It’s a cloudy, drizzly Monday morning in February as we pull up to Chestnut Hill, the scenic vineyard that Jayden Ong’s winery overlooks. The vineyard is beautifully green, with yellow flowers popping up in between the rows, and vine tendrils trying to sprawl out from their neat trellises. Birds fly, squawking overhead, making the hour long drive from the city feel more like a teleportation device to a different world, with such a marked difference from the noise & pollution-heavy streets from which we’ve come.
The reason we were here was due to an invite from Jayden to our dear Blackhearts staff to come out for a visit at the start of February, with a tour of the vineyard and winery. With his winery’s home base in Mount Burnett, Jayden Ong is the man behind Moonlit Forest, One Block, Maison de Ong, and his Chestnut Hill-grown fruit labelled under his own name.
Jayden’s grasp of not only what he does and why he does it makes it a joy to listen to him talk about wine, but his ability to situate his own practices within the broader context of the world’s viticultural and oenological operations is truly refreshing. In this, the influence from his history and on-going experience within the hospitality industry (he co-owns Cumulus Inc & Cumulus Up with Andrew McConnell) clearly comes to the fore, alongside viticultural education and extensive winemaking experience under the tutelage of folks like Curly Flat, Garagiste, Moorooduc and SC Pannell.
When it comes to style, it’s a fool's errand to try and fit Jayden Ong into a box. He doesn’t follow hard & fast rules regarding sulphur adds or using cultured yeasts to finish off ferments, instead letting the grapes, their origins, and the vintage variations dictate what any given wine needs. The wines that he makes range from the skinsy and sulphur-free within Moonlit Forest, to more classic takes, like those within the Maison de Ong cuvées (the name of which is a tongue-in-cheek reference the wine world’s proclivity to compare their best wines to iconic French counterparts).
One key element in his viticultural practice is making sure that each site speaks for itself, as he explained, “For me it’s important that the vineyard be dry grown, because I want the fruit to have a sense of place. Sense of place is very important in growing grapes. Grapes are very good communicators of where they’re grown…”
On the day of our visit to the winery, we were able to taste through his 2019 releases, including his Chestnut Hill Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnays (both crisp & complex), his Moonlit Forest Pinot Gris (apricot for days!), and - one of our absolute favourites (regardless of our inherent bias) - the about-to-be-released 2019 Grafted Syrah, exclusive to Blackhearts.
Using fruit from the prolific Tibooburra vineyard, the 2019 Grafted Syrah saw whole bunch carbonic maceration for 54 days, before being pressed to seasoned puncheons for a further 12 months maturation. At the winery, this new release was fresh and beautifully structured, with crushed herbs (from the whole bunch fermentation), black cherry, jubey raspberries, and a mellow tannin backbone.
We couldn’t be more pleased to have Jayden’s beautifully-made wines in store, and we’re extra chuffed about the brand new Grafted release - so next time you spy one of his excellent labels in store, make sure you grab a bottle and see what we’re raving about!