Ashton Hills -Top Pinot from the Adelaide Hills offered at the SA Art Gallery restaurant
I was refreshing myself with an afternoon Tea,.. after exploring the South Australia Art gallery in the very civilized academic and cultural enclave of Adelaide ,..(located on North terrace for the uninitiated) when I picked up a very professionally curated Wine List,.. offering some great wines by the Glass,.. and was enthralled to see the iconic Ashton Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir on the list ,…I made a mental note to come back to have a glass ,..but instead took a Glass on the spot thanks to the generosity of the Art Galleries Restaurant Manger Jai Lutz ,.. who has a passion for great South Aussie wines,.. and whilst sharing some information with me about the restaurants Fine Wine List..I instinctively resolved to focus on the Ashton Hills Pinot and complete an outstanding article that had been on the “backburner for some time.” With the massive volume of Media releases from Government agencies and other Sydney stakeholders,.. not to mention Business publicity coming across my desk,.. ,.it is difficult to generate a lot of wine content ,..even though the “wine,food travel” formula is my personal passion!
On taking in the “intoxicating Pinot Perfume” I quickly resolved to write this little Publicity article for our readers on the spot and clear up a long outstanding matter.
After a lifetime of fabulous vinous experiences, I would be the first to acknowledge that as a journalist/writer I haven’t always had the time or the energy to do justice to the great experiences that have been afforded me,.. both in Europe and here in Australia..nor reciprocate by deed to the many great people that make up the wine industry ,..by giving them write ups and sharing their information on the publications that I am associated with ,..be it Connoisseur Magazine or the Sydney Times.
As most readers will appreciate ,.it is one thing to do a quick and easy Instagram Post,..with Photo and a short caption,.. ,..But it is entirely something else,.. to craft or construct a Wine or travel article or review or even a publicity article.It takes a hell of a lot of discipline and a fairly sharp mind and focus,..so this situation provided me with the perfect opportunity to make amends,.. so to speak,.. and give a great winemaker his due ,..so here it is..
Now,… as for the winemaker in question,..Stephen George,. I was aware that the day to day management of Ashton Hills has now been taken over by Wirra Wirra from the McLaren Vale,.(I still drink plenty of Church Block in Sydney ) and I receive their Newsletter to keep abreast of things,..,..but,.. I am assured that Stephen is still the winemaker and hasn’t lost his passion for making great wines!
“This all reminded me of my visit almost 10 years ago to the small Adelaide Hills winery,.. when I was still a serious Pinophile,..(after several visits to Bourgogne in the 90’s) and my mate Aud Smits drove me up to Ashton Hills winery in his Vintage silver grey Porsche 365 , the memories came flooding back,…my meeting with Stephen George left a good impression on me and I was delighted to discover Cool climate Aussie Pinot ,…and enjoyed many of the other wines including the delicious Riesling from his range.”
Wine aficionado Aud Smits provided a great vehicle for the Adelaide Hills wine expedition with baggage room for over 4 dozen bottles!
If you are considering visiting from Sydney Ashton Hills is a three hectare, dry-grown vineyard that lies in the Piccadilly Valley sub region of the Adelaide Hills on a ridge just below the summit of Mount Lofty. The estate was founded by Stephen George in 1982 and since that time it has built a reputation as one of Australia’s finest proponents of pinot noir and cool climate whites.
Stephen’s pioneering work at Ashton Hills was one of the catalysts for the development of the Adelaide Hills as a wine region. In the early 1980s, the Adelaide Hills wine scene was very much in its infancy, with Brian Croser leading the charge but very little other vineyard development underway. Along with Croser, Stephen was one of the key players to put Adelaide Hills on the map with his resolve to produce the best pinot noir in the country from his site in the Piccadilly Valley. Buying the land from a market gardener, Stephen recognised its immense potential, often telling friends that “where apples and cherries grow, it’s a good pointer for producing classic European style wines”.
The vineyard is planted at an altitude of 570 metres and with a south facing aspect that looks towards Mt Lofty, Stephen was drawn to the fact that the site was one of the coolest areas in South Australia. Determined that this was prime real estate for his winemaking vision, Stephen started with cuttings of pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling and soon established himself as a leader in clone development for the emerging region.
“For over 30 years Stephen experimented with up to 26 pinot noir clones, ultimately settling on five key clones that now make the acclaimed Reserve and Estate Pinot Noirs from Ashton Hills, plus a range of awarded sparkling and still wines. Eight carefully cultivated rows of riesling also remain in the Ashton Hills vineyard, producing a highly exclusive and limited Ashton Hills riesling each year.”
As mentioned earlier in the article ,..Stephen has now taken a step back into semi-retirement to spend more time travelling to his beloved Burgundy, and has transferred his equity in Ashton Hills to Wirra Wirra Vineyards, Nevertheless, he continues to reside at his home at the winery and works closely at vintage with Liam Van Pelt,the Winery Manager, to continue the tradition of producing benchmark wines from the Ashton Hills site.
“[Ashton Hills] is the most distinguished site in South Australia for Pinot Noir; Stephen’s unremitting attention to detail has made Ashton Hills the one Grand Cru of the state.” – James Halliday
“Great news that Wirra Wirra has bought Ashton Hills. It’s like hearing that two of your best friends are hitching up: they could only have beautiful kids, no?” – Huon Hooke
Long regarded as the benchmark for Pinot Noir, Ashton Hills also produces an exceptional riesling and other methode champenoise sparkling wines. You can organize a visit the rustic cellar door with its stunning views over the Piccadilly Valley and experience the range of award winning wines.
Opening hours are:
Friday to Monday: 11am – 5pm
We are currently welcoming a maximum of 18 people inside and 14 people outside on the deck at any one time, in line with COVID-19 restrictions.
$10pp for groups of five or less, waived on two bottle purchase or more per person.
$15pp for groups of six, up to 12 (pending restrictions). These tastings are held at 10am and 11am Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Tastings by appointment:
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10am and 3pm.
$10pp, waived on two bottle purchase or more per person.
Please email your name and contact details to Liam at email@example.com with a minimum 48 hours notice provided.
Taste our Adelaide Hills wine sub-region. Visit four iconic Piccadilly Valley wineries, including Ashton Hills Vineyard, CRFT Wines, Greenhill Wines and Tapanappa Wines purchase a bottle of your choice from each winery and collect a stamp to receive a complimentary set of two Riedel Pinot glasses.