Up until three years ago the common thread of all Sami-Odi wines was that they were always the same variety (syrah), from Hoffman's vineyard at Ebenezer in South Australia.
"As of the last three years we've started releasing small amounts of wine from plantings on our property in Angaston. That's the wine called Our Hill, and so that wine is a big part of our life because it's just my wife and me who look after it," says owner and winemaker Fraser McKinley.
He and wife Andrea (or Andy), do pretty much everything themselves, right down to label design. "[Andy] repainted an old calendar image for the 2022 Hoffmann Dallwitz front, I drew the back labels for the Hoffmann Dallwitz and the Little Wine #13, and made the stamp for Our Hill."
The Our Hill only yielded one barrel in 2022; Fraser says in theory 10 would be expected. "Of the three [vintages] we've released of that wine, this is probably the most interesting, which is often how nature works when you get a small amount of something – it's often interesting."
The Our Hill vineyard is 3000 vines on half a hectare, and as of March this year the last half of it will start fruiting. Fraser and Andy planted the second half in 2021, which brings Our Hill to 6100 vines on their property.
For Fraser, working exclusively with syrah wasn't about a deep connection to the grape, it was about the oldest shiraz vines at the Hoffmann's vineyard. He recalls his days at Torbreck – where he first met the Hoffmann family. "They were really helpful to me when I was learning about grape growing...so they were naturally my first port of call when it came to making a small amount of wine."
"It always feels, even 20 years in, pretty amazing to walk into that block. There's just so much history in those old vineyards... So in that way, shiraz almost picked me because that's what I was drawn to."
Fraser's wines have amassed a cult following, in Australia and around the world. He says that when he first started working in wineries there were 'super cult' wines he looked up to, like Chris Ringland's Three Rivers Wine, which is also made in the Barossa. "I used to look at that with such awe, it just seemed incredible. He made these two or three barrels a year and people, the world over, would clamber over each other to try and get one bottle of it. And so I looked at that and always thought it was so cool. And then 20 years on, it's very much a case of be careful what you wish for."
This release of Sami-Odi includes three syrah wines, two from the 2022 vintage and an NV.
He says this release is 1000 cases and it's the label's largest release. For context, Sami-Odi's current waiting list (the step before you make it onto the allocation list) is 24,000 people. And when you visit the website to join the mailing list, the wording is incredibly considered: We look forward to writing you in the years ahead when we can make some wine available from future releases. Note the use of the word 'years'.
"We're normally between 800, 900 and a thousand [cases]. I like that amount because it means I can do it all myself, but I think that's a large part of the reality of why the wines are hard to get, because 1000 cases is not a lot of wine. Whereas most of my peers, friends, colleagues, and the wineries I look up to typically make a lot more wine than that."
But not all hope is lost. If you weren't lucky enough to receive an email from Fraser last week, there will be bottles of Sami-Odi available through some leading independent retailers in Australia in early February.
As for the name, Fraser says it's an ode to found objects, or world treasures. 'Sami' is the name of a boat the husband-and-wife duo are standing in front of in a photo from a trip to Turkey. "I've always loved that photo, and so that made sense to me."
"I purchased this old book in a flea market in Rome for one euro. It was falling apart because the paper was really old and stained, and because I like illustration and design, I'd been doing a bunch of drawing and instead of just drawing on plain paper, it was cooler to draw on this really old, extremely stained paper. We've had drawings of those on our walls in our house, I used to send them to my grandma and my mum from Europe, and there'd just be drawings of different bits of architecture, but the pages all said 'Odi' on them, which I later found out means 'hate' in Latin, but that wasn't really the idea."
2022 Sami-Odi Hoffmann Dallwitz (syrah)Our prime cask selection from DW-OLD (planted between 1888–1912), ER-27 (planted 1927) & DW-95VSP (planted 1995). These 24 Burgundian Pièces were gently assembled and bottled amid the spring of 2023 after enduring a 76-week élevage. Bottles were filled without filtration, fining or sparging (the removal of naturally occurring oxygen and C02) and all transfers were completed via gravity prior to bottling. This wine is begging for a few more months rest and will then cellar for as long as your taste desires. It adores air and will continue to unfurl over many days if kept in cool conditions. Yields ranged between 35 and 51 hectolitres per hectare. 6485 bottles were filled. Mailing list price $95.
NV Sami-Odi Little Wine #13 (syrah)An unvintaged assemblage composed of casks from 2023 (27%), 2022 (36%), 2021 (19%), 2020 (7%), 2019 (6%), 2018 (2%), 2017 (1%), 2016 (1%) and 2015 (1%). Sourced from our five treasured plots within the Hoffmann’s Dallwitz vineyard from vines planted in 1996, 1995, 1994, 1927 and the oldest vines planted prior to 1912. Enjoy now with decanting or cellar with moderation. 6348 bottles were filled. Mailing list price $65.
2022 Sami-Odi Our Hill (syrah)A minuscule bottling from our rolling hillsides on the south side of Angaston in the Eden Valley. Yields were a measly seven hectolitres per hectare due to a rather epic hail storm in late October 2021. We’re hopeful for a little more from this site as the years roll on. 287 bottles were filled. Mailing list price $75.
For more information visit sami-odi.com.
Image credit: Wine Australia and Sami-Odi.