Top Wines Revisited...

In interesting re-visit, three years ago I wrote about the turning of the tide towards small producers in McLaren Vale. I picked my top eight Shiraz's from McLaren Vale that no one had ever heard of…

I mused that they were going to become regarded as some of Australia’s best.

Ambitiously I put Lazy Ballerina on the list. I will leave you, the reader to judge how Lazy has performed.

Of the others, with three years hindsight I can look at these predictions to see how they have gone.

Thomas Vineyard Estate -

This winery picked up a swag of awards for its 2004 wines, and this has continued with its later releases. Despite this it is still not a very well known wine, it is often confused with the wines of the late Wayne Thomas, but it has had strong reviews from Huon Hooke which has lead to distribution in the Eastern states.

2004 Shiraz accolades included;

Top 100 Blue-Gold Winner. 2007 Sydney International Wine Show
Gold Medal. 2006 Royal National Wine Show of Australia
Silver medal. Rated 13th best Shiraz - 2006 Visy Great Australian Shiraz Challenge
Gold medal. 2005 Commonwealth Bank McLaren Vale Wineshow
Silver medal. Rated 7th best Shiraz - 2007 Visy Great Australian Shiraz Challenge
Gold Medal/Outstanding Wine. 2007 Winewise Small Vinerons Awards
Bronze Medal. 2008 International Wine & Spirits Fair London

That is an impressive list. Very few wines would achieve these level of awards, let alone the first wine from a small semi-retired grapegrowers.

A pro. Since 2004 Adam Hooper has picked up a Decanter World Wine Trophy Winner (2005 Shiraz Grenache) & McLaren Vale Best Boutique Trophy Winner (2005 Shiraz). Hooper’s winemaking is as cutting edge as anyone, anywhere and he continues to push the boundaries of winemaking as far as anyone in the industry is prepared to go.
Within two to three years I think La Curio will for fill the prediction of being one of Australia’s best.

2004 Shiraz accolades
Gold Australia Small Winemakers Show
Silver McLaren Vale Wine Show


Picked up some good reviews from Winestate in its initial year. Produced a promising follow up in 2005, but owners Jon and Claire Wright have since concentrated on grape production and no further wines have been produced. Fathen is on hold looking to re-emerge when the vintages are more favourable.

Paul Petagna.
Petagna with phone and pressure gauge.

Paul Petagna behind is behind Piombo and Sellicks Hill Wines. After the 2004 Piombo Paul became a darling of followers of the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker and Dr Jay Miller, exporting to the US almost exclusively, making full flavoured wines and getting full flavoured scores.

Sounds ideal? Not quite. Paul’s wines were overpriced in the US – calling gouging – by an importer and with the downturn in the US economy the market couldn’t sustain this.

The upside of Global Financial turmoil is that more wines are now available at home, rather than produced and sold for export only.

With a focus on the domestic market you will hear a lot more about Paul’s activities.

Windrow Chellaston Close

A ‘micro’ wine enterprise – a single vineyard special with the wine made from fruit from a single Sellicks foothill block. Unfortunately the vineyard was sold in 2007 and that has curtailed the wine.

We will never know if this wine would have reached its potential.

Pertaringa Undercover -

The winery has been owned and operated for three decades by two of the McLaren Vale most well-known and respected viticulturists, Geoff Hardy and Ian Leask.

It has been a sleeper.

90/100 The Wine Advocate
Silver medal – Royal Melbourne Wine Show 2005 (Class 20)
Trophy Decanter Magazine.

Inkwell produces single vineyard wines. Dudley Brown and his wife Karen arrived in McLaren Vale from Newport Beach, California in 2003 and established Inkwell. They took a rundown vineyard and quickly pushed it into the vitcultural limelight.

Then they were thrown a curveball when, in a freaky coincidence, a UK based wine merchant started to produce an unrelated ‘Inkwell’ wine. Confusion about who had the name first delayed the release of the original McLaren Vale Inkwell for 18 months.

Inkwell is now starting to get some traction with Campbell Mattinson writing - "A name to watch - and we also notice that grapes grown on this vineyard made it into Chapel Hill's top flight 2007 Vicar Shiraz. All the signs here are good.”

Pertaringa has a wide distribition and has continued to go about the business of making high quality wine. Fathen and Windrow have become casualties of the wine industry and we don’t know what these wines could have done.

Of our truly small winery predictions list perhaps La Curio has the biggest profile amongst the cult wine fraternity.

Thomas Vineyard Estate
is the most awarded winery here and if this continues the Thomas's are set to get an increasing share of attention. To go the the next level may prove difficult but any distributors reading this should give them strong consideration. You can't get better quality and more awards from such a small producer.

Now free of overseas issues Petagna Wines and Inkwell are looking likely to do the same. Watch this space.


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