If you love wine, great food and visiting the picturesque undulating hills, you must visit Shaw + Smith for their Friday Table.
Located off of Jones Road in the Adelaide Hills, Shaw + Smith Winery has been creating stand out vintages since 1989. Not that I need to disclose this information, but that’s as old as me! Okay, okay, I’m actually older. No need to rub it in!
Run by Martin Shaw & Michael Hill Smith; these are two men who are dedicated to creating authentic Adelaide Hills wine. A part of what makes their wine so uniquely superb is the location. “It’s wetter, it’s colder, it’s higher,” as quoted by Smith, “and the wines are modern Australia. They’ve got nothing to do with the wines of the past.”
When we arrived for their Friday Table, we were met with a cup of warm tea and a view so spectacular, it was tough to leave when it came time to enter the winery. We were hosted by Dan Coward, a master in wine education, who ensured we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. Because Shaw + Smith Winery is so clean and well put-together, I wasn’t prepared for the laid-back nature of everyone who worked there. After about 5 min, I felt as though we were hanging out in a dear friend’s living room, chatting warmly over old memories. That is, if said “friend” had barrels of excellent wine lying around in their backyard!
Coward first took us on a tour of the grounds. Boasting 35 hectares currently under vine, it’s impressive and deserves mention that all their grapes are hand-picked. When asked if you could create an excellent wine with machine picked grapes, Coward responded with a cheeky smile and sly shake of his head.
We were then ushered into a well organized warehouse where barrels made from French oak towered high around us, all filled with patiently fermenting wine. Or as I like to call this portion of the tour: “where the magic happens.” Adam Wadewitz, senior winemaker, joined us shortly after, explaining their dedication to using pure French oak and why small efforts, like air-drying their barrels, can actually make all the difference to a wine’s flavour profile.
It’s clear the makers at Shaw + Smith take no shortcuts when it comes to creating exceptional wine.
Next Wadewitz lead us to a room which looked like something out of a futuristic robot movie! Large steel drums glistened before us with an intricate track system securely fitted to the ceiling. Attached to this was an apparatus specially made for Shaw + Smith, meant to mimic foot stomping, showcasing how they’ve gone above and beyond to ensure that what ends up in your bottle is the best of the best.
After I picked my jaw up from this impressive room’s floor, Wadewitz and Coward took us to taste an unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc, which sat cloudy in the glass and was strongly citrus on the nose. It was bright with a lot of lemon and a curiously soft aftertaste. The Sauv Blanc you’ll find in a finished bottle will be a filtered version with gentler flavours, so it was interesting to taste it in its rawest form.
We completed our tour of the winery and headed in to have lunch and begin the best part of the afternoon; the wine tasting.
Michael Hill Smith and Dan Coward hosted our tasting, starting us off with a staple in the Shaw + Smith family; Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc is the first wine style Shaw + Smith ever released. This is the filtered version of the unfiltered wine we had tried during our tour. It was so fresh and vibrant, and notably with a less herbaceous nature than that of other Sauv Blancs I’ve tried. There was a hint of pink grapefruit on the nose followed by a lively, dry citrus flavour that faded away to a gentle and lovely aftertaste.
“Sauvignon Blanc is the gift that keeps on giving.” Smith mentioned, speaking to the religious devotion some in their community have for their style of Sauv Blanc.
I can see why! It’s definitely one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I’ve ever tasted.
Next we sampled their Riesling. With a hint of green apple on the nose, my first sip had an expressive citrus element. The aftertaste left me with a residual of sugar on the tongue, which was a happy finish for such a crisp wine. This is definitely an easy one to drink and would probably be a crowd pleaser across various palates.
Moving through the whites, I then came to their M3 Chardonnay. Now, I must say, at first the aroma caught me off guard. I was hit with an expression of smoke, as though I had just walked into a gentlemen’s club. It immediately made me feel like I should have had a curled mustache or a monocle while I enjoyed this glass. After I took my first sip, however, I was offered a feminine flavour profile. Crisp lime and nectarine came through, with a long flavour that was slightly sweet at the very end. This was a very interesting Chardonnay indeed. I also now very much want a monocle.
The Lenswood Chardonnay came next, boasting a lot of characteristics similar to the M3 Chardonnay. I was met with the same smoke on the nose, however, this time with a little vanilla. It offered similar bright flavours, with forward flavours of peach and crisp lemon. This is an excellent Chardonnay and worth the few extra dollars if you’re celebrating a special occasion, or if you simply prefer the finer things in life.
Now we were ready for the reds! Pinot Noir acted as our usher into the crimson wine world, and it was a beautiful way to move on over to “the dark side.” The perfume of this wine was etherial with a little oak, and my very first sip I could only describe as light and lovely. Red cherry came through while the snappy acidity and fine, yet grippy tannins added a maturity to this wine. Another crowd pleaser for all the red lovers in your life.
The Shiraz that came next gave off a distinct aroma of Christmas! Spices and plum danced throughout its perfume, and its beautiful taste only secured this Shiraz as my version of Christmas in a cup. I swear, this is what Mrs. Clause drinks while Santa is out sneaking down chimneys. Brimming with spices and a full red-fruit flavour, this is a stand out Shiraz.
Our final wine was their Balhannah Shiraz. This wine had perfect intensity and balance, offering a lot of grip and maturity. A hint of savoury dark fruit gave this Shiraz a firm structure, while its peppery nature added dimension. This is the type of wine I imagine Michelle Obama would enjoy after a hard day of being an absolute boss.
After tasting all these incredible wines, we were offered a glass of French champagne while our dining area was prepared for lunch.
“It was going to cost a fair investment to properly make our own sparkling wine,” Coward regails while pouring our flutes, “or we could take that money and import real champagne from those who do it best. So that’s what we did.”
I couldn’t disagree with that logic!
After this short break, we returned to our tasting room for lunch and, of course, more wine. Martin Shaw hosted our lunch, alongside Coward, offering us a viewpoint from the other mastermind behind Shaw + Smith.
First up came a dish of Fresh Snapper and Meaty Scallops, served with a creamy dill mayo and fatty avocado chunks. It was a beautiful marriage between bright, fresh flavours aside rich, decadent elements. I was unable to determine if what I was eating was light or indulgent, as it towed the line between them, so I obviously didn’t worry about it and enjoyed every last bite.
Two vintages of their M3 Chardonnay were paired along with it; a 2011 and a 2015. This was so we could experience the difference in flavour time offers a wine.
As Shaw remembers, “2011 was a hell of a year.” However, even with the difficulties 2011 brought, they were still able to create a vintage of M3 Chardonnay which aged well, showing no sign of a difficult season. A lot softer in taste than its younger sister, while still featuring the citrus flavours I so love from this style of wine. If I were able to leave a bottle of wine alone for longer than a week, I’d certainly try aging this one.
But let’s get real, for me, that’s never going to happen. Luckily, the 2015 is still an exceptional wine as is.
While everyone else was served a plate of Braised Duck Leg with Lentil and Mushroom Ragout, Ms. Pescatarian over here (that’s me) was served a Roasted Vegetable Spiced Curry with Saffron Rice. Normally, when I am presented with an off-menu vegan or vegetarian option, it can be a bit of a let down. Not at Shaw + Smith! Oh. My. Goodness. The generous pour of spicy curry that hugged my perfectly roasted root veggies warmed not only my palate, but my soul! The rice was seasoned delicately and cooked to perfection, allowing me a place to cool my tongue from the dancing zing of creamy curry.
Lee, who does eat meat and attended with me, noted his dish as: “Juicy and succulent. The meat simply fell off the bone. The lentil and mushroom ragout was soft yet firm, and the sauce was subtly sweet with a full of flavour. Garnished with wilted spinach to add a fresh profile, this was a very well rounded plate.”
Again, we were offered a pairing of two vintages, this time a 2007 & 2016 Pinot Noir; another example of a wine aging beautifully. It was warm, smooth, yet subtly light with a bounce of cherry. If you can find it on a local shelf, the Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir 2007 is worth the investment.
After dinner, we enjoyed some hard cheese and crackers while playing a guessing game; taking two mystery bottles of wine and tasting them to guess their type and origin. Now, while I adore wine, I must admit that this one was a little above my capabilities. After a couple rounds of multiple choice questions, I pinpointed who really knew what they were talking (or should I say tasting) about in the room and put my hand up in agreement each time I saw theirs raise. Shhhhh, don’t tell Martin or Michael!
Was this cheating? Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as resourcefulness. Either way, the whole experience, from the tour to the skill-testing tasting game, was absolutely superb. The afternoon flew by and I could only wish for it not to end when the time came for us to head back to reality.
If you’re looking for a new way to experience the Adelaide Hills wine region outside of a regular tasting and tour, Shaw + Smith’s Friday Table is exactly what the doctor ordered (and then some).
And the best part? Because new vintages are bottled yearly, you could join their Friday Table annually and gain a whole new experience each time. I certainly plan to attend their Friday Table again, and can’t thank Shaw + Smith enough for their incredible hospitality, robust knowledge and, if I may be so bold, damn great wine!
Words by Jamieson Eileen
WHERE: 136 Jones Rd, Balhannah