by Michael Pinkus
Over the past few months, hopefully you have noticed wines coming to the LCBO from Zonte’s Footstep, an Australian wine company with a unique style: they come in a very tall bottle, under a red screw cap (it is Australia after all), with distinctive pen and ink drawings on the label. The wines also come with cool names like Baron von Nemesis, Chocolate Factory, Hills are Alive and Lake Doctor. And all of this would be kind of gimmicky if it wasn’t that the wine inside were worth every penny.
Zonte’s is an Australian winery helmed by a winemaker / vigneron named Brad Ray, who traces his roots back to Calgary, Alberta where he grew up. He caught the wine-bug working at the first privately owned wine shop in Canada, and was so enamoured with the product that he uprooted his whole life (from studying architecture at the University of Calgary) to completing a four-year wine science course at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga (New South Wales, Australia). He then became one of the group of friends who created Zonte’s Footstep Winery.
The very first vintage of a Zonte’s Footstep wines was in 2003. “We take our vineyards and our wine, but not ourselves, [very] seriously,” the winery says. They also “aim to bottle wines with personality and expression; [which is] why we gave them names.”
As for the name of the winery, the story is twofold: first, in 1893 their vineyards were planted to “Zante currant to produce table grapes for Adelaide” … In the ’20s the vineyard was replanted to “real grapes” for winemaking. But to keep the history alive they changed the name of the Zante to Zonte’s (due to laws requiring the proper grape names to be on bottles, and there was no Zante grapes in any of their wines). As for the footstep part, while they were replanting the vineyard some large boulders with footprints from the largest known marsupial to ever live, the Diprotodon, were discovered, and the footstep moniker was adopted.
Now that you know some backstory it’s time to take a look at a rundown of the bottles that have come to the province over the past few months, some making their return and some their debut. Pick them up while you can.
- SCORE KEY
- Good ★★★ ½
- Very Good ★★★★
- Excellent ★★★★ ½
- Outstanding ★★★★★
- + Wines with a little bit extra.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2018 Baron von Nemesis, Limited Release Shiraz
- $24.95, Australia; LCBO 212936
- ★★★★ +
- Super juicy black fruit, namely cassis and blackberry with some vanilla notes, loads of licorice and blackberry flavour with a touch of floral and white pepper, especially on the finish. This screams Australian Shiraz and don’t let me forget about the cherry-plum finish that raises the bar on this wine.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2018 Hills Are Alive, Shiraz
- $24.95, Australia; LCBO 522342 – Limited Release coming in December
- ★★★★ +
- Shiraz lovers will get a big kick out of this one, because it hits all the right marks: white pepper, blackberry, black raspberry and licorice on the nose, while the palate is full of juicy dark fruits along with mocha, white pepper, subtle vanilla and a plethora of spiciness.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2018 Chocolate Factory Shiraz
- $19.95, Australia; LCBO 39641
- There is no wonder this is called “the chocolate factory”, but let’s start here: lots of black raspberry, black cherry and vanilla Coke with subtle earthy plus smokey notes backing it up. There’s even some red peppercorns… and yes, there is a lovely note of chocolate here.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2018 Love Symbol, Grenache
- $19.95, Australia; LCBO 668582
- A nose full of raspberry and spice leading to a palate that fills the mouth with notes of raspberry, mocha, black cherry, blackberry and a real hit of balancing acidity. This is a real punchy, fruit-forward wine that’s juicy with a raspberry core and peppery finish.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2020 Scarlett Ladybird
- $18.95, Australia; LCBO 408476
- ★★★ ½ +
- The first sniff is raspberry, orange and lemonade, which seems a strange combination of flavours to come if the palate delivers on the promise of the nose; it opens up to deliver orange and floral notes with hints of apricot – a little different, but welcome.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2017 Lake Doctor Shiraz
- $19.95, Australia; LCBO 72975
- ★★★ ½ +
- A more delicate version of Shiraz, especially for Australia: more violet and white pepper-centric with the backing of mocha and strawberry.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2019 Blackberry Patch, Cabernet
- $19.95, Australia; LCBO 353193
- ★★★ ½ +
- A really dark wine from the colour to the nose: blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry and even some cigar box to the palate. Very blackberry -oriented with other dark fruits and spices lingering on the finish.
- Zonte’s Footstep 2019 Shades of Gray, Pinot Grigio
- $17.95, Australia; LCBO 17645
- ★★★ ½
- Should have been named “Shades of Grigio” because the only thing not Gris about this is the potent acidity. Otherwise, we have all the makings (and markings) of Gris here: lemon, floral, apple, pear with a touch of mineralality.