Upload me to the record of wine enthusiasts that have been surprised and saddened to be informed of the new passing of Australian winemaker Taras Ochota. He died Monday, Oct. 12, following an extended sickness, simply two months shy of his 50th birthday.

Ochota was once a rock big name a couple of instances over. He performed bass within the punk band Kranktus within the mid-’90s, and he was once a famend Australian winemaker. When the Rolling Stones toured Australia in 2014, they stopped for lunch at Ochota Barrels; prior to leaving, they purchased out Ochota’s stock, on account of path they did.

Ochota represented the forefront of a winemaking revival within the Basket Vary of Adelaide Hills. He championed contemporary, low-intervention wines with modest alcohol ranges, made in a lighter taste than maximum Australian wines are recognized for. Lots of his wines, made out of organically grown grapes bought from websites round South Australia, take their names from musical influences like Useless Kennedys and Fugazi.

Ochota’s wines, most commonly Syrahs and Grenaches, are fragrant, unique and incessantly highlighted by way of a contemporary acidity and natural fruit flavors. I discovered them thrilling—and remarkable: Of the 25 Ochota wines reviewed by way of Wine Spectator previously decade, 18 earned rankings of 90 issues or extra. I’m now not judgmental in relation to alcohol percentages, nevertheless it was once at all times exceptional to unbag them and spot that they generally hovered within the 11 or 12 p.c ABV vary, a proportion level or two (or extra) not up to their contemporaries.

Ochota, whose oldsters emigrated from Ukraine to Australia and had made wine in South Australia’s Clare Valley when he was once rising up, earned an enology level from the College of Adelaide. He and his spouse, Amber, made wine in southern Italy’s Puglia and Sicily areas for some time. He labored at wineries in California, together with Kunin, Schrader and Outpost, and again in Australia he did a stint as assistant winemaker at Two Arms in Barossa Valley.

However it was once in 2000, throughout a VW campervan street go back and forth, hitting the most efficient browsing spots on Mexico’s west coast, that they got here up with the plan to start out their very own vineyard in his house state of South Australia. He was the unofficial however articulate and passionate spokesperson for the Basket Vary, and a brand new motion of low-intervention wine.

I used to be fortunate sufficient to fulfill Ochota and his circle of relatives on a go back and forth to Australia with my mentor, Wine Spectator emeritus Harvey Steiman, in 2016.

The Basket Vary is a hilly, complicated area to navigate, with a number of unnamed roads and hairpin turns. The rugged environment feels well-suited to his minimalist method and character. We visited in a while after harvest, and there have been vats of wines fermenting beneath bedsheets in a dimly lit vineyard adjoining to Ochota’s house. Classical track was once being loudly piped into the cellar. Ochota performed several types of track throughout other stages of the winemaking procedure. Amber served us a picnic lunch that we ate beneath a tree. She was once excited {that a} beekeeping equipment had simply arrived within the mail.

I requested Ochota how he felt about being the poster kid of the Basket Vary’s “herbal” wine motion. He cringed. “I used to be somewhat too hardcore of the usage of ‘herbal’ as advertising and marketing,” he admitted. “There’s an inverted snobbery. As an alternative, are we able to name it a ‘stunning wine motion’?”

Over lunch, Ochota was once cautious to not put down his winemaking predecessors in Australia. He sought after to expand the dialog of Australian wines, now not trade it. “We would like wines to stimulate saliva, to stimulate your urge for food,” he advised me. “I’d love to make wines that you need to drink a bottle accidentally and really feel OK the following day.”

His popularity fueled extra tasks and extra creativity. In 2016, Ochota and industry spouse Charlie Lawrence opened a wood-fired pizzeria and wine front room known as Misplaced in a Wooded area within the the city of Uraidla within the Adelaide Hills.

Considered one of Ochota’s buddies is any other rock big name–turned-vintner, Maynard James Keenan, Software frontman and owner of Arizona’s Caduceus vineyard. “I met Taras via Ronnie Sanders [of] Vine Boulevard Imports. He and Marquis Sauvage introduced Colin [McBryde] from Some Younger Punks and Taras to Jerome [Az.],” stated Keenan. “I poured a Caduceus Cellars Primer Paso Syrah–Malvasia Bianca for them and you need to see Taras’ gears turning.”

Keenan and Ochota later collaborated on a mix of Adelaide Hills Grenache and Gewürztraminer, known as A Sense of Compression. “We had chatted about doing an Arizona model with Verde Valley Garnacha and Albariño or Vermentino or some unheard-of combo. We each like swinging for the fence. Simply by no means were given round to it,” Keenan stated. “I’m gutted.”

I’m additionally gutted by way of the loss of a skilled, beneficiant winemaker. However I believe he’d need us all to pay attention to a couple loud track, drink a complete bottle of wine accidentally and really feel OK day after today.

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