Babe in Cra­dle goes to show

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - WINE James Halliday

THE fi­nal leg of a Tas­ma­nian odyssey in De­cem­ber took us to Cra­dle Moun­tain in the north­west, a place that, de­spite my nu­mer­ous trips to Tas­ma­nia, I had never vis­ited. The re­gion is thin on winer­ies, with only three open for cel­lar-door vis­i­tors (Bar­ring­wood Park, Ghost Rock and Lake Bar­ring­ton) and three open only by prior ar­range­ment (Tiger Range, Three Wil­low and Tavn­ers).

At some point along the way there was a ques­tion from our host about whether we felt the last leg was a step too far. Even be­fore we ar­rived, our an­swer was no. Af­ter stay­ing at Cra­dle Moun­tain Lodge, visit­ing the nearby sanc­tu­ary and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the ever-chang­ing scenery, from moun­tain­ous Aus­tralian for­est to rolling dales rem­i­nis­cent of Eng­land, the an­swer was even more em­phatic.

More­over, for tourists ar­riv­ing with their cars at Devon­port, all this is within a short drive. But that leaves one of Tas­ma­nia’s pre­mium pinot noir pro­duc­ers out of the equa­tion, when for wine tourists it should be the cen­tre­piece.

Con­sider this: its 2003 pinot noir won gold medals at the Tas­ma­nian Wine Show and Ho­bart Wine Show in 2005, adding the tro­phy for best Tas­ma­nian red wine at Ho­bart. Its 2004 Mill Block Pinot Noir won the tro­phy for best three-year-old pinot at the 2007 Tas­ma­nian Wine Show. The 2005 Mill Block Pinot also won gold at the 2007 Tas­ma­nian Wine Show and the tro­phy for best pinot noir at the Winewise Com­pe­ti­tion in 2007. Its 2005 For­est Raven won the tro­phy for best pinot noir at the 2006 Cowra Wine Show, the 2006 Mill Block win­ning the tro­phy for best pinot at the Aus­tralian Bou­tique Wine Awards 2007.

I stand to be cor­rected but I can­not re­call any other pinot noir pro­duc­ers with such an ex­cep­tional five-year wine show track record. Re­mark­able, you might think, but all the more re­mark­able given that it had a moreor-less ac­ci­den­tal be­gin­ning.

Judy and Ian Robin­son owned and op­er­ated a rel­a­tively small sawmill on their prop­erty at Lower Bar­ring­ton, barely a 15-minute drive due south of Devon­port. In 1993 they de­cided to plant 500 vines with the idea of do­ing some home wine­mak­ing, tend­ing the vines them­selves. By chance, they had an ideal north to north­east-fac­ing slope and the vines thrived.

One vine led to an­other as they em­barked on a sixyear plan, plant­ing an ad­di­tional hectare for each of the fol­low­ing four years. Over the next two years they built a cel­lar and tast­ing room-cum-restau­rant, us­ing a range of Tas­ma­nian tim­ber cut and milled on site by Ian, who was also the builder.

Ta­mar Ridge made the wines with its usual skill but it is with­out doubt what Brian Croser would call a dis­tin­guished site that has taken the pinot noirs to an­other level. The Robin­sons also planted small quan­ti­ties of pinot gris, chardon­nay, schon­burger (a white Ger­man variety more com­mon in Tas­ma­nia than the main­land, but still in mi­cro-quan­ti­ties, where it de­serves to stay) and pinot me­u­nier.

Thus the cel­lar door is able to of­fer IJ Sparkling (with a base wine of the three clas­sic sparkling va­ri­eties), pinot gris, Flag­ship Chardon­nay, schon­burger, rose (pinot me­u­nier), Me­u­nier (a ta­ble-wine blend of pinot me­u­nier with a dash of pinot noir) and, de­pend­ing on the year, Mill Block and-or For­est Raven pinot noirs.

For­est Raven is a new ar­rival, based on one of the newer bur­gundy clones. Al­ready mak­ing a wine with abun­dant plum and cherry flavour, sup­ple mouth­feel and ex­cel­lent tan­nins, one can only won­der how good the wine will be once the vines are 10 years or so older.

There is still 2ha to 3ha of per­fect slope that can be planted. If our ex­hor­ta­tions to plant it (with a sub­text of the new­est pinot clones 667 and 777) are heeded, there will be more Bar­ring­wood Park pinot noir to come, and more gold medals and tro­phies.

www.winecom­pan­ion.com.au

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