Ravenswood Lane: Birth of the Cool

The Adelaide Hills as an area is every bit as wealthy (maybe wealthier) than the Hunter Valley, but the hills are less manicured. I’d say this is Hampshire to the Hunter Valley’s Surrey. But in terms of über-trendy, I have come to the right place. The Lane restaurant, near Hahndorf, sits on an imposing crest of the hill with spectacular views of Mount Lofty. Everyone who knew that I was coming to Adelaide said: “You have got to have lunch at the Lane.”

They were right – but more of that later. I am here to meet with Marty Edwards, son of the founder John Edwards, and his winemaker Michael Schreurs. Because not only is this an amazing restaurant, it is also a brilliant winery, making a couple of exceptional brands: The Lane and our little number, Ravenswood Lane. In a few short years (the property was bought in 1992, but they have concentrated on their own brands only since 2005) they have become the number one Adelaide Hills brand in South Australia and the number one Adelaide Hills on premise brand in the whole of Australia.

In the reception area of the beautifully cool restaurant, I taste through a whole raft of wines with Marty and Michael (though I have to duck and dive as the restaurant, inevitably, is fully booked for lunch – on a Monday. Impressive!)

Block 10 Sauvignon Blanc 2016
100% stainless steel fermented, 10% of Semillon added.
Ultimate cool climate fruit. Classic nose, old style sauvignon blanc. The semillon is very evident and provides the acid backbone and complexity and the sauvignon blanc provides the fruit.

Gathering Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014 (72/28 blend)
70% of each varietal barrel fermented
Marty says: “This is Sauvignon Blanc for grown-ups” He is right: this is grassy, wild, a bit funky, with a deal of structure. This is the wine which defines The Lane.

Block 1A Chardonnay 2016
Barrel fermented, 85% stainless steel fermented, 15% fermented in various age French barrels.
Absolutely gorgeous fruit, serious lemon nose, a touch of quince. Supremely balanced.

Beginning Chardonnay 2015
500 cases made. Hand-picked, whole bunch barrel pressed, 100% in French oak, 30% of which is new.
Delicate, hint of biscuit, great viscosity. “Tension is the key,” according to Marty. “This is a rubber band wine.”

As we move through the line-up, what strikes me is that these are really linear wines.

Reginald Germein RG Chardonnay 2013
100 cases for the year. These barrels are specially coopered for them, by a French cooper, following a visit that John Edwards made to France and saw the kind of barrels the top French vignerons were using.
This has got a delicate lanolin and citrus nose, a hint of biscuit. Serious, very serious.

Block 5 Shiraz 2015
1500 dozen made
Gorgeous mouthfeel, absolutely pristine, rich dark plums. I immediately think of Guigal.

Then Michael pours the one which wins all the awards…

Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz 2013
This comes from the highest block they own.
Basket pressed.
You immediately feel more concentration, richness Christmassy kind of feel. A tough dusty on the finish, probably due to newness. Marty explains: “This shiraz is all north facing, we undertake lots of green harvesting, we’re looking for extreme concentration.

Reunion Shiraz 2013
500 cases made
“This is double-breasted suit drinking” says Marty. I laugh and get an impression of star anise. Marty goes on: “I call this grandma’s handbag wine, because it reminds me of when I was a kid and I would put my nose in her handbag and get all kinds of leathery and perfumy smells.”

So within a short time, Marty has described for me a sauvignon blanc for grown-ups, a rubber band wine and grandma’s handbag wine. He should be on stage, this bloke!

We move on to the 19th Meeting Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
This is made from the Cabernet in front of the restaurant.
“You need to be comfortable with Cabernet,” Marty explains. Shiraz is the big noise round here, but Cabernet is the sleeper.” He explains that the harvest this year will be very late, as we taste the wine. It is a touch minty, bay leaves, herbaceous – but not green (it’s a fine line.)

Smacking my lips, we move on to The JC Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
An 80/20 blend
This has long maceration, which is evident in the heady and unctuous mouthfeel, but there is an elegance at work, too.

The tasting finished, Michael shows me round a pristine winery. “We’re doing odd jobs, waiting for the grapes,” he says. He tells me that they will be producing their first Pinot Noir this year, having searched for a suitably cool plot (you don’t realise how large an area the Adelaide Hills cover until you come here.)

Michael explains that everything is harvested into half-tonne baskets. He doesn’t crush anything to avoid getting phenolics from the skin (how many times have I heard this on my trip around Australia.) All the whites are tank pressed, all the reds are basket pressed and they use whole bunch pressing. The winery is extremely efficient – most of the work is done by just three people. Then Michael shows me his pride and joy: two fermenters, one, a Rieger, one-tonne, squat and four-square, and one elegant and with dainty legs, a Lejeune, a five tonner. One comes from Germany and one comes from France. “You can guess which is which,” he says.

From tank we taste a 2016 Pinot Gris, which tastes as if it has some residual sugar, but Michael tells me that is not the case, but that they will add a touch of acid before bottling. A 2016 Sauvignon Blanc has delicious, rich, open fruit, and is soft and just a touch sweet. Michael explains: “Sauvignon Blanc is a grape that will go with anything you like.” A 2016 Shiraz has a nutty nose, while a Cabernet has a faint aroma of bacon fat, which may be because of new barrels.

With me licking my lips and aching to get stuck in, we repair to the restaurant, where I decide I would like to eat everything, but eventually plump for lamb’s brains and red snapper. Both are utterly delicious. During our meal Katie MacAulay comes over to say hello. She used to work for Steve Daniel at Oddbins ages ago and asks how he is. Life must be good here, I say, and she nods and smiles widely.

Driving back, I am struck by this region. The Hills have positioned themselves as the Beautiful Place, the Beverly Hills of South Australia – and there is a definite buzz. As there is with the whole of Adelaide, I think. The last time I was here it was still a beautiful old-fashioned rather sleepy town with lots of impressive Victorian buildings and with a sedate pace about it – famously, the city of churches. But like the Adelaide Hills, the city is now a testament to fashion, trends and forward thinking. Full of beautiful people, just like the Hills.

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