I'm going to bundle Gemtree and Dowie Doole together here, since that's how their wines are presented in their combined cellar door, which is housed in the same building as McLaren Vale's iconic Salopian Inn restaurant on the corner of McMurtrie and Main Roads.
I've enjoyed visiting this cellar door almost annually since it opened several years ago, largely because when you put Gemtree and Dowie Doole together you get a range of wines which highlight the strengths of McLaren Vale's often underrated diversity. Although the generously fruited and oaked shiraz and cabernet wines of both producers have reflected the difficulties of recent seasons; at Gemtree and Dowie Doole's cellar door you can generally expect to find some intriguing red blends (check out Dowie Doole's G+T), some good expressions of non-mainstream red varieties (see Gemtree's Tempranillo and Petit Verdot) and some of McLaren Vale's most exciting and promising new white labels (Gemtree's Savagnin and Dowie Doole's Chenin Blanc wines).
The quality of Gemtree's Savagnin (formerly and rather controversially labelled as Albarino) and Dowie Doole's reserve level, oak fermented from 70+ year old vines Tintookie Chenin Blanc really stood up well today. Both wines easily sit among the best McLaren Vale whites I've had for some time, with their deceptive complexity delivered though outstanding texture, freshness and shape. Although the Vale may struggle to compete with Australia's best when it comes to chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc (which doesn't seem to stop people making them), the region is now clearly capable of good chenin blanc, viognier and more recently, off the back of Gemtree's efforts, you can add savagnin to that list as well. Of course, we shouldn't forget what some makers have achieved over the years with the likes of semillon, verdelho, marsanne and roussanne, while coming years may soon see fiano join that list of McLaren Vale scalps as well.
The Gemtree/Dowie Doole cellar door also offers sit down wine flights of either 5 red or 5 white wine tastings, served with cheese and lavosh at the cost of $5 per flight.
Tasting notes are posted below
Dowie Doole Second Nature Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18) 100% Adelaide Hills. Sweaty, herbal gooseberry nose with touches of lime zest. Its palate is richly flavoured and agreeably oily, with fantastic thrust and length, finishing brightly with a framework of zesty acids. A real surprise. Good Hills savvy at a very fair price. 91
Dowie Doole Chenin Blanc 2009 ($16) Clean, light nose typical of variety with green apple aromas and a hint of nettle. The palate enters with fluidity, but it's a fraction broad through the middle section, before finishing very clean with a note of toasty development evident. Good value. 89
Dowie Doole Tintookie Chenin Blanc 2008 ($30) Beautifully fragrant for the style, with creamy/butter oak aromas overlying grapefruit and white flowers. Its very elegant yet soft, luscious and deeply flavoured with intriguing sour cream-like undertones. Its clean, fresh and sumptuous varietal flavours are offset beautifully by a sparkling climax of bright, lingering citric acids. A rare yet totally justifiable reserve chenin blanc of rare class. Coriole usually wait a few more years before releasing their reserve chenin, and the Dowie Doole staff recommend drinking the Tintookie at 5 years age. (full review soon) 93
Dowie Doole Merlot 2008 ($22) Very unconvincing nose; thin, lean and green; herbal raspberry olive soup? Pretty much translates over to the palate which doesn't tickle my fancy at all. 82
Dowie Doole G & T 2009 ($25) 65% Grenache/35% Tempranillo. Sweet cherry and plum spice nose with slightly more tempranillo than grenache evident, and little oak. The syrupy palate reveals good concentration of light-bodied red fruits with an ably spiced finish. A very modern style of McLaren Vale red which would pair wonderfully with Tapas. 89
Dowie Doole California Road Shiraz 2008 ($35) Single vineyard release. Coconut and vanilla oak dominant nose, with sweet berry fruits, plums and cinnamon with a touch of menthol. Its silky, concentrated palate reveals a bit of tartness through its sweet and sour finish, whose oak also outweighs it length of fruit at this stage. 89
Dowie Doole Reserve Shiraz 2006 ($50) Good regional plum and berry fruit nose overlying chocolate/vanilla oak undertones. Also reveals nuances of ripe raspberry and menthol. Its palate is reasonably well balanced, with luscious, velvety flavours that finish with good length of fruit sweetness, smooth tannins and bright acid. 91
Dowie Doole NV Moxie Sparkling Red ($25) 90% Shiraz/10% Malbec. Peppery, leathery nose of redcurrants, black plum and sweet cherry fruits. Its concentrated sweet berry flavours are quite sweet and sour. A simple rendition of the style. 86
Gemtree Moonstone Savagnin 2009 ($25) 100% natural fermentation, 100% biodynamic, 20% old oak fermentation. The variety name (savagnin) does not appear on the wine's front label but only on the back. Very fresh, faintly honeyed nose of pear and melon fruits. The texture is wonderful and immediately proclaims itself through an oily, viscous mouthfeel and distinct green nashi pear notes, framed by a refreshing cut of soft acids. It's a surprising, yet genuinely complex lighter style of white. Interesting to note Gemtree liken savagnin to being a cross between pinot gris and riesling (character/acid). (full review soon) 92
Gemtree Citrine Chardonnay 2009 ($16) 30% new French oak fermented McLaren Vale chardonnay. Soft, creamy peach fuzz and lychee nose with a warm hint of solvent/spirit? Its simple, lightly fruited palate reveals punchy melon undertones with clean acids and pleasing texture derived through barrel fermentation. It's a good, correctly priced regional style, suggestive of clever winemaking. I tend to prefer the lighter oaked chardonnay styles from McLaren Vale over the heavier oaked ones. 88
Gemtree Luna Roja Tempranillo 2008 ($25) Shows a true varietal nose of dark cherry, spice and cedar with a touch of aniseed. The balanced, medium-bodied and clean palate shows a pleasingly savoury expression of cherry flavours with classic, prickly tempranillo tannins. Another indication of how well suited this variety is to the region, plus how well it has transcended recent seaons. (full review soon) 90
Gemtree Tatty Road 2008 ($25) Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)/Petit Verdot (25%)/Merlot (25%)/Cabernet Franc (20%). Bright colour. Shows a minty edge to baked plum and berry aromas with vanilla/coconut and wafer-like oak. Its smooth, juicy and brightly fruited palate presents ripe flavours and an even tapestry of acid and tannin, but it's a fraction simple and forward. On the plus side it's quite difficult to pick a dominant variety here. 88
Gemtree Cadenzia 2008 ($25) Grenache (60%)/Tempranillo (20%)/Shiraz (20%). Interestingly, grenache and tempranillo dominant. Shows cedar, sweet cherry, clove and cinnamon aromas. Its smooth, juicy and rich palate has loads of berry and plum flavours with a pleasing announcement of tempranillo influenced prickly tannins and spice evident at the finish. Once again it's a tad simple, but it's also very well made and definitely tasty. 89
Gemtree Uncut Shiraz 2008 ($19) It's good, if perhaps a bit rare to see a true premium McLaren Vale shiraz for $19. Its dark berry/currant fruit nose with chocolate/vanilla oak and herbs does reflect its season somewhat. It reveals a rather essence-like palate, with Gemtree's typical smoothness, unloading sour edged berry and plum fruits with a finish marked by sweet oak. 88
Gemtree The Phantom Petit Verdot 2008 ($25) Cellar door only. Cleanly fruited, spicy and cedary nose of redcurrants, eucalypt and gumleaf. It's the most elegant of the Gemtree reds, with fairly settled, light-medium bodied flavours of red fruits and cedar oak framed by brisk, effective tannins. It's a pretty good varietal if you can handle the leafier side of the grape. 90