Recently, the very straightforward General Manager of Mornington Peninsula-based producer Ten Minutes by Tractor, Chris Hamilton, asked me to write some tasting notes for the winery’s use. I mention this both by way of disclosure and to make a particular observation. When I talked with Chris about the brief, I assumed he wanted the typically concise, descriptive notes one often sees attached to wine marketing material. Instead, he asked me to write in the style of my notes on this site.
When I write for Full Pour, my intent is far from commercial and so, I believe, are the resultant notes. So it fascinated me that a producer might want to commission similar material, complete with the extravagances of length and style in which I often indulge.
It pleases me to note all the wines tasted were good. The single vineyard labels, however, stand out as the most authentic representation of what Ten Minutes by Tractor is doing. I tasted two Chardonnays (Wallis and McCutcheon) and three Pinot Noirs (Wallis, McCutcheon and Judd). All vineyards are in the Main Ridge sub-region of the Mornington Peninsula, just ten minutes away from each other as the tractor flies. The material provided to me included copious information about vineyard elevations, clones, viticulture and winemaking. The approach strikes me in general as somewhat obsessive, and in particular as striving towards an understanding of differences between wines wrought by specific variables between vineyards. This is the mad scientist approach to the aesthetics of wine, and I love it.
These notes are my own personal write-ups, different from those provided to the winery for is use.
Wallis Vineyard Chardonnay 2008
Instant cool climate Chardonnay with a fireside warmth twist. The aroma shows crushed rocks, lean oak, oatmeal and predominantly grapefruit-like citrus. It’s quite savoury and austere in a way, but there’s a glimmer of enticing warmth at its core, like a candle shining in the midst of a winter snowstorm. I think this flows from a real funkiness to the aroma, something slightly off-center and quirky, that adds humanity to what can sometimes be a rather robotic Chardonnay style.
The palate trades on this tension between cool collectedness and a flavour profile that teases with its darting cuddliness. It’s all fine and poised, with a pleasingly slippery mouthfeel and the sort of detail that rewards slow drinking. Overall, this is a really subtle wine, low-key and humble, but full of interest too. Quietly seductive.
McCutcheon Vineyard Chardonnay 2008
Both different from and strikingly similar to the Wallis wine. This is altogether more powerful and direct, with an aroma full of thrust and parry, pure citrus fruit, spice and mealiness. Its power is well controlled, and if I were to characterise the aroma profile to set it apart from the Wallis, I’d say this is cooler, more chiselled, perhaps more detailed, certainly more masculine. Fascinating that viticulture and winemaking were essentially identical for both wines.
The entry shows a nice cut of minerality alongside more citrus and vanilla spice. There’s a soothing caress of viscosity on the palate which balances out robust acidity and makes way for fruit flavours to express themselves. The after palate is full of pithy grapefruit and the finish shows really refreshing bitterness, in the most positive sense. I reckon this will get better over the medium term (5 years or so).
McCutcheon Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
One thing I noticed across all the single vineyard Pinots was their lack of colour density. The hues themselves are most attractive and fresh, but each wine is quite see-through, which I feel is one of the pleasures of this variety. I love how something so insubstantial-looking can be so powerful.
The nose here seems ideally balanced between varietal sour cherry and a catalogue of spices, damp earth and the sweetness of char siu. It’s all quite seamless, moving through its modes with no bumpiness or pause. On entry, good intensity without heaviness. It’s immediately complex, with seemingly all parts of the cherry (pulp, skin, pips) included in the lovely flavour profile. The middle palate introduces some sticky caramel before nicely textured acidity sweeps in to move one through the after palate. Grainy tannins adds to the mouthfeel and help with persistence through the finish.
For drinking now, my favourite of the three single vineyard Pinots, thanks to its beautiful balance.
Wallis Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
If the McCutcheon is a dilettante, spreading itself across all its elements equally, the Wallis Vineyard Pinot is the specialist, diving deep into a particular expression of Pinot that is more mysterious and difficult to unravel.
The aroma’s first impression is of thick impenetrability. There are layers of spiced wood, sour cherries, vanilla and undergrowth, all swirling to form a dense fabric of smells that is quite hard to tease apart. There’s a lovely sappiness that arcs over the aroma too, which tends to unify the elements and provide some light.
There’s slightly more fruit emphasis in the mouth, though it remains a seriously dark expression of cherry. It’s concentrated and savoury, no one aspect dominating yet with the whole existing in a subterranean place, compact and firm. Texture is wonderful, with plenty of tannins emerging on the middle palate and continuing down the line, and a subdued acid line running the whole length. There’s a dip in intensity as the wine progresses down its line and this, combined with the tightly held flavour profile, suggests the Wallis more than the other two Pinots will benefit from bottle age.
Judd Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
This wine is tangibly different again from the Wallis and McCutcheon. One obvious difference from a viticultural perspective is this vineyard is planted to the 115 Pinot clone, as opposed to the others which carry MV6. 115 is known for its more straightforwardly fruity flavour profile, and this comes through into the finished wine.
A deeply spiced aroma profile that is nonetheless dominated by heady, ripe cherries and fresh plum pulp. More in-your-face than the other two wines, this is openly seductive in character. It’s all curves and femininity, quite voluptuous really.
The way it enters the mouth is wild: an initial pause followed by a dramatic enlargement of scale that is quite surprising. After wedging your palate open, it supplies gobs of sweet fruit onto the tongue. The fruit character is very pretty, all maraschino cherries framed by attractive tartness. Some oak is present in support, and is well matched to the fruit. I just can’t get over the physical aspects of this wine’s feel in the mouth, though; this alone makes it worth experiencing, for its sensuality but also its sophistication. A very long finish.
Ten Minutes by Tractor