David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate on Red Hill is a self-confessed ‘hillist’ of Mornington Peninsula. He used to think the “best pinot noir [came] from ‘the downs’ because it’s warmer” but he was persuaded by early pioneer Nat White of Main Ridge to focus on pinot noir from the hills.
The hills are up to 250m above sea level, whereas the flats are only about 20-30m, though Lloyd said “altitude is less important than aspect and ocean breezes.” With water on three sides, the peninsula is pretty windy. There’s a cooling Antarctic wind from the Bass Strait, plus breezes from the bays on both sides of the peninsula – Western Port Bay and Port Phillip Bay. “The afternoon sea breezes come in and cool us down,” he said.
Neither is Lloyd big into soil differences having much to do with style, saying “plants take what they want, within a band. Within a region where you do get subtle variations, I don’t think soil makes a huge different to the flavour of a wine.” Microclimate and site selection rank higher, and in Mornington Peninsula, he emphasised “terroir is less about soil, more about winds.”
The hill style – Main Ridge, Red Hill – “all have a hinterland elegance, with brightness and freshness” Lloyd said, with vineyards such as “Main Ridge, McCutcheon, Wallis all getting the morning sun.” All of which means, he added “we pick two to four weeks later than down below for the same type of grape.”
Lloyd’s Eldridge Estate is a tiny, three hectare, north-facing property, bought in 1995, when the vines were already 11 years old. His focus is on Mornington classics, pinot noir and chardonnay, alongside which he makes a bit of gamay, on less than half a hectare, “because I love gamay” he said. What better reason.
Tasting notes, in situ, February 2012
Eldridge Estate, North Patch Chardonnay 2010, $30
Tight citrus acid, melon notes and floral, with attractive medium body weight and enticing intensity. Positively clean and straight fruit, with some mealy complexity.
Eldridge Estate, North Patch Chardonnay 2005
Cream and white nuts on the nose, smooth with aromatic tarry notes developing. Richly-textured wine that is perfectly centred (in yoga-speak). Mellow and moreish.
Eldridge Estate, Pinot Noir 2009, $50
Made with whole berries, left for 5-7 days, then plunged for 1-2 days.
Aromatic, perfumed nose of violets and red fruits. Warm, enveloping, juiciness on the palate, with sweet core of bright red cherry fruit fleshed around an elegant structure. Vg.
Eldridge Estate, Pinot Noir 2003
Beginning to show some age with tarry, undergrowth developing on the nose, as well as some biltong development. Palate still showing good freshness and black fruits with hints of savouriness emerging. Nicely balanced and enjoyable still.
Eldridge Estate, Gamay 2010, $35
Juicy, baked cherries with supple, light tannins that nonetheless are evident and supporting. Big, immediate black and red cherry fruit of super intensity.