Melbourne’s leading restaurants and hotels. What is his philosophy for this part of the business? What are the current seasonal favourites on the menu?
Ben’s focus for our restaurant is to create a menu using the freshest and best seasonal ingredients from the local area.
We use fresh produce from our own kitchen garden as well as from the neighbouring market gardens and farm gates. With fertile soils and the perfect growing conditions, it’s one of the best places to grow vegetables, and you’ll find the finest cauliflower, lettuce, fennel and broccoli coming from the growers that surround the winery and restaurant.
Ben has always been inspired by the diversity of the Mediterranean and the menu features an ever-changing seasonal selection of seafood, meats and vegetables, all cooked simply. There are also hand-made pastas, woodfired pizzas, sweet treats including our famous tiramisu with coffee anglaise and a selection of the best Australian cheeses.
On the wine list, you’ll find all our current releases as well as a curated selection of museum wines and magnums that cannot be tasted or purchased anywhere else. For those who prefer beer and spirits to wine, we have them covered with a concise list of tipples from the best local breweries, cider houses and distilleries.
Overlooking the vineyard and kitchen garden, our restaurant is the perfect place for a long, lazy lunch listening to live music or a casual dinner with friends. With its beautiful landscaped surrounds, it’s also a popular choice for weddings and special events of all kinds.
Headed by winemaker Alister Timms, Shadowfax’s small and innovative winemaking team ensure only the highest quality grapes make it into each and every bottle.
Shadowfax’s wines have a strong focus on regionality. Although the winery is based in Werribee, Shadowfax have extensive vineyards in the Macedon Ranges located an hour north west of Melbourne and growing ultra-cool climate Gewurztaminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The iconic Little Hampton vineyard is located just outside the quaint village of Trentham on deep red soils over hard sandstone and quartz reefs and sits at 730m altitude. This combination gives the Pinot Noir its distinctive rose hip and violet aroma with grown tannins and flourish on the palate. While the Pinot Gris from the same site has potpourri aromatics and a fine palate with minerality and texture.
For team Shadowfax, Macedon Chardonnay is often their go-to wine. “It displays all the good things in ultra-cool climate Chardonnay; flavour, poise, acid structure and purity. A staple of the Shadowfax brand.” says Alister.
Only the finest parts of each vineyard site are selected to show their unique microclimates and soil profiles. Focussed winemaking and vineyard techniques allow the wine to reveal itself in the glass with finesse and unique individuality.
2019 Shadowfax Straws Lane Pinot Noir
98+ Points – Stuart McCloskey “Planted in 1987 and perched at 800 metres on a north facing slope of Mt Macedon. The bouquet is utterly seductive and gently unfurls with sweet, wild strawberry and orange sorbet. There’s a cooling briary edge – do I detect a little rosemary and sage? Sweet, Morello cherries and raspberries for sure. Menthol too. Clearly, an ever evolving bouquet. Simply, mesmerizing. The palate is medium bodied and builds gently. It’s so natural and laced with crisp red berries. The tannins are laced with silk and the acidity judged to perfection. Touches of blood orange on the finish which I adore. This is effortless and a deeply moving wine to sample. The flavours fan out gloriously and seem everlasting with every sip I swallowed, and I filled my glass three times. Truly an exceptional Aussie Pinot Noir and perhaps one of the very best (without being showy). I would dearly love to see this in a blind ’19 Burgundy tasting. Drink now to 2040. Decant for 1-2 hours and serve using Zalto Burgundy glassware.”
Introductory Special @ £34.95 per bottle
Normal Price @ £37.95 per bottle
* Only 96 bottles available *
2018 Shadowfax Little Hampton Pinot Noir
98-99 Points – Stuart McCloskey “Little Hampton can be found in the Macedon Ranges at an elevation of 720 metres. The site was planted in 1998 and is indicated as being ‘very cool.’ We have been pouring from the sample bottle for two days (kept in pristine condition overnight). Despite the reference to ‘very cool’ the bouquet is far from being unresponsive. It’s brooding in comparison to Straws Lane and displays a smörgåsbord of dark, red berries, that tell-tale orange sorbet / blood orange which I find is a hallmark in all great Burgundies. Daft as it may sound, there is a sense of a deep-set winter – truffles without question. Extraordinary natural – I feel rather overcome. The palate delivers a sense of equilibrium – I cannot put my finger on it, but something is very special about this Pinot Noir. It builds and builds, but ever so gently. The sweet, spiced fruit complements the dusting of white pepper which is divine. I am not in a rush to finish my tasting note. In fact, I could happily sample all day long and write a 2,000 word thesis. I will never forget this wine… Drink now to 2040. Decant for 2-4 hours and you must serve it using Zalto Burgundy glassware if you would like to share the same experience.”
* Only 96 bottles available *
2019 Shadowfax Midhill Chardonnay
97-98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “The bouquet is explosive but does require a little aeration (30 minutes in a decanter will do the job nicely). Lemon oil, citrus, limestone and chalk aplenty – it’s so fresh and taut (the zippy acidity really crackles), which are all terroir indicators referencing this wine’s elevated (550m) site in the Macedon Ranges. The palate feel, fruit, structure and acidity are all in harmonious chorus. Similar to the bouquet, the palate strides forward with citrus in abundance – almost lip smacking. The texture is deeply satisfying with satiny ribbons of lemon curd and Yuzu. The vineyard was planted back in 1993 which aids the wine’s tremendous concentration. The finish is racy and super long… A wonderful Chardonnay that speaks of its surroundings. One for the cellar and I very much look forward to revisiting the wine over the coming years. Drink now to 2035. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
97-98 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Exuberant and complex perfume radiates from the glass with an abundance of orchard fruit, citrus and an entire meadow of spring flowers. Notes of crystalline minerality add to its aromatic elegance. Ripe pears, apples and white peaches make an introduction on the palate before leaving the stage to allow grapefruit, lemons and lime take control. There is a pleasing roundness to the plentiful citrus, which are hard to pin down at this stage, but suggest underlying complexities yet to blossom. Even though this is such a young wine, its ample flavours coat every facet of your palate with perfectly judged weight. This will evolve beautifully over the next 5-10 years, but don’t hold back if you love the flavours described. Tasted using Zalto Bordeaux glassware, which often brings out more savoury notes in wine I find. Please decant for 30 minutes at the very least, longer if you can."
Introductory Special @ £31.95 per bottle
Normal Price @ £34.95 per bottle
Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Each variety is a blend of Shadowfax’s own vineyards located across Macedon Ranges. Little Hampton, Midhill, Big Shed and Straws Lane vineyards contribute their fruit creating a showcase of the regional character and excellent purity.
2019 Shadowfax Macedon Chardonnay
97+ Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "The perfume is so inviting with an abundance of citrus and minerals infused to perfection. The aromas are super pure but intense at the same time (give it a few minutes in the glass). Notes of lemon oil, chalk and oyster shell build up with aeration, together with a lovely touch of nougat, ginger and nashi pear. The flavours follow suit with elegance. It is generous, but equally composed, super smooth and even slightly viscous (amazing texture). No wonder this is the go to wine of team Shadowfax. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware following 30 minutes of decanting."
Introductory Special @ £21.75 per bottle
Normal Price @ £23.75 per bottle
2019 Shadowfax Macedon Pinot Noir
96-97 Points – Magdalena Sienkiewicz "This wine really opens up and expands when decanted, even one hour makes a difference. The aromas reveal wild, dark berries, juicy cherries and raspberry with a wonderful lift from rose petals and mint. There is a good dusting of sweet spice too along with pencil lead and gentle cedar notes. Pretty fruit opens the palate with a little citrus zing, juicy cranberries and a good bite of blood orange. The palate feel is generous, succulent and unforced. The finish is long and the tannins powdery. It’s delicious today, but I’m super curious to see how it develops over the next 5 years. Sampled using Zalto Burgundy glassware."
Introductory Special @ £21.75 per bottle
Normal Price @ £23.75 per bottle
2019 Shadowfax Macedon Pinot Gris
96+ - 97 Points – Stuart McCloskey “Sourced from their Little Hampton vineyard which rests at 750 metres above sea level. The bouquet is a profusion of spices melded with poached pear, cardamon, cinnamon and lemon zest. Floral too and incredibly fine (signing of higher altitude purity). The palate is super refined, unrushed and unforced – wonderfully natural. The fruit sits towards citrus with a little baked apricot in the background. Flowers provide a lovely blanket, a new dimension – salinity finishing the flavour profile off perfectly. Very elegant indeed. Surprising density given its age. An exceptional Pinot Gris – very classical and would comfortably lie in one’s cellar for a decade or more. Drink now to 2035. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
97 Points– Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Sampled without decanting. Super aromatic with honeysuckle, peaches, honeyed pears and sweet citrus. Toasted almonds underline its complex perfume. The palate mirrors the aromatics beautifully with additions of ripe figs and sweet spices. The balance of ripe and refreshing components is spot on. What a wonderful varietal expression, one which is not under or overdone, but just perfectly harmonious. Thanks to its superb balance, it will convince those who had a mixed experience with Pinot Gris before. It will put big smiles on fans of the grape. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware, which brings out more savoury complexities I find."
Halliday Wine Companion Awards 2020 - Gold Medal
95 points - James Halliday “Hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed, wild-fermented in used French oak, matured for 9 months on lees. A very complex gris, both bouquet and palate unfolding citrus and almonds, multi-spices, moving into a world of honeysuckle, poached pear and fig in the mouth.”
Introductory Special @ £19.95 per bottle
Normal Price @ £21.95 per bottle
* Only 96 bottles available *
Minnow wines are unadulterated by using no new oak and minimal intervention in the winery, giving the wines vibrancy, purity and drinkability. All grapes come from the winery’s estate vineyard which is planted with southern French varietals.
2019 Shadowfax Minnow Roussanne
96 Points – Stuart McCloskey “If there were a wine that screams of summer, this is it. The bouquet is a heavy profusion of sun-drenched, baked apricots, fresh vanilla pod, creamy fresh yoghurt and lemon oil. Aromatically perfect! The palate is riveting and offers a wonderful sense of energy. This is not a mouth filling viscous illustration. Instead, it’s high toned on the palate, light on its feet – the fruits and acidity are framed perfectly. Touches of baked apricot combines with a little saline character adding an extra layer of complexity. I detect pear after a minute or two – such a long finish. This is sampling much better than the first bottle shipped across the pond. Sadly, I have made a huge mistake as I should have purchased much more. Superb value. Drink now to 2025. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
96 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "So much energy and verve on the nose. Abundant apricots and yellow nectarines with ripe figs, sweet pears, honeycomb and baking spices. It is rich but lifted with gentle notes of flowers. The palate is equally complex and flavoursome. Sweet orchard fruit is washed away by vibrant citrus and mouthcoating nuttiness. The structure reaches an impressive balance between creamy and refreshing. It reveals further, more earthy complexities on the long finish. What a great find! It comfortably takes place amongst our best value whites. Sampled without decanting using Zalto Bordeaux glassware, which brings out more savoury complexities I find."
James Halliday Wine Companion Top 100 of 2020 - Gold Medal
95 points - James Halliday “Cool-fermented in French hogsheads in the underground cellar. Young Roussanne can be boring but this is the opposite, with a plethora of aromas and flavours in Southern Rhône style. Honeycomb, fig, marzipan and pear are neatly corralled by just-in-time acidity.”
Introductory Special @ £18.50 per bottle
Normal Price @ £19.95 per bottle
* Only 96 bottles available *
Vintage Report by Alister Timms, Winemaker & Vineyard Manager
The year that was 2019, the one we reminisce over and have found memories of, and wish we could return to.
The year was set up with great winter rains that led into the growing season for the 2019 vintage. A dry spring allowed for full fruit set with great crops set. Small consistent rains in the Macedon Ranges kept the vines healthy, whilst flavour and ripeness continued to accumulate.
Due to the Macedon Ranges being the coldest wine growing region on mainland Australia, the ripening period occurred well into autumn, well after the heat of January and February.
Grapes were hand harvested into April, when the nights were cool (less than 10 degrees C) and the days mild, in the low twenties. This is the ideal ripening temp as tannins slowly build as does flavour. Sugar ripeness builds slowly, which results in Pinot Noir with balanced fine tannins yet pure aromatics. Whilst Chardonnay has power and acid balance.
2019 vintage was very close to being the perfect growing year, and one we wish we could all return to.
The 2020 wines are coming along nicely. Once again in the Macedon Ranges, we missed the heat and raging bushfires due to the regions high altitude (730m) and some summer rains.
In fact, for us at Shadowfax, it was one of the latest and coolest vintages we’ve ever experienced in our 21 years. It was a naturally low yielding year due to a tricky flowering period. The wines in particular the Pinot Noir is showing amazing fragrance and poise, with fine tannins developing nicely, and possibly one of the great things to come out of 2020 is yet to be bottled!
From earlier this week -
Tasmanian sparkling wines from Ghost Rock
Ghost Rock Catherine Cuvée 2015
Trophy - Best Vintage Sparkling Tasmanian Wine Show 2018
97 - 98 Points - Stuart McCloskey "The bouquet is highly finessed with orchard fruits, fine floral notes, whispers of brioche and almond. The palate is equally fresh, incisive and shows all the hallmarks of elegance and grace which Chardonnay can deliver. I believe the ’15 Catherine Cuvée has reached an important crossroads which is exciting. Today, it’s charming, tensile and carries crystalline purity with ease, but and with a little aeration, the wine opens beautifully to reveal layer upon layer of fruit with touches of honey. I believe this will turn a corner in five or so years to reveal a real gem as all the qualities and characteristics are peering through – it is tightly wound for the time being. This has been a true joy to sample and is certainly one of the region's very best. Served using Zalto Universal glassware. Do not overchill."
97++ Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Lovely nose – elegant, but not shy. Orchard fruit, brioche and almonds ooze gracefully from the glass. The palate is supremely elegant too. The wine opens with a lovely sweetness from ripe pears and juicy apples. The palate weight and creamy complexity is on point but has the room to develop. Terrific purity and balance. Clearly it has potential to age (5-10 years) however, I will personally struggle to find enough patience as it is utterly delicious in its current form. Mouth-watering and simply brilliant. Sampled using Zalto Universal glassware and please do not overchill."
Winemaker's notes "Made in the 'methode champenoise' style, hints of apple and brioche aromas are enhanced by the creamy complexity and yeast richness on the palate. This premium sparkling shows lively fruit characters and an elegant crisp fresh finish."
£32.50 per bottle
Ghost Rock Zoe Brut Rosé 2016
96+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “60% Pinot Noir / 40% Chardonnay. I like the nose very much as it wafts from my glass with a crescendo of red berries, pomegranate, crisp green apples and chalk. The palate is super fresh and comes across more succulent and fuller compared to the Cuvee Catherine. The mousse is rich and the mid palate weight adds further depth and a lovely mouthfeel. The fruit is fresh and sings with ripe raspberry, wild strawberry, pomegranate and a little bitter orange rind on the long finish… I detect a little chalkiness and salinity too, which brings a welcome distinction to the fruit. The balance is textbook and the structure provides some girth. I like it very much, but I feel the cold, outside temperature and driving rain is playing havoc with my senses (take note to my score!) - the colour and flavours talk to me of the summer and not the deep winter. Unquestionably, this drinks fabulously now, but I would like to see a further five years bottle age. Served using Zalto Universal glassware. Do not overchill.”
Winemaker's notes "Our Brut Rosè is true to the principle of Methode Traditionnelle. From the stunning 2016 vintage, the Pinot Noir dominant blend has been elevated by lees ageing and stylistic finishing. Strawberry and floral notes drive this wine, its Brut style creating a truly moorish, fresh palate."
£24.50 per bottle
Stunning new releases
from Ben Glaetzer
We introduce Glaetzer’s 2018 collection
It has been an age since we last offered Ben Glaetzer’s wines. His stunning 2018’s have lauded some very impressive reviews including 98 points from Joe at Robert Parker.com.