The Land of Oz by way of Bordeaux

Bordeaux fans will recognize the name of Lurton. This is a family whose ties to some of the region’s best vineyards goes back generations. They have been crafting delicious vintages for what seems like time immemorial.

Among the current Lurton brood is Jacques. He began his career in the family business at an early age, working at various vineyards in France, but college graduation day in 1985 saw him heading for the wilds of Australia. Jacques fell in with a dangerous crowd in the Land Down Under – the type of winemakers who are happy to experiment, to try new blends just to see what unusual flavors can be created.

The family business meant that Jacques would leave Australia and assume a position in the Lurton company. It also meant tending to vineyards in almost every corner of the planet, from France to Argentina, Chile to China. But by the end of the 1990’s, Jacques was yearning for his own property, where he could grow the grapes he loved and produce the wines he wanted. By 2000, Jacques had sold his share of the family business to his brother and returned to the land that had taught him that experimentation could be good.

Jacque founded his winery not in the usual places (McClaren Vale or Clare Valley, say) but on Kangaroo Island. This is a place that is still largely uninhabited. Importing potato and bee products is strictly regulated because this is the primary source for the country’s stock of potatoes and bees. A large chunk of the island is set aside as a national park (which is completely amazing and well-worth the visit.)

There are even fairy penguins hiding among the rocks here. (It’s very un-p.c. of us, but we have to say it – YUM!)

A visit to the Lurton vineyard is not the usual experience either. The Islander, as Jacques named his new territory, requires a vehicle with some good shock absorbers to reach. There is no tasting room, but the friendly staff (and the estate dogs – ugh) will be happy to show you the vineyards and then offer a sample of the wines in the aging room.

And what wines Lurton has created. The French influence is definitely here, but there’s something liberating about these wines as well. Lurton’s focus has been on his two favorite grapes – the semillon and the cabernet franc. These are two grapes that are basically blending grapes in France, and rarely given an opportunity to shine on their own. But in the cooler climes of Kangaroo Island, these grapes have developed a sweeter fruit with an abundance of textures.

The semillon shines in Lurton’s Wally White. It’s a drowsy summer day, filled with lemon and peach, with a touch of cut grass. The gentlest of oakings ensures a good body and a crisp finish. It’s summer and fall all wrapped up in one delicious sip.

Lurton’s flagship, however, is the Investigator, named for the vessel that brought the first Europeans to the shores of the island. This is a cabernet franc, with just a tiny bit of Malbec blended in. This is a beautiful, black fruit and cedar-rich wine, with tannins that provide backbone throughout, and not just on the finish. You can crack open a bottle now (which we five had the privilege of doing) or you can let it rest in a corner somewhere. A few years of extra aging will only add to the pleasure of this beauty.

Haven’t seen Lurton’s wines at your local provider? Sadly, many of these bottles were exported to places in Asia rather than across the full length of the Pacific. But good news! The Islander Estate recently announced that it would begin selling its wines in the U.S. direct from the Islander. This message went up on the company’s Facebook account in June:

Watch out America – Islander Estate Wines are now available in the US – direct from us! Pricing below – orders can be sent to usorders@iev.com.au We ship direct to 43 states from California. We welcome mixed orders – minimum of 6 bottles. Must be 21yrs old to order and receive wine in the US.

The Islander Estate Vineyards's photo.
The Islander Estate Vineyards's photo.

Yay! Yay! Yay! Little penguins for all!

 

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