We reviewed two wines from the vineyard founded by Australia’s greatest wine reviewer

Wine writer James Halliday at the Yarra Valley winery he founded in 1985, Coldstream Hills. Coldstream Hills

When a couple of Coldstream Hills wines landed on my desk it reminded me that the doyen of Australian wine James Halliday AM, had recently achieved O.B.E. status: Over Bloody Eighty.

James secured his place long ago in the pantheon of wine; contemporary and cohort of Len Evans and the Bulletin Place “Front Row” in the 60’s, co-founder of Brokenwood Wines in the Hunter Valley, author of over forty books on wine including the textbook Wine Atlas of Australia, chairman of numerous wine shows and most directly relevant to this piece, founder in 1985 of Coldstream Hill Vineyard.

Originally from Sydney, James moved to Melbourne in 1983 and in August 1985 his vinous peregrinations led him to the Yarra Valley and the purchase of a 40-acre property with house, at Coldstream. Losing no time, his first Coldstream Hills vines were planted in December of the same year.

James performed the roles of patron and winemaker until the then publicly listed Coldstream Hills was acquired in 1996 by Southcorp Wines. In 1997 James was appointed as Southcorp Group Winemaker, a position he held until 2000. Coldstream Hills is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, and Andrew Fleming is Chief Winemaker, his dream job since 2001. James and his wife Suzanne remain on the property overlooking the vineyards.

It’s fair to say that were it not for James’ half-century commitment to the appreciation and knowledge of wine, it’s far less likely that Australia would be producing wines of the calibre of the two below.

Merci M. Halliday for the contribution you have made – and continue to make – to the enjoyment of wine by so many in Australia and throughout the world.

2017 Coldstream Hill “Deer Farm Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Yarra Valley, Victoria. RRP $50


Judging by the examples I’ve tried so far, 2017 was a ball-tearingly good vintage for Yarra Valley Pinot Noir and this is yet another cracking example which in many ways reminds me of an attractive Cote de Beaune from the legendary 2015 vintage.

Light-to-medium weight crimson red colour, the vibrant aromatics are clean as a whistle and powerfully redolent of red fruits, minerality and forest floor, Super fresh and lively attack on entry of strawberry, spice and a touch of musk. Generously plush and silky middle palate of medium intensity which continues on to a satisfying and fragrant finish of excellent persistence. Excellent.

There is a admirable “naturalness” about this wine in the manner in which it so perfectly expresses the fruit of the vineyard without it suffering from the vagaries of “natural” wine making nor any gratuitous noise from winemaking artifice.

2017 Coldstream Hills Réserve Pinot Noir
Yarra Valley, Victoria. RRP $85


This is significantly weightier than the previous wine; whereas if the Deer Park was from the south of Burgundy, the power and muscularity of this says North all the way.

Impressive dark cherry appearance, the bouquet echos that with ripe, cherry notes, small red currant and cranberry top notes and a basso profundo of minerality and French oak.

The palate has great energy, with the fruit highlights really zinging on entry and continue to the chewy, concentrated middle palate. Those savoury bass notes return and coat the sophisticated tannins all the way throughout the long, grippy finish.

Benchmark new world style. Another 2017 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir to load up on.