Every year there is one date in the calendar that Don really looks forward to. For him, it is the culmination of all of his hard work in the vineyard throughout the year. It is a day of recognition, where he is able to celebrate, relax and prepare for the next vintage. This day is also known as the ‘Penfolds Grange Growers Club’ Lunch.
The Taranga vineyard grows grapes for not only the Oliver’s Taranga brand, but also for a number of other wineries, including Wirra Wirra , d’Arenberg , Angoves , Lino Ramble and the James Halliday Winery of the Year, Penfolds. For a number of years, shiraz grown on the Taranga vineyard, has made its way into some of the iconic Penfolds wines, most notably the famous Penfolds Grange. In 1996, the Penfolds winemakers decided that it was time to start recognising growers whose grapes were making the grade for their iconic wine, and the ‘Penfolds Grange Growers Club’ was formed. Don was part of the first group of growers to be celebrated then, and fast forward to 2013 and his grapes have contributed to Grange in more than 10 vintages.
The Taranga vineyard has 4 blocks of old vine shiraz that are part of the club, and in 2011 and 2012 vintages, Rayments Block (part of the original Taranga vineyard owned by myself & husband Dan Wright), also reached the grade. Double celebrations for Team Taranga!
In 2013, the lunch was very exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was held at the amazing Magill Estate Restaurant . There has been a bit of controversy swirling around Magill Estate Restaurant over the last few years as it closed down for renovations, and things went on a bit longer than what was planned and they lost a number of staff before opening. It had only been open a couple of months when we attended, with some brilliant reviews, so we were all excited to taste the food for ourselves. And to see if the small, delicate dishes would satisfy confirmed ‘meat & three vege’ man, Don! We joined with a number of the Penfolds staff, from winemaking, viticulture, grower liaison, and marketing, along with other Grange growers and growers for Penfold’s icon Chardonnay- Yattarna. The six course meal was close to the best I have had in my life- incredible flavours, fresh produce, cleverly done and presented like a piece of art.
Throughout the meal we received presentations from the charismatic Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago and the grower liaison team. We were awarded our magnums of Grange and given copies of the newly released Seventh Edition of the Rewards of Patience. There was a lot of celebration of an iconic Australian wine brand that seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment. Makes you feel pretty happy that people like Peter Gago are representing Australian wine overseas. He is a passionate and entertaining presenter, and he knows his stuff. I know my husband Dan wishes he had the same connections in the music industry as Peter- his long list of musician friends including Dave Grohl, Jack Black, Eddie Vedder, Maynard Keenan and the boys from the Kings of Leon!
Enough about the food- how about the wines that we were served with lunch?!?! A long list of brilliant examples of what Australian wine can be when it is singing. The 1967 Bin 7 Coonawarra Cabernet Kalimna Shiraz almost looked younger than the 1990 Bin 389. The 2008 Grange was not shy at all, a massive wine with loads of life in it yet. The 2012 Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay had a beautiful line and freshness. The 2003 Yattarna was looking a little tired, but the 2010 Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet was spectacular.
Lastly, we had the opportunity to see the highly acclaimed new publication by photographer Milton Wordley- A Year in the Life of Grange. This is a truly amazing book, a spectacular photo essay with words by the best writer in the business, Philip White, following a year in the life of Grange. Don was interviewed and photographed for the book, and while it is not a cheap book by any stretch of the imagination, I think he will find one with his name on it under the Christmas tree this year. My husband Dan and I joked that it is likely to be the only time that we will be in a book that has Prince Charles & Camilla on one page, and then a picture of us on the next!! In late news, A Day in the Life of Grange has been shortlisted for a Gourmand Best in World Food and Wine Books Award. Brilliant effort Milton & Philip!
I will definitely be pestering my husband to take me to Magill Estate again for a special occasion, the food and service was really exceptional. Even though Oliver’s Taranga is a small family brand, that is all about regionality and estate grown fruit, it is nice for us to feel like we play a small role in one of Australia’s powerhouse brands. We feel that it is important for wine companies to recognise their growers more, and appreciate the effort that the Penfolds team put in to make it a special day for us. For Don and Dan, it is the ultimate recognition for their grapegrowing skills and respect for the land that they work.