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O'LEARY WALKER OPENS FOR BUSINESS IN THE HISTORIC JOHNSTON BREWERY IN THE ADELAIDE HILLS

 

David O’Leary and Nick Walker have purchased the iconic Johnston Brewery at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills. For David it’s a “return to home”, being born and bred at Oakbank and for Nick a confirmation of his father Norman’s belief in the region’s promise of producing superior fruit for premium sparkling wines.

O’Leary Walker will continue to be a major player in the Clare Valley region, continuing to produce their award winning wines from their own vineyards and those of long time grower partners at their established winery.

The Johnston’s property was established in 1840 by William and James – and later, Andrew Johnston, with its business originally being one of supplying malted barley for the brewing of fine ales locally – including Johnston’s own Oakbank Ale. The O’Leary connection goes back more than 100 years when David’s grandfather, Leo, became Accountant/Secretary of the Johnston family business which was then a significant employer and generous contributor to the Hills community. The Johnstons legacy spread throughout South Australia with a portfolio of more than 30 country hotels…from Murray Bridge to Loxton, Strathalbyn and Mt Barker.

The O’Leary family were great believers in the Johnston’s ambitions and the cool and tranquil environment of the Adelaide Hills, so much so they purchased land which today is still family owned. In 1981 David first planted out 4 acres of Chardonnay and Malbec on the family block, today grapes are harvested from this vineyard.

“ Having a fair dinkum home for our Adelaide Hills Wines which are made from grapes a stone’s throw from our new winery is pretty special. We’re looking forward to showing our Hurtle Sparkling, our award winning Sauvignon Blanc and some really interesting cool climate Reds”, say David & Nick.

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History

O'Leary Walker Wines was established in 2000 by winemakers David O'Leary and Nick Walker. With over twenty five years experience and established reputations making premium wine with the big companies, these two long time friends decided to take control of their own destiny and craft small batches of wine from some of the best vineyard sites in South Australia. With a great leap of faith they are now doing exactly what they set out to.  

 

O'Leary Walker Winery and Cellar Door is based at Leasingham in the Clare Valley, South Australia. The wines are regionally distinct with fruit sourced from other premium grape growing districts in South Australia including the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale. Our theory behind this is to draw on the grape varieties that excel in these quite different viticultural climates. O'Leary Walker celebrated its tenth year in 2010 with an established reputation for producing award winning regional wines at affordable prices.

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Vineyards

Adelaide Hills Vineyards  

Fruit for our Adelaide Hills Wines is sourced from David and Sue Cherry’s (nee O'Leary) Adelaide Hills vineyard and from the adjoining vineyard of Mark and Louise O’Leary, which is the original “Wyebo” property that was purchased by David’s Grandfather in 1912. This site was planted in 1990 and selected on the basis of its soil structure, which has large quartz and slate running throughout the sub soils. With a gently sloping, North Easterly aspect, enhanced by elevation, ancient soils and weather patterns, characteristic influences from the Mt Lofty Ranges, this vineyard is a valuable asset to the winemaking at O’Leary Walker.

The Adelaide Hills with its cool climate and long, dry and even ripening season allows the vines to develop maximum varietal characters, producing intensely flavoursome fruit. The Adelaide Hills produces some of Australia’s most elegant Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines.

 

Clare Valley Vineyards  

The Clare Valley has a world-renowned reputation for producing elegant Rieslings. We source our fruit from two sub-regions within the Clare Valley, Watervale and the Polish Hill River Valley. The Watervale fruit is from the vineyard of Neil and Heather Grace, which is hand pruned and hand picked. With its classic red loam over limestone soil, the vines are have a source of moisture from the limestone to ensure their health through the summer months.

Running parallel with the Clare Valley is the Polish Hill Valley. We source fruit from two vineyards, which are virtually next-door to each other. Martin and Joan Smith’s vineyard is now farmed biodynamically and across the Road is the Molloy’s vineyard both of which are excellent examples of the quality this sub region can produce.  The soils are characterized by grey loam over sandstone and slate. The topsoils are littered with rock and shales of slate. The vines are tough to survive in these harsh soils but their fruit bears the characteristics of elegance, finesse and intensity, always with a hint of beautiful chalky bath powder!

Despite only being 9 kilometers from the Watervale sub region, The Polish Hill River region is quite a bit cooler and typically the fruit ripens 2-3 weeks later. It is the slate of the Polish Hill River as distinct from the limestone of Watervale that creates the differences between the wines.

 

McLaren Vale Vineyard

We source Shiraz from a 50 plus year old vineyard called “Shadels” at McLaren Vale, owned by Angelo Maglieri and his Family. Angelo and Nick Walker go way back to the early eighties when Nick was a young winemaker at Krondorf, purchasing fruit from these classic vineyards. This relationship has been almost continuous for 30 years! When we first started O’Leary Walker Wines, we needed excellent fruit not just “run of the mill” quality. This vineyard had just come out of contract with Penfolds and was offered to us via our good relationship with Angelo. The soils are shallow loam over ironstone, quite rocky sub soils, well drained and tough. This vineyard has been incorporated in our blend since day one and has the great licorice, chocolate power that is the hallmark of McLaren Vale Shiraz, enhancing the inky, “building block” wines of the Clare Valley.    

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Winemaking

O’Leary Walker Wines are handcrafted by David O’Leary and Nick Walker in conjunction with a talented young winemaking team. All of our wines are purpose made from individual vineyards, carefully selected from specific regions to produce wine of great quality to reflect their true origin.

Vineyard site selection is critical and is the lynchpin to producing wines with depth, character and regional personality.

Clare Valley Rieslings are world class and their international reputation has been earned through consistency of quality over many decades. The cooler elevated slopes of the Adelaide Hills produce outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blancs. The O’Leary’s, along with Petaluma and Geoff Weaver, were the first to recognise the potential of this now blossoming region.

 

David and Nick spent twenty plus vintages working for some of Australia’s elite winemaking companies in Hardy’s and Mildara Blass, involved in labels like Annies Lane, Chateau Reynella, Mildara, Krondorf and Yellowglen.

The larger companies provide fantastic learning environments and they were privileged to have worked with some of the industry’s greats. David and Nick have always been fascinated by the influence of oak and the variation between cooperages. O’Leary Walker Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are exclusively matured in French oak from famous oak houses like Siruge and Daraud and Jaugle.

With our Shiraz and Cabernets we also adopt the 100% French theme as the integration of fruit and oak elegance is conducive to our style of wine.

 

We embrace modern technology with the use of tank presses for white and red pressing but still rely on the traditional two and four Tonne open fementers. These vessels are ideal for closely following the progress of fermentation and assessing the quality of fruit received. Gentle hand plunging and control of temperature allows you to maximise the colour and flavour extraction.

Many of our Watervale Vineyards are “dry grown” and are self regulating, which means they are in balance with nature, producing modest crops of high quality and ensuring survival throughout seasonal variations.

Every vintage gives us the opportunity to experiment with new technologies, which have given rise to more European styles like our “Fully Worked Sauvignon” and “Dr’s Cut Riesling”. The winemaking process is very dynamic; the way we make wine today is different to how it was crafted 30 years ago and will continue to evolve again over the next 30 years.

 

 

David O'Leary

David graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1980. David began his career in 1977-1978 with the Stanley Wine Company in the Clare Valley, doing a vintage as lab assistant under Brian Barry. It was at that time that David was introduced to Clare Valley Rieslings. David then spent a year with Petaluma and completed a vintage in Tasmania working for Heemskerk Wines before joining Chateau Reynella in 1981.

In September 1982 Thomas Hardy and Sons purchased Chateau Reynella and David was charged with managing juice separation in Padthaway thereby initiating the exhausting trend of two vintages a year between Waikerie and Padthaway.David was appointed group red winemaker for Hardy's in 1990 and held that role until joining Mildara Blass in 1994.

At Mildara Blass, he held senior winemaking roles at Quelltaller Estate in the Clare Valley where he launched Annie’s Lane and at the Mildara Coonawarra based Jamieson's Run winery. During his time with Hardy's and Mildara Blass, he also made wine in France and California.

David has achieved considerable milestones in his twenty years of making wine. A Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1988 and twice International Red Winemaker of The Year (1992 and 1994) sit proudly along with numerous other trophies and gold medals.

David's goals remain unchanged; he simply wants to make great wine.

 

Nick Walker

Nick graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1982 and then followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather to become a third generation winemaker.

Nick's father Norm Walker was Managing Director at Seaview Champagne Cellars for over 22 years. Norm along with his father Hurtle have given over 100 years to the winemaking industry, in particular Sparkling wine. Nick Walker and David O'Leary honour this family winemaking tradition by naming the O'Leary Walker Sparkling, 'Hurtle' in recognition of Nick's grandfather and father's achievements.

In 1983 Nick joined the Burge & Wilson team at Krondorf Wines as an assistant winemaker. During this time Nick was instrumental in making some of the great Eden Valley Rieslings of the time and had enormous success on the show circuit with his wines.

Nick undertook sparkling winemaking duties in 1998/1999 at Yellowglen and was chief winemaker at Yarra Ridge in 2000. Nick spent over 14 years with the Mildara Blass group responsible for brands including Krondorf, Yellowglen Sparkling wines, Yarra Ridge, Baileys and St Huberts.

In November 1999, Nick joined forces with good friend David O'Leary to create O'Leary Walker Wines.

Nick's philosophy is pretty simple, make the best wines possible from the best vineyard sites, and leave a little time for fishing.

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7 different wines with 20 vintages

Highlights

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Wine Moments

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 Stuart Robinson, Wine Blogger (Australia)  tasted  3 wines  from  O'Leary Walker Wines . In a tasting of  16 wines 

Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 / Vintage 2011 is not exactly the elephant in the room not talked of, but there is a tendency for the vintage to be written off with a broad stroke that covers all regions and producers. Following that English idiom, one must doff one's cap to the team at Chapel Hill for the considerately crafted range of reds out of the vintage. The cooler rendition of the Shiraz from McLaren Vale, the lighter touch of the Mourvédre - all are good drinking. Here to those we can add the Cabernet Sauvignon.


Cedar, creamy oak, a touch dusty with hints of red fruit. Given some time to explore, we see a little more char, toasty, black fruit and hints of dark chocolate. Medium to full bodied, tannin is fine-grained. Slight hint of chicory bitterness initially, that makes way for creamy oak.


Length is good. It's a wine that certainly grew in appeal as it settled into itself. It's a clean rendition, a touch chewy at times, something to get into. 89 - could happily go a point higher.

6m 25d ago

 Ken Gargett, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  8 wines  from  O'Leary Walker Wines . In a tasting of  8 wines 

“O'Leary Walker Polish Hill River Riesling 2002

At the O'Leary Walker 10th Anniversary event, we looked at pretty much every wine they've made, in vertical sets. It showed just what a brilliant job they have done in such a short time.

Their Polish Hill River Riesling comes from a vineyard they picked up when a high profile Clare Valley producer rejected the fruit. They've kept it ever since. All of these wines are under screwcap. There was no 2007 in the tasting as the guys could not find a bottle.
It is really worth stressing just what extraordinary value these O'LW wines are.
2002 is probably the best vintage in the last couple of decades for the Clare Valley and well cellared examples are not only spectacular now but have a long future, especially if bottled under screwcap (most in the Valley bottled some or all of their production from this vintage under screwcap).
The O'LW was no different, indeed, one could argue it was one of the very best wines of that great year. It opened with lovely lemony notes and then moved more to a lemon pie character with a hint of toast. It is absolutely immaculate and we are just seeing the early development of this wine. It is fragrant, delicate and finely balanced, still with bright acidity and a very long finish. A truly superb wine and one that still has a few decades ahead of it. A superstar.
Given that this would have been cheaper than a great many sauv blancs at the time of release, was brilliant young and has just got better and better, what possesses people to buy those third rate, one-dimensional toxic bombs instead of amazing wines like this?
It will become very obvious, very quickly, just how impressed I am by these wines and indeed, with everything these guys do.
97 points

1y 10m ago

 Juha Lihtonen, Sommelier (Finland)  tasted  6 wines  from  O'Leary Walker Wines . In a tasting of  48 wines 

“Wines of Australia pulled out a great set of events in Scandinavia with almost 50 Aussie producers. I had a chance to explore Australian terroir wines in Helsinki. This was a good way to show that things are getting more exciting in Australian wine industry. There are more bold small vintners who are pushing the limits and willing to show us the true sense of place. Thanks Wines of Australia and all the producers. ”

1y 11m ago

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Bodegas Roda Sela 2014, Bodegas Roda