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Torbreck Newsletter

Vintage 2012

Greetings from Roennfeldt Road

To say that I am happy now compared to this time last year is an understatement! I'm actually as happy as the proverbial 'Pig in Shit'. We had somewhat of a scare when we received two inches of rain last month; however it proved to be a blessing and will no doubt contribute to us having a great vintage. The overall yield is down by roughly 20%, but I will take quality over quantity any day.

As a result of the high amount of rain that fell during the growing season last year we had quite excessive wood growth and canopies in our vineyards. This meant a higher than normal amount of shading in the vines and, as a result, the fruiting buds for the following year were not as exposed as they may have been causing them to carry less fruit for the next vintage. Following this the large canopies grown this year from all the subsoil moisture, coupled with the lower than normal fruit load as a result of the shading effect from last season created a situation where sugar levels climbed quicker than the physiological ripeness levels in the fruit. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you have a higher than normal ratio of leaf cover compared to fruit load you will have a situation where the vines will ripen their grapes quicker than normal. I was worried that this would result in wines with sugars (and resultant alcohol) that would be out of balance with the fruit characters and amount of ripe tannins.

This is where the 52mm of rain we received a few weeks ago came into the equation. The sugar levels in the grapes dropped considerably following the rain and the last two weeks of perfect ripening weather have given the balance I need in the grapes between sugar and tannin ripeness to produce the quality of wines for which the Barossa is famous. When you have an extremely difficult vintage like 2011 and you declassify most of your wines because they are nowhere near good enough, you pray to any god who wants to listen that the next year will not be the same. It appears that someone was listening! 

Just as I finished writing this last paragraph Craig Isbel, my Senior Winemaker, called me down to the barrel hall to check out a wine he was about to pull out of wood to add to the 2011 Woodcutter's Shiraz blend. If I had not known the wine came from our stock, I would not have believed it was produced in the Barossa. It has a lifted, spicy aromatic quality I've never seen from this particular vineyard, and offers lovely fine tannins that you would usually attribute to a much cooler, high altitude region. If you have not already guessed, I am referring to the wine made off our Descendant vineyard. Craig was delighted when I conferred with his decision that we should hold the wine in oak for a few additional months and bottle it as usual.
         Descendant Vineyard

With a back flip like that I could consider going into Politics. Not a snowballs chance in Hell! Well, never say never, but I can't imagine any of the other 2011 high end wines will surprise me in the same way. Of course, if any of our wines could handle the last vintage stylistically one would suppose it to be The Descendant. You will have to wait for another year or so to see if I believe it makes the cut and even if it does, we only have enough for 240 cases, a third of the usual production.

For all of you who have visited Cellar Door over the last eight years, I'm sad to announce that Scott Trezise will be moving on. Scott's wife Donna has taken a promotion in her job which will see her based in WA and being a supportive husband, he is heading to the West with her. In saying this, I could not let Scott leave the fold as he is not only a very close friend but too good a disciple of Torbreck to lose. Scott will be representing us in the trade in Perth, as the WA Sales Manager, taking over from the amazing work Liquid Library has done for us for almost ten years.

In fact one of the hardest things I have done over the years was to fly to Perth to explain to Shaun Maher why I was taking Torbreck away from his portfolio. He and his team have represented us in WA admirably and in many ways my decision was quite unfair to them. However the best way I could describe my decision for the change was that as Scott is part of the immediate family at Torbreck and quite simply 'blood is thicker than water'. To his credit, Shaun was very understanding and I assured him that I would make it quite clear that this move in no way is a reflection of their business. In fact Scott has a big job in front of him to make sure our customers in WA receive the same high level of service that they have become accustomed to with Shaun and his team.

torbreck3a.jpg Of course every cloud has a silver lining, and before he leaves us Scott has already found a very able replacement for the job in Michael Sawyer. Michael came to the wine industry after a career change (having been very successful in the IT industry) and fit into the Torbreck family from the get go. During his first weekend in Cellar Door he immediately gained approval of my big sister Anna who decided on first meeting that she would give him a big hug. Who am I to go against the female intuition of my sister?

Sally Pellew has also joined us to support Michael in Cellar Door and has immediately slotted right into the Torbreck way of doing things. Sally, whose husband Matt Pellew, is a winemaker for Grant Burge, has worked in many wine companies and has a great knowledge of the industry, allowing her to fit into the team easily. South Australia can be such a small place. Over a cup of tea last weekend Sally and I discovered we both went to the same Kindergarten and Primary school, and then she attended the same Secondary school as Anna - very Adelaide!
         Out with the old, in with the new: Scott Trezise,
         Michael Sawyer and Sally Pellew
torbreck4a.jpg As you all know, Torbreck is a family organisation, and it is with a great deal of pleasure that we welcome Emma Barnett, our former Lab Manager, back to the fold. With son Henry now under control and being looked after by Nana, Emma is at the Cellar Door a few days a week. Fantastic for anyone wanting to know the Ph or the TA of the wine.

Speaking of things South Australian, my eldest, Callum, and his crewmates from the Prince Alfred College 1st eight were over in Perth last week for the National Rowing Regatta and won the under 19 Australian Championship race. I snuck off from vintage for a few days and headed over with him. As you can imagine, I'm a very proud father. After school this year Callum will be off to France for his education in wine, and he was very happy to learn that where he will be living, Tain-l'Hermitage, has a rowing club that will lend him a scull to paddle on the Rhone. Don't you feel sorry for him!
         Callum (fifth from left) with his crew,
         pleased as punch after winning the Under 19
         Australian Championship

After a couple of years of being dog-less, I've managed to inherit a black and tan Kelpie bitch, Grace, from my ex-wife and fellow Torbreck founder Christine. Chris was a vet nurse in Tanunda before heading to Adelaide (so our boys can have their last year or two of school at home rather than in the boarding house). She took in Grace as a stray. In fact she was not quite a stray - someone (arsehole) living in a rental property had just packed up and left, leaving the dog with no food or water for five days. When the agent took Grace to the vet, Chris decided she did not belong in the pound (which would have been a one way trip) and took her in. Once the decision to move to town was taken, it was obvious that Grace would go crazy in a suburban backyard so I adopted her. In a few short months she has already wormed her way into the affections of all on Roennfeldt Road. We just managed to make the cut off for her to appear in Craig Magill's 2012 version of his wonderful Wine Dogs book, so if you can't come to CD to meet Grace in person, buy the book. She must know I'm writing about her as she has just wandered in from the winery where she religiously tastes all the batches of grapes for us to give her stamp of approval of their quality, to lay at my feet. Grace and I
     Our newest addition,
     Grace and I

As per usual we have our crop of budding young winemakers in residence at the old Renshaw house and they are a great bunch. The youngest of them is our Viking from Denmark, Valdemar, whose parents are very well known restaurateurs in Copenhagen and long term friends of mine. We also have Noemie from my favourite Mouverdre producer, the Bandol winery Domaine de la Tour du Bon.

When I write these newsletters I sometimes forget I'm supposed to be selling you all some wine. So enough of my meanderings and down to the point. After no new release of RunRig from the difficult Shiraz vintage of 2008 (well for us anyway) I'm delighted to announce the 2009 is now for sale. You all know how much I enjoyed the 09 harvest and the RunRig from this year will help you understand why. As I mentioned before you can never say never and I've always maintained that we will only add a touch of Viognier to the Shiraz blend if it improves the wine. In saying this, after 17 years of making the wine and 12 releases I did not think the vintage would come where I did not feel the addition of a little Viognier would not make a significant difference. Then there was 2009, where we have a wine that exhibits so much pure fruit and elegance that any addition of white just seemed superfluous. The 2009 wine shows so much lifted aromatics that the inclusion of an aromatic white made no noticeable difference. I challenge anyone who thinks they could tell the difference if they were not aware of the lack of Viognier. I have no misgivings going on record saying that this will be one of the greatest wines we ever make!

Seeing that we will not release a 2007 Laird we have been eking out the 2006, however now that The Wine Advocate have come out and given it the highest score of any wine released from Australia this year, our export customers are crying out for any stock we have left. So if anyone wants a few bottles, be quick as I do have bills to pay.

The other exciting new release for us is the 2009 Steading. Once again many of you will know this is my favourite wine we make - I drank a '04 for dinner last night. The 2009 vintage was not just great for Shiraz, it was perfect for Grenache also and this new release has everything I look for in a Grenache based wine: spicy fruit, lifted notes of lavender and fresh herbs, sweet fruit on the palate and wonderful rich ripe tannins that make it enjoyable drinking now and ever better for laying in the cellar for a decade. Whilst talking about Grenache, we still have a few bottles (including large formats) of the 2009 single vineyard Les Amis left for mail order customers that Ms Perrotti-Brown in her infinite wisdom has just given a very high score.
     Valdemar, the
     Danish Viking

     Noemie from Domaine
     dela Tour de Bon

In 2008 we were beaten to the punch with the hot spell that came in the middle of vintage. We picked half of our vineyards before the heat hit and were delighted with the resultant wines, just not enough to make all our cuvees. So the 2008 Factor has the wines made from half of the normal RunRig sites, and the other half coming from the normal Factor vineyards which we picked before the heat. The resultant wine is pure Western Barossa - lots of dark berry components, dark chocolate and deep rich tannins. I've always said that The Factor is the most Barossan wine we make and this one is no exception. One for the lovers of big Shiraz's!

Last of our new releases is the 2011 Woodcutter's Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne. This wine is the second vintage of Woodcutters RVM, and it is full of the lifted aromatics which we could not expect to get from other better known aromatic white varieties in the warmer climate here in the Valley. If, like me, you are looking for something different from the usual whites predominantly coming from our Kiwi cousins, then look no further. These three varieties come together beautifully in this blend and are a great a complement to any seafood dishes, particularly crustaceans. Let me know if you agree.

Anyway, time to wander back down to the winery to see if the children are behaving themselves.

All the best,

David Powell

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          Monday to Sunday 10am to 6pm.
          Lot 51 Roennfeldt Road
          South Australia, Marananga 5355

Phone: 08 8562 4155  Fax: 08 8562 4195
PO Box 583 Tanunda 5352
Email: cellardoor@torbreck.com

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