Geraldine McFaul’s journey in whole-bunch fermentation began while working at Domaine de L'Arlot during the 2002 vintage in Burgundy. In 2003 she returned to Stonier Wines inspired by traditional French winemaking techniques to make the 2003 Windmill Block Pinot Noir. This exquisite wine (chock-full of savoury flavours) propelled her to be runner-up to the legendary Stephen Henschke in the 2006 QANTAS, Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year Award.
Fast forward to 2015, and Geraldine (now chief winemaker at Willow Creek Vineyard) is thinking assiduously about whole-bunch fermented Pinot Noir. A bottle of the 2014 O’Leary Block sits open on the winery tasting bench. It’s a lovely wine, named in honour of her comrade, long-time vineyard manager, Robbie O’Leary and features the intensity of flavour that whole-bunches provide.
As part of a Plunge pre-Christmas tour, a group from Web Profits Digital Marketing joined Geraldine in her barrel room for a late afternoon blending trial. The exercise was to gain greater understanding of the process that guides the winemaker's decision to blend or not blend wine by tasting barrel samples from various parts of the vineyard.
First they tasted two benchmark wines: The 2014 O’Leary and the 2014 Willow Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir. Then they looked at a blended barrel sample of 2015 Pinot Noir featuring wine from across the vineyard. A blend without the O’Leary Block is then tasted alongside the O’Leary Block component by itself. Geraldine poses the question: Should she bottle the 2015 O’Leary Block (with all that whole-bunch intrigue) as a single vineyard Pinot Noir?
The group concluded that the O’Leary is delicious; and a compelling argument for a stand alone wine. The final decision is Geraldine’s to make before bottling sometime next year. Personally I hope she makes the 2015 O’Leary as I just love that style of wine.