COAL RIVER VALLEY | TASMANIA
Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year Finalist 2021
Stargazer is owned by Samantha Connew, a New Zealander originally from Blenheim in New Zealand. She got inspired with wine whilst studying law at Christchurch University, working part time at a wine bar which was owned at the time by a qualified winemaker. Realising Law wasn’t for her she went back to study viticulture and began working vintages around the world, starting at Elk Cove in 1996, one of Oregon’s most respected Pinot Noir producers.
Vintages in Sicily, Western Australia, Oregon for a second time, Mclaren Vale, Hunter Valley and then settling in Tasmania specifically to start her own winery.
2012 marked the first vintage of Stargazer. For the next few years Samantha purchased fruit from Huon Valley and Derwent but had a passion for the Coal River Valley. She passionately believes that for her this subregion was the ideal spot to be able to make the kind of Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir she wanted.
In 2016 this dream became a reality and she purchased an 11 hectare site, of which 1 hectare was planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since then she has planted 2 more hectares compromising of Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with another 2 planned for planting in 2021. She is still buying some fruit from growers while these new plantings establish themselves.
Samantha makes the wines at Pooley currently, just a few miles up the road from her vineyard. The range is both expressive and concise. All wild fermentations, no added acid, gentle use of oak. Palisander has a touch of extended time on skins, some whole bunch techniques in the Pinot Noir.
Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurtz blend
The name Tupelo was inspired by the Tupelo black gum, of which its honey is highly sought after for its unique characteristic of having the perfect balance of sugars that it doesn’t crystallise. Samantha’s passion for white blends and the drive to find the perfect balance of sugar, acid and texture with her wines makes the naming of this wine perfect. Plus it’s the name of a Van Morrison song ‘Tupelo Honey’ and the place where Elvis was born. Given the praise this wine has received in recent vintages I’d say it’s keeping up with its heady namesake.
The blend of the 2021 is 51% Pinot Gris, 34% Riesling and 15% Gewürztraminer. This unusual blend mirrors the famous Alsatian ‘Gentil’ Styles marrying the body and texture of Pinot Gris with the spicy aromatics of Gewürztraminer and finishing with the finesse and acid structure of Riesling.
Samantha highlights how delicious Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer taste straight off the vine in Coal River Valley, so much flavour in the skins. All of the component varietals are sourced from the Coal River Valley from differing sub regions, Richmond, Tea Tree and Campania.
All the grapes are hand picked, destemmed and left on skins for approximately 8 hours then pressed off to seasoned oak for ferment. A small parcel of Riesling is fermented on skins in tank for two weeks then pressed off and kept in tank to be added to the final blend later. All varietals are left on lees for 3 months with lees stirring every two weeks. Due to the wild ferment some of the wine goes through malo each year, in this case a small parcel of Gris in the overall blend.
Wine is fined and filtered due to the 5.1 grams of RS purposely left in the wine.
SINGLE VINEYARD RIESLING 2021
This wine teeters on the brink between ‘dry’ and ‘off dry’, but simply put it’s just superbly balanced in terms of acid and fruit/RS and the 2021 sees the needle moving slightly towards a drier style albeit it’s of course a matter of perception.All the grapes are sourced from a single vineyard in the Tea Tree subregion of Coal River, planted in 2004 at a vineyard density 5000 vines per hectare. Soil type as described by Samantha is predominantly dark clay on Jurassic dolerite.
Hand picked, destemmed and left on skins for 8 hours before being pressed off to both tank and seasoned barrel (13%) for fermentation. A small parcel of Riesling is also fermented on skins then added to the overall blend later. Samantha stops the tank ferment when she feels the sugar to acid balance is right (approx two months) and then leaves on lees for 3 months, stirring fortnightly.
A Riesling with natural acid (2.94 PH) and with 7.4g grams residual it’s an absolute pleasure of a wine that showcases the potential of the Coal River for this variety.
PALISANDER RIESLING 2021
The third release of this wine and a change this year in that the wine is exclusively fermented in Ceramic egg. Sourced from her own vineyards in the subregion of Tea Tree in the NW side of the Coal River Valley region. Samantha highlights that the soil is brown dermosol on jurassic dolerite which in layman’s terms is clay loam over ironstone with a high level of calcium, which she mentions promotes thick skins. She loves the extra flavour from this.
This is Samantha’s more ‘experimental’ expression of the variety, her goal to showcase texture vs the more classic Single vineyard Riesling release.
Hand picked, destemmed and left on skins for 8 hours then pressed off and fermented in Ceramic egg then 10 months on lees post fermentation. Just 1.5 grams of residual sugar.
Pinot Noir 2020
The most challenging part of offering this wine is simply the production levels vs the demand. With only 0.5 of a hectare planted there is little to go around. Samantha has planted another two hectares across Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in 2017 so dependant on fruit maturity we may see an expansion in availability next vintage.
This the fifth vintage release from her Tea Tree Pallisander vineyard, planted in 2002. Hand picked, 25% whole bunch with the remainder destemmed but not crushed. Cold soak for three days pre ferment. Pressed off to French oak puncheons, 20% new. 8 months elevage in oak with a further three months in tank.