A winters drive through the Adelaide Hills on a sunny afternoon is something that any Adelaide local should treat themselves to. Hills dwellers like myself know this all too well, so meandering through the southern end of Stirling was almost enough in itself - but that I was destined for Deviation Road Winery. The winery is nestled in one of my favourite pockets of the Adelaide Hills with rolling vistas, farming land, vineyards with a touch of the Australian bush. As I pulled up the drive to the winery I was aware of a buzz at the back of what was once an old dairy shed. I'd arrived just as the bottling machinery was being switched over to bottle a number of Magnums of sparkling. I for one, love being at wineries. They're exciting places where things are born, blended, bottled and enjoyed, so when it involves Kate Laurie, one of Australia's premier sparkling wine makers, the excitement level doubles almost instantly. Kate is extremely hands on during the process, with several staff under her watchful eye as bottles of her sparkling wine are filled. Her husband Hamish is also hands on, spanner in hand making machinery adjustments to get things happening. Deviation Road Winery was established in 2001 by Hamish and Kate, both from winemaking backgrounds. The winery produces a range of cracking cool climate wines (Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz), sourcing fruit from high altitude sites - much if it from their own vineyards. However for bubbly fans, it's their sparkling wines that really take the proverbial cake and hence why I was here.
'It's a funny process, making a wine for 2-3 years down the track. The key is knowing how you want the wine to behave in terms of acidity, texture, fruit.'Kate Laurie is an impressive woman. At 19, after growing up amongst her father's vineyards in Western Australia, she went to spend a year in Champagne, France before being accepted into Lycee Viticole d’Avize to study Viticulture and Oenology - whilst still flying back each year to complete vintages at Stone Bridge Estate in WA. Kate also has a Medical Science degree, leading her to work at Flinders Medial Centre. Her sparkling production really rose to its straps when her father offered her sparkling winemaking equipment. All Deviation Road sparkling wines are made Methode Champenoise, the same method used in Champagne, where yeast cultures are added to the base wines and second stage fermentation occurs in the bottle (Tirage). The glory of Champagne and other traditionelle methode sparklings are the nutty characters that come from the time that the wine spends in the ageing process, where flavours are picked up from the lees (yeast deposits from fermentation). Kate kindly gave me a tour of the cellar and as we tasted samples. 'It's a funny process, making a wine for 2-3 years down the track. The key is knowing how you want the wine to behave in terms of acidity, texture, fruit.' The Loftia, a Vintage Brut, is one of their signature bottles. It's a 60/40 blend between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and it's stunning. Kate also produces a NV Sparkling Brut Rose, a Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs. Upon asking Kate how often she compares her wines to those in France with a quick-draw response time she eyeballed me with 'All the time. It's (Champagne) is all I drink.' Kate also noted that although physically in the Adelaide Hills, her mind is very much 'in Champagne' (when it comes to sparkling production time that is), but the overarching theme is to express a true Adelaide Hills flavour and style. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I ended my tour in the freshly refurbished cellar door and ran through the list of wines on offer, all of them deliciously cool climate and properly classy. Something we speak of often here at winedirect.com.au as importers of four different Champagne houses (Le Mesnil, Bernard Remy, Bouche et Fils and Roger Burn) is the small number of quality methode champenoise bubbles on offer here in Oz, because - who doesn't love French Champers? We're biased, but Deviation Road definitely tick all our favourite boxes. Next time you see one of Kate's sparklings on a wine list, buy it.