Michael Downer is the owner/ winemaker and second generation of Murdoch Hill wines. He is young, by wine-making standards, though makes classically styled wines with wisdom beyond his years. He straddles the line between a youthful, experimental, boundary pushing attitude; with that of experience, showing a respect for fruit and producing wines with touch and finesse. This quality was recognized when Michael was awarded Australia’s Young Gun of Wine in 2017.
Murdoch Hill is located in the Onkaparinga Valley, behind the town of Oakbank, a small agricultural town in the rolling Adelaide Hills. The region is somehow regularly overlooked by wine travelers who scope out Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, though the ‘Hills’ time is now, and the cooler climate (due to elevation and aspect) allows wine-growing to run the gamut from Pinot Noir to Shiraz. Make sure you put it on your radar for wine travel. Michael and his brother have just opened a cellar door, and there are plenty of other great visits nearby (Shaw + Smith, Lost in a Forest, Hahndorf Hill to name a few). It should be reminded that this is cool climate wine-growing, which allows a Shiraz a long growing season, delivering softness, suppleness and plenty of spice. The intensity is medium, but complexity is high.
The Downer family have farmed the property of Murdoch Hill since 1939, though it has been mixed agriculture with vineyards introduced in 1998, which is when these Shiraz/ Syrah vines went in the ground. Oakbank's warmer, sunny days allow for the Syrah vines to fully ripen, whilst the afternoon breezes and cool nights help the fruit retain its natural acidity. The fruit for this wine was harvested in to April, which is several weeks later than the neighbouring regions.
Michael ferments the wine naturally in small batches, including whole bunches (stems) in the ferment which drives the white pepper and clove spice profile. The fruits are black berry, cherry and plum, with some smoked meat. There is a creamy softness as the wine flows through the palate, while the spices linger.
Regarding cellaring, the wine is medium bodied, from a cool climate and a cooler vintage. There is elegance and even-ness through the palate, with all components working together. We think it is delicious now, though can go for an easy ten years. Halliday even recommends up until 2032, but it is going to be in the zone the next few years. Keep it simple here, with grilled, roasted or smoked dark meats.