Gunn, now with a Christopher Lee-esque beard after giving up shaving whilst in Eritrea, employs Werner Muller as his winemaker, but likes to get in there and take part in the making of the wine as well. All his grapes are estate grown and the vineyards are going organic and have introduced Biodynamic practices in some vineyards. The cool climate in Elgin means that the wines achieve full physiological ripeness, which gives beautiful balance and ageing potential. After a decade of production, some things are changing at Iona, with the focus of single variety wines being tweaked somewhat. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay stay as does the Pinot Noir, but out goes their Syrah and their Bordeaux blend wine and in comes their 'One Man Band'. I tried five wines with Andrew today, and here is what I thought.
2011 Iona Sauvignon Blanc
Lots of green grass with a little bit of elderflower coming out, quite chalky with just a touch of white pepper as well. The palate has a softness up front from the tiny amount of barrel fermented Semillon that is popped in, following with the grassy , vegetal, slightly spirity flavour. There is more of the hedgerow coming on the pallet with some underripe apple and just a touch of yellow grapefruit tartness. Nice structure, well balanced, soft fruit with minerality coming through. A good French inspired South African Sauvignon Blanc. 87pts
2010 Iona Chardonnay
Really nice subtle oak coming out of the glass, with a bit of ginger emerging from the 20% new wood. Some rustic apples emerge firs in the pallet, a bit of wood and then a delicious peach skin and pear flavour. A little alcohol comes through with a bit of oak and then soft fruit balances everything out with lovely acid. Just a bit of pepper, vanilla pod on the finish. Really good. 90pts
2006 Iona The Gunnar
I've always liked this wine and I think it is a shame that it is going, but I've always liked the veggie element that it has. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (48%), Merlot (46%) with the rest being Petit Verdot, it has gorgeous brussels sprouts, liquorice, damson and aniseed coming off the nose. Then some mint freshens the whole thing up, being fleshed out with a lovely damson and plum aroma. The palate has veggies up front, nice structure of red fruit, savoury liquorice and just a bit of spice. A bit of cocoa dust comes out as well. I really like this wine. 92pts
2007 Iona Syrah
A soft and pretty aroma with the pepper acting as seasoning rather than as a major flavour. Some sweet cherry comes out with a really nice soft spice, good acid and then a slightly under ripe bramble coming through. The finish is all about the spice, pepper - black and paprika - coming out with some dark, coffee flavours and a bit of leather. Firm tannins at the end, and a good spicy finish. 89pts
2008 One Man Band by Iona
This is where all the Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre & Viognier grapes are going, one wine that puts the best into a bottle and gives the winemakers a chance to express each vintage in a unique way. The name stems from the balancing act of a One Man Band, and reflects the different grape varieties working together to create something delightful. The wine is quite complex, lots of dark, juicy fruit but with some freshness floral aromas coming through. Chocolate, sweet liquorice and then a little bit of violet. The palate has the darkness from the Syrah, then some cocoa coming out from the cabernet and more lovely dark, tannic spice. Really quite nice, a wine that you need a big chunk of steak with. Mint and more liquorice on the finish. A really nice wine. 91pts
Gunn's wines are all lovely, showing restraint, balance and elegance. The One Man Band is a stunning wine and his Chardonnay is a delight. I think it is a shame that the Gunnar is going, but as Gunn says, "the one thing you need in the wine trade is flexibility" so maybe I'll see my favourite of his wines again some day.