Following a decade-long tenure at Oakridge, Adrian Rodda upped stakes and moved to Beechworth, in Victoria’s north-east, to take up joint stewardship of one of the region’s most significant, and significantly under-utilised vineyard resources, Smiths. It’s no surprise, given his time working with David Bicknell, that chardonnay happened to be front and centre, with Rodda also maintaining a foot in the Yarra sourcing fruit from one of its fabled sites, Willowlake. Fine pitch and effortless detail is the order of the day, with oak a distant suggestion, allowing the sites to shine. Those two founding chardonnays have since been joined by one from a lofty Whitlands site, Baxendale, complementing a Beechworth tempranillo and elegant blend of the five Bordeaux varieties. After first being a finalist in the YGOW Awards in 2012, Adrian was named the Young Gun of Wine in 2015.
After spending over a decade under the tutelage of Yarra Valley giant David Bicknell at Oakridge, Adrian Rodda took the opportunity to work with Beechworth’s oldest extant vineyard, Smiths, in 2010. This all came about through a friendship with Mark Walpole, one of this country’s most fabled viticulturists, who had planted his Fighting Gully Road Vineyard in the region in 1997. Recognising its immense potential, Walpole pounced on the lease of Smiths, threatened as it was by an impending sale and/or potential vine pull.
What was born was a mutual relationship between the two, which sees winemaking expertise traded for viticultural nous and access to distinguished fruit. And this is no remote winemaking for Rodda, with him just as actively involved in the farming, having moved to Beechworth with his family – his wife is a doctor, and now a country GP.
Aside from Beechworth, Rodda sources chardonnay from the Willowlake Vineyard, in the Yarra Valley. This was the vineyard that he helped Bicknell parcel out to find the best block for Oakridge’s ‘864’ flagship wine. He now gets to source from a particularly individual block that he always had his eye on, though Bicknell wasn’t so sure about. That instinct is somewhat a measure of Rodda, with the vineyard-first philosophy leading the way. Along with the ‘Smiths’, it has become a heavily awarded wine (if that matters to you), even topping the tables at a fairly recognisable critic’s exhaustive chardonnay quest in 2018.
Aside from the two single-site chardonnays mentioned, Rodda also now makes one from the cool of Whitlands at 600 m above sea level, as well as a Beechworth Tempranillo and his ‘Cuvée de Chez’, a blend of the five classic Bordeaux varieties in ever-changing proportions, depending on vintage. The wines are marked by transparency of making and purity of fruit, with oak flavours imperceptible in the whites, and just supporting in the reds.