Thirty-three hectares of vineyard make a hell of a lot of wine, so unlike most of the numerous medicos who decide to escalate their affection for wine from drinking it to owning vines, David Hall’s operation in Eden Valley can’t be considered “boutique”.
In 1996, Hall, a spinal surgeon, bought and revived winegrowing at the historic Avon Brae property, located on limestone slopes some five kilometres west of the Valley’s eponymous small town. While Hall had ambitions to have his own label, he also resumed Avon Brae’s former role of supplier to big wine companies – his original customers included Miranda, St Hallett and Yalumba. And while many neophyte winegrowers opt to bungle through, Hall enlisted the very best of help. Viticultural management is in the hands of Dan Falkenberg, while white winemaking for his Eden Hall label is overseen by Christa Deans, an accomplished maker of Barossa whites; for his reds, Hall has turned to another Barossa stalwart, Kym Teusner. Hall says while probably only 10 percent of the pick goes into Eden Hall, he has another label, Stage Door, with his brother-in-law Graeme Thredgold, and the vineyard also provides the fruit for a joint venture with Kym Teusner that gives rise to The Gentleman, a Cabernet Sauvignon named for the property’s former owner and manager, David Forrest. When it comes to Riesling, winemaker and vigneron have plenty to choose from: 22 acres of the noble grape are divided into four blocks, each of which is crushed and made separately. The wines are then blended (or not blended) into three different Rieslings – an Eden Hall Reserve, Green Room (a Stage Door wine) and a “standard” Eden Hall version.
David Hall made the leap from operating room to vineyard in 1996
Last year’s Hot 100 judges found the 2015 Eden Hall Riesling anything but standard, awarding it fourth place. “The Riesling that placed fourth last year was a blend of all four blocks, and I think it gave it that broad palate and the beautiful fruit the wine has when compared to the Reserve, a single vineyard wine for the past two years, which is made in a more steely, austere style,” Hall says. At the same time, he says, there is only a tiny variation between the two in terms of residual sugar and perceived sweetness: “It’s the actual bit of dirt and the fruit that’s different”.
Vineyard Manager Dan Falkenberg takes a ride with Molly
The art of blending is immensely complex and subtle, and sometimes counter-intuitive: Christa Deans, Hall says, is “fastidious”. “The change of a few percent in a blend can make one hell of a difference. You can identify a positive character in one block or one tank, but that doesn’t mean that adding more of it to a particular blend will make for a better wine – it can wreck it. “It’s a very interesting Saturday when we do the blend: it’s great fun.” One thing winegrowing has taught him is patience, Hall says. Years are required to confirm that small tweaks are having the desired effect, particularly as wine bottled under screwcaps develops so slowly – “It takes a long time for adjustments in the vineyard in the winery to be realised on the palate.” And as a man used to having his professional fate in his own hands, Hall has acquired a degree of fatalism. “For me, as a surgeon, the first 10 or 15 years of the vineyard were hellishly frustrating, especially getting my head around the vagaries of the seasons. Now, when my vineyard manager calls me and says there was a bad frost last night, I just shrug my shoulders and get on with it – I know there’s nothing I can do.” So is it all worth it? “Well, 2015 was a good vintage for our Riesling: 2016 is a belter.” edenhall.com.au