A big birthday…

Wine / Wednesday, April 10th, 2024

I haven’t checked in with Rob for a week or two, but I can only assume is is ticking along nicely in the winery. 

Let me get back to you on that next week, though.

We should probably keep an eye on him. Just in case he’s gone rogue and decided to start playing with a new variety without telling us.

He’s been known to do that.

Like back in 2017 when he brought a Cabernet back into the fold (after a brief appearance in 2009 and 2010 as part of our Picnic Races Red).

But there was a very special reason for that one…


100 years on

Rob made the 2017 Somerled Cabernet Sauvignon to commemorate 100 years since the death of his grandfather, Stephen Bowd.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Somerled story, it starts with Stephen – a successful horseman. On April 20th, 1908 at the Oakbank Picnic Races in the Adelaide Hills, he rode a horse called Somerled, winning the Amateur Steeplechase by 20 lengths.

Rob never knew his grandfather. Stephen was killed in the First World War near Ypres in 1917. Rob’s mother Bett, however, was most proud of the Somerled brand and the cellar door concept. She saw what Rob and his family created with Somerled as a great acknowledgement of her father, who would have enjoyed the tribute enormously.


An important milestone

Later this year will mark 150 years from the day Stephen was born!

In the lead-up to that important day, we’re bringing the remaining bottles of 2017 Cabernet out of Rob’s Cellar (we did ask him first!) for a special re-release.

If you’re a Jockey Club Member, you’ll find an email in your inbox with all the details.

While you’re figuring out how many bottles you need in your cellar, let’s take a closer look at this sensational wine and how it came about…


cab-er-nay sau-vin-yon

The birth of Cabernet Sauvignon is thought to have occurred in 17th century France. It looks like it came about by accident when Cabernet Franc met Sauvignon Blanc! It is planted most prolifically in the Bordeaux region of Medoc. And made an appearance in Australia in 1824. Since then, it has been one of our most prolific reds. 

The moderate climate regions of Coonawarra and Margaret River are globally regarded as premier Cabernet Sauvignon producers. Other regions of note include the Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek and Clare Valley in South Australia, Mount Barker in Western Australia and the Yarra Valley in Victoria.

The most prominent Cabernet characters are blackcurrant, plum, cedar and mint. A full-bodied red with fine yet firm tannins, it’s similar in weight to Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo. Quality examples will develop beautifully for up to 10 years or more.

If you’re serving lamb, Cabernet is its favourite wine partner, thanks to the tannins, which cut through the rich, fatty meat. Hard cheeses are another classic pairing and it also matches well with dishes featuring warm, earthy spices such as Moroccan food. Avoid anything with bitterness.


So, why Cabernet??

According to Rob, he was looking for something different for this extra-special wine. He also wanted to find fruit from the southeast as Stephen lived in Mount Gambier.

Cabernet Sauvignon is such an iconic variety from that region. And in Rob’s mind is and amongst the outstanding varieties in the world.

When he figured out what he w

as looking for he got in touch with long-time Somerled friend Greg Koch. He was hoping to secure a parcel of fruit from his Wrattonbully (located between Padthaway and Coonawarra) vineyard.

Unfortunately, as the season progressed it looked less and less likely that the quality of grapes at this vineyard was going to be up to scratch. It was then that Greg suggested that the Cabernet from his Clare vineyard was looking much better.

Rob had a look and loved what he saw/tasted. The berries were small and evenly spaced (see photo). They ripened effortlessly during their inherently long growth period.

The rest is history!


We’re in good hands…

As most of you know, Rob spent a few of his winemaking years at Wynns Coonawarra (before they were taken over by the Penfolds group in 1985). And one thing Wynns is pretty well known for is making excellent Cabernet.

So excellent in fact that Rob travelled to London (in the late 80s) to accept the award for “Best Cabernet Sauvignon in the World” at the International Wine Show!

He was put in charge of making the John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon – part of their Icon range only produced in outstanding years. His immediate reaction was… “how on earth can we improve on the Black Label”?

But they did!

Instead of using a mix of French and American oak, they used purely French. They used only the absolute best parcels of fruit and made small volumes. The result was an intense, rich cabernet. It would take a long time to come around in terms of softness and complexity, but it would do nothing but improve with age.

Rob thinks that if you could get your hands on one of those award winners from the 80s then it would probably still be drinking beautifully!

How does it compare?

Rob has made ours much more elegant, but still with those distinctive Cabernet aromas.

It has nice firm tannins – “chewy” as Rob says, which makes him very happy (particularly with his Penfolds heritage).

It has a lovely length on the palate, and all those beautiful aromas and flavours Rob’s wines are so well-known for.

For those of you who remember drinking this wine when it was first released in 2019, you’ll be blown away by how it has matured and developed in complexity since then.

There’s so much going on in this glass!

When I chatted to Rob about how his days making Cabernet for Wynns influenced his decision to choose it as the variety for this commemorative wine he came out with this beautiful quote…

“For me, opening a bottle of Wynns Black Label is like coming home in a way – it’s such a comfortable wine”.

We hope that the 2017 Somerled Cabernet Sauvignon makes you feel the same way!

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