In 1992 two Aussies, Kim and Mark Longbottom, started a winery in Australia's Padthaway district, in the country's cool southern region, a three-hour drive from the chilly Antarctic Sea.
They were history buffs, so they named the winery Henry's Drive, after the carrier on the mail route plied in that area by horse and stagecoach in the 1850s. As new wines came along, they, too, were named in the old postal theme. Pillar Box red and white were named for the colorful mail boxes that dotted the then-remote hillsides.
Dead Letter Office shiraz got its name the same way. Parson's Flat shiraz honored the minister who rode the postal coach to tend to his scattered flock. The Trial of John Montford Cabernet Sauvignon was named for the outlaw who was hanged for robbing the mails.
Last year -- sad to say -- Mark Longbottom died. But his wife Kim, and new winemaker Renae Hirsch, are carrying on making wines, working 500 acres of vines that produce 160,000 cases a year.
The limestone soils produce wines with complex scents of minerals. The wines are made in the rich, fruity style equally popular with Australians and Americans. The bright sun produces fruit so ripe that their the juice's sugar levels can ferment into wines with
more than 15 percent alcohol.
"In some of our grape parcels we use reverse osmosis to bring down the alcohol level to make more balanced wines," Hirsch says. "We want the wines to be fruity, but without too much alcohol in the finish."
Some of Henry's Drive's red wines -- the Pillar Box Reserve Red, for example -- do end up at 15.5 percent alcohol (compared to a 12 percent average for wine), but they're so
intensely fruity that they can handle that alcohol.
"We're happy with that," Hirsch says. "We don't plan to change."
• 2008 Henry's Drive Pillar Box White, Padthaway (67 percent sauvignon blanc, 28
percent verdelho, 5 percent chardonnay): tart kiwi and lime flavors, very dry, crisp, very
• 2005 Henry's Drive Parson's Flat Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (70 percent shiraz, 30
percent cabernet sauvignon), Padthaway: aromas and flavors of lavender, violets,
mulberries and chocolate, opulent and smooth; $40.
• 2005 Henry's Drive Reserve Shiraz (100 percent shiraz) Padthaway: intensely minty
black raspberry flavors, mocha overtones, voluptuous and smooth; $50.
• 2007 Henry's Drive Pillar Box White, Padthaway (56 percent chardonnay, 30 percent
sauvignon blanc, 14 percent verdelho): green pear aromas and flavors, rich, opulent, sweet finish; $12.
• 2007 Henry's Drive Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz (100 percent shiraz), Padthaway: very
dark color, aromas and flavors of mulberries and cocoa, velvety, deep, concentrated fruit; $20.
• 2007 Henry's Drive Pillar Box Red (65 percent shiraz, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon,
10 percent merlot) Padthaway: black raspberries and mocha, big, bright and frity, soft
• 2006 Henry's Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz (100 percent shiraz), Padthaway: aromas and flavors of licorice and black cherries, very smooth; $27.
• 2006 Henry's Drive Shiraz (100 percent shiraz), Padthaway: cassis and espresso, lush,
concentrated black fruit; $35.
• 2006 Henry's Drive Trial of John Montford Cabernet Sauvignon (100 percent cabernet
sauvignon), Padthaway: earthy aromas, flavors of licorice and sweet chocolate; $30.