d’Arenberg, Hewitson and Rockford Cellars

by Vic Harradine


d’Arenberg wines and the maroon, diagonal stripe on their wine labels are familiar to most wine lovers. What might not be familiar is the multi-million dollar, five-story, glass structure taking shape at the winery—the d’Arenberg cube. Housing a 50-seat restaurant—opening late 2017—and two South African-born chefs who have worked at Michelin-starred restaurants serving royalty and an international A-list of Who’s Who. They have agreed to handle the kitchen at this amazing facility. The cube will house aspects of wine making and wine tasting with the majority interactive, enjoyable, learning experiences.

Husband and wife team Chef Lindsay Dürr and Chef Brendan Wessels with d'Arenberg Chief Winemaker, Chester Osborn

Chester Osborn, d’Arenberg’s Chief Winemaker, is usually spotted in a wildly designed, colourful sport shirt, sporting a huge smile and is easily met. He’s also an accomplished artist with a flare for colour and design. Meeting him, you might surmise his winemaking style as much about artistic flare as with tightly controlled processes. You’d be wrong. He’s a stickler about things in the vineyard and in the winery, and he’s meticulous with just about everything. To clarify—he believes in minimal, or no, intervention for irrigation, spraying, no soil cultivation, no fertilizers, no fining or filtering wine. He personally tastes grapes from every vineyard pin-pointing optimal harvest for each. He makes hundreds of small lots and keeps them all separate until bottling time, then chooses from dozens to get the best blend for each and every wine. He basket-presses every wine, red and white, even though it’s more expensive and time consuming. He has a marvelous palate and passion for excellence. That’s why the red stripe and d’Arenberg on the label is a guarantee of well-made wine offering good value. 

 You can order the following d'Arenberg wines by the the case for delivery to your home, office or restaurant in Ontario via this link to their Ontario wine agent Churchill Cellars

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
d’Arenberg ‘The Hermit Crab’ Viognier – Marsanne 2016
McLaren Vale $17.95 (662775) 13.3% alcohol
Aromas of honeyed pit fruit and nutty notes introduce a medium-bodied, generously textured, creamy-smooth palate-bathing flow of white nectarine and ripe apricot nicely balanced with tangy lemon curd and Key lime pie adorned with piquant ginger. The finish is lengthy, dry, crisp and refreshing. Pour alongside roast chicken, pork or poached lemon sole. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
d’Arenberg ‘The Money Spider’ Roussanne 2016
McLaren Vale $21.95 (656710) 12.7% alcohol
A quite nose of floral notes with wisps of tropical fruit aromas open this mid-weight Roussanne—only free-run juice used without malolactic conversion. Flavours of melon, tang-laden lemon-lime and hints of grilled pineapple race over the palate with great élan. It finishes in a blaze of racy grapefruit with soft pith infusing the tangy finish and aftertaste. Pour with prawn ceviche or freshly shucked oysters. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
d’Arenberg ‘The Stump Jump’ Chardonnay 2013
Fleurieu Peninsula, McLaren Vale $14.95 13.3% alcohol
This is very good value. Seeing only a brushstroke of seasoned oak, this dishes up a lip-smacking, crowd-pleasing Chardonnay tang. Aromas of green apple, citrus and mineral notes make way for a light-on-its-feet stream of crisp, green apple, racy lemon curd and a spoonful of lively salinity streaking across the palate infusing the crisp, clean and refreshing finish. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
d’Arenberg ‘The Custodian’ Grenache 2014
McLaren Vale $19.95 (713040) 14.4% alcohol
An involved, lively nose of piquant spice, pencil shavings and dark berry fruit aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of rich, luscious flavour—boysenberry, kirsch liqueur and rich black cherry—mingling with racy passionfruit, tangy red currant and black licorice in an irresistible sweet and tang, yin and yang tasting experience. It’s mid-plus weight and value-laden with a lingering, juicy finish. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 cellar
d’Arenberg ‘The High Trellis’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
McLaren Vale $19.95 (943456) 14.2% alcohol
Floral notes, perfumed exotic spice and notions of iodine aromas on the nose, this sports a full-Monty rush of palate-coating flavour with briary berry, tang-laden pie cherry and crunchy red currant to the fore. This medium-plus bodied, nicely textured Cab has miles to go as it’s quite taut and firmly underpinned by still-evolving tannin—twist caps 2020 to 2025 and pour with grilled-rare, well-seasoned striploin. The price-quality balance tips in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
d’Arenberg ‘The Footbolt’ Shiraz 2014
McLaren Vale $19.95 (984021) 14.5% alcohol
This punches well above the price, is well structured and showcases good balance and complexity. Aromas of earthy/mushroom, piquant/peppery spice and dark berry fruit abound. A delicious flow of ripe, bramble berry and spice-laden black plum flavour coats the palate decorated with espresso roast and dark bittersweet chocolate. It’s medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel and a balanced lengthy aftertaste layering on notions of grilled savory herbs and oodles of juicy tang. Aerate/decant three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

***** drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
d’Arenberg ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz - Viognier 2012
McLaren Vale $29.95 (936971) 14.4% alcohol
This showcases persistent purity of fruit, excellent fruit and tang balance, exceptional value and oodles of charm. Aromas of dark berry fruit, exotic incense and spice cake introduce a tapestry of palate-bathing flavour with black currant, cassis, and boysenberry compote interwoven with red currant, racy pie cherry and baking spice. This is medium-plus bodied with good mouthfeel and a lengthy balanced finish. (Vic Harradine)

***** cellar
d’Arenberg ‘The Dead Arm’ Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale $54.95 (430512) 14.6% alcohol
Rich and complex, dense and fruit-laden, this opens with lifted aromas of grilled savory herbs, earthy/gamy notes and red and black cherry/berry galore. It’s fully-fruited, full-bodied, fully textured and full of elegance and charm. A palate-coating surge of flavour showcases dark plum, ripe mulberry and wisps of cassis adorned with sweet vanilla, black licorice and notes of minerality and gamy bits overshadowed by a firm tannin underpinning and framed by excellent tang. Twist tops 2019 to 2026 after careful cellaring. (Vic Harradine)

Hewitson – Family owned. Locally loved. Globally respected.

A family-owned and managed winery since 1998, they’re particularly proud of their eco-friendly practices—utilising solar energy, re-cycling water, encouraging natural biodiversity, with it all working toward bringing environmentally sustainable wine to the table. Owner Dean Hewitson is Chief winemaker having first earned his winemaking stripes at Australia’s world-famous Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1986 then branching out by working vintages in the major wine regions of France followed by attaining a Masters in Winemaking from California’s UC Davis.

Dean Hewitson at Baby-Bush Vineyard

Louise (Lou) Hewitson runs her own successful business, raises their three children—Harriet, Henry, Ned—and is International Brand Manager for Hewitson. They have a stunning collection of South Australia vineyards in the Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale—The Adelaide Super Zone—with winery and cellar door in the heart of the Barossa. The jewel in the crown is ‘Old Garden’, an ancient dry-grown vineyard of Mourvèdre planted in 1853 by Friedrich Koch. Dean took cuttings from these old vines and planted a vineyard he now calls, ‘Baby Bush’, with vines now ten years old, they’re producing very good wine. The quality of all their wine is quite astounding, as you can see by the wines reviewed below.

Louise (Lou) Hewitson

• This single-vineyard Riesling earns its ‘gun metal’ handle from the grey-coloured stones in the vineyard.

****1/2 drink now
Hewitson ‘Gun Metal’ Riesling 2015
Eden Valley $25.00 12.0% alcohol
This offers an involved nose of flinty/mineral notes along with floral, citrus and orchard fruit aromas. Early-morning, hand-picked fruit was hurried to the winery contributing greatly to the crisp, refreshing flavour—Key lime and flinty mineral notes streak across the palate infusing the lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. Pour with seafood ceviche or grilled calamari. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now
Hewitson ‘Lu Lu’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Adelaide Hills $23.00 12.0% alcohol
With fruit sourced from one of the highest—approximately 650 metres—coolest spots in the Adelaide Hills, it dishes up aromas of tropical fruit, savory herbs and floral notes. It races over the palate with great élan, tangy lemon-lime, wisps of grassy notes and white grapefruit with all persisting the long, long, mouth-watering finish. Built for sipping on its own of food pairing, give it a try with mussels steamed in white wine or pan-seared scallops under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

• The ‘Belle Ville’ in the following Hewitson wine refers to a property in Provence as well the two grape varieties in the wine that are also favourites in the Provençal region—a Grenache/Cinsault blend.

****1/2 drink now
Hewitson ‘Belle Ville’ Rosé 2016
Eden Valley $25.00 12.5% alcohol
Strawberry and floral aromas waft from this stylish Rosé—it showcases depth and character throughout. A heavenly textured mouthful of black currant and ripe red raspberry bathes the palate decorated with piquant spice and ruby-red grapefruit tang. This is gorgeous sipped on its own with enough oomph to pair perfectly with a deli platter or roast chicken with potato salad. (Vic Harradine)

• The following ‘Minimal Intervention’ Sangiovese was certainly that—it saw no oak, did not undergo malolactic conversion and was naturally settled then bottled without fining or filtration.

**** drink now
Hewitson ‘Minimal Intervention’ Sangiovese 2015
Barossa Valley $25.00 14.0% alcohol
A lively juicy nose of red cherry/berry fruit is precursor to a tang-laden stream of crunchy, red fruit—cherry, cranberry and pomegranate—mingling with piquant spice and savory herbs. It’s medium weight with good mouthfeel and a lingering crisp, dry aftertaste. Sip on its own or pour with pasta in tomato sauce or Swiss steak.

• The following Hewitson ‘Miss Harry’ is a delectable southern Rhône Valley blend—Grenache, Mourvèdre, Shiraz, Cinsault, Carignan—sourced from dry-grown, old-vine fruit with some Grenache +100 years of age, and overall averaging 70 years of age.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Hewitson ‘Miss Harry’ 2014
Barossa Valley $25.00 14.0% alcohol
This red blend—Grenache, Mourvèdre, Shiraz, Cinsault, Carignan—opens with lively aromas of savory herbs, floral notes and wisps of cherry. A medium-bodied, well-textured, creamy-smooth flow of ripe red berry fruit—strawberry, raspberry and crunchy passionfruit—adorned with cassis and oodles of spice blankets the palate. This showcases purity of fruit, complexity and absolutely delicious. There’s good structure from soft-grained tannin and a balanced and beautiful, lengthy finish. (Vic Harradine)

• The following ‘Ned and Henry’s’ Shiraz is named for the owners’ two sons.

****1/2 drink now
Hewitson ‘Ned and Henry’s’ Shiraz 2016
Barossa Valley $28.00 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of piquant spice, sweet vanilla and dark cherry/berry fruit precede a rich and luscious surge of bramble berry and black plum compote enveloping the palate with excellent spice, tang and acidity providing interest and good balance. It’s medium-full weight with textured mouthfeel and a lingering, lip-smacking aftertaste layering on complexity, structure and soft-grained tannin. (Vic Harradine)

• The following ‘Old Garden Vineyard’ is sourced from single-vineyard Mourvèdre vines that are recognized as the oldest in the world.

***** drink or cellar
Hewitson ‘Old Garden Vineyard’ Mourvèdre 2013
Barossa Valley $88.00 14.0% alcohol
Fruit for this 100% Mourvèdre was sourced from vines planted in 1853—put another way, at 2013 harvest, vines were 160 years of age. Savory herbs and black cherry abound on the nose providing introduction to a luscious palate-bathing outpouring of ripe mulberry and wisps of cassis decorated with dark bittersweet chocolate and notions of black licorice—absolutely delectable. It showcases deft balance, complexity, persistent purity of fruit and a lengthy finish. (Vic Harradine)

• The following is Hewtson’s flagship Shiraz seeing 24-months maturation in premium French oak barrique.

***** drink or cellar
Hewitson ‘Falkenberg Vineyard’ Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley $88.00 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of earthy notes, dark berry fruit and cedar provide segue for a tang-laden river of red fruit—pie cherry and raspberry—interwoven with briary berry, black plum and savory herbs and spice. This is medium-full bodied with excellent texture and a long, bold and balanced finish and aftertaste infused with fennel and mocha. It has structure, with depth, complexity and pure fruit flavour from cork pop to last drop—it was tough to spit this. Aerate/decant two hours, pouring now to 2025. (Vic Harradine)

Rockford Cellars

One man, owner Robert O’Callaghan, stands above all whether you merely scratch the surface or you dig deep at Rockford to explain their incredible wines and overall popularity and success. Gazing firmly in the rear-view mirror with a laser-like focus on the past, he’s an anomaly in a world driven by change. Yet he makes wine at every price point that attracts and impresses wine-lovers, wine judges, wine critics and writers as much today, as ever. Rockford has two wines listed in the über-premium ‘Langton’s Classification of Australia’s Fine Wines’. Robert loves old vines, old boats, old equipment, old traditions and techniques. He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. The only obvious changes from how wine has been traditionally made in the new world, are cooling systems and the use of cultured yeast.

Robert O'Callaghan - Rockford

Winecurrent was there at the beginning of the 2017 harvest and observed hand-harvested fruit brought to the winery in small containers on the back of an old farm truck. It was passed by hand and pitch fork through a small window to a chute leading to a late 1800s Bagshaw de-stemmer / crusher that was being run by an 8 hp gasoline engine built in 1910. The engine was just recently converted from a two-man, handle-crank start to electric due to safety concerns—an electric starter was sourced, and later adapted, from an antique car. Grapes were then gently transported to open-top, bees-wax lined, concrete fermenters with some making their way to full-slab slate fermenters rescued from a local winery moving on to more contemporary material. There were small, gentle, wooden, basket presses awaiting completion of fermentation.

Rockford winery

For a brief look at just a few of the processes withstanding the test of time and championed at Rockfords, watch this 5 minute video. If you’ve visited even one winery previously, or you’re a serious home winemaker, you’ll be interested in what you see.

 Fruit for the following Rockford 2015 Riesling was hand-harvested from premium, hand-pruned, old vines growing in cool-climate Eden Valley—it’s released 12 months later than most Eden Valley Riesling gaining weight and complexity in the process.

 Rockford wines are highly sought after and a challenge to source. To enquire, contact their Ontario wine agent for assistance – B&W Wines.

****1/2 drink now
Rockford Eden Valley Riesling 2015
Eden Valley $23.50 12.5% alcohol
Perfumed aromas of tropical fruit, floral notes and minerality waft easily from this medium-weight, creamy textured gem. It races over the palate with great élan, Key lime and lemon curd persisting through the crisp, clean finish and aftertaste. There’s plenty of Wow! factor here with racy tang and lip-smacking acidity throughout. Pour with steamed mussels or pan-seared fish under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Semillon pays homage to three growers from which fruit was sourced—the Matschoss, Sibley and Kalleske families.

**** drink now
Rockford ‘Local Growers’ Semillon 2014
Barossa $22.50 12.2% alcohol
Fruit for this was picked at the peak of ripeness—aromas of tropical fruit, stone fruit and floral notes are underpinned by flinty/minerality. Bracing acidity, delivered through lemon-lime and grapefruit tang, streak over the palate persisting through the mouth-watering finish and aftertaste This is medium-plus weight with good mouthfeel. There’s a bit of oak ageing here also contributing to the weight. Pour now with fish or seafood or give it another three years pouring with roast pork or chicken. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Alicante Bouchet, aka Alicante Bouschet, has been a staple in the Rockford portfolio for more than thirty years. This grape is unusual and is known as a ‘teinturier’ grape due to its red flesh. Virtually all wine grapes—red, black or white—have white flesh. This wine was crafted using saignée method (loose translation – bleeding)—in saignée, the wine remaining after the ‘bleeding’ is often made into a red wine.

****1/2 drink now
Rockford Alicante Bouchet 2015
Eden Valley $20.50 10.1% alcohol
This value-packed, off-dry, Rosé-styled beauty offers an alluring nose of savory herbs, peppery spice and ripe strawberry aromas. Red fruit flavours abound with cranberry and pie cherry to the fore supported by ripe mulberry and black berry fruit. It’s particularly well balanced with sweet and tang perfectly proportioned on the palate and throughout the lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. This pours exceptionally well slightly chilled with bruschetta or a deli platter of smoked meat, spicy black olives, soft, smelly cheese and baguette. (Vic Harradine)

• The must—grape skins, and seed from the preceding Alicante Bouchet saignée, Rosé-styled wine—was utilized in the following wine, hence the ‘Frugal Farmer’ moniker.

**** drink or cellar
Rockford ‘Frugal Farmer’ Grenache/Mataro/Alicante Bouchet 2015
Eden Valley $22.50 12.6% alcohol
Sprigs of herbs and red cherry/berry fruit aromas herald a racy, tangy stream of red currant, black currant and ripe black plum. There’s good mouthfeel and plenty of tang from twist top to last drop in this red blend—it’s medium bodied and finishes lengthy. Pour with red pizza or pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Rockford ‘Moppa Springs’ 2012
Eden Valley $28.00 14.4% alcohol
This Grenache-dominant, red blend dishes up sexy aromas of exotic spice, floral notes and dark berry fruit. A broad swath of rich and luscious flavour blankets the palate with ripe briary berry and cassis interwoven with peppery spice and savory herbs. It’s mid-plus weight with heavenly texture and a boatload of style and charm. It finishes dry, balanced and bursting with crunchy lively fruit flavour. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Rod and Spur is 2/3rd Shiraz and 1/3rd Cabernet Sauvignon and is named for the hard-working growers who spend the cool winters hand-pruning vines in the traditional ‘rod and spur’ method.

**** drink now
Rockford ‘Rod and Spur’ 2013
Barossa Valley $34.50 14.2% alcohol
Bright and lively red cherry/berry aromas mingling with spice and herbs set the table for a smorgasbord of flavours—spice, mint and earthy notes interplay with blueberry, pie cherry and black plum compote bathing the palate infusing the finish and aftertaste. This is medium bodied with a boatload of fruit flavour and tang on the lingering finish. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce or Swiss steak. (Vic Harradine)

• The following ‘Rifle Range’ Cab from Rockford is sold in an interesting, proprietary, uniquely shaped bottle.

****1/2 cellar
Rockford ‘Rifle Range’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Barossa Valley $45.00 13.6% alcohol
Aromas of incense, rose petals and baking spice suggest an involved, complex Cabernet Sauvignon and it delivers that in spades. A tight and taut stream of black berry, eucalyptus and black currant interplays with earthy notes, pipe tobacco and dark bittersweet chocolate. It’s medium-full bodied with firm structure and good depth and a lingering aftertaste underpinned by perceptible tannin.

You’ll find the following Rockford ‘Basket-Press’ Shiraz listed in the top tier of the über-premium ‘Langton’s Classification of Australia’s Fine Wines’ placing it with 20 other wines as the most highly sought-after Australian wines on the open market. It spent 24 months maturing in wood and further 18 in bottle before release. (Vic Harradine)

***** cellar
Rockford ‘Basket Press’ Shiraz 2013
Barossa Valley $63.00 14.1% alcohol
This evocative Shiraz showcases owner, Robert O’Callaghan’s dedication and single-minded focus on delivering the best wine, from the best fruit using traditional thinking and methods. It showcases persistent purity of fruit—black plum and mulberry compote mingling with red berry fruit and pie cherry—deft balance, structure—ripe, soft, fine-grained tannin, texture—creamy smooth, weighty—and complexity. It’s medium-full bodied with a lengthy finish and aftertaste. Pop corks 2020 to +2030. (Vic Harradine)