DOC ADAMS PROVES THEY’RE JUST
WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
"The Doc Adams brand began in 2005 when Waters and viticulturalist Jacobs, who’d helped tend the vines since 1998, entered into a partnership, formed a collective of 22 grape growers and started to make quality wines under the Doc Adams label."
TWO years of COVID 19 has seen a lot of disruption in the wine industry, possibly none more so than that experienced by McLaren Vale-based winery Doc Adams Wines.
The uncertainty caused by the pandemic caused delays in renewing its cellar door lease in California Road at Tatachilla. Without a lease extension the cellar door – awarded Cellar Door of the Year in 2017 – was obliged to move to less salubrious premises in Lonsdale, an industrial precinct closer to Adelaide than McLaren Vale. Hit number one.
Hit number two was the ending of a three decade-long relationship between winery owners, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Darren Waters and his wife, general practitioner Elizabeth, and viticulturist and winemaker Adam Jacobs. It was the combination of their names that gave the winery its name.
Hit number three is a hit of a different nature – despite the turbulence of the past two years, with a new cellar door, new winemaker and sharper focus on its portfolio, Doc Adams 2020 Single Vineyard Shiraz has proved the winery has lost none of its lustre by taking out Equal Top in Category and five stars/98 points in Winestate’s McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, KI, Fleurieu and Surrounds Wine Show.
The Doc Adams story goes back to 1998 when Darren Waters and Elizabeth bought a neglected almond grove at Sellicks Hill. They’d fallen in love with the land that was hugged by the tail end of the Mount Lofty Ranges on the east and fell away gently towards the ocean on the west.
Being water lovers, it provided the best of two worlds: – soil that was perfect for growing grapes, olives and almonds, and with beautiful sea views and ocean breezes. The local bird life included a colony of endangered yellow-tailed black cockatoos soaring over the property, a feature that has been incorporated in the label of that 2020 shiraz.
The vines, mostly shiraz, were planted in 2000 and Darren’s father, Bob, was vineyard manager for the next 18 years, after which Darren’s brother Matt took over. Elizabeth Waters father, Henry Muller, helped plant and train the vines. As an engineer he was keen on collecting data and prepared meticulous handwritten notes on each vintage. He and Bob enjoyed each other’s company and would sit up all night in the shed during harvest enjoying homemade soup and a glass or two of a previous vintage.
The Doc Adams brand began in 2005 when Waters and viticulturalist Jacobs, who’d helped tend the vines since 1998, entered into a partnership, formed a collective of 22 grape growers and started to make quality wines under the Doc Adams label. In 2012 they won a trophy for Best Shiraz in the McLaren Vale Wine Show with their 2010 shiraz, plus an additional 13 awards that year, putting Doc Adams on the map.
Their cellar door opened in 2016 and when the following year it won Cellar Door of the Year from 40 competitors, it was the first time a newly opened cellar door had won the award.
Cellar door manager Matt Johnston put the win down to, “a great team, great relationships with local tour operators, B&Bs, and with other wineries in the area,” and he admits it was disappointing to have to walk away and start again in a “far from glamorous shed” at Lonsdale.
Not that this seems to have had much effect on the winery’s clearly very loyal clientele, given that the same sense of hospitality, wine tastings and generous platters have followed the move – with the added bonus that the new location is closer to the city, almost a stepping-stone en route to McLaren Vale.
Johnston says that, with the break enforced by COVID 19, founding partner Adam Jacobs decided that after more than 30 years it was time for a career change to make gin instead of wine. Which led, of course, to consideration of the winery’s name. It was decided that, with Adam or not, the brand was now so well established and respected it would not change. And in all fairness, it was Adam who had helped create that respect.
The move has also led to a more focussed winery, now using only estate grown fruit sourced from the Waters’ original block at Sellick’s Hill. In turn this has led to a smaller portfolio of wines, trimmed from about 23 – which Johnston says was really far too large for a small winery – to 12 still wines and two sparkling.
Doc Adams once highly regarded tempranillo is no longer on the list, replaced by sangiovese. Most wines are now single varietals, with a GSM the only blend. Shiraz and cabernet sauvignon provide the core of the range, including a number of award-winning museum wines dating back to 2010, with a summer-friendly moscato and winter-friendly Doc’s Old Tawny rounding out the range.
Winemaking, including that of the award-winning 2020 Single Vineyard Shiraz, is now carried out by the highly experienced Phil Christiansen at his Longwood Winery in McLaren Vale. It’s a small batch winery working mostly with quality small batch producers, where Phil has gained a reputation as the “godfather of garage”.
If anything, Johnston adds, the disruption caused by COVID 19 hasn’t been such a bad medicine at all for Doc Adams Wines. It has emerged perhaps a little smaller and in slightly less salubrious surroundings, but leaner and more focussed – and with its reputation for top quality shiraz clearly very intact.