Hunter Smith, one of the owners of Frankland Estate winery, stopped in New York at Bistango Restaurant recently to pour his wines at a media dinner. Throughout the meal, the affable Australian discussed the history and future directions of the winery.
The evening started with a solid line-up of five dry Rieslings. Hunter said that when his parents first began bottling Rieslings, Australians didn’t drink it. Eventually, they went to Europe, and the dialogue with winemakers from other major Riesling producing areas led to an annual Riesling Conference, which will take place in Western Australia in 2015.
The hills along the remote Frankland River provide a good siting for Hunter’s Rieslings, offering cold nights and warm, summer days. Hunter says he wants his wines to reflect a true sense of place, stating, it's "about being true to site."
That commitment is reflected in the colorful names of the wines, including Isolation Ridge, Rocky Gully, and Poison Hill.
I was attracted to all the wines. At the value end of the spectrum, the Rocky Gully Riesling is $24.99 and has lovely minerality, white peaches, green apples, and lemons. There is crispness but also more creaminess and than with many Rieslings. The premier Riesling poured was SmithCullam 2012, which was fermented with natural yeast. This had layers of minerality, and crisp apples, and a touch of lemon curd. It was a beautiful Riesling that could be easily aged for years.
The reds were equally attractive, starting with a peppery and fruity Rocky Gully Shiraz. The reds became deeper in flavor and complexity with the excellent Olmo’s Reward, a blend of cabernet franc and merlot, with small amounts of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. The wine was named for the American viticulturist who identified the potential of the Frankland River region. The SmithCullam Shiraz Cabernet was incredibly elegant, with smooth tannins, deep black plum and blackberry flavors, and an overall richness and power.
Frankland Estates showed well made, terroir-driven wines that are pleasing at many price points. They are available in New York at wine shops including Appellation Wine.