At a time when the Barossa was very much still set in its ways, with high ripeness, glossy oak and power the order of the day, Pete Schell was quietly but firmly rattling the dominant paradigm with his Spinifex wines. And this was long before some of today’s most recognisable iconoclasts had even thought about…
Adam Foster Syrahmi
Chef-turned-sommelier-turned-winemaker Adam Foster has carved out a significant identity for himself, both making Rhône-inspired reds under his Syrahmi imprint and bone-dry, textural rosé and savoury sangiovese under his co-lab Foster e Rocco label. Once somewhat itinerant, Foster has now set down roots in Tooboorac at the southern end of Heathcote, where he has planted a block of high-density syrah. Foster won back-to-back Young Gun of Wine People’s Choice awards, in 2008 and 2009, the only finalist to ever do so.
Starting off his career as a chef, Adam Foster’s passion for wine – and some of the encyclopedic wine lists that serviced the restaurants he worked in – saw him cross the pass before long, engaging in front of house roles, both as waiter and sommelier. Cheffing took him from an apprenticeship at Melbourne’s Continental Café to working under Alla Wolf-Tasker at Daylesford’s Lakehouse to a stint with Jeremy Strode, and on to some of the legendary Michelin-starred restaurants of Europe and London.
Wine always sat high on Foster’s list of priorities, though, with a long day as an apprentice often capped off with a voluntary shift at Walter’s Wine Bar, thus beginning his less-formal apprenticeship in wine. Over time, vintage work beckoned, and a stint at Torbreck with Dave Powell ignited some very dry kindling, which saw Foster travel the world in the quest for knowledge, seeing him work two vintages a year for four years after resigning his last cooking position, in 2002, as Head Chef at the Lakehouse.
Chapoutier, Stéphane Ogier, Mitchelton, Pierre Gaillard, Heathcote Winery and Jasper Hill, amongst others, took on Foster, and answered most of his relentless barrage of questions. And this is how he learnt his craft – on the job.
A stint under Ben Edwards and Dan Sims with Paul Mathis’ Taxi Group eventually led to the head sommelier role at Andrew McConnell’s celebrated Three, One, Two. All the while, his Syrahmi project was bubbling in the background. Syrahmi, an amalgam of syrah and ami (friend), was built around sourcing fine parcels of Heathcote shiraz and elaborating them in a way that reflected his education both locally and in the Rhône.
Syrahmi grew to a point where working shifts on the floor was no longer practical, especially with his Foster e Rocco project – alongside fellow sommelier Lincoln Riley (now owner/maker North Run Wine Co.) – finding a market thirsty for rosé and sangiovese. A grenache from ancient vines in Banyuls, in Southern France, followed soon after, as did an homage to Chapoutier’s fabled top tier syrah trio, ‘La landonne’, ‘la Mouline’ and ‘La Turque’, which he fittingly dubbed ‘La La’.
Syrahmi was launched as a roaming project, taking in parcels of fruit across Heathcote, exploring known vineyards in new ways as well as uncovering sites of formerly unlocked potential. Today, however, Foster has put down roots amongst the verdigris-mossed granitic boulders of Tooboorac, where he now lives and grows grapes to his ideal methods. He planted shiraz vines at high density in 2017, with the first tentative harvest coming in 2019. Foster also makes a riesling from a nearby vineyard, in Merindoc, as well as a pinot noir from Macedon, both under the Garden of Earthly Delights label.