One of our favorite Australian wineries is also one of its oldest. Nestled in the Barossa Valley and home to some of the best views in the wine universe, Kellermeister has been producing top-notch wines almost since its founding in 1976.
The roots of this Aussie star go back to founder Ralph Jones, longtime manager for Orlando Wines before striking out on his own. His winery, named after his mother, began as part of Ralph’s determination to create the perfect Australian Red Burgundy. Ralph was utterly appreciative of the true joy of the best red Burgundies, and he was convinced that he could nurture that same spectacular flavor from his home soil.
Ralph’s version was a seemingly simple blend of cabernet and shiraz, with the shiraz providing that mouth-watering fruit while the cabernet added structure and plenty of lingering flavors. After some tweaks and a few big wins, Ralph felt he finally had that perfect big red, which he promptly named Gold Medal Burgundy. Unfortunately for Ralph, France passed strict new label laws shortly thereafter, forcing Ralph to rename his wine to the more mysterious GMB.
Ralph and his wife retired in 2012, and McLaren Vale wonder-boy Mark Pearce took the reins at what is now his own family-run operation in Barossa. Pearce had been with Kellermeister since 2009 and had helped guide the winery to some impressive competition wins, culminating with the titles Australia’s Best Shiraz and the Barossa’s Best Shiraz at the International Wine Challenge in London in 2012 and the Barossa’s best Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro in 2013.
Pearce has kept that Big Red Burgundy that drove Ralph to found the winery. The current version has even been named in the founder’s honor – Ralph’s Original. True to Ralph’s vision, this is a spectacular blend. Plenty of fruit, but never overwhelming. So many interesting layers and no stingy aftertaste. A warning should come with this wine – it goes down too easily. You’ll finish the bottle and wonder where it all went.
The Pious Pioneer is another favorite from this vineyard. Fruity and peppery, it lives up to that shiraz reputation, yet it never feels heavy. It’s drier than Ralph’s, but it still sings from that very first sip.
And we can’t neglect to mention another of our favorites, though it may be hard to find. The Rascally Rabbit Rose pays homage to the lagomorph in a country that normally takes a much dimmer view of this invasive species. While most Australians despise rabbits, wine makers have taken a more tolerant view – it seems rabbits are very good at keeping the lower branches on the vines trimmed, limiting the fruit production and providing a more flavorful bounty. In honor of these hardworking bunnies, Pearce created a floral delight that even the snarkiest rose hater would enjoy.
But Kellermeister’s most famous labels are the Icons – Wild Witch and Black Sash. These wines are only produced when the grapes are particularly outstanding, and it shows in the final product. These are wines that are intense and complicated. Long hours spent studying is a virtual requirement here. The payoff is one of the best shiraz experiences you will ever have.