Rob Diletti’s tireless work in Great Southern, Western Australia, has helped put the subregion of Porongurup on the map for its world-class riesling.
When Rob Diletti was last a finalist for these Awards in 2012, the judges saluted the quality of his winemaking from an isolated site in the Porongurups as well as his ability to transform the wines he makes under contract. Much has changed in those seven years. Most significantly, the reputation of the Porongurup subregion as a producer of world-class riesling has soared, and the key player in this has been Rob Diletti.
Many would regard Porongurup as among the finest riesling areas in Australia. There is now an amazing number of rieslings produced which acknowledge the subregion as the source of their fruit. In spite of this, the quantities produced remain minuscule.
Castle Rock Estate was established by Angelo and Wendy Diletti in 1983, the family lived there from 1992, and so the vineyard was a key part of Rob’s life since his early days. He studied at Charles Sturt and worked at Mountadam in the Eden Valley, before returning to the Great Southern in 1999 to work as assistant winemaker at Alkoomi where his family wines had been made since the beginning. A Tony Smith Rotary scholarship enabled him to work at the small family winery of Alsace’s Domaine Greiner as part of his training.
Rob Diletti played a major part in designing the Castle Rock winery in 2001 and has been its winemaker since. Given his quiet lifestyle, with its focus on vineyard and winery, and the isolation of the Porongurups, wine show judging has played an important part in keeping Diletti in touch with current developments in the industry. He has been a regular judge at the Sydney, Perth, and Margaret River shows and is currently chair of the organising committee for the Wine Show of Western Australia.
“The wines of Castle Rock Estate have purity, tension and grace, and speak loudly of their source area, as well as their maker.” Toni Paterson MW
One of the major developments in recent times has been the release of three more rieslings from the vineyard made in different ways to the original Castle Rock Estate Riesling. The ancient soils of the subregion are vital to Castle Rock’s quality; its altitude chills in the evenings, while the atypical (for Australia) easterlies provide daytime cooling for the vines. Careful viticulture pegs the yield to four tonnes per hectare giving the whites power, weight and density.
The 2018 Castle Rock Estate Riesling has won two trophies and delighted members of this judging panel for its purity of flavour, finesse, delicate yet persistent lemongrass and lime characters, and long shaley finish. Wonderful balance.
The 2016 Estate A&W Riesling salutes the Castle Rock founders, with a European style – 100% whole-bunch pressed and given three months on lees to produce cloudy juice and complex minerality – while the cheaper, trophy winner from the Perth Show, the 2018 Skywalk Riesling is made from medium pressings to give more flavour and softer acidity: an easy drinking flavoursome style. The 2017 Turret Riesling is medium-sweet. Fermentation is stopped to give the finished wine 25 grams per litre of residual sugar.
The rieslings he makes under contract are made using the approach he takes with his Estate Riesling. They are each very different wines because of the sites from which they are sourced. As he says he “wants the site to shine through in a clean, aromatic way.”
Western Australia does not have a great reputation with pinot noir – purists claim it’s not cold enough – but that appears to be changing with Castle Rock consistently ranked as one of the state’s top three producers for the variety. The 2017 was a trophy winner at the Wine Show of Western Australia: it is complex, has a savoury quality, and the fruit power and balance to age in the medium term.
While Margaret River grabs much of the attention with chardonnay, Diletti loves his tight, citrusy, leaner style of the variety. At the price, it’s worth a try.
As a winemaker, Diletti could be described as quiet, unprepossessing, thoughtful and tough. Visit Castle Rock Estate and you’ll feel just how close to the earth the wine industry can be. It is wonderful to see how the impact of a small family winery can play a significant part in shaping the reputation of the area from which it comes.
FACTS AND FIGURES
REGION | Porongurup, Great Southern
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | 23
ANNUAL CRUSH | 370 tonnes (70 tonnes for Castle Rock, 300 tonnes under contract)
STAND-OUT WINES | 2018 Castle Rock Estate Riesling