Strenua is a collaboration between winemakers Rhen Dodd and Dale Wheeler and includes a very interesting backstory. In 2011, the couple purchased a property in Chum Creek, east of Melbourne, which had 22-year-old Chardonnay and Shiraz vines growing on it. As they didn’t have the resources to properly manage them, and knowing it would be a shame to pull them out, in 2013 the couple contacted the Melbourne Polytechnic. This structured course on viticulture and winemaking, was used as a platform to see if any of the students would manage the vineyard and harvest the grapes. Dale, a current student, and Rhen, a former one, recognised that this would be an ideal opportunity to start their own label. Two and a half years later, after their efforts to revitalise the vineyard and run it organically, ‘Strenua’ was launched. Thanks to the support of independent bottle shops, the small volumes of ‘Strenua’ wines sold well, and they’ve quickly gained a devoted following. Given their embracing of organic farming, the wines are low intervention, with no fining or filtration before bottling. Spurning the use of herbicides, grass is kept in control by two roaming sheep, and fertiliser consists of seaweed, fish emulsions and cover crops. The name ‘Strenua’ has a double meaning, that of the Roman goddess of strength, purity and the new year, and ‘Ninox strenua’, the scientific name for the Powerful Owl, which lives in the area.
The Chardonnay has sweet fruit aromas of passionfruit, ripe melon and apricot, with a savoury finish and flinty acidity. The Syrah has aromas of black pepper, mushroom and earthiness, and red fruits on the palate, with a blackcurrant finish. Definitely not your typical Yarra Valley Syrah.
As the Strenua website is as minimal as their winemaking, head to their Instagram for more information.