The Wines of Samuel’s Gorge with Winemaker Justin McNamee
As the rain hit hard against the roof of the Regional Wines tasting room, the blue skies of McLaren Vale opened above us causing the opulent red gems of Grenache, Tempranillo and Shiraz from Samuel's Gorge winery to glisten.
Starting with the Grenache, pretty soon it became apparent that winemaker Justin McNamee would not need to force the situation. The wines would do the talking, allowing Justin to focus on entertaining.
These were wines that shouted loud with confidence and spoke of a coming together of place and person through time - a combination of Justin's thirty something years of winemaking and vines that are now happy in their place and delivering fruit that makes Justin’s job just that little bit easier. After all, this is the McLaren Vale where the vineyards roll into the sea and large expansive skies, long sun hours and refreshing winds result in less vintage variation than one might find in say, France.
All this means that Justin can take on the Europeans at their own game; Grenache so fruit forward it might start a fight on the streets of Marseille; immaculately tailored, tannin-driven Tempranillo that doesn’t need to be dressed in oak and a GSM blend that would raise an eyebrow or two at the Palais des Papes.
Justin has cracked that extra layer of complexity that is so often found in wines from the old world - that je ne sais quoi, that pinch of rusticity, the feral element or hint of the farmyard and this is down to his hands-off trust in the juice he gets from the vines. For example, the Grenache has a portion from carbonic macerated and for this, the grapes are simply fermented in giant sacks that will expand with the generated carbon dioxide and not explode.
This is by no means to detract from the quality and age-worthiness of the wines, a point exemplified by the mini Shiraz vertical we were lucky enough to taste. This took us from 2017 through to the 2010 vintage which Justin bemoaned as a vintage almost too perfect and unchallenging, but the wine had aged gracefully under cork and had many years still left in it.
When you see images of the winery and its surrounding countryside it's easy to understand these wines. They are wines of place and person that speak proudly of who they are and are given every chance to do so with the deft touch of a man who has mastered his game and learnt to let go and have some fun.
You can purchase the wines from our Winter staff picks section here.