Many years ago the area of Mudgee fell off the wine radar for a lot of people, and for some reason it has struggled to come back. I’ve heard people say that’s because the wines coming from the region aren’t great, they are too hit and miss or they aren’t as expressive as some of the other wine regions of Australia.
I think those people have had their head in the sand over the past few years as there are quite a few wineries out there, from the Mudgee area, in fact, around that area there are over 40 wineries. Some are massive operations that are owned by millionaires that have the cash and time to set themselves up and knock out great wines, others are just small operations, which have worked bloody hard to build their wineries and knock out great wines. But whether they are big or small, they are all producing wines with familiar labels at your local bottle shop shelves, names like, Gartlemann Wines, Robert Oatley Wines, Logan Wines, Lowe and this week’s drop, Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard.
The Stein family first immigrated to Australia in 1838, when three Stein brothers came to Australia, contracted by the MacArthur family to plant out the vineyard at Camden Park in Sydney. Johann was the first to arrive and brought with him cuttings of Riesling vines from Germany’s Rhine region. Slowly the urban sprawl of Sydney swallowed up the Stein Vineyard and the family turned to other pursuits. Over a century later the wine making tradition was revived by great-great-grandson Robert Stein who, along with wife Loran, purchased 75 acres on the winery’s current site in Pipeclay Lane in 1976, where they embarked on a rigorous planting programme of planting Shiraz cuttings on 2 hectares, which were quickly followed by Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Black Muscat.
In 2005 the family operation was joined by the Steins’ son Andrew who took over running the operation after Robert’s death in 2006. The third generation to join came in 2009 when the Steins’ grandson Jacob returned to Mudgee after making seven vintages away from home at places such as Germany and Italy, gaining experience in winemaking and viticulture. Success for his long years of hard work followed with Jacob winning the “Gourmet Traveller WINE – Young Winemaker of the Year” Award in 2012 and, since 2011, the winery has been consistently achieving a Five Star rating from James Halliday.
This truly is a family business with the grapes being grown, the wine made and bottled on site, and the Steins’ daughter and husband running the Pipeclay Pumphouse restaurant on the estate site. And then there is the Robert Stein Vintage Motorcycle Museum adjoining the cellar door. It contains a treasure trove of mainly British machines collected by Robert, and the winery produces a Motorbike Collection range of wines, with the labels featuring pictures of the vintage bikes.
If you’re the type that likes to experiment with your wines, trying unfamiliar areas or new styles, then the Mudgee district is definitely worth a look, and these three Robert Stein Rieslings are a great place to start. As usual prices quoted are RRP and are often cheaper in store or online.
Robert Stein Riesling 2016 – already cleaned up at a lot of wine shows, and with one sip it’s easy to understand why. It’s a pretty good wine for the price, and will carry well for the next five or so years in the bottle. Classic notes of lime and citrus flowers, with touches of musk and orange rind, with just a faint trace of minerality in the glass too. Great long dry finish that will match well with a range of finger foods, would be perfect as the wine to start the night, very highly slurpable drop that zings right along the middle of the tongue. RRP $30
Robert Stein “Half Dry” Riesling 2016 – in bold lettering the label notes that its 10RS, pointing toward ten grams of residual sugar left over from fermenting the fruit. That gives it a hit of sweetness but it’s in check with the flavours, a touch of fizz on the tongue gives it a bit of substance and body too. Lime curd a plenty in this, with some zesty notes in there too, it’s both aromatic and textural at the same time. A long finish on the tongue too. Will hold ok in the bottle but this will probably be at its best young. RRP $40.
Robert Stein Reserve Riesling 2016 – at $50 this isn’t something you will be coming home on a Friday night and quaffing, but it’s a lovely wine that you should definitely grab for dinner parties or presents. Zippy and broad across the tongue, full of citrus and lemon notes, light gentle sweetness to it, but it’s held in check with a great racy acidity. The finish is long and juicy still carrying a lot of flavour. This is a pretty special wine that probably should be in a lot of collector’s cellars. RRP $50