The term garagiste, originally coined as a pejorative referring to the small wineries in Bordeaux’s Right Bank who were making more modern style wines from purchased grapes, has been greatly overused to the point of cliché. Nonetheless, consider it a very, very good sign when people are actually making good wines in their garage. That’s why there is something special about walking up the driveway of Noon Winery past old, gnarled vines of Grenache and into the garage that holds the ancient wooden fermenting vats and the basket press named Ruby.
Noon Winery was started by French teacher and casual farmer David Noon, who sold grapes to McLaren Vale winemakers throughout the 1960’s before becoming increasingly interested in winemaking himself, especially after a trip to Southern France. After pestering winemakers for years with his questions, he began to reserve a small amount of his fruit for himself to experiment with. He bought textbooks, and in 1972 a basket press, and in 1976 a crusher, and then he never looked back. With the help of his teenage children, neighbors and friends, he made small batches of wines from their grapes, and, increasingly, small lots of grapes bought from folks he knew around the valley. They hung a sign at the end of the driveway announcing wine for sale, and people just started turning up. David’s son Drew grew up on the farm, and by the time he had finished high school Drew was interested in wine as a career. He attended Roseworthy college and from there landed a job at Tyrrell’s winery in the Hunter Valley, which he describes as the perfect antidote to all the technology of winemaking he learned at Roseworthy. After working in the business for a few years and taking on management roles, Drew quickly realized he just wanted to become a wine shepherd and in 1996 he and his wife Raegan took over the winery from Drew’s father and have been carefully shepherding it ever since. Drew’s passion for wine extends well beyond his own small operation, as he is one of a handful of Master of Wine’s (MW) in the world!
The tiny estate is dry farmed biodynamically, though it is not certified, and Noon doesn’t have any intention of becoming certified. “We don’t make a big fuss about it,” says Noon. “We’ve never used any chemicals on our vines. All we have is this open-air tractor here. We knew if we sprayed anything on the vineyard, we’d just get it straight in the face. These vines are like grandmother’s plum tree. They look after themselves, and they grow better without any junk added.”
Noon’s philosophy in the cellar is much the same. The grapes are fermented in old open-top oak barrels lined with paraffin. Ambient yeasts and no temperature controls mean that the grapes take their own sweet time. And Drew continues his father’s tradition of never fining or filtering the wines.
“Life is too short not to be drinking the wines of Drew and Rae Noon,” says Robert Parker, who lists the Noon winery in his book, The World’s Greatest Wine Estates. “With their incredible perfume, extraordinary purity and layers of fruit, these are attention-getting wines but there is a restraint, balance and complexity that is remarkable.”
This is certainly a benchmark wine for Australia and one of the world’s great estates…ehr garages!