Mandala winemaker bred for wine

By Louise Johnson
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Mandala Wines, the Yarra Valley's newest wine and food destination

Mandala Wines, the Yarra Valley's newest wine and food destination [©Photographer: Nick Robinson]

Winemaking is in Scot McCarthy’s blood and as the son of a viticulturalist it was only a matter of time before the Mandala Wines winemaker got his first job in the industry.

“I got a vintage position as a cellarhand in 1989 and was bitten by the wine bug straight away. I loved working in the winery and knew very early on that a winemaking role was what I was destined to do! Working in various wine regions of France, California and New Zealand fuelled my winemaking desires and ultimately led me towards producing premium cool climate wines in particular,” he says.

That first job was cleaning tanks at Yalumba’s Angaston winery in the Barossa Valley.

In July Mandala Wines opened a new cellar door in the Yarra Valley to showcase wines from their local vineyards, with Scott managing their winemaking. The new venue is a true destination, with restaurant, cafe and cellar door overlooking the pinot noir vines of the Yarra Junction Vineyard.

The Yarra Junction site plantings and viticulture from scratch, developing a 'Burgundian' site with carefully considered pinot clones. These vines are hand pruned, hand harvested and low yield.

Mandala’s second vineyard, a site at Dixons Creek on the Melba Highway, has established vines with broader varietal plantings including chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.

Scott says there are two great aspects of his current role as a contract winemaker in the Yarra Valley.

“Firstly, our vineyards are producing fantastic fruit at the moment, and every year it just seems to get better and better. The Pinot Noir from Mandala’s Yarra Junction site is just phenomenal. It really is a very special site. I am blessed to have access to such great fruit. Secondly, our team at Mandala are fantastic. It is a real close family atmosphere and everyone is very passionate about what we are doing. It is a real joy to work in an environment like this.”

How has the 2008 vintage shaped up in terms of quality?

2008 has been an excellent vintage. It was a hot, short, early, dry season and we had some concerns at times. The quality of the wines however has been outstanding. We were very careful with harvesting, and in a lot of cases picked earlier than usual and really have some terrific flavour profiles in the wines in barrel.

Which are you most excited about in your current release?

I’m really excited about what we have achieved with our Chardonnay. We set out with very clear goals in mind (stylistically) and I think we are right on the mark with the final blend.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever made?

Well, it’s still in the barrel, but I’m happy to call the 2008 Prophet Pinot Noir my best wine to date. A great follow up to the 2006 Prophet, a powerful expression of what we can achieve from this single site Pinot Noir block.

What’s the biggest challenge in winemaking?

Nature. Each year we are faced with all sorts of challenges, frost, hail, bushfires, pestilence, not enough rain, too much rain, and the list goes on and on. When we finally get the fruit off the vine and into the winery we all breathe a huge sigh of relief!

What would you like to see change in the world of wine?

I wish people would be a little more adventurous and try new varieties and wine styles. There are some fantastic small producers out there making some really brilliant wines, and a place like the Yarra Valley is such a beautiful destination to discover them. You won’t find an ethereal wine experience in the bottom of a bottle of cleanskin!

Scott’s Yarra Valley favourites:

Eating

  • Healesville Hotel – Really great service, beautifully prepared food and a fantastic wine list.
  • The Vines at Helen’s Hill – Magnificent views, fantastic local produce and great wines as well.
  • Mandala Restaurant (shameless, but true)! – The food is to die for. The pan fried scallops with cauliflower puree and muscatel dressing is unbelievable….Believe me!
     

Drinking

  • Diamond Valley Blue label Pinot Noir – Beautiful Pinot Noir that ages very gracefully. Great expression of the variety that consistently reflects it’s terroir.
  • Helens Hill Evolution –A wild yeast barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc that has 18 months ageing on lees in oak before bottling. A great style of Savvy.
  • Mandala Prophet Pinot Noir – We only produce this wine in exceptional years and it really show cases what we think a great Pinot Noir is all about. Great varietal definition, powerful but still elegant.
     

One perfect day in the Yarra Valley

  • Maybe a hot air balloon ride over the Valley on a lovely sunny spring day, a couple bottles of the Yarra’s best Pinots, a few good friends, and a huge plate of Mauro’s scallops! That would be hard to beat.


 

Regions

  • Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)

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