Chapel Hill - The Chosen

The picturesque Chapel Hill vineyards stretch across the historic Seaview sub region of McLaren Vale. The area was first settled soon after the colony of South Australia was proclaimed in 1836. This eJournal charts the story of Chapel Hill including vintage verticals of The Chosen Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. 




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CHAPEL HILL The picturesque Chapel Hill vineyards stretch across the historic Seaview sub region of McLaren Vale. The area was first settled soon after the colony of South Australia was proclaimed in 1836. During the 1850s, the landscape of the region transformed from wheat growing, grazing and mixed farming to orcharding and vineyards. A colonial wine industry gathered steam in the 1860s with growing exports to England, India, New Zealand and other corners of the Empire. The settlers, mostly of English origin, were less religious than the Lutherans of the Barossa Valley, but the church still played an important part in the daily lives of family. The 1865 chapel was a local landmark where social gatherings, including tennis competitions and cricket, took place. For many years it was also the Seaview community’s local school. The region’s proximity to Adelaide was brought nearer by better roads and the increasing use of motor transport. Village life changed, and by 1965, the chapel was deconsecrated and abandoned. Adelaide Professor Tom Nelson is the former head of music, drama and performing arts at South Australia’s Institute of Technology. When he stumbled on the derelict ironstone chapel and surrounding grazing paddocks in 1971, he first imagined using the land for his wife’s horses. ‘But we eventually found ourselves planting grapes, because it seemed the best way forward. It was really as simple as that. It gave me great pleasure to get everything going and making it a talking point of the district,’ he recalled. After its acquisition from the Uniting Church, the property was renamed Chapel Vale, because at the time Chapel Hill could not be trademarked. Although the land gently undulates, it is located on a ridge above the strikingly beautiful Onkaparinga Gorge. Over a seven-year period, and with limited capital, Tom and Philippa Nelson renovated the old chapel over the weekends. Whilst fossicking for antiques and building materials, they found a beautiful 19th century stained-glass church window depicting a pastoral scene and the words ‘I am the true vine’ and ‘the bread of life.’ It was the perfect centrepiece for a chapel renovation. The coloured light fills the interior and promotes a sense of tranquillity.

Chapel Hill



The Vintage Journal – Verticals

Chapel Hill Winery is named after the iconic ironstone Chapel built by Methodist settlers to the McLaren Vale area, and was officially opened December 5, 1865.

Chapel Hill


Grapevine plantings took place in 1972 and the first wines were made in 1975, but the challenges of limited capital led to the acquisition of Chapel Hill by the Sellick and Gerard families in 1979. By 1985 Chapel Hill was exclusively owned by Adelaide’s Gerard family who further invested in vineyards and winery development. Importantly, the family employed winemaker Pam Dunsford, a wine industry legend, who paved the way for women working as winemakers in the Australian wine industry. Her story of determination, remarkable talent and endurance in what was then a male-dominated world inspired many other women to follow in her footsteps. Pam Dunsford was also the first female wine judge on the Australian wine show circuit. She credited wine expert Len Evans for giving her the crucial break. But, ultimately, her lasting contribution to the development of the McLaren Vale is her legacy. Chapel Hill became a highly respected name and renowned for its easily accessible yet classic wine styles. In 2021 Pam Dunsford was awarded a ‘Degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) in recognition of her pioneering work in Australian winemaking, blazing a trail for women winemakers and championing the South Australian wine industry in a career spanning more than 40 years’. After her retirement, winemaker Michael Fragos, who arrived at Chapel Hill in 2004, became chief winemaker and CEO. With a Graduate Diploma in Oenology, a degree in Genetics and Microbiology, and a

Michael Fragos, Chief Winemaker and CEO

"The purity and balance expressed in our wines is inspired by a deep respect for our land and vines." Michael Fragos, Chief Winemaker and CEO.

swag of vintages under his belt, he has taken further steps to improve viticulture and winemaking at the property. Viticulturalist Rachel Steer and winemaker Bryn Richards are both long-term collaborators with a strong focus on sustainable practices and the development of style. Their aim ‘to make wines of purity and balance’ is ultimately shown ‘through respect for the land, the vines and nature.’ Although the ownership of Chapel Hill has now passed onto Paragon Wine Estates (Endeavour Group), the same team continues to forge ahead with the same ambitions and values. The single block wines, known collectively as ‘The Chosen’ until 2013, epitomise the state of play at Chapel Hill. The elevated vineyards (170m) are planted on prized ‘ancient rock geology’ and well exposed to cool sea breezes during the growing season. Traditional winemaking and maturation techniques combined with moderate new oak usage promotes the essence of vineyard site.

From left: Rachel, Michael and Bryn

Chapel Hill


Tasting Notes

Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz is based on 1993-planted vines. The soil profiles comprise pebbly sandy soils over clay ‘interspersed by large slabs of ironstone and underlain by sandstone’. These are richly concentrated wines with impressive power and balance. (First Vintage – 2008)

G 95

2019 Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz

Deep crimson. Intense blackberry, mulberry aromas with briary, praline, hint bush garrigue notes. Inky deep blackberry, dark chocolate, mocha flavours, fine loose-knit al dente/graphite textures and some chinotto, ferruginous notes. Finishes bittersweet with lovely mineral length. A very expressive single block wine, with superb fruit definition, density and vigour. Keep for a while to allow the elements to fold into each other. Matured in new (20%) and seasoned French oak for 20 months. 2024– 2032, 14.5% alc 2018 Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz G 96 Deep crimson. Intense ripe blackberry, mulberry, elderberry aromas with mocha/dark chocolate notes. Very seductive blackberry, fig, elderberry fruits, fine chocolaty firm tannins and well integrated mocha, hint marzipan, roasted walnut complexity. Finishes chocolaty/gravelly firm with persistent sweet fruits. Very well balanced wine with lovely concentration and vigour. Drink now–2038, 14.5% alc 2017 Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz G 92 Deep crimson. Attractive blackberry espresso mocha aromas with brambly/herb garden notes. Well concentrated blackberry, mulberry, roasted coffee, mocha flavours, fine leafy firm tannins, and fresh long persistent acidity. Finishes gravelly/al dente firm. Fleshy with a muscular frame. Medium-term drinking. Drink now–2032, 14.5% alc


The Vintage Journal – Verticals

2016 Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz

G 96

Deep crimson. Intense blackcurrant, dark cherry, dark chocolate aromas with aniseed notes. Voluminous and supple with ample blackcurrant, dark cherry hint liquorice flavours, fine graphite tannins, and underlying mocha/roasted walnut complexity. Builds up muscular firm with superb mineral length. Richly flavoured, complex and vigorous. Ferruginous notes in the background. Drink now–2038, 14.5% alc 2015 Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz G 95 Deep crimson. Fragrant raspberry, blackberry chinotto aromas with mocha/dark chocolate/herb garden notes. Generous, blackberry and raspberry pastille flavours, fine loose-knit gravelly/al dente tannins, some lovely mid-palate density and mocha oak notes. Finishes claret firm and minerally with seductive sweet fruits. Lovely richness, volume and Deep crimson. Beautiful wax polish, blackberry, graphite aromas with mocha notes. Classical in structure with smooth pure blackberry, blackcurrant fruits, fine lacy/chalky tannins, superb inky density and integrated mocha, roasted chestnut oak. Finishes chocolaty firm and minerally with graphite notes. A very impressive vintage showing lovely fruit definition, precision and complexity. Drink now–2036, 14.5% alc 2013 Chapel Hill The Chosen Road Block Shiraz G 90 Deep crimson. Intense choco-berry, mulberry, raspberry aromas with herb garden, balsamic notes. A high-tensile palate with brambly, blackberry, praline, cola, hint toffee flavours, fine sinewy tannins, some bittersweet notes and fresh juicy acidity. Finishes firm and tight. Still fresh and fruity, torque. Drink now–2038, 14.5% alc 2014 Chapel Hill Road Block Shiraz G 97

but lacks completeness. Drink now–2030, 14.7% alc 2012 Chapel Hill The Chosen Road Block Shiraz

G 95

Deep crimson. Intense blackberry, black cherry graphite aromas with mocha, roasted chestnut notes. Richly flavoured, almost plush in concentration with inky blackberry, black cherry, mulberry, dark chocolate flavours, fine dense chalky tannins, mocha oak complexity and well-balanced acidity. A gravelly plume at the finish. A classical ultra-fine McLaren Vale Shiraz. Drink now–2036, 14.3% alc

Chapel Hill


2011 Chapel Hill The Chosen Road Block Shiraz

G 93

Deep crimson. Fragrant dark cherry, chinotto, cola with hints of vanilla/ marzipan. Medium-powered, fresh and supple with ample dark cherry, blackberry pastille fruits, fine lacy/velvety textures and attractive vanilla/marzipan notes. Finishes graphite firm and minerally with tobacco notes. Lovely complexity, weight and balance. Drink now–2030, 14% alc 2010 Chapel Hill The Chosen Road Block Shiraz G 92 Deep crimson. Developed blackberry, black olive, earthy aromas with hint of flint. Muscular palate with developed blackberry, blackcurrant earthy flavours, sinewy tannins, attractive inky density, some roasted walnut notes and fresh long acidity. Finishes firm and tight. A vigorous claret-like wine with attractive volume and persistent ferruginous notes. Drink now–2036, 14.0% alc 2009 Chapel Hill The Chosen Road Block Shiraz G 94 Deep crimson. Complex blackberry, dark chocolate graphite aromas with hints of chinotto and spice. Concentrated and supple with blackberry, praline, chinotto flavours, fine gravelly textures and integrated roasted walnut notes. Finishes muscular/gritty firm with liquorice/mint notes. Very good buoyancy, richness and volume. Heat and dust. Drink now– 2034, 14.5% alc


The Vintage Journal – Verticals

2008 Chapel Hill The Chosen Road Block Shiraz

G 94

Deep crimson. Classic dark chocolate dark berry aromas with bush garrigue, hint liquorice notes. Richly concentrated and chocolaty with praline, blackberry, dark plum fruits, plentiful liquorice notes, fine al dente/rusty firm tannins, underlying savoury notes and persistent fresh pronounced acidity. Some earthy, tobacco notes. Well developed wine with very good density and complexity. Drink now–2032, 14.5% alc

Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon The Gorge Block was also planted in 1993 and primarily lies on shallow slaty red/brown clays over white siltstone, underlain by the ancient rocks of McLaren Vale. The shallower soils lead to wines with inky deep colour, impressive fruit complexity and fine-grained tannins. The light and shade of vintage are more easily seen with the top vintages highlighting the best of nature and nurture. (First Vintage – 2009)

2019 Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon

G 93

Deep crimson. Blackcurrant, mocha aromas with leafy, herb, star anise notes. Very attractive cassis, redcurrant pastille fruits, fine loose-knit/ gravelly tannins, vanilla oak complexity and fresh saline/minerally notes. Builds up grippy firm at the finish with a persistent inky/ bittersweet plume. A classic iron fist in a velvet glove style with very good varietal definition, mid-palate richness and length. Should develop very well. Matured in new (22%) and seasoned French oak for 20 months. Drink 2024–2032, 14.5% alc 2018 Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 97 Deep crimson. Lovely pure blackcurrant, praline aromas with herb garden notes. Richly flavoured and seductive wine with deep-set blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine ripe al dente tannins, some mocha, roasted chestnut complexity and integrated acidity. Finishes chalky/al dente firm with ample dark berry fruits and superb mineral length. Controlled and precise with lovely volume and balance. Drink now–2040, 14% alc

Chapel Hill


2017 Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon

G 93

Deep crimson. Aromatic black olive, leafy blackcurrant cedar aromas with graphite notes. Fresh blackcurrant, blackberry, black olive, chinotto flavours, fine grainy/grippy tannins, attractive mid-palate density and integrated savoury/roasted walnut notes. Finishes claret firm with mineral/graphite notes. Compact and minerally with plentiful sweet fruit notes and maturation complexity. Drink now–2036, 14.5% alc 2016 Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 93+ Deep crimson. Intense blackcurrant, chinotto leafy aromas with hints of roasted coffee. Vigorous and densely packed palate with ample blackcurrant hint black olive, dark chocolate flavours, fine persistent grippy/ferruginous tannins and underlying mocha notes. Finishes leafy/cedar firm with bittersweet notes. Animated and compact with very good energy, concentration and torque. Best to keep for a while to allow elements to unpack and fold. Wait. Drink 2025–2040, 14.5% alc 2015 Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 95 Deep crimson. Blackberry, mulberry, chocolaty aromas with herb garden, hint liquorice notes. Well concentrated blackberry pastille, mulberry, hint raspberry fruits, fine loose-knit grainy tannins, attractive mid-palate richness and some mocha/dark chocolate notes. Builds up firm at the finish with inky dark berry notes. Medium powered with fruit and tannins in very good balance. Drinking very well now. Drink now–2028, 14.5% alc


The Vintage Journal – Verticals

2014 Chapel Hill Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon

G 94

Deep crimson. Fragrant inky, cassis, blackberry aromas with vanilla/dark chocolate notes. Supple and loose-knit palate with pure blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine lacy chalky tannins and underlying vanilla touch honeycomb/marzipan notes. Finishes firm and minerally. Gentle, loose- knit style with very good definition, freshness and length. Drink now– 2030, 14.5% alc 2013 Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 96 Deep crimson. Fresh dark cherry, praline, roasted chestnut, hint tobacco leaf/forest floor aromas. Well developed and beautifully complex palate with ample dark cherry, blackberry fruits, fine graphite/hint al dente tannins, lovely inky density and well balanced vanilla/roasted hazelnut oak notes. Finishes chocolaty firm. Not a renowned vintage, but showing very impressive complexity and balance. Drink now–2034, 14.6% alc 2012 Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 95 Deep crimson. Intense blackcurrant, cedar, aniseed aromas with mocha/ roasted chestnut/herb garden notes. Inky-textured wine with sinuous blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine loose-knit chalky firm tannins and well integrated vanilla, roasted chestnut notes. Finishes cedary firm with very good mineral length. Very expressive with all the hallmarks of a classic South Australian ‘claret’ style. Drink now–2032, 14.5% alc

Chapel Hill


2011 Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 89 Deep crimson. Complex blackberry, lanolin, salted liquorice aromas with leafy notes. Well concentrated and complex wine with developed blackberry, tobacco leaf, saline, chinotto waxy notes, hint of crème brûlée/ vanilla, fine leafy/bitter tannins and fresh mineral acidity. Finishes leafy firm. More shade than light but still holding up well. Needs decanting. Drink now–2028, 14.5% 2010 Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 96 Deep crimson. Fresh blackcurrant, praline, hint black olive aromas with attractive vanilla/roasted chestnut notes. Well balanced and classically structured with plentiful inky blackcurrant, dark chocolate flavours, fine grainy/cedary tannins, superb mid-palate richness and well-integrated acidity. Finishes cedary/grippy firm with inky/graphite/bittersweet notes. Lovely complexity, richness of flavour and torque. Drink now– 2034, 14.5% alc 2009 Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Cabernet Sauvignon G 93 Deep crimson. Well-developed blackberry mocha tobacco aromas with roasted walnut notes. Generous dark berry, espresso flavours, some tobacco notes, fine persistent grippy tannins, underlying roasted walnut/chocolaty notes and fresh long acidity. A firm muscular finish with abundant dark berry fruits/chinotto notes. Voluminous and sturdy, powerful and layered tannins. Drink now–2032, 14.5% alc

Copyright © The Vintage Journal 2022 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior permission in writing from the author and copyright holders.

About the Author Andrew Caillard MW is the author of several books including Penfolds: The Rewards of Patience (six editions), Imagining Coonawarra, A Travel Through Time (the history of leading Spanish winery Marques de Riscal) and co-authored educational books Australian Wine and A Taste Around The World of Wine . The Essence of Dreams (the history of the Mornington Peninsula’s wine industry) will be published in 2022. Andrew has also written a definitive history of Australian wine with plans for publication in 2023. The Vintage Journal draws on research, experience and tasting expertise gathered during over 40 years working in the secondary market, the corporate retail world, the wine media, film and painting.


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