Giant Steps Cellar Door is impossible to miss if you are driving through Healesville in the Yarra Valley. Fans of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay should seek out this impressive destination (and despite the name, there is ramp access). To get to the tasting room you will need to negotiate about 5 steps (1 if you are a giant perhaps). Sign up for their newsletter, because there are specials to be had throughout the year…
The first thing to note about Giant Steps is that they have SEVERAL different wines of the same grape to try, made from different sites within the Yarra Valley or a blend of multiple sites. The tasting room staff have thoughtfully provided maps of the area to talk you through the different geographical features that influence the wines. The tastings occur in the barrel room, which is itself a sight to behold. Stay for lunch, you will need it after this tasting!
2017 Yarra Valley Chardonnay: This is the entry level Chardonnay, a decent amount of which is now maturing in our private cellars… In two words: FULL ON. This is a wine that announces itself as a cool climate Chardonnay with force and yet somehow also with grace. The fact that it is the cheapest of the Chardonnays sold by Giant Steps (it is a blend, the single vineyard wines are a little bit more expensive) makes it an excellent way to introduce newcomers to the Yarra Valley to what they can expect from good vintages and well made wines.
Single Vineyard Chardonnays: Rather than describe each individually, it is perhaps a more useful resource to compare the next three (all cost the same) wines, all of which are excellent. The Tarraford Chardonnay has amazingly big-fruit flavours and will delight fans of fruity white wines. The Sexton Chardonnay was voted the group favourite; it has a much rounder feel in the mouth and the oak is more dominant in the palate, giving a smooth finish that may well make this one of the best Yarra Valley whites of 2017. The Wombat Creek Chardonnay is one for fans of zesty whites; it has a much more defined (sharp flavour) palate, supported expertly by the minerality through the finish.
(LEAVE UNTIL LAST) Ocarina Chardonnay: In Georgia (Europe, not USA) there are wines still being made in ceramic pots at wineries that claim to be the oldest in the world. A small number of wineries in Australia (on the Mornington Peninsula and here at Giant Steps) are experimenting with ceramic fermentation and at Giant Steps they have named it the Ocarina Chardonnay after the instrument the vessel resembles. This wine is the fruitiest Chardonnay we have tried in recent memory and became an instant hit amongst our tasting group for the day. Is it as good as the Sexton Chardonnay which is fermented in Oak? You will need to judge that for yourself, or, buy both and keep judging long into the year.
2017 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir: As with the whites, there are single vineyard Pinot Noir wines available to taste, but you should start with the Yarra Valley blend to give yourself a position for comparison. Like all good Pinot Noirs, this wine is instantly recognisable by the colour in the glass and the perfumed bouquet of light cherry notes and earthy tones. It is the length of this wine, however, which really establishes it as one not to be missed when travelling the Yarra Valley. Very drinkable now, we decided to cellar for later…
Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs: As with the Chardonnays, the single vineyard Pinot Noirs are all excellent in their own way, and some tasters will prefer different characteristics over others. The Sexton 2017 Pinot Noir for example is a darker wine with a bigger nose (the variety shows more intensity in the bouquet) and then backs this up with incredible complexity and a somewhat dry finish which will delight certain Pinot Noir fans. Our consensus pick though was the Applejack 2017 Pinot Noir which we decided was the most complex in terms of flavour profile, this is a wine that demands thought in order to drink, which is what made it most attractive; other drinkers may say it is not as easy-drinking as some of the others and they would be correct, we don’t see this as a hinderance however. The Wombat Creek 2017 Pinot Noir showed itself to be the lightest in colour and perhaps more typical of what we have come to expect of a Pinot Noir. The finish shows quite an amazing array of leafy herbaceous flavours which many Pinot Noir drinkers will love.