Top of the mornin’ to ya, mate! (Is that the right accent?)

Today, in celebration of World’s Ocean Day, we are taking an adventure to Clare Valley in South Australia – one of the oldest winemaking regions of Australia. Back in 1969, the Taylor family purchased 178 hectares in this region and planted their first Cabernet Sauvignon vines. They originally chose this region for their red brown loam over limestone soils, or terra rossa, and the cool climate. Upon excavations of the site, they found seahorse fossils, which they took as an omen that the soil was fertile. They decided to use the seahorse as their logo and the name “Promised Land” for one of their product lines. Last year, they also launched a partnership with Project Seahorse, an initiative to conserve the seahorse population and protect our oceans.

Hope you guys enjoy my interview!

-Grayce

Wakefield Wines - Project Seahorse necker

Grayce: Clare Valley is one of the oldest winemaking regions in Australia. It is located in South Australia near Adelaide (and Kangaroo Island!!!). For those of us who have never been to Clare Valley, can you please tell us a little bit about the climate, topography and bodies of water?  
Justin: Our home is in the picturesque Clare Valley – a beautiful region with a big reputation. The Clare Valley’s winemaking history spans more than 150 years, making it one of Australia’s oldest wine-producing regions.
It’s approximately a 90min drive north of Adelaide, South Australia.
 
Wakefield’s Clare Valley vineyard is situated in the sub-region of Auburn and stretches to the Watervale border. At 350 metres above sea level, the Mediterranean climate and cool maritime breezes from the Gulf of St Vincent create an idyllic environment for producing fruit of great elegance. It’s the unique combination of geography, geology and climate results in terroir that is perfect for producing world-class wine. There are 11 recognised soil types, ranging from red topsoil over limestone (also known as terra rossa) to broken slate and blue stone. This diversity results in a variety of wine styles. Clare Valley has summers are warm to hot and the winters are cool to downright cold, which is also when most rain falls. Chilly nights and afternoon breezes from the gulf mean that even though it’s a warm climate, plummeting nighttime temperatures keep things cool for the grapes, which is important for fine wine flavour and tannin development. We call this a diurnal temperature shift. 
 
Grayce: Since you grew up there, can you tell us one of your favourite vineyard memories? 
Justin: The family actually started out as publicans in Sydney in the ’50s & ’60s where the majority of people are still based. In the late ’60s they decided to sell the pubs and get into wine. We’ve had many, many fun times at the winery over the years, one moment I do remember was walking the vineyards with my father at sunset and I paid him the complement of saying you must be pretty proud of all this and what you have achieved, his reply was along the lines of it’s been and a lot of hard work and there is more to do. I liked that reply he is a very grounded man and think that has been passed onto his three sons working in the business, just a really nice life lesson moment with your father. Given I was born with the ‘gift of the gab’ as some might say, the winery and the vineyard are in the very safe hands of my younger brother, Clinton Taylor.
 
Grayce: Which varietals are grown on the Taylor family vineyard? Can you tell us about the history of these vines? 
Justin: In 1969 we started with a vision to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in the Clare Valley, which later became the single biggest planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Southern Hemisphere at the time. I think this fact helps define us, as it demonstrated the family’s commitment to producing premium wine from the outset. The original plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon vines were gifted to us by the famous Wynn family of Coonawarra. This soon extended to include Shiraz plantings as well. Then in 1973, we grafted a number of vineyards over to white varieties, including Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer, as well as later introducing Merlot, Tempranillo, and Carménère.
 
We’re the largest producer in the Clare Valley region, with plantings on the property spanning 430 hectares. While utilising the entirety of the quality fruit planted on the Estate, we source additional fruit from long-term partner growers across Australia, including the Yarra Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Tasmania and Margaret River.
 
Grayce: In tasting the Wakefield Wines Chardonnay, it is clearly not as “oaky” as traditional Chardonnays. Can you tell us about the approach taken in creating this wine? What type of oak is used and how long is it finished for? 
Justin: Our Chardonnay has really evolved over the last 52 years, we have a beautiful fruit-forward, French oak integrated house style, and lots of stirring on lees work is completed giving the wine wonderful complexity. After 6 – 8 months of maturation in French oak, the wine is blended and bottled. It’s very much a food-friendly, ‘drink me now’ style to Chardonnay that.
 
Grayce: I’ve got to say, not to be a tease to my readers, but the Wakefield Riesling was very good. It was nice and dry, not overly sweet, but very balanced. When is that coming to Canada?
Justin: I love the Riesling, lime lemons, vibrant acidy, a glass of our Riesling with half a dozen oysters natural with a squeeze of lemon is one of life’s great treats. Canadians over in the West provinces can enjoy the Estate Riesling, so Eastern Canadians get out to your local bottle stores and tell them to get on board!
 
Grayce: Your logo is of 3 seahorses. Why seahorses? 
Justin: The day we dug our first vineyard dam, we found tiny, fossilised seahorses. We like to think that it was a discovery that showed the promise of the land and its fertile soils as well as the history of the ancient sea that once occupied the land. Today, these seahorses are proudly featured on all our wines. Some say the three seahorses represent the three generations, but I suppose we’re not far off from the fourth generation coming online so we might need to add another seahorse!
 
Grayce: Finally, where in Canada can we find Wakefield Wines and what is the price point?
Justin: We have a selection of wines available all over Canada from our easy-drinking Promised Land Range to our premium St Andrews wines (save those for the special occasions).
Our Estate Range retails in LCBO. You can pick up a bottle of Estate Shiraz for $19.95. The Estate Chardonnay and Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon are currently released in Vintages and they retail at $16.95 and $24.95 respectively.

Love my spirits interviews?

Check out my interview with Writer’s Tears Managing Director, Bernard Walsh!

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