Between La Clarine Farm, Arnot-Roberts, and new releases from Broc Cellars, California is killing it in a way that's getting us all juiced up. The kind of way that Jon Bonné describes in The New California. Conscientious, small-production winemaking that steers away from the boozy, over-ripe oak bombs that had defined the state’s output for decades.
Recently we received two wines from another cutting edge producer who’s plowing ahead, naked and vulnerable, on the fringes of an overbearing industry. Only, these wines come from the other side of the world. Ochota Barrels is Australia’s answer to La Clarine Farm. It’s natural, honest wine that drives proudly out from the mammoth shadow of shiraz.
Amber and Taras Ochota are the best kind of self-righteous. Their idea to “make beautiful holistic wine back home in South Australia” was first conceived in a Volkswagon campervan on a surfing trip along the west coast of Mexico.
It’s natural, honest wine that drives proudly out from the mammoth shadow of shiraz.
Like Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine Farm, Taras was a rock & roller before putting down his Rickenbakker for a pair of pruning shears. California wine country had been a longtime destination for he and his wife, and he’s also worked for a European wine consultant, focusing on Italy. Eventually he graduated from Adelaide University with a degree in Oenology.
Amber’s wine background includes harvest work in Italy, vineyard development in the rugged hills of South Australia, and a stint with Nordic Sea Winery – a modern winery in Sweden that sources grapes from across the globe and produces in the town of Simrishamm, located on the Baltic coast.
Together Amber and Taras own 9.6 hectares tucked away in the Adelaide Hills. In their ragged corner of the world they draw inspiration from experience, relationships, and the creativity of others. Biodynamic farming in southern France. The Dead Kennedys. They believe in a “holistic approach from autumn to autumn in the vineyard, with the philosophy of going back to the basics to create something delicious and unique with mother nature.”
I Am the Owl Syrah is so complex and finely textured that I didn’t believe I was drinking something from the southern hemisphere.
Their wines are vibrant, energetic. There is almost natural spritz that dances on the tongue. They’re miles away from the jammy behemoths by which Australia’s market has become synonymous. I Am the Owl Syrah (note the spelling of the grape) is so complex and finely textured that I didn’t believe I was drinking something from the southern hemisphere. The silky and subtly smoky A Forest Pinot Noir is reminiscent of a fine yet funky Burgundy, complete with a fresh streak of new world fruit.
There is certainly a correlation between the New California and the small movement taking place in the Adelaide Hills. If you'd like to relive the 80s and learn more about Australian wine, check out Jon Bonné's Punch article from last November. It's nice to have Australia back on the map, joining the conversation.
Ochota Barrels I Am the Owl
Adelaide Hills, Australia
Ochota Barrels A Forest
Adelaide Hills, Australia