THE Canberra wine district today reigns as a top-class producer of cool-climate wines and this month the 50th anniversary of the planting of its first vineyards is being celebrated.
The event focuses on the Cullarin vineyard, established in 1971 by CSIRO scientist Edgar Riek, renowned for his research on fossil insects and yabbies, marrons and freshwater crayfish.
He died at the age of 95 in 2016 leaving a rich legacy as a founder of the Canberra Wine and Food Society, the National Wine Show and the Canberra Vignerons Association coupled with his inspirational roles in viticulture, wine and food, horticulture, fly fishing and bridge.
Edgar shared the title of Canberra's first vigneron with another CSIRO scientist, John Kirk, who planted his Clonakilla vineyard at Murrumbatemen in 1971.
Cullarin's 50th birthday is being marked on May 22 by a gathering of 50 Canberra wine industry and community and government figures, along with Edgar's widow, Mary, and his daughter and grand children.
A commemorative plaque will be unveiled at Cullarin on the day and a lunch will be held at which there will be retrospective tastings of its wines.
The 9-ha Cullarin vineyard is now owned by Sydney businessman Peter Wiggs and linked with the Canberra-based Eden Road wine operation he owns with graphic designer Stewart O'Brien.
Cullarin and Eden Road wines are made by Celine Rousseau, the Paris-born graduate of Bordeaux Institute of Oenology and a master of winemaking and marketing in Champagne, who worked at Champagne Mumm and in top Bordeaux chateaux and Languedoc. She came to Australia in 1996 to make wine in Margaret River, the Perth Hills, the Hilltops Region near Young and then joined Eden Road as winemaker-manager in 2017.
Eden Road brand was established in 2006 in SA's Eden Valley and in 2008 it was shifted to Canberra after the purchase of Kamberra winery, set up in 2000 by the Hardys wine company and then sold off in 2007. Subsequently Eden Road bought the former 1973-planted Doonkuna vineyard at Murrumbateman.
At the Murrumbateman, winery Celine and her team create the Cullarin wines and those of Eden Road from Canberra, Tumbarumba, Hilltops and Gundagai region grapes.
The Cullarin saga began when Edgar and Mary Riek bought land on Lake George's western shore to pasture their daughter's horse and planted fruit and nut trees. In 1971 he added wine grape vines.
CLASSY CULLARIN SYRAH
WITH 13.5% alcohol and glowing deep purple, the Cullarin 2018 Canberra District Syrah featuresberry pastille aromas and vibrant blackcurrant front-palate flavour. The middle has plum, Maraschino cherry, spice and mocha oakand a minty tannin finish. Cullarin wines are at edenroadwines.com.au and the Barton Highway, Murrumbateman, cellar.
DRINK WITH: coq au vin.
AGEING: 12 years.
RATING: 5 stars
PINOT STATURE UPHELD
THIS Cullarin 2018 Canberra District Pinot Noir maintains Edgar Riek's pinot reputationwith its13% alcohol, ruby hues in the glass and scents of violets. The front palate displays savoury raspberry front-palate flavour, the middle palate shows cherry, briar, mint and vanillin oak and the finish has chalky tannins.
DRINK WITH: roast duck and balsamic dressing.
AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 5 stars
FROM Tumbarumba grapes, this Eden Road 2018 The Long Road Chardonnay has green-tinted straw hues and tropical fruit salad scents and fresh white peach front-palate flavour. The middle palate features fig, lemon curd, brioche and vanillin oak and mineral-edged acid plays at the finish. At edenroadwines.com.au, cellar door and Dan Murphy's.
DRINK WITH: scallops.
AGEING: six years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
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