We wrote this piece after returning from Australia in 2010.
We are returning to see the Lambert Estate and enjoy a few days with Pat and Jim in February, 2015. Our friends Peter and Bunny Warenski from our Alaska and Alabama Golf Trail adventures will be with us as we tour New Zealand and Australia. We plan to play great golf and drink some great wine – the highlight will be the Barossa Valley and the Lambert’s Family Tree Shiraz and the Silent Partner Cabernet.
Arriving at Lambert
After a beautiful drive up the Great Ocean Drive from Melbourne and an evening in Adelaide we headed up to the Barossa Valley to taste the wines and visit Jim and Pam Lambert. We arrived at the Barossa Bed and Breakfast and met Lee, the owner. After he helped settled us in our room we contacted the Lamberts. Jim asked if we would like to help out with the grape harvest and off we went to the vineyard. We arrived at the
Lambert Estate Vineyard, which is also Jim and Pam’s home, it was beautiful. Meeting us at the house with the clippers in hand Jim immediately gave us a 30 second training on how to cut the grapes from the vines while not cutting off our fingers. We went up to the part of the vineyard where they were working on the last 7 rows of Riesling grapes. We were introduced to Jim’s wife Pam, their son Kirk and a friend and old hand at harvest, Bob. They had been picking since 6:30 in the morning with plans on finishing the work by 9:00, it was now about 10:30. Lindsay Stanley, the winemaker, had expected the grapes by 10:00 in order to start the process of preparing the grapes, there were more grapes to harvest than anticipated. About 2 hours later we finished up the last rows and went down to the house to drink some juice and water while we relaxed for a time. What an experience!!!
After getting hydrated, we headed down to the winery to meet Lindsay Stanley, Leslie his wife, the business manager and his son Raymond to get a tour of the winery. While not huge in size the winery has the latest technology and places to store the barrels at the right temperature. It is truly a family business with two generations of both families involved. We watched the processing of the grapes that had been picked with our little bit of help and the crushing of the grapes. The bins were first cooled to about 36 degrees F and then dumped in a machine that removed all the stems and leaves, separating the grapes and
then the horizontal basket presser that gently pressed the Riesling grapes to preserve the fresh citrus characters of the variety. The pressing continued and the pressed grapes, skin and juice were pumped to the stainless aging tower. Over the next few days the skins and the juice would separate and the process of making the Riesling could begin. This was all being done under the watchful eye of Lindsay. Needless to say Jim, Lindsay Janice and I tasted a few magnificent wines during the tour. The new Block 8 Sparkling Chardonnay/Viognier was as good as any sparkling wine we have enjoyed and of course since we were making the Nordic Frost Cold Pressed Riesling, we did a taste of that. It is interesting if you have not tried it, it is a dry Riesling, similar to Sauvignon Blanc, not sweet like the German Riesling. We look forward to making it one of our regular summer wines.
We headed back to the B&B, got cleaned up and then returned to Jim and Pam‘s home for
an Australian Bar B Que. Jim cooked on a grill made of a 10 year old oak cask formerly used to age Port. Jim built the grill inside the cask using Weber parts. The lamb was put onto the grill and we headed to the front porch to taste more of the Stanley Lambert wines. We discussed which wines to start with, Jim expressed he was concerned we may open too many bottles and have left overs, Pam assured him that would not be a problem. It turned out there were no bottles with a drop left; it was definitely not a concern.
We started with the Thousand Words Chardonnay while we watched the setting sun over the pond and Chardonnay vines. Jim and Pam served appetizers of chicken wings and wonderful different types of sausage homemade by the local butcher Schuitz’s in the town of Angaston, less than a mile from the Lambert’s home. It just doesn’t get any better.
Lindsay and his lovely wife Leslie (the real talent behind the winemaker) arrived followed by Kirk. We enjoyed some of the Pristine Chardonnay, one of our favorites for many years because it does not have the typical oak flavor of many Chardonnays since it is not aged in Oak barrels, it was fabulous! More appetizers were served and Jim opened a bottle of Three’s Company GSM a pleasant mixture of handpicked Grenache, Shiraz and Mouverde grapes, it had a great flavor with a medium body. The red wines continued with the August Shiraz, named for August Friedrich Beelitz, Lindsay’s great grandfather, who sold his wine to miners in the Barossa goldfields in the 1880’s. Unfortunately it is not shipped to the US market, however we carried some back upon our return, just a great Shiraz to be savored. The next wine was the tremendous The Family Tree. This wine is like velvet, a traditional Barossa Shiraz, aged in new American oak hogsheads, which have imparted a thick layer of vanilla and dill over the top of some lovely blackberry-tinged fruit. The texture is creamy, the tannins, supple, the finish infused with notes of coffee, spun sugar and spice. What a pleasure to taste and enjoy. Here is an interesting comparison to the Grange
It was now time to move on to dinner, a wonderful leg of lamb, fresh vegetables, potatoes
and a great oriental salad that we have prepared and enjoyed several times since returning home. Jim is being helped by Pam and Lesley as he cuts the lamb. We moved into the house as it was cooling down and it was time to open a bottle of the Silent Partner, named for Pam’s father. This Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Long Gully Vineyard region in the Barossa, it is a low yielding grape with intense fruit flavor. It was FANTASTIC with the Lamb. Since we cannot just drink one bottle with dinner, the Great Thoroughbred Cabernet Sauvignon was served, a mainstay of Stanley Lambert and another favorite of ours for a long time. Dinner was much fun with a lot of joking going on. There was no shortage of humor and we must admit no shortage of great wine.
Pam prepared desert as we continued to enjoy the company. It was fun to hear how everyone had met, the backgrounds and family stories. Dessert included the Choc A Bloc
which is a luscious dessert wine, made using a fortified Australian Tawny wine base and seeping it with chocolate. It was such a pleasant accompaniment with desert, just wonderful to sip with our new friends.
With a full day ahead of us on Friday, which was an early work day for the Lamberts and Stanley’s, we bid farewell to a glorious feast of wine, food and Good Company.
Another day of beautiful views, wine tasting and great company
We had never seen grapes being machine picked. Lindsay showed us where picking would take place early in the morning, so we set the alarm in order to go to the local vineyard by 5:30 and watch the picking. It was a vineyard directly behind the Stanley Lambert Winery
and Cellar Door. Paul, the owner of the equipment and vineyard, was a friend of Lindsay so we drove in and introduced ourselves. They had been picking since 2:00 and had several rows left to pick. It was fascinating to see how such a large piece of equipment could pick the grapes and not destroy the vines. The grapes were picked and then moved up into the top of the center portion and moved on a conveyer belt out to a large bin mounted on a tractor that traveled up the next row.
Back to the Barossa B & B for a splendid breakfast including eggs laid by the hens’ right in the backyard. Lee cooked whatever we requested and was an excellent chef; we enjoyed the eggs, bacon and sausage along with fresh fruits and bread. We then headed out to view some of the various areas of the Barossa Valley. There is no shortage of beautiful vineyards and vistas. Driving through the villages of Tanunda and Angaston, they were alive with locals getting ready for the day.
We then went to Pam and Jim’s to walk the vineyards and also look for kangaroos. We had been on the hunt for kangaroos in the wild our whole trip having only seen them at of all places on a golf course outside of Melbourne.
The vines were beautiful with huge Zinfandel grapes in one section. This was relatively new to the vineyard and was going to be picked shortly and made without over extraction and aged 12 months in 50% Hungarian Oak and 50% French Oak, producing an elegant wine with characters of freshly sawn cedar, black cherry and plum. Called “Forgive Me” it enjoys the company of “Tempt Me” made with Tempranillo grapes, a popular Spanish grape variety selected by Stanley Lambert with the belief that it is well suited to their Barossa Valley climate. Aged in French Oak Hogsheads for 15 months the wine is characteristic of light cherry, plum and strawberry, medium bodied with low acid and tannin finish.
Now that Staley Lambert has “Tempt Me” and “Forgive Me” they need a wine that describes what the forgiveness is for. If you have any ideas let them know.
As we were wandering the vineyard, along came Jim, looking like he was just having fun, but was collecting samples of both the Zinfandel and Tempranillo grapes for Kirk Lambert to check the sugar content and determine when the harvest should take place. Kirk had
just graduated from the University of Adelaide with a master in Wine making and Business.
We continued the tour of the vineyards and the picturesque beauty is wonderful. There are over 100 acres with about 50% planted on the various hills. The Barossa has flourished as a wine-producing region largely because of its ideal Mediterranean climate. The vines were once largely dry grown, which allows the fruit to grow with the full flavors and are not diluted by excess water during the growth period. Stanley Lambert is making a premium viticultural enhancement aimed to advance world-class premium quality Barossa Valley fruit.
Kangaroos and more wine tasting
Wine tasting with the Lambert’s and Lindsay Stanley was scheduled to start shortly, so it was time to find the kangaroos. Jim said there was a family not far from the house he had seen earlier in the morning. It was time to find them amongst the vineyard. Off we went looking in the fields.
Finally we sighted one and got our picture. We thought he was more checking us out rather than us checking him out. It was really exciting to see him up close, well the telephoto lens made it seem that way, but he was about 20 feet away. We followed him as he worked his way down the row of vines. We didn’t realize he had his eyes on his “mates”, probably family and then came upon them at the end of the row.
With the “sighting” out of the way we went back to the house and all drove down to the Stanley Lambert Cellar Door (the tasting room in front of the winery). The first “order of business” was to see the results of the basket pressing with the Riesling grapes. Lindsay poured us some of the juice to taste and explained how the skins and the juice was separating and that over the next weeks would completely separate from the skins. You could actually see the “line” where the juice ended and the skins were by the condensation on the outside of the stainless steel vat.
Back into the Cellar, Jim and Pam asked if there was anything we wanted to try. We had not tried the “Tempt Me” or the “Forgive Me”. It was a good start to the day and we then got into a lot of the others, some we had the day before at the house, but continued to sip as we picked a dozen bottles to purchase for the flight back to the United States. Kirk took care of that for us and we headed off to try some other wines and see more of the Valley with Jim, Pam and Lindsay.
One of the oldest wineries was Saltram Estate, around the corner from the Lambert Estate. Saltram is one of the oldest producing wineries in the Barossa, founded by William Salter from Exeter, England in 1852. The house was built for his family in the 1850’s and is still the home for the Head Winemaker. Jim, being the good neighbor, had us tasting their top wines and purchased some for his own cellar. They have one of the most delightful dining areas and after we tasted a lot of wine, we went outside to enjoy lunch on the patio. We ordered lunch and sat in the sun enjoying the quite of the day and another bottle of wine. We were getting to that point of thinking, “I can’t drink anymore”. Not a problem. Lindsay had the solution, “A Cleansing!”
With that thought in mind and not knowing what a “Cleansing” is, it was back to the car for the short drive to Angaston. We entered a great restaurant called Winera Wine Bar. Jasmine Plush welcomed us with a big smile; somehow we knew that Jim, Pam and
Lindsay had been there before. Lindsay told Jasmine it was time for our “Cleansing” having enjoyed all the wine we had consumed. Jasmine then proceeded to serve us a beer. It actually tasted good and did refresh us somewhat. Having been “cleansed”, we then were off down the street to the next bar and gambling area. They have slot machines in the back and a bar in the front. After playing on the slots for a short while (of course Pam and I were up some money then lost it all) we went to the front bar where Jim had purchased glasses of wine (Stanley Lambert of course). After a few more glasses we were off to town to the place that all the locals go to meet, a private membership bar and restaurant called “The Clubhouse”. The people could not have been nicer and with another bottle of Thoroughbred, we needed to rest so we could be ready to
eat in a while.
We said our goodbyes to Jim, Pam and Lindsay since we would be leaving early in the morning to head back to Adelaide to catch our flight back to Sydney. We wished we could be staying longer. Jim, Pam, Lindsay and Leslie were so wonderful and we had such a great time learning about the business and tasting excellent wines. If you ever have the chance to visit, it will be one of the thrills of your life, it certainly was for us.