I’ve already told you about Mac Forbes, now on to the other Yarra Men in my life. Including Mac, there is a group of winemakers and friends in the Yarra that all have the same philosophy when it comes to farming and winemaking - let the grapes do their thing, ferment naturally, keep alcohol percentage moderate and don’t chuck it in a bunch of new oak. Because their operations are relatively small (and for some tiny), almost all of them work on side consulting projects or are winemakers at other larger wineries to pay the bills. It’s like when I was making weird but wonderful theater in New York and had to work in a real estate office during the day. Just like that…
First up is the one and only Timo Mayer. What a guy. He has tons of energy, a huge smile, and a wicked little sense of humor. His home and winery is right across from Mac Forbes, perched atop what he calls his “Bloody Hill.” Bloody mainly because it’s a bloody pain in the ass to farm. He’s obsessed with Beaujolais and funky French wines and loves “stalky shit”- whole bunch fermentation with stems. Because of that, his pinot noir is textural and very aromatic with a savory edge. So different from Mac’s pinot and that is what I love about wine. Perspective, personality, and inspiration + technique, microclimates, and grape variety = a magical wine snowflake.
My next stop was to see the charming and kind Luke Lambert. He had just moved his operation to a small winery closer to Yarra Glen and was still settling in to the place. He finds inspiration in Italian wines, Barolo especially, so it’s no surprise he works with a little bit of nebbiolo from a beautiful hilltop vineyard. His syrah and chardonnay are delicious - elegant with a kind of quiet confidence and nuance. And I really loved his champagne method chardonnay sparkler. Trying to compliment Luke is difficult because he is so very humble and modest, but his wines are really great.
The following day, I headed to Yering Station to meet with Gary Mills of Jamsheed. He occupies a small corner of the huge winery and his office (a couch and coffee table with some filing boxes and such) is tucked back near a load-in area. It’s a simple setup but it’s all he needs. Gary got his start in wine in Margaret River and eventually came to the States to work and learn under Paul Draper of California’s Ridge Vineyards, before ending up in the Yarra. Gary hunts down the best vineyards sites, like Garden Gully and its 120 year old vines, no matter how far they are from home base. He probably drives more than most truck drivers (both him and Luke actually live in Melbourne.) Jamsheed is all about single vineyard syrah, powerful and bold but never over the top, each one different from the next. I would love to get some bottles and sit on them for a bit – they would age beautifully.
My last stop was to see Tom and Sally Belford of Bobar. They welcomed me in to their home and I was able to taste through the last five vintages of syrah, back to their first one. I also got to meet their four adorably bright kids who were just getting home from school. Tom and Sally make just a teeny tiny bit of syrah and chardonnay. While all the winemakers I had been tasting with follow a “natural” winemaking path, the Bobar wines were the most reminiscent of funky whole cluster glou glou style French wine. That’s probably because they love France and French natural wine (they are planning a return trip in time for harvest this fall.) I really enjoyed their chardonnay, probably my favorite of the bunch. I look forward to seeing what they do in the future and how the wines evolve!