Somewhere in the back roads of Warrandyte in the Yarra Valley sits the Rob Dolan winery and function centre. A small but well managed cellar door with unusually high bar stools (Rob himself is 6’6″, which possibly explains the furniture…) where guests can sample wines made from grapes grown across the Valley and other local fresh produce in what the cellar door quite cleverly termed a “build your own cheese plate”. Lovely stuff.
Bon Blanc (Savagnin) 2014: The Bon Blanc grape goes by many names; Savagnin, Savarro being the common alternatives. From the first sniff, the oak is what you notice, but there is still a lot of freshness – impressive for a five year old white. The wine itself is nice and complex, despite being not too forceful nor long in the finish. Definitely worth a try if you are a fan of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or oaked Chardonnay. $30 per bottle.
Blanc de Blancs (Sparkling) 2017: For a vintage sparkling wine, this is bargain price stuff. The colour is near-perfect for a 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine and the bubbles are fine and plentiful. The nose shows a definite sweetness, but don’t let this be a deterrent because it does dry out a bit through the palate. Not as complex as some Pinot Noir Chardonnay sparkling blends found elsewhere in the region, but at this price you can afford to decide for yourself, multiple times if necessary. $22 per bottle.
Black Label Arneis 2017: This is not a common grape in Australia, save for a few experimental dozens produced in a few places and so we don’t have a lot to compare this wine to regarding quality. What we can say, a bit more subjectively is that the nose is full of a range of citrus that are so plentiful that it is difficult to name them all. These scents translate quite nicely into flavours, before a slightly sour finish ruins the party somewhat. $27 per bottle.
White Label Pinot Gris 2018: A few hours (yes, hours, not days) on skins has given this wine a very nice light pink colour, distinct from the fluorescent orange we have seen in some examples of Gris on skins. The nose is more apple than pear blossom which means the sweetness is kept nicely in check. The aromas on this wine are really something, despite not being as intense as some floral wines, the force is still there to a reasonable extent. To taste, the wine is two-toned, with the second layer taking over as the first subsides. A very nice example of what Pinot Gris can be. $30 per bottle.
White Label Chardonnay 2017: OUR PICK FOR BEST WHITE. Yarra Valley Chardonnay can be a guessing game sometimes as to how much oak is enough and how much is too much and the theories seem to ebb and flow between wine makers and vintages. Thankfully, a number of wine makers are zeroing in on the ideal balance, which seems to be about 30% new oak barrels for between 7 and 10 months (this is based entirely on what we have been told about the Chardonnays we rate most highly, and no experimentation of our own since we don’t own any new oak barrels… yet). The bouquet is slightly too restrained, the concentration of flavours a touch too light and the finish a few seconds too short, but all in all this is a brilliant wine. Good value too at $30 per bottle.
True Colours 2018 Field Blend: A quaint mixture of Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and two other white varieties which we didn’t write down make a very interesting drink. The Sauvignon Blanc leads the way in both the bouquet and the palate with the passionfruit notes and the Gewurztraminer lends a hand in really stretching the palate out to an amazing length. These types of blended wine can take many years to get right; but this wine is as close to exemplary as may be possible. $24 per bottle.
White Label 2017 Pinot Noir: Fans of Boat O’ Craigo Pinot Noir should note that Rob Dolan is the wine maker responsible for their award winning 2016 Pinot Noir; his own version of the drink is equally impressive on a number of fronts despite the grapes being sourced from a distinctly different part of the Yarra Valley. This is a round and soft flavoured Pinot Noir which are terms we use to describe wines that are less tannic and more fruit-driven. A really great wine. $35 per bottle.
Black Label 2015 Sangiovese: The temptation to make Sangiovese into a powerful, tannic red has been resisted, thankfully, and what remains is a mass of black currant, by sight, smell and taste. A very fresh red wine, ideally matched to Italian food. $27 per bottle.
2017 White Label Shiraz: OUR PICK FOR BEST RED. Too often “cool climate” is used in association with Shiraz (or Syrah as is often used for the cool climate wines) as an excuse for the wine not being comparable in any number of dimensions to other well known examples of the wine. This Shiraz, however, manages to demonstrate that Shiraz can be a softer red wine whilst remaining aromatic and well structured. The length is a bit too short and the concentration of flavours is a bit lacking, but this is really nit-picking for what is a truly excellent drink. $35 per bottle.