It was quite an early start (by hospitality standards) after a late-finishing dinner party, when we met the bus down in Salamanca Place and got chatting to the others who would be joining us. There were about 20 other restaurant owners, managers and chefs from lots of other restaurants in town.
A bit of background on Pooley, they are a very small family-run company that is broken into three parts:
They have a vast shed in Cambridge where they offer help to other small vineyards from the Coal Valley; store, bottle and label wines for those producers who cannot afford the outlay for the bottling and labelling infrastructure; and store wine in stable conditions for those who would otherwise be holding wine in their farm sheds. This was our first stop and where we met Matthew Pooley (the third generation Pooley to work the vineyard) who gave us a tour of their operation and how it all works, They had the labeling machine working and wine from floor to ceiling at all stages of production from fermentation to labelled and packed bottles.
The second part of the business is a bit more conventional. They grow grapes and make wine. They have a two sites, the largest is past Campania and was all under nets with Riesling and Pinot Noir still on the vines, a testament to the long and warm summer we have just had. Matthew, who runs the vineyards, is firmly rooted in the science of growing good grapes. He ran us through the ins-and-outs of the site and the coming 2010 vintage without bamboozeling us with scientific jargon. It remains very hands on as Pooley only produces about 1500 cases of wine each vintage.
It was then time to see the third part of Pooley, the cellar door located behind the grand sandstone house. We hopped off the bus and were ushered into the old hay shed on the homestead past an original model Volkswagen Beetle and an early 1950s Porsche. The shed with its bowing floorboards, whitewashed sandstone walls and friendly vineyard dog was going to be the impossibly-pretty setting for our vertical tasting and lunch.
The view from where we sat in the barn
We were introduced to John Pooley and sat at our own little tasting station where a Pooley Riesling from each vintage going back to 1999 was poured and we set about tasting them and taking notes. The wines were superb and a very interesting comparison. Colour ranged from a deep golden straw colour in the 1999 to almost clear in the 2009.
Riesling (oldest to the left)
Chef and Richmond local Anton Kunz was tucked away in one corner of the barn with a giant paella pan over a big gas burner busily stirring away at a risotto for our lunch - it smelled great but did make it a bit difficult to focus on the wine. We discussed the Rieslings among the whole group before we moved on to Pinot Noir.
Chef Kunz with his massive pan
The Pinot was poured in a similar fashion to the Riesling but this time we started with a 1998. The oldest two wines were still under the original Pooley label designed by the most senior and original Pooley wine maker. It is a bit dated by todays standards with its pink and ornate family crest, but it did suit the museum-feel of the wines. The first to show was almost the colour of tea but showed no negative effects of the 12 years since it was plucked form its vine. We noted and talked about the wines before lunch was served. The food changed the palate of all the wines so it was interesting to have another look back through them with this in mind.
As a little surprise John brought out a red sparkling Pinot Noir, Not many of the group had tasted a sparkling Pinot before and it really divided the room into those who liked it and those who didn't (as sparkling red tends to do).
The original Pooley label
Sadly that was the end of the wine but we sat and chatted over a cheese plate and had another good look at the cars before it was back to the bus and return to Hobart. It was a real treat to see the older wines that you simply cannot buy anymore and, particularly, the older Tasmanian Rieslings. Thanks to DWS and the Pooley family for their hospitality.