The latest news, reviews and press coverage for Lazy Ballerina and the Hook family.

MARCH 2016

SEPTEMBER 2015

"James Hook says don’t believe everything you hear about the majority of wineries not making money. His small winery, Lazy Ballerina, in Kuitpo, 12 years old now, is doing okay; he supplements the income by providing viticultural advice to customers, and he has a stake in DJ Growers. James is one of those who finds himself on many committees, including current chair of the Vale Cru, a collective of small-production winemakers. James thinks McLaren Vale has “enormous potential” and applauds the likes of Toby Bekkers who are focusing on fine wine. “What Toby is doing is very exciting for the area,” James says. “He’s showing that you can sell wine for $100, and it’s legitimate, it’s not smoke and mirrors – and $100 is what the stuff’s worth. There should be more like that. That’s part of the Vale Cru philosophy, encouraging world-class wine production.” James says the biggest technical issue locally is salinity. “Everyone ignores it,” he says. Lazy Ballerina has a cellar door at Kuitpo, opposite Kuitpo Forest, a popular picnic spot. James backs Montepulciano to do well in McLaren Vale. “It has some very hand characteristics for the climate,” James says. “There are a few exploratory plantings occurring.” The Vale Cru members come and go; once you hit 5,000 cases, you no longer qualify. Current members include: Bekkers, Brash Higgins, J&J Wines, La Curio, Lazy Ballerina, Ministry of Clouds, Rudderless, Rusty Mutt, Ulithorne, Vigna Bottin, Waywood Wines and Wistmosa. www.valecru.com " - Anthony Madigan WBM SEPT/OCT

JUNE 2015

The 2015 wine future leaders programme

Fifteen "rising stars" of the Australian grape and wine community have been chosen to take part in the 2015 Future Leaders program.

The 2015 Future Leaders Program with Lazy Ballerina's James Hook.

The 2015 Future Leaders Program with Lazy Ballerina's James Hook.

The program is designed to develop leadership capabilities, encourage innovation and spark thoughtful debate on the future of the wine sector. It is coordinated by Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) in partnership with Wine and Grape Growers Australia (WGGA) and Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA).

A record number of applications were received for the 2015 intake and AGWA chief executive officer, Andreas Clark, said the quality of the applications reflects the immense talent currently working in Australia's wine community.

"There are so many passionate and talented people working in the grape and wine sector, right along the value chain," Clark said.

"Collaborating with WGGA and WFA, this leadership program fosters our up-and-coming talent, those individuals who will lead Australian wine in the future."

WFA chief executive Paul Evans added that the program will help the industry's new generation of leaders develop the skills to keep it moving forward.

Evans said: "Future Leaders is about ensuring the next generation has the support and skills necessary to lead the way. There is a critical need for their innovation and fresh thinking in decision making."

This year's Future Leaders are:

  • Jason Amos – Lallemand Australia Pty Ltd
  • Sam Barry – Jim Barry Wines
  • Nigel Blieschke – Peter Lehmann Wines
  • Angela Brown – All Saints Estate & St Leonards Vineyard
  • Lilian Carter – Private client winemaker/wine industry consultant
  • Andrew Calabria – Calabria Family Wines
  • Christian Dal Zotto – Dal Zotto Wines
  • James Hook – DJ's Grower & Lazy Ballerina
  • Stuart Hordern – Brokenwood Wines
  • Tom Keelan – The Pawn Wine Co
  • Danielle Kennedy – Camperdown Cellars
  • Dave Milne – Josef Chromy Wines 
  • Suzanne Muntz – Xanadu Wines
  • Samantha Payne – Consultant Sommelier/freelance wine writer
  • Gemma West – Treasury Wine Estates.

DECEMBER 2014

Lazy Ballerina McLaren Vale Grenache

Nick Stock, www.jamessuckling.com

VINTAGE: 2012 SCORE: 90

A rich, dark and bold nose with cocoa-dusted dark berries, satsuma plums and dark spice. The palate's full and rich, really bold dark plum flavours, big for a Grenache, tannins are strapping, wrapped around all firm and sturdy. Drink now.


SEPTEMBER 2014

You Gotta Try... Fleurieu Tourism

James and the locals on food, wine, beer and local tips.


JULY 2014

Vale Cru Video


APRIL 2014

What happened to the winery signs that used to be at the entrance of McLaren Vale? Does beauty and aesthetics have a part of play in promoting regional tourism?

In 2013 construction of the McLaren Vale overpass meant the removal of some of the McLaren Vale entrance signs. In the interest of fairness McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism removed all of the signs.

Negotiations between private landholders, the City of Onkaparinga and McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism were unable to find a suitable location to reinstate these signs. It was thought too hard.

These signs had been a feature of McLaren Vale for a generation... Signs have signalled the entrance to the town for as long as I can remember (1980's). These signs were paid for by local businesses - rate and levy payers.

Surely a solution can be found?

Lets work together to reinstate the winery signs at the entrance to McLaren Vale. Give the wine region the status it deserves.

Sign the www.change.org petition for negotiations to begin for a fitting entry statement that recognises our local businesses.


James Hook awarded the 2013 Clive Simmons Trophy

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The Vale Cru is very pleased to announce that our member James Hook from Lazy Ballerina.

The Clive Simmonds Memorial Trophy is awarded  to the best person, business or group in hospitality who unselfishly promotes the McLaren Vale region, going far beyond the call of duty in promoting tourism and the camaraderie which makes it unique. is the winner of the 2013 Clive Simmonds Memorial Trophy awarded to the best ambassador for McLaren Vale in the hospitality industry. 

James says it was "A real shock. Viticulture gives you some great opportunities. I just love my home and fight for it as best I can. Thanks to my colleagues in the Cru and my family for supporting me in my extra curricula activities."


McLaren Vale Boutique Wineries Back Govt Opposition to Supermarkets Bid to Sell Bottled Wine

BOUTIQUE winemakers in McLaren Vale have praised the State Government's decision to drop plans to allow supermarkets to sell bottled wine but warn it is unlikely to be the end of the matter. James has his own facebook page for local issues - find it here.

BOUTIQUE winemakers in McLaren Vale have praised the State Government's decision to drop plans to allow supermarkets to sell bottled wine but warn it is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

James has his own facebook page for local issues - find it here.

Lazy Ballerina winery owner James Hook said if the legislation was passed it would have cost small wineries jobs and decimated the local industry.

"The government's decision shows good sense has prevailed,'' Mr Hook said. "It prevents the smaller wineries from being wiped out effectively.

"The decision restricts the amount of wine that Coles and Woolworths can sell because it's not going to be directly in supermarkets.

"A lot of boutique winemakers are relieved because they thought it was just going to happen because supermarkets are used to winning legislative battles."

Mr Hook said small independent bottle shops also would not have been able to compete with supermarket chains.

Deputy Premier John Rau said last week the Government would abandon draft legislation because it could not ensure SA wines were given preference on supermarket shelves. Mr Rau said it was also possible the move would have given more market share to supermarket giants.

McLaren Vale's Foggo Road Wines owner Herb Van De Wiel said he did not think the government's decision would see the end of the supermarkets' push. "I think they have got it filed away and I would say they will have a try from a different angle,'' he said.

McLaren Vale Wine and Tourism Association chief executive Peter Ali said members had varied views.

"Stocking the shelves of supermarkets with our wines could lead to the downgrading of the product, as it did with milk discounting," Mr Ali said. "We would hate to see our McLaren Vale brand devalued."


WINE REVIEWS

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2010 by Moredsir

James Hook made a fair bit of 2009 Shiraz, he planned to sell some to the US, but then the mining boom gave the Aussie dollar a jolt. So 2009 got an extended tour of duty at Dingabledinga.

The flow on from that is the 2010 got time to age a bit more, at least a year longer than is the norm, and two years longer than most of the industry. This is a particularly good thing for us consumers. It means that on release the wine is almost a four year old. So from the start we get to drink a wine that's been cellared for us, and by the guy who's gonna look after it better than anyone else. I will note he was mildly distracted by nabbing a wife and producing the next generation of LB winemaker in the meantime, so it's not like he had time to bottle it anyway.

I should also add that James' wines aren't the sort than need to be imbibed in the short term. This baby will still learning to walk long after Ms Emmaline (currently age 1) is dancing without the need for dad to provide the locomotion. Thing is, when Ms Twenny-ten starts dancing I expect she'll be a singing Ballerina. Melba Pavlova perhaps?

One of the side effects of Twenny-ten taking longer to arrive, is she gestated in the barrel somewhere around 30 months. Thus the first whiff is a decent waft of oak, but fear not, this is good oak, it's not quite as forward as it first seems, and indeed blends in to the other good bits when you get around to noticing them. Bit like Marilyn Monroe walking into a room really.

I said "she" before, and I will stand by that, it seems James is focused on producing ladies for the present. This is such an elegant wine, it's got such a feminine nose, not exactly perfumed, but just lady-like, and the package is voluptuous, without being more than a handful.

A little bit red fruited on the first day, but went completely black a day later. Quite clever that really, Marilyn does the wicked witch? Belgian chocolate coated blood plums and a sprinkle of spice. No peaches Nellie.

Now, to the tannins, and as you would expect from a lady's ensemble, they are rather silky. I wanted to use the word "firm" too, but felt that analogies can go too far. Acid I didn't notice, by which I mean it was just right.

You could drink this now, but should you wait 10 years, there will be some singing and dancing, and in a tutu too. The you may be in the wrong place there.

Highly Recommended+++ and *****

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2009 by Moredsir

I opened a bottle of this a little while ago, took some notes, intended to write them up here, and then lost them. It's not unusual for me to lose things, but this time I feel it was Freudian - I needed an excuse to open another bottle.

This wine is also a reminder to me why I don't review wines unless I can spend time with them. I tried this at cellar door, and it was clearly a very good wine but it didn't blow me away as much as the 2008 did at the same time last year. Apparently my taste buds hadn't quite woken up at cellar door. They're wide awake now.Magnificent colour pouring into the decanter, almost iridescent purple and crimson. Loving this colour is probably Freudian too. Growing up, we had a plum tree in the backyard, and at least one time I recall my brother and I having a plum fight. We spent quite some time hosing off the plums before Mum and Dad got home, which is a shame really because the house looked brilliant with purple polka dots.Fabulous nose. Red cherries, blueberries, a hint of fennel and lurking around in the background is something dark and wicked. You know how when you're at a party with loud music and you're trying to talk to some lady who isn't your lady and you have to lean in quite close to them to yell in their ear (for guys I just yell louder). Well, sometimes they smell quite nice, wickedly nice. I think they've been dabbing LazyB Shiraz behind their ears instead of perfume.I don't think my wife reads this blog. You'll know if she does when the posts stop suddenly.The flavours are complex. It's like being in your car at a train crossing, waiting as a freight train goes past. You sit there trying to read the graffiti on each carriage, but just as you've almost worked out what the word was, another one appears. And then another. Quite a lot more follow. So please forgive my failed taste buds if they can't get beyond "yum".Tannins fine and velvety but they really need more time yet. Acid perfectly matches that though. This wine will age well, so unlike me try to hide it away for 2-3 years, but get enough you can drink it for a lot more years than that.James Hook, the winemaker, told me he gets almost ill with apprehension when he releases a new wine. Clearly it's not because he fears the wine's quality, but just because he cares so much about what he's created. I love that.

Rated Excellent++ and ****.

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz Viognier 2009 by Moredsir

I'm a bit new to Shiraz Viognier really, I mean who would think it's a good idea to co-ferment a white grape with a red one? I'd somehow picked up the idea that it's done to lift the aromatics, but if done poorly it can leave the wine smelling like apricots.However James Hook (aka the Hookmeister), informed me when I pronounced his SV free of such stonefruit 'taint' that the reason for the Viognier is to soften the tannins a little. There's under 3% Viognier in this wine if I recall correctly.Thus this wine is slightly more approachable than it's 09 Shiraz sibling, which if you'd read my review you'd know I reckon it needs a little time for those tannins to soften up. (Which you can't have read yet because I lost my notes in a Freudian desire to have a need to open another bottle of it, despite it being too young.)A side note on this wine is that the Shiraz in it is from a completely different vineyard to it's straight Shiraz stablemate.A couple of hours in the decanter first and it's clear this is one classy drop. The nose is plums and spice and all things nice. On the tongue it's full bodied high quality fruit supported by fine young tannibles and excellent acid balance. Despite the Viognier, the tannins will benefit from a wee bit more bottle age. This is a very good wine and I have no hesitation in rating it Highly Recommended++ and ****. (Remember I try to mark hard)

Lazy Ballerina 2007 by Philip White

Single Vineyard Tatachilla McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007

$30; 15% alcohol; cork ; 93+++ points

This mindblowing fruit came from the California Road vineyard of Dudley Brown and Karen Wotherspoon, near Tatachilla. It is seamless, luxurious, smugly sensuous McLaren Vale shiraz at its thickly-perfumed, slick-and-silky best. Fresh blackberry and mulberry tart, mint, musk, confectioner's sugar and old cedar spice box all twist teasingly through its bouquet. Maybe a rememberance of white pepper. The palate's fudgy at first, then syrupy, then slides out into a long acidulous taper. Its tannins are velvety and persistent. It teases without moving. But it WILL move. I want to drink this immediately, but that's frustrating because I keep thinking of how much more fun it will become. Slow, dimly lit fun. Friggin gorgeous wine: the work of the emergent James Hook. Each wine he releases has this amazing quiet confidence about it. Get on his list! If he'd held this back another year it would have emerged a full point higher.

Tasted; 24-27 APR 09

Lazy Ballerina 2007 by Campbell Mattinson

Sellicks Hill Single Vineyard Shiraz.

James Hook always managers to get a lot of grunty, ripe, driving tannin into his wine and he’s done it again here. This wine is an addition to the Lazy Ballerina range - Sellicks Hill is at the southern end of the McLaren Vale wine region and this vineyard is grown in thin, red loam soils. If it wasn’t for the tannin I might have some doubts about this wine. It has a dip of flavour in the mid-palate, but those big, rich, flavoursome tannins power through the finish, all velvety and complete. it otherwise tastes of coffeed, malty oak and rich blackberry, with a loamy, sandy, earthen character - almost leathery - lingering in the background. Impeccable work here once again by Mr Hook. If you enjoy McLaren Vale shiraz, this is a lovely version of it.

Rated : 93 Points

Alcohol : 15%

Price : $30

Closure : Cork

Drink : 2010 – 2016

Shiraz Viognier 2007 by Philip White

James Hook, Vales viti guru, sure knows how to viogniate a red. He grows shiraz so sinister it'll suck all the light out of a room, and adds 'a few buckets' of tannic, cool climate viognier, so we get this black dancer that smells like it's been kissed by Nicole Kidman. Stack up your hamper at Smelly Cheese and a good baguettier, buy this at the new Lazy-B tasting room on the big bend opposite Kuitpo forest, take your beloved to the picnic ground, and let this willowy wickedness prance across your palate in the trees.

The best Shiraz-vio of the year.

94+++ Points

Shiraz 2007 by Gary Walsh

Yes. I just rifled through the Top Drawer of Destiny and offer the following directors cut. Almost a ripasso style with good line and mouth coating tannin. Chocolate, dark fruits and vanilla. A touch warm but well within bounds. Bloody long and chocolaty. Very yum - some liquorice on exit. Big wine but largely fruit driven.

Drink: 2008-2020.

Rated: 94pts

McLAren Vale Wine. Family Friendly.