The Hume Highway runs straight and true and long and passes such evocative places that you want to pull off every few miles to take a look; the Great Dividing Range, Rutherglen, Glenrowan (“Ned Kelly’s Last Stand!”), Milawa…
Yesterday, on my way down from Murrumbateman to Melbourne I pulled off at the exit for the Strathbogie Ranges and found myself cautiously winding my way up a dirt road, before I came upon Callie Jemmeson and Nina Stocker, whose brands Pacha Mama and White Stripes are made here. We had a brief tasting at an outside picnic table, accompanied by prosciutto, cheese, wonderful bread and fruit. I looked around at the alpine-type scenery – we seemed to be miles from anywhere! – and at the two beautiful winemakers who were making me feel so at home and whose wines tasted so good, and I thought: this must be a candidate for my nicest wine tasting ever!
The winery which they lease stands pristine and empty, the tanks just cleaned and waiting for the grapes. “Any day now,” says Nina.
They source from a wide range of Victorian vineyards. Callie told me that during one trip earlier this year she covered 800 kilometres visiting their growers, which makes me moaning about my trip look pretty pathetic. Their partner is Callie’s father, Dave Jemmeson, who helped launched Friarwood and Mitchelton. Serious pedigree here, then.
A Pacha Mama Riesling from the 2016 vintage is so ripe that I ask about residual sugar but Nina says there is hardly any. It is a serious wine, beautifully open in the glass and full of just-crushed citrus fruit.
A White Stripes Pinot Grigio 2016, sourced from the King Valley, shows lovely ripe appley fruit. Another wine – The Dagger – uses the same source but with different yeasts – and has an underworld funkiness to it.
The best wine is a Pacha Mama Yarra Valley (Upper Yarra and Coldstream) Chardonnay 2015 which has a lovely soft lime-and-butter nose, quite elegant.
The 2015 Pinot Noir from the same region, using six different clones, has a vibrant cherry Tunes nose, is medium-bodied and ready for early drinking. Very moreish.
The Pacha Mama 2015 Shiraz from Heathcote has open, vibrant fruit with just a touch of (attractive) rusticity. There’s complexity at work here, but also very attractive gluggable fruit which a brilliant combination. Would go great with food.
Finally, the White Stripes Synergy from the 2015 vintage is probably the most interesting wine, as it is one of the few Sangioveses I will taste on my trip. It is still youthful, generous, with gregarious fruit and a purple texture, and dark cherry flavours in the mouth. Softly scented, curious and diverting, this is an attractive and interesting wine.
Unfortunately I have to dash as I am late and I feel a bit guilty at letting Nina and Callie haul all the picnic gear back indoors. They do not seem to mind at all. There is a fierceness of determination at work here and I think they are at the beginning of a journey that will take them far. I will keep in touch regarding importing their wines.