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The New Barossa
Part 2: Rockford

Krondorf Road, Tanunda, South Australia, 5352
Phone: (08) 8563 2720 Fax: (08) 8563 3787

The courtyard of the Rockford winery, in winter

My investigation of the new Barossa actually began with a bit of a recap. Still feeling a little tired from my flight and a bit distraught about the low temperature (I’d just come from Singapore, and I was freezing in the September chill), I lunched and then made my way to Rockfords. This was one of the wineries I visited on my previous trip, back in March 1996, but this time I was coming as a ‘professional’. I was received by Travis O’Callaghan (right), son of the founder, Rocky.

Travis is a dude. He’s the sort of person you describe as a ‘character’, and he has a dangerous glint in his eye. Chippy (left), who also works at Rockford is another dude, but quite different to Travis – he plays Aussie rules. We had a look round the winery – there’s a lot of interesting, traditional-looking equipment (most is old stuff salvaged from other wineries as they modernized), together with two new custom build basket presses. The basket press is a traditional device for pressing red wines, more labour intensive than modern alternatives, but generally giving a better result because of the gentler effect it has, and it's a device automatically associated with Rockford because their flagship wine is named after it - the basket press Shiraz. Then we tasted some wines together.

Tradition is important here: this winery is almost museum-like. In the early 70s O’Callaghan bought an 1850s cottage, and he’s built the winery around a courtyard out of the same materials. He’d already served his apprenticeship at Seppelts in Rutherglen; his parents were growers before him. There’s a sense of permanence about this place that is reassurring.

Rockford is still thought of as a new, boutique winery, but they’ve been going a while now and poduction has built up to the point where they are crushing 400–500 tons annually. I guess I wouldn’t call Rockford ‘new Barossa’. Along with the likes of Charles Melton and St Hallett (now under Lion Nathan ownership), Rockford is now one of the Barossa establishment, making solid and sometimes exciting wines in what I’d call the traditional Barossa style.  
The old basket press

Like many other Barossa producers, Rockford rely heavily on growers. They have a network of 35 growers spread around the various Barossa subregions, although Travis says that they don’t source much from down the south. He’s proud to point out that in 20 years they’ve only lost one grower. I have a feeling this is a good place to start in my journey to see how the Barossa is evolving.

Rockford Eden Valley Riesling 2001
Lovely limey nose is delicate yet full, and quite crisp. Very rounded on the palate with a softness in the middle. The fuller, rounded fruit comes from older vines: it’s a traditional, older style of Riesling, but with no residual sugar. Very good+ 88/100

Rockford Barossa Semillon 2001
Made in large, old French oak vats. This has a distinctive lemony, herby nose which is quite complex, with full, rounded fruit. Lovely and fresh. Very good/excellent 90/100

Rockford Alicante Bouschet 2004 Barossa Valley
Deep coloured, as you’d expect from this variety. Distinctive powerful, rich style with lots of ripe berry and cherry fruit. Sweet, fresh and yet quite soft, too. A fun wine. Very good+ 87/100

Rockford Moppa Springs 2000
A blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. Quite sweet and spicy – almost Porty – with a touch of tarriness. Very soft and spicy; quite woody and traditional in style. Very nice. Very good+ 89/100

Rockford Rod and Spur 2001
The third vintage of this Cabernet/Shiraz blend. Distinctive minty, herbaceous edge to the nose. The palate is spicy and rich with a nice herby character. Good structure. Very good+ 88/100

Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 2001
From 30 different old vine vineyards in the region, a wine with a loyal following. Spicy, rich nose: this is classic Barossa Shiraz. Structured, full palate with lovely balance and rich, soft tannins. Lots of structure. Elegant, almost, with good acidity. Very good/excellent 92/100

1998 Shiraz Vintage Port
Lovely purity of fruit on the nose, which is silky and rich with some woody, herby complexity. The palate is soft, smooth and rich with some tannic structure. Very good/excellent 92/100

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