National Zinfandel Day with an Aussie Zin from Lowe

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia Zinfandel

Hmm…is that allowed? National Zinfandel Day is celebrated in the US and is supported by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers). While the majority of Zinfandel is grown in California, where it arrived around 1850, it can be found around the world. You’ll hear about Primitivo in Italy. Is it the same as Zinfandel? Well, they both are clones of Tribidrag from Croatia that migrated and evolved in their new locations.

Zinfandel from Australia

Lowe Wines – David Lowe

Our Zin for Zinfandel day is from Lowe Wines in Mudgee Australia. We spent an afternoon with David Lowe at the winery when we visited Australia. He is fascinating to speak with about many things, but we tried to keep our conversation to wine.

In Australia, Zinfandel is not one of their top grapes, but you will find it doing well in the Barossa Valley, Riverina, McClaren Vale & Mudgee. So how did David Lowe get into wine and then into Zinfandel? After deciding to be a winemaker at 15, David at one point went to work for a wine company and was exposed to wines from around the world. He even met Robert Mondavi. With his boss he tasted, the 20 top rated wines in the world at that time, 9 of which were biodynamic or organic. That had him hooked. In the 2000’s the biodynamic conference in Australia really gave him the information he needed to take his property that direction. 20 years later, they are still constantly improving on their biodynamic/organic property.

David Lowe of Lowe Winery in Mudgee Australia
David Lowe of Lowe Winery in Mudgee Australia

David fell for the wines of Sonoma and Dry Creek. The best Zins in California come from Lodi, Paso Robles, Amador County or Sonoma. He met Fred Peterson of Peterson Winery, who became a mentor for him.

David’s Mentor – Fred Peterson

Fred Peterson began as a viticulturalist developing vineyards in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek in 1983. In ’87 he launched his winery. His philosophy is Zero Manipulation. He is an iconoclast and farms with low tech and high attention. His style leans toward old world style and he is well respected in California.

Fred came to Lowe and suggested that they plant Zinfandel. Like California, they found quartz soil here, which is common to gold mining areas. This quartz soil holds minerals and is well drained, good for grapes. When Fred suggested planting Zin, he told them to “treat it badly”.

Head pruned/bush trained vines

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel Vines bush trained
Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel Vines bush trained

Zin can often have huge bunches that can get to over 3 pounds. They can be massive and have great difficulty with humidity causing mold and disease late in the season. To keep the bunches smaller, they head pruned. This keeps the vines low to the ground in kind of a bonsai style. The bunches and berries stay smaller, with tougher skins and a greater skin to juice ratio. This also allows for better airflow in the vine, keeping the humidity issues down.

Planting density and spacing for tractors

Bush trained vines at Lowe Wine in Mudgee Australia
Bush trained vines widely spaced at Lowe Wine in Mudgee Australia

In planting density they went 10 by 10 feet (or 3 x 3 meters). Some of this has to do with tractors. Newer regions, plant vineyards to fit the tractors. In the old world, the vineyards came first, so you will see tractors built to fit the vineyards. Here the 10 x 10 spacing with the bush vines allows them to mix up their tractor drives. It’s not just one row that you are constantly driving back and forth between the trellis’. Here they can mix it up, driving 8 different paths between the vines (think like cutting a pie!)

Zinfandel in the Lowe Vineyard

Zinfandel Vines with leaves just coming out at Lowe Wines Tinja vineyard in Mudgee Australia
Zinfandel Vines with leaves just coming out at Lowe Wines Tinja vineyard in Mudgee Australia

The vineyards for the Zin sit near the cellar door at 500 meters (1640 feet). We walked the block that is in front of the winery. It was early spring and we were just a little past bud break, with the knarled vines, just tipped with green.

This region, sitting on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, starts it’s season a little later than the more coastal areas. While in Shoalhaven, Southern Highlands and driving through the Hunter Valley, we saw lots more green on the vines. Here the higher altitude and the location inland, keep the bud-break a little later.

Local artist Rachael Flynn was commissioned to illustrate the tour via a map which is available at the cellar door.
Local artist Rachael Flynn was commissioned to illustrate the tour via a map which is available at the cellar door.

They have a map for a wine walk that takes you around the biodiverse property, through the fruit orchard, past the compost and bird habitat through the vineyard blocks and nut orchard. We strolled taking in the space. Cloud covered but still dry, the skies were overcast while the brown dirt in the fields belied the fact that it was spring. Just in front of the winery there were planter boxes filled with vegetables and greens. The patio had a trellis’ roof covered in vines. There were tables and games in a stand of stone pines down the drive for picnicers.

The Zin House

Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel
Lowe Wines in Mudgee Zinfandel

We did not have time to visit the Zin House, the farmhouse restaurant on property run by David’s wife Kim Currie. This is local food, centered around their biodynamic garden, served with Lowe wines as well as other local wines. Alexander, Kim and David’s son, oversees the cellar and wine selection for the restaurant. We met him the following day as he stopped in while we were speaking with Sam at Vinifera Wines. This is a small community and the comradery between businesses is wonderful to see.

Lowe Wine Zinfandel Style

Lowe 2016 Zinfandel Mudgee Australia
Lowe 2016 Zinfandel Mudgee Australia

The style of Zin they make a Lowe is more elegant. It is not the big jammy Zins (you remember Tobin James). These are lighter and more elegant. They are hand-harvested from 5 head trained blocks around winery from biodynamic fruit. They ferment in was lined concrete fermenters. The label says they are “naturally brewed with indigenous yeast from the vineyard”. These age in 4500 L American oak casks for 2 years and are unfiltered and unfined. This wine does sit at 15.2% abv.

2016 Lowe Zinfandel

I remember David speaking of loving the smell of Christmas Cake in Zinfandel. At the time, my translation of that was “fruit cake”. I remember my mother making fruit cake when I was a child. All those bright died colored squares of some kind of fruit. The blue pieces scared me a little. But Christmas Cake….well that conjures pictures of the party at Fezziwig’s! There’s a little more depth just thinking of that cake. It’s not one that I have actually tasted, but I know the smell now, from dipping my nose in that glass. (Confession…we are early decorators for the holidays and I smelled and sipped this wine in a tree lit room…for research, of course).

The nose on this wine is big. It is dried fruits, like raisins and currants all plumped up in brandy and spices. Yep, Christmas Cake. The nose is almost syrupy.

Lowe 2016 Organic Zinfandel from Mudgee Australia by the tree
Lowe 2016 Organic Zinfandel

After a whiff, I looked at the glass on the table, backlit by the tree and could see the ruby color with the light shining through. I think after that nose, I was surprised that the light came through. Then I swished it in my mouth. Here came the elegance. The mouth feel was vibrant and medium weight and those red tones certainly indicated a level of acidity. The tannins were lightly chewy and smoothed out gradually. When I stuck my nose back in I found a bit of mint behind all those plump raisins and some cooked berries with baking spices.

Michael had made some homemade chili early that day, and we curled up on the couch with this wine, the chili, the tree and a little late night TV. I closed my eyes briefly and did a little virtual revisit to Mudgee. Here’s a bit for you.

A virtual stroll at Lowe Wines

We visited Mudgee while we were in Australia for the Wine Media Conference in October on #OurAussieWineAdventure. For more information on the region you can visit the following sites

Visiting Lowe Wines

If you make your way to Mudgee and want to find Lowe Wines head out to Tinja Lane just outside Mudgee,

327 Tinja Lane, Mudgee NSW 2850

where they are open daily from 10-4:30 for tastings that their cellar door. They also have tasting platters available from 11-3.

Happy Zinfandel Day!

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Speed dating for wine – Red Wine Social at the Wine Media Conference

Live Wine Social Red at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Red Wine Social. It’s organized chaos. Go ahead, look at the video first and see what we are up against! 10 wineries, 5 minutes each. For them: 5 minutes to give us the elevator schpiel on their winery and wine and pour for a table of 5 to 10 people. For us: 5 minutes to get photos, details, hashtags, taste and post on social media! Are you friggin’ kidding me! Watch the vid…

Did you have time to read the descriptions? Nope? Well I barely had time to write them!!!! (Yes, my voice was raised a bit on that last sentence). I did my posting on Instagram under #wmc19 (at least I think I got them all in!)

Okay…now time to give those wineries and winemakers there due. Here is the breakdown with more details than 5 minutes will allow.

First Creek

First you get the actual post.

“Greg from First Creek wines poured2017 winemakers shiraz! They deal with 300 tons of fruit a year. Of course they do around 300,000 in contracted fruit for others. @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
First Creek Winemaker's Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley Red Wine Social
First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve 2017 Shiraz Hunter Valley

Ok…let’s break this down. “Greg” is Greg Silkman. He oversees all of First Creek’s business. Greg was honored in 2019 with the Hunter Valley Wine Legend award (you will hear more about the Legends). He and a business partner bought Tambulaine winery back in 1986 and turned the place around. He then established First Creek Wines.

First Creek Wines is family owned and operated (go to the about us page on their site and you will notice many members of the team are Silkmans). They do around 300 tons of fruit each year to make their own wines, like the Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz we were tasting. They are also a custom crush facility First Creek Winemaking Services, and it is there that they handle around 300,000 tons of contracted fruit for other wineries.

First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Shiraz Hunter Valley

This wine is aged in French oak for 8-12 months. It sits at 13% abv and has potential to age for 10-15 years. SRP $60 au

de iuliis

I barely got a note out for this wine poured by winemaker Mike De Iuliis from de iuliis wines

“The Touriga adds floral notes “the gewurtraminer of reds” 70 30 blend” @visitnsw @huntervalley

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Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines Red Wine Social
Mike De Iuliis of de iuliis wines

What?! Okay, here’s the translation of that criptic IG post.

So Mike De Iuliis made this Shiraz and was experimenting to create a bit of elegance. This is 80% Shiraz with 20% Touriga National which adds complexity and lifts the aromas of the wine. He said that aromatically he finds Touriga to be the “gerwurztraminer of reds” (gerwürztraminer is a German white wine well known for it’s aromatics).

We were lucky enough to get to know Mike a little better on the Dinner excursion on Friday night as he took our bus all terraining into a vineyard under threat of rain to meet a bunch of winemakers with their semillons and oysters. You’ll get more on that later.

de iuliis 2018 LDR Vineyard Shiraz Touriga Hunter Valley

de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard Red Wine Social
de iuliis 2018 Shiraz Touriga LDR Vineyard

LDR? That is the Lovedale Road Vineyard where they have 3.5 acres of Shiraz and 1.5 acres of Touriga National planted. You get cherry, and blackfruit with spice on the nose and plum, blackberry with soft tannins on the palate. This wine drinks well now, and will age for at least another 5 years. The wine sits at 14% abv and SRP is $40 au. (James Halliday gave it 95 pts)

Audrey Wilkinson

My note on this was

“One of the most beautiful views in the country! This shiraz was beautiful! #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

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  • Audrey Wilkinson 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Audrey Wilkinson's 2017 "The Lake" Shiraz Awards Red Wine Social
  • Giving us the details on "The Lake" from Audrey Wilkinson Red Wine Social

Well I had a chance to chat with Daniel Byrom from Audrey Wilkinson the night before and learn all about their amphitheater shaped vineyard and the varied soils. We also got out to get some sunrise shots. They really are well known for their views. Locals tell us that even if they can’t go for a tasting, they always take friends and visitors for the view.

Audrey Wilkinson The Lake 2017 Shiraz

This wine is an award winner “97 points, again….” says their brochure. This wine takes it’s name for the large spring fed dam on the property. 2017 they recorded the hottest year on record (we’ve talked about climate change right?). In the Hunter Valley this was a great vintage. This wine has a nose with florals (violets?) and fruit with a bit of spice. It sits at 14.9% abv (holy crap!) sees a bit of French oak and will set you back $120 au a bottle. This is a definitely a reserve wine for this winery.

Briar Ridge

“Alex one of the winemakers at Briar Ridge #wmc19 @huntervalley”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10

Oops! Didn’t get much out with that one. But I did get a bottle shot and a photo of Alex.

  • 2018 Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Alex from Briar Ridge Red Wine Social

We did however have a few minutes afterwards to speak with Alex about Briar Ridge. You will have to wait until later for that.

The winery is located in Mount View in the Southern part of the Hunter Valley and they are the largest vineyard holder in this area. Soils here are red limestone. They keep yields low (1 to 2.5 tons per acre).

Dairy Hill Shiraz Hunter Valley 2018

This wine is single vineyard on a SE facing slope with a warm maritime influence. It was 20% whole cluster with the remainder crushed and destemmed. It ages in 500liter large format barrels for 12-14 months with a couple rack and returns. Then they hold it 3 years before release. We were tasting the 2018. If you go to their website, the current release is 2014 (which recieved 96 points from James Halliday).

1813

“Double oaked Shiraz. The governor from @1813huntervalley @visitnsw @huntervalley #wbc19”

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  • The Governor Shiraz from 1813 Red Wine Social
  • Pouring and giving us the details on the 1813 "The Governor" Red Wine Social

Okay, I was typing fast, I harkened back to the previous conference name (wine bloggers conference wbc). But let’s get on with the details on this winery. 1813? What does that mean?

1813 was the year the first coin was created in Australia. It was called the “Holey dollar” because it was a Spanish coin with a hole in the center. The owner of the winery has a finance background.

2017 The Governor Hunter Single Vineyard from 1813

This wine is double oaked (French and American). What does that mean? During fermentation it is rolled into oak, then after malolactic fermentation it is rolled into oak again. It is only released in the best years. This is all estate fruit and they only made 1500 bottles (not cases, bottles). This is their flagship reserve. SRP $68.00 au

Wombat Crossing

“This wine won a trophy for the best shiraz in the Hunter Valley. This is a 2009! @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Wombat Crossing 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Ian Owner of Wombat Crossing pouring the 2009 Shiraz Red Wine Social

Okay…Wombat Crossing? You know right off that they are an Australian Winery right? Click through to their page…go ahead…now you know that they are also Beatles fans! LOL!

Ian Napier is the vineyard owner. He came from a successful career in Sydney and post career decided to open a winery. Their first vintage was 2005. They are the smallest vineyard and winery in the Hunter Valley and plan to keep it that way.

The winery shows it’s support for the Cedar Creek Wombat Rescue & Hospital. Driving rural inland roads we saw many dead kangaroos and wombats. This rescue helps orphaned joey wombats and gives medical attention to adult wombats who have been injured. The roadsides have signs to call if you hit wildlife. Wombats are declining due to road hazards, loss of habitat and disease. Roz Holme founded the rescue and treats animals that might otherwise have been euthanised.

Wombat Crossing Vineyard Hermit’s Block Individual Vineyard Hunter Valley 2009 Shiraz

Ian brought us a 10 year old Shiraz to taste and see how well the wine ages. The 2009 vintage from Wombat Crossing one the trophy for the best Shiraz in the Hunter Valley. they have just 8 cases left (7 now!) They believe in cellaring and holding back wine. He told us that the current release was their 2014.

Whispering Brook

“A touriga shiraz blend from Whispering Brook. From Susan Frazier @huntervalley @visitnsw #wmc19”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia
Whispering Brook at #wmc19 in Hunter Valley Australia

Okay…this is not the photo that was on IG, but there is a link below so you can see that.

Our video as posted on IG

This is another blend of Touriga and Shiraz (like Mike de Iuliis). Great minds thinking alike. We did have a chance to speak with Susan after the event…again…you get that later!

Whispering Brook is located in Broke on the West side of the Hunter Valley. The property is bordered on one end by the Wollombi Brook and it is from this that the winery takes it’s name. They make Sparkling wines in addition to their Shiraz, Chardonnay and Touriga National as well as olive oil.

2017 Whispering Brook Shiraz

This wine received 97 points from James Halliday. There is a bit of a story to this wine. In 2008 they grafted over 1 block of their Shiraz to Touriga National. In 2017, they had just pressed the Touriga, when the Shiraz came in. The Touriga skins looked great, so they tossed them in with the Shiraz. They did a wild yeast ferment, which is not normal for them (well, she did say that there was probably still cultured yeast on the Touriga Skins). This wine ages in 30% new french oak for 16 months.

Tyrrell’s

“Lovely shiraz from Tyrrell’s #wmc19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

crushedgrapechron IG post October 10
  • Tyrrell's 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • Pouring wine and sharing the story of Tyrrell's vineyard Red Wine Social
  • Red soils from Tyrrell's Vineyard Red Wine Social

Well that didn’t say much! Guess I was getting tired by then. (this was exhausting, trying to do so much so fast!)

Tyrrell’s is a 5th generation winery that can trace it’s roots back to Walter Tyrrell who arrived in England with William the Conqueror! Last year in 2018 they celebrated the 160th Anniversary of the founding of Tyrrell’s Wines!

We had an opportunity to get out to the winery and taste and will share more on that with you later!

Tyrrell’s 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz

2017 was a good year in the Hunter Valley. This wine is in their “Hunter Valley Range” an affordable range at $25 au per bottle. Vines here average at about 50 years old and the wine is aged in large format Foudres (2,700 litre). They did bring a jar of soil so we could see the red soils from the vineyard.

Tulloch

“Matt from Tulloch poured the 2017 Pokolbin dry red shiraz! Only available in the tasting room #wmc19 @visitnsw @huntervalley”

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  • Tulloch 2017 Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz Red Wine Social
  • The quick version of the Tulloch Wine history Red Wine Social

Tulloch Wines is one of the early wineries with 122 years and 4 generations of winemaking experience. Tulloch went through a bit of time where the vineyard was owned by other companies, and even a short bit (8 years or so) without a member of the family being part of the operation. In 2003 the family bought the brand back from Rosemount and is now again family run.

2017 Polkolbin Dry Red Shiraz

This wine is part of their Heritage Range. It sits at 13.5% abv SRP $30.00 au.

Tintilla Estate

“The 1st vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago! Bob and James Lusby poured it for us! #WMC19 @huntervalley @visitnsw”

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  • Tintilla Estates 2017 Saphira Sangiovese Red Wine Social
  • Bob & James Lusby telling us the story of the Saphira Sangiovese

Tintilla. The name is an Old World term for red wine. Bob Lusby sat down next to me while his son James poured. It was their last table, and our last winemaker. So yes, Tintilla was the first vineyard in the Hunter Valley to plant Sangiovese 25 years ago. They pulled in the Davis clones.

While we were talking Bob mentioned the idea that more phenolics in the grapes keep pests away. I was fascinated by this and he suggested that I read some of the work by Dr. Richard Smart, including his book “Sunlight into Wine – A handbook for winegrape canopy management”. Looks like I have more fascinating geeky wine reading to do!

Tintilla Estate Saphira Sangiovese 2017

The Saphira Sangiovese gives you plums and cherries with a bit of earth. It runs $35.00 au.

Harvested in the early morning, the cool grapes were destemmed and passed through the crusher The resultant must was cold soaked, fermentation followed in open vats, the temperature controlled to about 22 degrees C. Hand plunge of the cap ensured good mixing of the skins with the juice. The wine was aged in 20% new & old 300L French oak barrels for 12 months.

https://www.tintilla.com.au/shop/saphira-sangiovese/

More to come!

Oh yeah. We did a white/rosé tasting like this also. You’ll get that later.

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