Westlake Vineyards – the North Rides Again
Passionate enthusiastic winemakers keep my interest in wine reviewing as Australian markets continue to be homogenised by the big players. It’s comforting to know that a product can be consistent from year to year but it becomes an epiphany when the winemaker conjures up a wine that Bacchus would be smitten by.
Darren Westlake and his wife Suzie Kalleaske share the common philosophy of letting the vineyard and the vintage express themselves. The Kalleske name resonates amongst six generations of wine making in the Barossa. Darren is proud of his convict heritage as it personifies the adage of “having a go” in the face of adversity. Darren is a fitter and turner by trade and worked for Grant Burge as a cellar hand and assistant winemaker. He often welded the odd pipe together.
The Westlake vineyards began being planted in 1999, and are the most in Northern vineyards of the Barossa region. The Jaeneshes Block, lightly covered in red clay and quartz soils, is in the Moppa sub region, and the Higgins Block, thicker red clay, is in Koonunga. The clay ensures that the vine only absorbs water slowly and results in more controlled berry ripening with acids, sugars, and flavours being enhanced.
Picking is done with optimal flavor and structure in mind. Whilst the Barossa fruit driven and high alcoholic wines have their place, the most respected wines always have an element of finesse, class and structure. Westlake wines epitomise this and there is truth in Darren’s analogy to creating wines akin to the philosophy of Pinot Noir, “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”
2012 Westlake Elezear Barossa Shiraz- the Eleazar patch is 15 acres of prime producing land in the Jaensches Block. The warm 2012 vintage was responsible for massive Barossa Shiraz. Darren and Suzie consciously picked early, putting faith in the structure of the wine. The colour is inky dark purple. The nose exudes prunes and dates balanced with licorice and herbal notes. Some black olive notes add to this heady mix. The palate is well weighted with fine tannins aided by maturation in American and French oak. A complex yet elegant wine that will be around for kids 21st.
2012 Westlake Albert’s Block Barossa Shiraz- This is fruit from the remainder of the Jaensches block. Deep purple colour with a bouquet of red currants, violets and herbal notes. A slightly leaner wine compared to the Eleazar, but still exuding quality fruit and structure.
2013 Westlake Eleazar Barossa Shiraz- 2013 was a slightly cooler vintage allowing the balance of fruit and acid and tannins to develop harmoniously. Deep purple colour. The nose exudes dates and damson plums. Brambly herbal notes with hints of aniseed and tobacco fill out the bouquet. Elegant balance of a voluptuous palate and fine grained tannins. This could be a gold medal winner.
2013 Westlake Albert’s block Barossa Shiraz- Purple in colour. Slightly restrained aromas of prunes red currants with vanillin oak nuances. A building palate enhanced by tannins and acid that is results in a lip smacking wine. All the better for an hour in the decanter.
Published: 21 Sep 2015