Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Leabrook Estate's is a relatively new cellar door in the Adelaide Hills, and if you haven't been yet I suggest you put it at the top of your must visit list next time you're in the region. From word go there's just so much to like about the place. It's housed in a charmingly rustic 130 year-old stone and wood building, which gives off an air of old world charm, traditional values and small-scale, boutique, customer focused winemaking as soon as you arrive.

I recall meeting Leabrook Estate's owner/winemaker Colin Best at a small winemaker's tasting several years ago, where the man left a great impression on me. If I remember correctly Colin brought his own decanters to that tasting, the only winemaker on the day to do so, telling me here's a guy who's serious about presenting his wines in the best possible fashion. Everything about Colin that day beamed focus and determination, especially when it came to cabernet franc (perhaps the house specialty) and pinot noir.

After going through Leabrook on the weekend I'm only happier with the way the brand has developed. Leabrook Estate had no cellar door when I met Colin, but I can tell you he's picked the right pair of ladies to manage it. Both our hosts (headed by the lovely Chris Best) were very personable, entertaining and sharp given the amount of customers they dealt with. It was apparent they were only too willing to take in guests to the cellar door like friends to a family dinner. In fact, the rather intimate cellar door experience reminded me of some of my favourite memories at Ashton Hills with Peta and Stephen George (only minus the state's best pinot!).

Leabrook offers a fairly contemporary range of cool-climate Adelaide Hills' wines, except for their unusual selection of 5 renditions of red Bordeaux styles. I was particularly impressed by Leabrook's generous pricing (especially after having gone there direct from The Lane) and most notably quality control. Due to the harsh conditions thrown up by the 2008 vintage, Colin declassified all the pinot noir fruit which would usually go into his Reserve wine. Instead the grapes were bottled as a cleanskin release, which is sold through cellar door for the excellent price of $80 a dozen. I can tell you the 2008 pinot cleanskins were proving very popular with punters on the day, as I counted at least 5 cartons walk out the door when I was there. Declassification of below quality fruit into lesser wines in difficult seasons is a decision I always applaud wineries on.

In conclusion, if you're in the Hills (or even if you're not, it's only 20 minutes from Adelaide's CBD straight up Greenhill Road) then you must pop in and say G'day at Leabrook Estate's cellar door. You won't regret it. Leabrook Estate is open weekends and public holidays only, from 11am to 5pm.

Leabrook Estate tasting notes are posted below.

Leabrook Estate Riesling 2008 ($22) Slatey, quartz and mineral aromas show a touch of toasty development, but its palate is a bit round and soft, with what seems like awkward, spiky acids. I'd say adolescence has started to kick in here. 87

Leabrook Estate Chardonnay 2007 ($30) A lighter oaked style with ripe melon fruits and a tangy, citrussy palate. It's fairly tidy but a bit simple. 87

Leabrook Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2008 ($35) Fragrant nutty/buttery oak evident, with a balanced expression of very refined mineral and white stonefruit characters. True stuff in the modern Australian mould. 90

Leabrook Estate Pinot Noir 2003 ($15) Very developed, muddy earth nose lacks aromatic lift. Its palate is sharp, without much in the way of texture or richness. 83

Leabrook Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2007 ($33) Good spice characters to the nose, with underlying cherry and dark plum aromas. The palate presents pleasing, silky texture with fair, prickly pinot structure and an interesting, more savoury finish marked by cedar oak and spice. (full review soon) 90

Cleanskin Pinot Noir 2008 ($80/doz) Surprisingly varietal nose, with perfume, light spice and red cherry. The palate however, lets down its initial promise, with a light, forward and short expression of unconvincing, overly ripe varietal flavour in the rhubarb/currant spectrum that ends rather abruptly. It was very popular on the day but for about $2 more a unit I'd take De Bortoli's 2008 Windy Peak instead. (Casey picked up two cases of this so we might do a comparison of these two sub-$10 pinots one day...) 82

Leabrook Estate Cabernet Franc 2006 ($26) Big fan of this wine normally and the 2006 didn't let me down. It's more of a riper, juicy and quaffable style of richly flavoured Adelaide Hills' red with some cabernet franc character. (reviewed separate post) 90

Leabrook Estate Merlot 2006 ($28) Slightly herbal, tea leaf and red plum characters with none of the plumpness of warmer climate merlot and a surprising structure delivered through fine tannins and good acid. At its best I believe Adelaide Hills merlot can be quite good and this wine proves it well. (does anyone remember Shaw and Smith's?) 90

Leabrook Estate Shiraz 2006 ($30) Very vibrant nose marked by clear spice notes, bright fruit and aromas of cedar oak and aniseed. It's a medium-bodied style, with a lingering, peppery and spicy finish marked by additional tones of aniseed/fennel. Good stuff and a fine take on the regional style. 90

Leabrook Estate Three Regions Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($30) 85% Adelaide Hills with the remainder split between the Adelaide Plains and Langhorne Creek. The Adelaide Plains/Langhorne Creek components certainly contribute richness and plushness to the mid-palate, but its aroma still seems a bit flat. There's a smooth plushness to its herbal dark fruit and chocolate flavours, which show plenty of ripeness and easy drinkability. Probably more of an early drinker. 88

Leabrook Estate George Merlot 2008 ($40) Intensely fragrant, with a herb/menthol overlay to red berry and spicy cedar oak aromas. Its barely medium-bodied palate is fine, elegant and balanced, and driven nicely down the palate by a structure that's relatively vivid for the variety. A very good Australian merlot which represents a true varietal expression (maybe there's a little cabernet thrown in?) 92


  1. Nice review. Not a winery I knew much about. Very interesting their focus on bordeaux varietals. It seems that given the wide range of micro climates in the adelaide hills, that it does just about every major varietal well. Is there a wine region in australia that does as many different varietals as well as the Adelaide hills?

  2. Mmm, interesting thinking in regards to Australia's most diverse wine region. You've certainly instigated a bit more thought in my head Red!

    The Adelaide Hills would have to be SA's most diverse region in my opinion too. As you've said it has a diverse range of micro climates, which stretch practically from the Barossa/Eden Valley in the north to as far south as McLaren Vale in the other direction, but I believe both the Margaret River and Yarra are capable of some pretty fair diversity too, as well as a few other emerging Australian regions. Diversity of styles is certainly something a lot of Australia's wine regions are only just beginning to spread their wings with (just think how much Italianettes have changed the face of McLaren Vale and the King Valley recently).

    Given the appropriate finances I think a tasting to ascertain Australia's most diverse wine region could be quite spectacular indeed Red!

    Chris P

  3. It most certainly requires a tasting!

    For mine the Margaret River struggles with Pinot, and the Yarra struggles with Riesling. The Adelaide Hills seemingly has a good example for all the noble varieties, along with a few other varieties as well (Nebbiolo being a good example)