Including the word family in a winery’s name is the most direct way to indicate the enterprise is a family operation, but it’s certainly not the most creative way to do so. Eight at the Gate, however, might be the smartest way I’ve seen to include family in a winery’s name. How is that you might wonder? Well, when two sisters who start a winery have four children each what else would you name it when there are always eight kids hanging around the vineyard gate? Leave it to those fun-loving Aussies to be so clever. We received these wines as tasting samples.
Jane Richards and Claire Davies grew up in rural South Australia very close to their vineyard in Wrattonbully and have taken a collaborative approach to their winemaking project. Claire is a graduate of University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy viticulture program, so she has the necessary viticultural skills to grow grapes. Jane is the businesswoman and handles that part of winery operations.
The estate vineyard is planted to three varieties. Chardonnay 12 was in planted in 2004 to 5 acres of Chardonnay, Shiraz 7 consists of nearly 11 acres of Shiraz planted in 2001, and Cabernet 4 was planted in 1995 to 12 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. Jane and Claire did not plant the vineyard, but when Lanacoona Estate came on the market (Claire knew the vineyard by reputation) they made the purchase. Most of the grapes they grow are sold to other wineries, but the best 5 to 10% of the fruit is reserved for Eight at the Gate wines.
Wrattonbully is located inland between Adelaide and Melbourne and is part of the larger Limestone Coast zone. Wrattonbully is cooler than Padthaway to the north, but warmer than Coonawarra to the south. The wider region lay beneath the ocean until about 1 million years ago, when the sea receded and a series of mountains were exposed. The area has many limestone caves and is home to the Naracoorte Caves, a World Heritage site.
The characteristic red, terra rossa soils, are free-draining and well suited for vineyards. Rolling hills characterize much of the region, which also supports livestock ranches and agricultural crops. According to the Eight at the Gate website, Wrattonbully enjoys a moderate to cool climate and a long growing season. Nighttime temperatures cool significantly, which further allow the grapes to develop flavor.
And, importantly, from the Eight at the Gate website:
In the spirit of reconciliation, Eight at the Gate acknowledges the First Nations people of our region, the Bindjali people who are the traditional custodians of the land, and their spiritual relationship with this country.
2019 Eight at the Gate Family Selection Single Vineyard, Chardonnay, Wrattonbully, Australia — light golden with flinty aromas, citrus and crush rock. Flavors include citrusy grapefruit, stony minerality and notable acidity, but with a bit of roundness. Flavors are very fresh and lively. Matured in French oak. 12.9% abv. $34.99
2018 Eight at the Gate Single Vineyard Chardonnay, Wrattonbully, Australia — light yellow with aromas of ripe Meyer lemon, stone fruit and crushed rock. Flavors lead with stone fruit and citrus and finish with citrus pith. Ripe fruit flavors lend roundness and texture and notable acidity balances the fruit flavors nicely. No oak aging. 12.7% abv. $19.99
2016 Eight at the Gate Single Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz, Wrattonbully, South Australia — dense ruby with garnet at the rim. Aromas lead with dried mint and eucalyptus along with dark plums, ripe blackberries, ripe blueberries and hints of dusty earth and smoke. Concentrated flavors of blackberries, raspberries and dried mint are supported by baking spice and hints of cedar and dried tobacco leaf. Gauzy tannins are well integrated with the fruit in a medium body. The finish is medium+ in length and warming. Matured in French oak for 24 months. 14.7% abv. SRP $27.99
2016 Eight at the Gate Family Selection Single Vineyard Shiraz, Wrattonbully, South Australia — dense ruby with aromas of red cherries, ripe plums and blueberries. Flavors lead with plums, red cherries and blueberries with hints of asphalt all supported by lively acidity. Tannins are drying and well integrated with the flavors in a medium body. The finish is medium in length. Matured in French oak for 26 months. 14.5% abv. $39.99
Each of these wines has its own charm. I love the flinty quality of the 2019 Family Selection Chardonnay and the riper fruit flavors of the 2018 Chardonnay. The 2019 Family Selection Single Vineyard, Chardonnay recently won the Pam Dunsford Trophy for Best Chardonnay and the Colin Kidd Trophy for Best White Wine of Show at the Limestone Coast Wine Show. Both red wines have layered fruit flavors with good balance and show judicious use of oak. All four wines have notable acidity and I love that about all of them.
Eight at the Gate has a US website and distribution throughout the country, so you can have a taste of an Australian wine region you might not be familiar with right at home. Prices above are in US dollars from the Eight at the Gate US website.
Thanks to Eight at the Gate for this taste of Wrattonbully and Lanacoona Estate and to Comunicano for organizing our tasting.