96/100 - Nick Stock
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 Pinot Noir's at Ashton Hills. This 2019 Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir is the flagship in an impressive line-up of Pinot Noir currently made at Ashton Hills.
Offering aromas of black cherry and plum are entwined with lovely savoury, autumnal notes. The darker fruits are accentuated by the subtle use of French oak which results in a powerfully fragrant nose. The concentrated palate features juicy dark fruits, and brooding earthy notes. The charry French oak sits quietly in the background and layers of fine tannin provide a supple and long finish.
"96/100. This has pristine aromas of red flowers, red cherries, pomegranate, orange zest and a thrillingly fresh overall impression that is driven by beautifully ripe pinot fruit. The palate is so succulent and smooth-honed with finely layered tannins delivering succulent, long and juicy impact on the finish. Impressive poise here. This is nicely tuned. Drink or hold. Screw cap.”- Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com.
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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