95 Points - James Halliday
Ashton Hill winemaker Stephen George in one of Australia's most skilful and versatile winemakers. Making powerful reds at Wendouree, he also produces some beautifully elegant wines at Ashton Hills. While Ashton Hills is best known for its Pinot Noir, they also make some stunning Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.
This 2019 Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay is a limited release chardonnay from two selected Piccadilly Valley sites. Ferment was sparked by indigenous yeasts and the wine aged in Burgundian oak (predominantly puncheons) both old and new for eight months.
Yellow peach and stone fruits are carried across the palate by a mouth-watering acid drive. A hint of lemon pith phenolics provide the wine with lovely texture.
"95 Points. It's downright unreasonable that Ashton Hills, with its over-large tennis court vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley, should be able to make stunning Pinot Noirs (Reserve, Estate and varietal, contract-grown), Chardonnay and a Riesling to die for. The Chardonnay is matured for 9 months in new and used French oak. 12.5% alc. Drink By: 2032 Screwcap"- James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2021.
Stephen’s pioneering work at Ashton Hills was one of the catalysts for the development of the Adelaide Hills as a wine region. In the early 1980s, the Adelaide Hills wine scene was very much in its infancy, with Brian Croser leading the charge but very little other vineyard development underway. Along with Croser, Stephen was one of the key players to put Adelaide Hills on the map with his resolve to produce the best pinot noir in the country from his site in the Piccadilly Valley. Buying the land from a market gardener, Stephen recognised its immense potential, often telling friends that “where apples and cherries grow, it’s a good pointer for producing classic European style wines”.
And so the journey began. Planting his vineyard at an altitude of 570 metres and with a south facing aspect that looks towards Mt Lofty, Stephen was drawn to the fact that the site was one of the coolest areas in South Australia. Determined that this was prime real estate for his winemaking vision, Stephen started with cuttings of pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling and soon established himself as a leader in clone development for the emerging region.
For over 30 years Stephen experimented with up to 25 pinot noir clones, ultimately settling on five key clones that now make the acclaimed Reserve and Estate Pinot Noirs from Ashton Hills, plus a range of awarded sparkling wines. Eight carefully cultivated rows of riesling also remain in the Ashton Hills vineyard, producing a highly exclusive and limited Ashton Hills riesling each year.
Stephen has now taken a step back into semi-retirement to spend more time travelling to his beloved Burgundy, and has transferred his stake in Ashton Hills to Wirra Wirra Vineyards, with its pedigree in cool climate Adelaide Hills whites and quality McLaren Vale reds. Nonetheless, he continues to reside at his home at the winery and works closely at vintage with the Wirra Wirra winemaking team to continue the tradition of producing benchmark wines from the Ashton Hills site.
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