After a career as a pioneer brewer (Matilda Bay, Little Creatures) Philip Sexton, a UWA graduate and Margaret River local, established Devil’s Lair winery in Margaret River. Then having sold this award-winning and prestigious property, he turned to Victoria’s Yarra Valley where Giant Steps was born.

As well as a wine lover, Phil also loves jazz and he chose the name Giant Steps after John Coltrane’s legendary recording of the same name. His aim in the Yarra Valley was to make top quality cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He began by planting the Sexton Vineyard in 1997. Other vineyards followed so that that there are now a number of different micro climates at the winemaker’s disposal.

Careful attention has been paid to clonal selections of pinot noir and chardonnay. Sustainability is of prime importance in the vineyard. In the winery, practices include only pumping wine once, no additions other than SO2 (no yeast, no acid, no enzymes), no fining or filtration – and attention to detail.

Chief winemaker Steve Flamsteed (pictured) is highly respected and credentialed. In 2016 he was awarded Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine for outstanding efforts in the winery. Also of interest is that he is an experienced chef and cheesemaker, a factor which I believe adds an extra dimension to his palate awareness of good balance.

The Wines

2017 Yarra Valley Syrah ($35)

Made from 100% Shiraz (Syrah being its French name), the whole-bunch fermentation has given this wine pleasing aromatics of berries, white pepper and spice. Agreeable tannins and fine acidity make for enjoyment now. It is a lighter bodied Shiraz compared to its Barossa and McLaren Vale cousins. A Pinot lover’s Shiraz, perhaps?

2017 Yarra Valley Chardonnay ($35)

A blend of grapes from a number of different sites in a top vintage year has given this wine floral aromas of white peach and grapefruit, which lead onto a crisp clean palate with an added touch of complex barrel flavours. A very attractive wine in the Chablis style.

2016 Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay ($60)

Coming from one of the coolest spots in the valley, this is slightly more reticent on the nose than the previous wine but showing more complexity. Tasting reveals a wine of finesse and elegance powered by a generous backbone of natural acidity and long lingering finish This will open up and reveal more in a year or two. Lovely.

2017 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir ($35)

Winner of the trophy for best Pinot Noir at this year’s Royal Sydney Wine Show, this is a wine of immediate appeal and charm. It has a lifted bouquet of cherries with some complexity. It’s very easy on the palate with fine tannins and acidity. Supple in the mouth. Great for enjoying now and excellent value for money.

2017 Applejack Pinot Noir ($60)

At 300m, the Applejack vineyard is one of the highest and coolest sites in the Yarra Valley. In a similar fashion to the chardonnays, this wine incorporates much of what the generic Pinot offers but then raises the stakes in terms of intensity of flavour, complexity and palate length. An outstanding wine worthy of praise and is comparable, I believe, to Burgundies costing two and three times the price.

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