Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 1
My visit to the Barossa Valley wine region could not have been more enlightening and enjoyable. A big thank you to good friend Daryl Groom for providing personal introductions to winemakers and vintners he worked with for years back in his homeland. It is no surprise Daryl, his wife Lisa, and their children still carry strong ties and a deep fondness for this beautiful countryside, and Daryl continues to produce stunning Barossa Valley Shiraz and Sauv Blanc from Adelaide Hills.
On a sparkling day under sunny skies, we meandered through rolling hills and arrived at Whistler winery. A family operation, the Pfeiffers have been grape growers for four generations. It all began with Albert Heinrich Pfeiffer whose passion was carried on by his son Hubert Irving Pfeiffer, his grandsons Martin and Chris Pfeiffer, and now his great grandchildren. Whistler winery began when Martin and his wife Sally purchased “The Block” in 1982. (Martin had previously managed vineyards for Penfolds). Martin took care of the vineyards, and Chris handled the administration side of the business. Now, the next generation is carrying on the tradition, including Matt in finance and distribution, Mel managing the Cellar Door, events and marketing, and Josh tending to winemaking and viticulture.
They have 35 acres planted to vines, including Semillon, Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and Mourvedre (Mataro). Their picturesque property is where you’ll find their charming cellar door (tasting room), surrounded by their winemaking facility, shade trees and picnic tables where family and friends spend relaxing, fun filled days with great sips and tasty bites. Their charming pups BJ and Cooper, and their pet kangaroos are a stone’s throw away as well. They generously provide shelter for rescued kangaroos. The serene, spacious grounds are groomed and ready to welcome guests each week. About 70% of their wines are sold on the premises out of their Cellar Door. Josh, winemaker and viticulturist, is in the process of taking the vineyard fully organic and biodynamic. As we headed into the tasting room, Martin enlightened us about the 2015 harvest. After quite a dry season, they completed an extremely early harvest this year (all the fruit was picked by March 5). Their wines are precise and pure, showcasing the Barossa Valley terroir beautifully. Among my favorites include:
Whistler 2014 Riesling; Barossa Valley, Australia: Inviting mineral notes rise from the glass with this snappy, expressive Riesling. Lean, palate pleasing and nicely dry, it boasts juicy peaches and nectarines, hints of lime zest and lovely acidity while maintaining focused minerality from start to satisfying aftertaste. SRP: $25
Whistler 2013 Reserve Semillon; Barossa Valley, Australia: Flinty stone notes shine with Whistler’s Reserve Semillon. Layers of fresh picked apples and pears, hints of spice and a creamy texture entwine with vibrant acids make a memorable statement on the palate. Dry and streamlined on the finish, it is complex and well structured. SRP: $23
Whistler 2014 Mathilda Louise Rose; Barossa Valley, Australia: Named after Martin’s and Chris’s great grandmother, this spunky Rose, a blend of Grenache and Mataro, displays abundant scents of red berries and cherries on the nose. Spirited with bracing acidity, you’ll find delicious flavors of sweet summer strawberries, raspberry sorbet, and a splash of lemonade enlivening the palate. A trace of herbs kicks in on the bright finish. SRP: $20
Whistler 2014 Get in My Belly Grenache; Barossa Valley, Australia: Here’s a rewarding quaff that opens with aromas of black licorice sticks, wild berries and a warm raspberry tart captivating the nose and mouth. Spicy and deeply fruited with a fine balance and confident air about it. (Sold out)
Whistler 2012 GSM; Barossa Valley, Australia: A delightful blend of 52% Grenache, 26% Shiraz and 22% Mataro, this wine impresses with its smooth texture and rich, dense fruit displayed from the very first sip. Succulent purple plums take the lead and join cured meats, blackberries, allspice and earthy nuances that meld in harmony as the wine richly coats the mouth. Tannins hold firm through the lingering finish. SRP: $30
Whistler 2012 Hubert Irving; Barossa Valley; Australia: Named in honor of Martin’s and Chris’s father, this blend of 41% Merlot, 37% Grenache, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Mataro is a wine to please any red wine aficionado, and easy on the pocket book, too. Brimming with blueberries, boysenberries and Bing cherries, it is juicy and approachable now, a perfect sipper for a meal around the barbeque grill. SRP: $20
Whistler 2012 Merlot; Barossa Valley, Australia: Strikingly hued with an aroma that will charm the socks off any red wine lover, here is a polished, smooth as silk Merlot. Lush and buoyant with blackberries and blueberries joining graphite, a touch of earthiness and a generous sprinkling of spice. Well integrated oak and supple tannins top off the superb package. SRP: $27
Whistler 2012 Reserve Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia: The glistening entrance, jam-packed with heady fruit and freshly ground black peppercorns, is mesmerizing. Intense in structure, you’ll revel in delicious layers of anise, cocoa-dusted berries, spiced oak and tinges of roasted meats saturating the palate. This ageworthy Shiraz is complex and thoroughly balanced with the unwavering flavors lingering far beyond the final drop. SRP: $70
Whistler Wines 2012 Estate Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia: Full bodied and intensely structured, you’ll find power in the glass without an over the top sense of alcohol. The plummy, dark berry, spicy entry expands in the mouth with pretty toffee accents and vanilla notes from aging in second year seasoned American oak. This well-crafted wine is approachable now and also promises years of further enjoyment ahead. SRP: $40
Whistler Wines 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Barossa Valley, Australia: Fresh cut herbs and underbrush on the nose meld with black fruits, licorice drops and savory spice. Hints of fresh earth and well integrated oak play a nice supporting role in the background. Ethereal as it floats across the palate, this savvy Cab finishes bright and lifted on the memorable finish. SRP: $30
Put the Barossa Valley on your bucket list and don’t miss the chance to hop on over to Whistler. Pack a picnic, sip their delicious wines, and meet this engaging family. Chris and his wife Jayne also own and operate their charming Whistler Farms B&B, you’ll want to check that out too. Visit Whistler’s website at www.whistlerwines.com.au