Colin (Col) and wife Fiona Sheppard have reinvented themselves several times in the past 20 years, recounted in droll throw-away lines. Thus the budding Melbourne builder and sister, still living at home, decided they needed to do something about their mother’s disinterest in food. He went to Melbourne’s best restaurants whenever he could afford it, bought cookbooks, and went to cooking classes. This led to wine, with a parallel pathway and Fiona in tow (or was it the other way around?) driving for long weekends in the Barossa and Eden Valleys to taste, talk and buy wines that caught their attention. So participating in vintage work happened organically, as did buying a small vineyard, and I quote ‘Col did this without telling his wife Fiona.’
So selling his building business and their Melbourne home, finding and buying a house in the Barossa, and buying an Eden Valley vineyard with 1ha each of riesling and shiraz planted around 1929 – it all just happened. The critical moves came each vintage, its challenges, and its outcomes feeding into the first vintage of their own wines in 2005. Tscharke provided the riesling’s womb, Murray Street Vineyards et al the red wines until they came onsite in 2017.
There’s no question he has a great palate. In the lead up to the 2014 vintage he spent four months as a contestant on MasterChef Australia, progressing to the top 10. So he appointed a new winemaker for the 2014 Riesling – Fiona. When it was released I was sent a vertical tasting of the ’05-’14 Flaxman Rieslings, all top drawer. I repeated the exercise in February this year, except it was a stunning line-up of eight Estate Shirazs spanning ’05-’18: they have a Peter Pan eternal youth DNA, the typical alcohol 14%, the fruit intense, the tannins firm but balanced.
2018 Flaxman Estate Eden Valley Shiraz
The wine is worth every penny of its price. It is sublimely elegant, cherry all sorts riding on a bed of ultra-fine tannins. The production of 90 dozen bottles from 80+ year old estate vines allows/demands scrupulous attention to detail at every step along the way, and it got it.
97 points, drink to 2043, 13.5% alc, Screwcap, $120
2021 Flaxman Eden Valley Riesling
From a block of 90+ year old dry grown estate vines; wafts of lemon/lime blossom emanate from the bouquet; the palate exquisitely poised and balanced, the finish sealing its long life ahead with a kiss. Terroir take a bow. 250 dozen.
95 points, drink to 2041, 12.5% alc, Screwcap, $30
2018 Flaxman Double Up Barossa & Eden Valleys Shiraz
A 50/50% regional blend of 75 dozen bottles. Col Sheppard’s control over alcohol and tannin levels is admirable, allowing the mix of blackberry and blackcurrant free play on the medium-bodied palate, oak along for the ride, tannins simply lengthening the finish.
95 points, drink to 2040, 14% alc, Screwcap, $50