This winery changed hands in May 2016, with one family company, Brown Brothers, taking it off the hands of another, its founder, Phil Sexton. So associated is Innocent Bystander with the Yarra Valley that the new owners made the intelligent decision to build a new winery in Healesville, just across the parking lot from Giant Steps. They quickly signed contracts with all the grape growers that Phil used for Innocent Bystander, so that the style of the wines remains unchanged. This style of wines that are regional and varietal, reflecting the soil, climate and topography of the cool climate in the Yarra Valley has been the base upon which the reputation of Innocent Bystander has been built.
Fruit was selected from the Sexton and Tarraford vineyards in the Central Yarra, with a smaller contribution from the Lone Star Creek vineyard on the Upper Yarra basalt soils, which adds a hint of pepper. Vineyard management is intensive, with tasks such as shoot thinning, crop thinning and harvesting all carefully carried out by hand. The vineyards are adapting to biodynamic practices with the express purpose of further distinguishing each site and improving grape and wine quality. The Yarra Valley climate is cool - slightly cooler than Bordeaux and slightly warmer than Burgundy - and, although alpine, gets some maritime influence due to being on the southern (seaward) side of the Great Dividing Range. This results in slow and steady ripening.
Whole bunches were used in batches at varying percentages based on fruit structure and source. The overall blend incorporates 40% whole bunches. A cold soak was followed by fermentation with mainly indigenous yeast strains. Variations of hand plunging, pigeage and 'drain and return' were applied to the ferments, the frequency varying from parcel to parcel. Fermentation peaked at 32°C. Maceration lasted three days. The wine was then matured for 12 months in French oak barriques and puncheons. Separate batches of wine completed natural malolactic fermentation before blending and bottling.
Exotic pink pepper, fresh cherries, dried orange peel, dark cocoa and a hint of star anise on the nose. Earthy and luscious flavours, with black olives, cardamom spice and a hint of earthy smoky char to finish.