Nestled underneath the imposing dishes of the University Of Tasmania’s radio telescope array which look deep into the heavens at the start of the Coal River Valley wine region, less than 20 minutes’ drive from Hobart, is Riversdale Estate. Right beside an important feature Pittwater (which runs to Frederick Henry Bay and eventually meets the River Derwent before flowing out to the Pacific), the site was originally planned to be “Burnham Village” but the town’s construction never eventuated. In 1919 Douglas Denholm was granted the land and started the land’s life as a farm growing prize winning sheep. After Denholm died in 1965, the land lay untouched until Ian Roberts recognised its potential and purchased it in 1980. Continuing its success growing livestock, Ian turned it into an Angora stud fetching international acclaim. In 1991 the first vines were planted: that all important, guardian stretch of water and the position of the north facing land creating pockets of unique micro-climates. 40 hectares have now been planted in the unique dolerite soils by Ian and Wendy Roberts, with their three sons Christiaan, Anton and Rainier joining the family enterprise along the way.
The vines have produced many medal and trophy winning wines over the years made under the hands of contracted winemakers, but in the year 2019 the Roberts’ decided to be masters of their own destiny and built their sustainable winery “Celestia” using state of the art equipment and, just as importantly, hired Jasper Marais to be their winemaker. Originally from South Africa, Jasper had found himself in Tasmania making wines for the acclaimed Stefano Lubiana when the opportunity arose to be working alongside the Roberts’ crafting 100% Estate grown, made and bottled wine. The first vintage in the brand new winery was the annus horribilis 2020 but, for all the reasons that year is maligned and the exhausting difficulties of trying to make wine under harsh restrictions due to the pandemic, the quality of the fruit was undeniable. With 2 more vintages working and growing together tucked into barrel and bottle, Marais and the Roberts are poised to take Riversdale Estate further as they continue to adhere the family motto: “It is a good life, if you do not weaken.”
Riversdale Estate, Blanc de Blancs, Coal Valley, 2016
The first vintage BdB sparkling for Riversdale. Over 6 years on lees and made by the incredibly experienced Alain Rousseau next door to Riversdale at Frogmore Creek. Medium-slow, reaching bubbles and fine bead. Light straw gold. Easy autolytic characters: creamy yeasty lees work with fresh baked pastry, grapefruit citrus, green to yellow apple, tobacco herbal action and greengage plum. Fresh palate. It’s all clean lines with a tight mousse leading to a soft chalky finish. Plentiful green apple-like acidity driving through the lacy tail.
Riversdale Estate, Chardonnay, Coal Valley, 2021
Rating: 92/100 RRP: $45
100% Estate fruit from multiple blocks across the vineyards. Winemaker Jasper Marais is unapologetic about this fuller style of Chardonnay. Opens with creamy bâtonnage tones and sweet kisses from the overt American oak work. Rich hints of tropical and peachy stone fruits. That creaminess continues through a generous mid palate and the finish presents with a pleasing, easy, drying phenolic grip
Riversdale Estate, Crater, Chardonnay, Coal Valley, 2020
Rating: 94/100 RRP: $70
With an oak treatment split of 75% American and 25% French. No malolactic fermentation to keep the acid profile cutting through the winemaking influences. Plenty of bâtonnage while it had time on lees. It skirts the edges of pineapple-tropical fruit but retains a layered texture. Undeniable power with focus and length. The palate chewy with meaty and smoky flesh, rich with grippy phenolics. Serious yet retains acid drive. Mersault-esque with a Napa tinge, but definitive Coal Valley heart.
Riversdale Estate, Pinot Noir, Coal Valley, 2021
Rating: 93/100 RRP: $45
Presents with plush varietal aromas: Raspberry, cherry jam, Fruits of the Forest with a deep floral rose heart. Savoury nuances with soft bacon bits giving a meaty depth over bitter orange citrus highlights. The body showing heft and comfort yet still with a minerally sea-spray like freshness. Good full fruit profile through the tail with a surprising tannic grip. A handsome Pinot Noir, indeed.
Riversdale Estate, Centaurus, Pinot Noir, Coal Valley, 2020
Rating: 95/100 RRP: $70
Flagship Pinot Noir. Only the best parcels and best barrels are selected. Such an elegant and smoky expression. Soft, subtle and earthy balanced by fresh picked Christmas cherries, hints of tomato skin, herbal lift from just plucked thyme leaf with a mineral spine and fine, chalky tannins. Carrying an ethereal lift from the mid palate to long tail. Understated, precise, intentional.