With my brother doing the driving, it was off to the Clare valley for an overnight whirlwind trip.
This story really begins a couple of months earlier at a cellar door in the southern Clare area. A lovely young lady, we will call her “Kim”, recommended a cellar door just on the north side of the town to my brother. Needless to say a good time was had by all. Now while not on my radar for the area my brother was adamant about going there. Younger siblings do sometimes have valuable information on occasion (who knew).
Truly not off the beaten track and just a very short distance north of Clare on the right hand side of the road is Cardinham Estate.
As you enter the gravel drive and pull up in front of the cellar door the impression is a family winery doing the best they can with what they have. Now while this description sounds like just an average winery as it turns out, the statement is true, but the results are amazing. It turns out they had one of the highest rated Rieslings in the world in 2003 to prove the point (current one is pretty bloody good to).
The original vineyard was purchased by Fred Dinham (Grandfather) in 1981 and the property has been managed and expanded on by Noel and Heather Smith ever since. Their two sons Scott and Shane, with the support of their families, have learnt the trade over the last 20 years and are now taking the reigns of the family business into the future.
Cardinham Estate was originally founded by Fred Dinham as a single vineyard of 60 acres in 1981 now known as the Home Block. By the 1990's the whole family had started to work on the property, which now included the Stradbrooke vineyards.
Cardinham Estate is now made up of four separate vineyard sites totalling 160 acres. Vineyard plantings date back to the 1860's and continued right up to recent years.
We got to spend a fair amount of time with Noel over a two day period with Jazz the dog never too far away. Noel is a classic Aussie of an era gone by. He tells it as he sees it, and his opinions are out there for all to listen to. He tells of good times and bad and of how much work making wine is, and of the fact that in some ways the Estate should be called Chateau ANZ (bank). But you never get the feeling that he would want to be doing anything else.
His stories are colourful and engaging and paired with his wine makes for a magical experience. Not one to go in for bragging and flash, his philosophy is to let the wine speak for itself (unless you ask). We think someone should shout from the mountain tops about how fantastic some of these wines are.
There are some fantastic upcoming vintages that Noel was kind enough to share. Watching Noel pour wine from a 4” tap into a glass was very entertaining (great valve control). I was sure some were to be bottled immediately they seemed so ready but Noel was adamant that they needed more time to be the best they could be. This no wine before it's time, stubborn approach to producing wine, that is the best they can make it and not just “ok” must surely be why their 'current release' Stradbrooke Selection Shiraz is a 2008. This was my selection to purchase and I give it an 8 and is ***.
I could go on and on about each of their award wining Rieslings, their fantastic Cabernets and the unexpectedly bold yet elegant Stradbrook Shiraz and a host of other fantastic offerings, but the long and the sort of it is you just need to go there and taste them for yourselves. I highly 'Recomends' you go experience their great wines and maybe if you are truly lucky, experience the Noel factor.
Happy Wine Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala