It’s official: Castle Rock has come in from the cold. “We are now enjoying an increase in the number of visitors to the region and the cellar door,” the winery says. Western Australia’s Great Southern region is a rectangle stretching 150km from north to south, and 100km east to west. One of its five subregions is Porongurup, and Castle Rock its most important winery.
Distances here take on a different meaning; everything is scaled up, whether it be the giant rounded granite boulders (abstractly depicted on Castle Rock’s new label), the towering eucalypts or the sweeping views towards Esperance on the coast of the Southern Ocean, next landfall the Antarctic. Wind chill is a factor more often than not, underpinning the cool climate and the resultant wine styles. Says winemaker Rob Diletti: “Wine quality is really determined in the vineyard. I just try to make the wine that portrays the fruit quality… But we are human, neither magicians nor gods.” That’s no doubt true, but over the past 20-plus years he has repeatedly proved he has an exceptional palate, and understands the implications of the use or avoidance of any of the array of techniques available to the cutting edge of modern winemaking.
Rob’s parents Angelo and Wendy made the crucial decision to buy the 55ha property and its long northeast-facing slope with perfect exposure, but not so steep as to create viticultural challenges. Rob was six when he helped plant the vineyard in 1983, the family carefully weighing up the cost/benefit of building the multi-level winery in 2001.
Castle Rock has a ceaseless drive to make better wines. You have to go to Tasmania to find a conjunction of riesling and pinot noir as headline varieties planted next to each other. Diletti makes it all seem easy but it’s not – the riesling demanding iron-clad restraint, the pinot a Beethoven symphony.
2021 Castle Rock Estate Porongurup Riesling
Draws on six estate blocks; 100% free-run juice. The perfumed apple and lime blossom bouquet doesn’t prepare you for the searing intensity of the slatey acidity and lemon zest palate. This is purity on a grand scale. 11% alc, screwcap 97 points, drink to 2041, $26
2020 Castle Rock Estate Porongurup Pinot Noir
Five clones, vines 20-35yo, multiple batch fermentations, 7-day cold soak, whole bunch, barrel ferment of final 3 baume for new French oak (28%), matured 15 months. Perfect colour; a great pinot at the dawn of its life; plum and cherry riddled with spice, char, violets and forest floor. Sophisticated and confident. 13.5% alc, screwcap 97 points, drink to 2035, $38
2019 Castle Rock Estate Great Southern Shiraz
Grapes are from Mount Barker; open-fermented in 2-tonne vats, hand-plunged 2-3 times daily; on skins 9 days, matured in French barriques for 15 months. April 28 harvest; vibrantly fresh and elegant array of red, blue and black fruits resting on a bed of fine tannins. 13.5% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2035, $34