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Bindi Wines: Magic in the Macedon Ranges
By Christy Frank
Apr 3, 2024
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Looking back over my last several columns, I have been on an Australia kick.  Well, that kick is going to continue.

This month, we’re heading to the state of Victoria, the state that takes up a small chunk of real estate in the southeast corner of Australia.  And I use that word “real estate” on purpose.  Much of the region’s wine sites are on prime real estate – vacation territory for the big city of Melbourne.  The Mornington Peninsula is just south of the city, a sort of Aussie version of the Hamptons if we’re making analogies (and as a wine person, I am ALWAYS making analogies) with waterside estates gazing over the Port Philips Bay or out across the Bass Strait towards Tasmania, and beyond that, Antarctica.

And then there’s the Yarra Valley, to the northeast.  The analogy here is as Sonoma is to San Francisco.  I’m choosing Sonoma rather than Napa is on purpose: while Napa is fairly narrow with a whole lot of fancy-pants vibes, Sonoma is a more leisurely, both in terms of its misty, often-rolling topography and its overall wine scene.  There’s still plenty of fanciness, but it’s a little more laid back.

These two regions are Victoria’s best known over here in the States – partly because it’s easy for travelers to visit as a day trip to Melbourne, and partly because there are importers that have worked with wineries from them for years.

But…that’s not the region I’m writing about today.  For this column, we’re heading northeast, to the Macedon Ranges.  It’s roughly the same drive time to this region, as the other two, but it seems worlds away, at least in my mind, where it was one of the early visits on a long-ago trip to Australia, when the jet lag hadn’t yet descended like a ton of bricks and I was still sort of floating along in that dreamy, hazy state of “where am I on this planet at this very moment...and really, what is this very moment?”

Where I was, was at Bindi, which is indeed a dreamy place, jet lag or not.  It’s one of the handful of wineries in this legitimately cool, high-altitude region, where the weather rushes at you, all dramatic clouds and grey skies and then shushes away just as quickly.  The moment was lovely, lingering lunch (and if you’ve been on certain industry wine trips, you know that “lingering” is as lovely as it is rare) where we were treated to some of the oldest wines the estate has bottled.  (A 1994 Chardonnay is memory is correct.  Still fresh, still glorious, giving proof to all those WSET grids declaring that the best Chardonnays can develop notes of hazelnuts as they age.)

Bindi Wines is a family estate owned and run by Michael Dhillon.  He sports some of the best hair in the business and speaks about wine in the sort of mystical, philosophical, could-listen-to-him-talk-all-day way that very much reminds me of the late Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar.

Apparently, Michael gets this philosopher-winemaker from his father, Bill Darshan Singh Dhillon, who established the vineyard in 1988.  He passed away in 2013.  I never had a chance to meet him, but memories and stories of his time in the vines were fresh and vivid when I visited a year later.

It was Michael that would push for bottles of Bindi to make their way into the export markets, which would eventually happen in 1996.  They were – and are – made in small enough quantities to sell out locally many times over, which is certainly the most profitable way to do it.  But Michael has spoken and written eloquently about the importance of wines of this quality making their way into the world.  It’s one thing to measure your work against the bloke down the street; it’s entirely another thing to measure yourself against the best in the world.  (This is my own less-than-eloquent non-philosopher-speak, but you get the idea.)  It also does the overall reputation of Australian wine a whole lot of good when the diversity and deliciousness of its best bottlings travel around the globe.

And the Bindi Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are indeed some of the best in the world.  They showcase grace and harmony over power and concentration.  But there is an intensity to them – like a jewel lit from within, they sort of glow with light and flavor and loveliness.  There’s a seamlessness to them, and a sneaky complexity that’s easy to miss underneath the glorious, gentle fruit.  And for those with a decent cellar and patience, they do age beautifully, as proven by that 1994 from my dreamy lunch.

Bindi Wines fall under that little-discussed wine shop category of “wines I would rather keep than sell.”  My accountant has doubts about this category’s viability, so I recently opened the two Bindi wines lingering on the shelves to check in on them.  (Or as it’s unlikely my accountant is reading this, I’ll be honest…I hadn’t really put them on the shelf.  I was sort of hiding them.)  Here are notes on them:

Bindi Wines Dixon Pinot Noir 2018: Glorious Pinot Noir without the heartbreak that so often comes with the grape in that region over in France that starts with a B.  (Yes, Burgundy, I’m talking about Burgundy.)  I’m not about to call this wine “Burgundian” – I think that sort of short-hand for “elegant, lower alcohol, not-all-about-fruit-and-oak” lost its meaning long ago (and in the days of climate change, even Burgundy is sometimes fighting to remain “Burgundian.”  So, let’s talk specifics – with only the wee-est bit of comparison.

This wine used to go under the name Bindi Composition.  The grapes are sourced from two estate plots and it’s a lovely entry point into the Bindi style.  Perfumed, harmonious, gloriously textured, with jewel-like fruit tamed by a subtle savory edge and a hint of French oak spice.  If you sometimes wish your California Pinot Noirs had a bit more grace and your red Burgundy was a bit less heavy (in the sense of oh, so serious) – welcome to your happy place.  This wine simply glows with light and flavor and loveliness.  It has a sense of seamlessness and a sneaky complexity that’s easy to miss.  It’s a 2018, so it’s starting to show a bit of forest floor and dried floral notes.

Bindi Wines Kostas Rind Chardonnay 2019: Oh, I do love this wine!  I’m a sucker for this style of Chardonnay – a core of sun-kissed peachy-lemon fruit and hazelnutty goodness, wrapped up in a seamlessly glorious texture, shot through with a sneaky, zesty acidity.  If you taste in images, this one is like a glorious stained-glass window, all gentle oranges and yellows with golden hour sunlight streaming through, basking everything it touches in this crystalline glow.  It’s just so, so damned good.  Not Burgundy.  Not California.  Very much just Bindi.  And Kostas Rind?  He’s the Lithuanian teacher/mentor that introduced Bill D.S. Dhillon to the joys of wine.  So, thank you Kostas, thank you very much.        

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