The Loom 2017 Soaring Kite Pinot Noir, a top 10 winner in the latest Hot 100 Wines, is part of a swirl of wine brands generated from a tiny winery on Chalk Hill Road in McLaren Vale.
Fruit for the wines, which include the Long Yarn and ess & see brands as well as Soaring Kite, is drawn largely from McLaren Vale and the southern Adelaide Hills, although purchases from growers in the Barossa and the Coonawarra are not unknown. You won’t find Soaring Kite Pinot – or its stablemate Shiraz and Chardonnay – in a Dan Murphy’s; you won’t even find it in any of Adelaide’s classier independents. To track it down, you need to beat a path to an inconspicuous wine bar in Gilbert Street (or go online).
To those who know it, the Five O’Clock Somewhere bar-and-shop is legendary both for conviviality and value for money: wine by the glass is seldom more than $10 a throw. It operates as a cellar door for the McLaren Vale winery and is part of an intriguing business model not quite like any other in Adelaide. Winemaker Steve Grimley, who started the venture four years ago, says financial underpinning from other commercial wine services allows the Five O’Clock Somewhere project to pursue a free-wheeling and creative approach in its winemaking. Discussions between the team’s various winemakers, who include Lucas Armstrong and Jess Hardy, play an integral part.
Given the resulting scatter-gun of varieties and labels, Grimley says Soaring Kite is one of the anchors in terms of consistent production: “When the concept is to try out and throw up as many things as you can, it’s nice to have a little balancer.”
The Hot 100 judges thought a bit more of it than that: they commended it for purity, precision and freshness, and for “flirting with tart cherries and sour blueberries, while draped over green olives, smoked meats and white pepper”.
Grimley says the winery is deliberately micro-scale to facilitate innovation with different sites and varieties, and output is constrained by its one- and two-tonne open fermenters. And while the winery boasts a de-stemmer, it doesn’t possess a crusher.
“We can go straight into the fermenters, so we use a heap of whole berries, and traditionally, if you were looking to make Pinot, that’s how you’d set it up,” Grimley says. “If there was any criticism of our cellar, it would be that unless you put a heap of manpower into it, we potentially lack a bit of capacity for heavy extraction. But in the case of Grenache and Pinot and those types of grapes, you don’t want it anyway.”
While there is strong emphasis on finishing the wines to make them smooth and palatable, Grimley says the fruit very much determines the winemaking approach, which he describes as “pretty much Daoist”.
“We don’t have any recipes – we’re not making wines to fit a style; we’re more interested in seeing what happens each year when we bring the fruit in.”
The Pinot grapes for Soaring Kite comprise three different clones from a block at Kuitpo owned by Bill Hardy.
“We’ve been at that vineyard for a few years now, and the fruit responds well to being picked a little bit later and just ripening up a bit, which does transfer over into the wine,” Grimley says.
The alcohol is highish, at 14 per cent: “I don’t mind a bit of that, as long as you’ve got the fruit ripeness to go along with it.”
While Grimley says the Five O’Clock Somewhere winemaking project will essentially stick to its small-scale production model – “it means we don’t have wines we can’t sell” – there is imminent expansion at the retail end. Grimley bought the Hagen Arms at Echunga a couple of years ago, and has slowly been renovating it, repointing the stonework and reintroducing classic wooden furniture. He says while a traditional, open-fire, Hills front-bar feel has been retained on the ground floor, a smart, modern, Five O’Clock Somewhere wine bar will go in upstairs.
“There’s not too many buildings that have been around since 1848, but, at the same time, the Adelaide Hills is a pretty dynamic part of the world in terms of winemaking and produce, so it’s nice to capture some of the progress as well.”