There's no way I can remember the first time (or first few times, really) I had wines from Oxford Landing of Australia.
It would have been in the 1990's, but even though I can't recall specifics, I can pretty much tell you why I had them.
I didn't know much about wine when I knocked 'em back way back when, but they likely acted as a step in my self-education of grape varieties and a little food pairing, too.
I went on from there, getting certified by WSET and various other educational bodies, while climbing the industry ladder from serving, to managing, to wine director roles and beyond. I learned and tasted everything from Bonarda to Beaujolais, from Fino to Falanghina, from Pinot to Pet-Nat. While I enjoyed the Oxford Landing wines back in the day, I guess you could say I simply moved on and never looked back.
It had been many years since I'd even thought about them, until a few weeks back when the folks from Pacific Wine & Spirits, a local wine importer, offered to send me a quartet of their new releases which featured a complete aesthetic brand refresh.
First off: how sharp are those bottles? Well done to all involved in that. They're quite handsome, super-clean, and will likely jump off the shelf, hardly being mistaken for other brands.
Truth be told, I didn't hold much hope. If I liked them in my early-twenties; what are the odds they'd suit my mid-forties palate? Frankly, I wasn't even sure if Oxford Landing was an actual winery, a co-op kinda scenario, or a virtual brand produced by some skyscraper-dwelling board of directors, hardly tethered to anything authentic.
Egg. Meet face.
The (very real) winery based in the Riverland region, South Australia along the Murray River was started by Wyndham Hill-Smith (known as 'Wyndy,' natch) in 1958?
Hill-Smith? As in the founding family of Australian wine who are still at the helm of Pewsey Vale, Heggies, Yalumba, and so on? Yeah, THAT family! In fact, Oxford Landing used to be known as Yalumba River Estate.
Well, as the Hill-Smith family are wont to do, they're progressive in their winegrowing approach and overall business practices. They're certified sustainable, bottle in lightweight glass, recycle 100% of their wastewater, and in 2007 embarked on a revegetation project planting 200,000 native trees and shrubs in 600 hectares of surrounding farmland, with all vines split into 150 two-hectare blocks, creating many whole ecosystems throughout the property. For the sake of ticking another box, I'll share that the wines are vegan, too.
Is it a big brand? Yeah, kinda. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Particularly if an entity of this size can demonstrate that sustainability and quality can co-exist in authentic wines of place. Untwisting caps and getting into them, I was quite impressed by their quality. Since they were wines of my youth I thought they'd be, I dunno, too sweet, confected, or simple for my ALL-GROWED UP PALATE.
Nope. They're solid. They carry varietal typicity and offer a sense of (sunny, breezy) place. For a good dollop of icing on the cake, they're line-priced at around 16 bucks on private store shelves around Vancouver. Need an armload of crowd-pleasing, tasty wines that won't break the bank? Here you go.
Oxford Landing Estates Pinot Gris 2020 - Naturally fermented with three months of daily lees-stirring, there's ALL the citrus with pomelo, pink grapefruit and lime and the forefront, finishing with lemon curd and a squeeze of blood orange at the end. There's a touch of river-rock salinity in there, too; I love that.
In BC: Urban Liquor (Kelowna), Fremont Liquor (Port Coquitlam), Wine & Beyond (Kelowna), Liquor Planet (Victoria)
Oxford Landing Estates Chardonnay 2020 - Wild fermented with lees contact, and a subtle dose of oak, it has the crunch, juicy acidity of fresh green grapes, but those grapes are served atop a slice of lemon meringue pie with a marzipan crust.
In BC: Kitsilano Wine Cellar (Vancouver), Newport Liquor Store (Vancouver), Everything Wine (Surrey, Victoria, North Van), Greenrock Liquor (Nanaimo)
Oxford Landing Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 - Gobs of roasted red bell pepper are lifted by fresh basil and sage, finishing off with a good smattering of fennel seeds. This is more of a medium-weight Cabernet, a juicier, softer style than what some may be used to, but this gentler structural expression should make it more dynamic at the dinner table.
In BC: New District (Vancouver), Urban Liquor (Kelowna), Liquor Plus (Saanich), Nesters (Whistler), Greenrock Liquor, (Nanaimo)
Oxford Landing Estates Shiraz 2018 - This wine comes in at a civilized 13.5% alcohol, so no need to worry about it being too bombastic. A generous helping of blueberry compote has a handful of affable sour cherries at its core. That's what I got coming out of the gate, but further sips brought a lashing of dark chocolate and a lick of spearmint towards the finish.
In BC: Liberty Wine (Commercial Drive, Vancouver), Liquor Plus (Saanich), Greenrock Liquor (Nanaimo), Everything Wine (Surrey), Spinnakers (Victoria)
Looking for 'em around your neck of the woods? Give Wine-Searcher a whirl: