The 16ha Wombat Creek Vineyard at Gladysdale is the highest in the Yarra Valley, at 420m. Planted in 1988 on north-east facing slopes, it was originally intended for sparkling wines, but has been transitioned to Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) for table wine. The underlying iron-based red volcanic soil and rock contribute to wines with a distinctive soft yet long and firm palate.
The grapes for this wine are picked early, by hand, for freshness, whole-bunch pressed and then fermented in 500 litre French oak puncheons using natural, indigenous yeasts. The wine spends another nine months on lees, in oak (20% new) with lees-stirring in the first month only. The wine undergoes a light filtration prior to bottling.
"Planted in 1988, it makes it one of the older vineyards in the program of Giant Steps. This used to be fertile ground for sparkling wine, particularly Yarra Bank (Yering Station) fizz, but the vineyard has been changed up for table wines. This vineyard is one of, if not the highest vineyards in the Yarra at 405-plus metres above sea level. This was my favourite chardonnay of all the 2018 releases (well, alongside Ocarina) though I saw it as level-pegged to Sexton Vineyard. It had the most je ne sais quoi.
Scents of flint and wet slate, wet fern, green apple. Nice start, says something about restraint and minerality in its way. Crisp and cool in the palate, transparent, light but steely and assertive in texture and pristine. The wine develops some juiciness after time, green apply sort of feel, a touch peppery, saline, flinty finish maintains as a strength. A quiet power here, lots of character and architecture, and, importantly, sense of deliciousness and refreshment. Super individual and super."
95+ points, The Wine Front (May 2019)
Yarra ValleyThe Yarra Valley was first planted by the Ryrie brothers who explored a way through the Snowy Mountains to the Yarra Valley, planting grapes in 1838 just three years after the foundation of Melbourne. A wine industry (developed by Swiss Settlers particularly Hubert de Castella and Baron Guillaume de Pury in the 1850s) thrived during the gold rush era and heyday of the 19th century. However, the end of the gold rush brought the wine industry into decline and it was not until the 1970’s that the modern wine industry started up again. The region is probably Australia’s best-known cool-climate area, yet it is really a patchwork of meso-climates. This varied topography creates an incredible set of variables. Vineyards are planted on elevations of 50 to 400m on varying aspects and management programmes. The more exposed sites are subject to severe spring frosts and winds. Overall, the area experiences a relatively high rainfall pattern and is known for its temperature extremes during ripening. Site selection is crucial, with the best vineyards often located where the original vines were once planted, generally on sandy clay loams and gravels. The Yarra Valley is well known for high quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Blends with Shiraz increasingly garnering attention. Sparkling wine production is also extremely important, with many of Australia’s finest examples produced in the region.