Great men do not live for ever, but arseholes linger

News from Casella, 31 March 2017:

“Casella Family Brands (CFB) has today announced that it has acquired ownership of assets from Shaw Family Vintners. Completion of the transaction follows a period of confirmatory due diligence.” 

The Key Report, 23 March 2017:

“This hasn’t been confirmed, but word has reached TKR that Casella has acquired Shaw Family Vintners (Ballast Stone), situated in Currency Creek, South Australia. If true, Casella will pick up 1200 acres of vines in Currency Creek and McLaren Vale. It will also have a winery to process the fruit from these acres and the 400 acres of Hawthorn Ridge and Reedy Creek vineyard in McLaren Vale it bought for $12.4 million last July. At the time of publication there was no response from Casella and a ‘no comment’ from the Shaw Family.”

Good of Casella to confirm TKR’s week-old news.

Terroir – or as it become known in my mind, f****** terroir – certainly excites wine folk. It’s either the most important factor in wine or not, and strong opinions are voiced either way. Opinions continue this week, with two academics getting stuck in. Full report in Australian Wine News.

I have known Bob Berton since the ’80s. He’s a good bloke, the sort I have time for and like to have a drink with. And he’s an achiever. Over the years he’s built up the Berton Vineyards brand with steady purpose. The wines range from sound to very good and prices are always attractive to the consumer. It was good to read in the April 2017 Decanter magazine that the top wine in the magazine’s tasting of Top New World Cabernets from £13 to £40 ($21-$66) was the Berton Vineyard ‘Reserve’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. It won with 96 points, and was also best value at £13. Overall, Australia did well, with eight wines in the top 10.

A great wine man I have known since the ’80s is Don Lewis, who was at Mitchelton and later Tar & Roses. It was a sad Tuesday when I heard of his death. Tributes will pour forth and many will mention his dry sense of humour, his gentle manner and his great skill as a winemaker. Don was all those but he was also a whole lot of fun and when in London a bloke I enjoyed having a beer or six with after tastings or lunches when all the pompous stuff that wine involves had been done and dusted. The world is indeed a darker place without the light of Don Lewis shining. 

With his winemaking partner Narelle King, Don made some fantastic wines at Tar & Roses, with their pinot grigio being the best in Australia I have tasted. To all who knew him, raise a glass or two in his honour over the coming weekend.

Others also paid tribute: 

Friend and former colleague Brian Miller:

“Don Lewis – a friend, colleague, fine winemaker and a profound influence. At Mitchelton winery Don took some convincing to allow us to include his name on the back label, so I smiled years later when I saw his photograph on his own Tar & Roses bottles. He largely let his wines speak for themselves, and they spoke volumes. Wine writer Mark Shields wrote that a Don Lewis silence was eloquent. So long, Don. We wish you could have stayed.”

Nick Bulleid MW: “What a tragedy! What a genuine, gentle guy, as well as a skilled winemaker.”

Huon Hooke: “I wish there were more around with Don’s brand of understatement. He let his wines do the talking.”   

Good karma




13 thoughts on “Great men do not live for ever, but arseholes linger”

  1. Your fine words about our great friend Don Lewis will be widely echoed in our industry. He was an exceptional man in all the human traits which actually matter. And a bloody good winemaker. Funeral at 2pm Tuesday at Nagambie Catholic Church. Thanks TK.

  2. Fine sentiments, and beautifully said by Chris…”all the human traits which actually matter.” Don was the most understated, easy going, gentlemanly winemaker there was, and more importantly a REAL person. Sadly missed.

  3. Was a sad day to receive the news that Don Lewis whom I worked with for many years and had known almost a lifetime had passed away. Your talent and fond memories will continue although you will be sadly missed by many. Thoughts and warm
    Wishes extend out to your lovely family.

  4. I first met Don in 1973 when he arrived on the Goulburn River, as the great dream of Mitchelton was taking shape under the direction of Colin Preece and other visionaries.Don crafted great wines at Mitchelton over 4 decades, and then excelled with the Tar & Roses label he established with Narelle King.
    Don’s 45 Australian Vintages,and other ground-breaking vintages in Spain have left an enduring legacy, and been an inspiration to all who worked alongside him.
    I last saw Don a few weeks ago,and all thoughts were about the coming vintage,and how his benchmark Vintage 17 Riesling would stand in the line of all the Mitchelton Blackwood Park and
    Tar & Roses Rieslings.
    He opined that it was likely to be a good year as well for our olive grove where Don and Jenny would take their evening stroll along the Goulburn River.

    It was cold and windy at Mitchellstown on Saturday as we harvested the first crops of our Portuguese varieties not far from Don’s house,but Don’s gentle and astute presence was palpable.


  5. So sad to learn that Don has passed away. I too knew him from the late ’80s and will always remember his smile, his sense of humour and kindness not to mention the wonderful wines he made.
    You will be missed Don!

  6. I was saddened to hear; quietly affable but deeply calculating in his winemaking was Don; his pioneering with Spanish varieties led me to our most recent meeting in Galli’s Heathcote vineyard several years ago where we were both buying grapes; vale Don; my thoughts; know the grieving after losing my mum last week.

    Still have some Blackwood riesling and its attendant botrytis.

  7. Such a beautiful man, a few words but an incredible smile and great kindness.
    Such a joy to have met you Don, Merci for theses good moments.

  8. I first met Don at Mitchelton in 1982. He was quiet, reserved, almost shy until you got to know him. A great winemaker and even better bloke. Sadly missed. To lose him and John Clarke in such a short time is to make the world a lesser place.

  9. My company distributes Tar & Roses in Singapore – very successfully.
    I only met Don some 3 years back – but his professionalism was immediate.
    Regrettably, we only started stocking his signature “Lewis” Riesling last year – an immediate success.
    I hope that’s a tribute to Don in and of itself.
    I only met Don once – but that was enough for me to remember him such was the impact of just meeting him.
    Vale Don.

  10. Dry as a chip and a wicked sense of humour. I fondly remember the fun and games we had with Don when were distributing Mitchelton firstly for the Valmorbida family and then for Petaluma Limited. Blackwood Park Riesling remains one of my all time favourites and I have a few in the cellar. Don won the then much coveted Jimmy Watson trophy with a cool climate Shiraz in 1991. Rest In Peace Don.

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