Tasting Mt Horrocks with Stephanie Toole

“I am Stephanie Toole,” the slim, attractive lady in the black dress said as she smiled and shook hands. Her relaxed manner put everybody at ease. As we sipped Watervale Riesling, we talked about wine (the dreaded subject of ‘minerality,’ Kvevri in Georgia), travel (Burma in the nineteen eighties, vineyards of Peru) and mutual friends (Sarah Ahmed, Tony Keys). We looked at a bottle of Pierre-Gimonnet 2002 among the rows of empty wine bottles on a shelf. “This is my favourite grower champagne,” I said. Stephanie didn’t know the producer but was aware of the quality of the vintage. “I put a bottle in the fridge for breakfast” I said. “I like this man” she yelled and laughed aloud.

Clare Valley is a South Australian Riesling ‘hot spot.’ Stephanie Toole, owner and winemaker of Mount Horrocks has done twenty vintages there.

Watervale Riesling 2011

The fruit for this wine is sourced from a 26-year-old single, unirrigated, hand pruned vineyard in the Clare Valley. Grapes are crushed and de-stemmed and the must fermented in stainless steel at 14-16 C over two or three weeks. The juice is fermented to dryness with no malolactic. It is 100% Riesling with an acidity level of 7.2g/l, pH 3.07 and 4.7g/l of residual sugar. Alcohol is 12.5%. Last year I tasted this wine together with Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, which rather eclipsed it. It is dry and austere but is quite capable of standing on its two feet. The Riesling was served with caramelised apricots wrapped in Parma ham.

Watervale Semillon 2010

 The fruit is from a low yielding, single vineyard of unirrigated vines, harvested by hand. The 100% Semillon was barrel fermented with lees stirring every two weeks for three months. It was aged in French oak barriques (40% new, and the rest one and two years old) for nine months. Total acidity is 6.6g/l, pH 3.1 and residual sugar 2.2g/l with an alcohol level of 13.5%. Tasted alone, this Semillon appears to be over oaked. With food, the oak is only in the background and the wine is delightful. The Semillon was served with Carpaccio of sea bass, tempura of squid and basil veloute.

Stephanie toole on Sauvignon Blanc

“I hate Sauvignon Blanc. It will not touch my lips.”

Watervale Shiraz 2009

Hand picked fruit is from an organically farmed single vineyard and is fermented to dryness on the skins. 10% was whole bunch, foot-crushed in open fermenters and the rest in red-wine fermenters, pumped over five times a day with maximum temperature reaching 28-30 C. It was racked in to barriques and aged for 18 months in 40% French oak. 100% Syrah with 13.5% alcohol, it is dark, fragrant but restrained with a smoky, slightly bitter finish. Mercifully, it is not another Aussie fruit bomb and would partner food well. The Shiraz was served with ham hock terrine, fried duck egg, fat chips and pineapple & tarragon puree.

Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Fruit for this wine is sourced from a Mount Horrocks estate owned organically farmed single vineyard in the cooler Polish Hill River sub-region of the Clare Valley. The hand picked grapes were fermented in stainless steel fermenters and pumped over five times a day. The wine was matured in 35% new French oak for 18 months. It is 100% cabernet with a total acidity of 6.8g/l, residual sugar of only 0.8g/l and a pH of 3.4. The alcohol content is 14% but it has good balance, elegance and gently whispers to you. The cabernet was served with pressed lamb shoulder, spring onion croquette, mini sweet potato & oyster mushroom cottage pie and lemon thyme jus.

‘Cordon Cut’ Clare Valley Riesling 2011


The grapes were handpicked from the Mount Horrocks single vineyard in Auburn. The wine is 100% Riesling with a residual sugar level of 170g/l balanced against a total acidity of 9.6g/l. pH is 3.39 and the alcohol level is 12%. It is an absolute peach of a wine. The ‘Cordon Cut’ was served with poached pear & custard tart and nutmeg clotted cream.

Chef Sommelier Mark Perlaki with the new Riedel red wine decanter

All the wines tasted were of high quality but the Semillon, Cabernet and Cordon Cut stood out. I will be calling the man from Liberty for stock! The tasting dinner was hosted by Hotel du Vin in Harrogate on Tuesday 11 September 2012.


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