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Kris Cush of City Winery Talks Summer Favourites and Painting Their Labels

City Winery Label

 Born and raised in Tasmania, Kris Cush grew up among the vines. Her home, which started as a sheep farm, turned into a vineyard when her father saw an opportunity to produce grapes. ‘My father diversified into grape growing when I was a young girl because the wool prices had dropped. He was the entrepreneurial type,” Kris mentions.

That business decision yielded good results. ‘We had our wines made by a contract winemaker for many years,’ explains Kris, ‘and the Spring Vale pinot noir was a big hit in Melbourne in the ‘90s.’ Kris decided to keep the family tradition alive, attending university to study wine science (oenology). 

And while winemaking is part of her heritage, she’s been making it for 23 years, today you can find her happily mixing art and science at City Winery, a stop on our Small Bars of the Valley tour, where she paints art that inspires unique labels for the urban winery’s Gerler collection. 

We recently got Kris to share some of her top picks from City Winery this summer, and what inspired the labels you’ll see on the bottles. 

2020 Grenache/Muscat

What you’ll taste: Perfumed elderflower, quince, strawberries and an abundance of powdery, tannin texture

Pairs well with: Delicious barbecue meats, summer salads, and good company

Why Kris loves it:  There is nothing like this on the market. It is a light, dry red wine that can be served slightly chilled and it has the beautiful, perfumed, musky aromas of the Muscat together with the strawberry flavours of the grenache! It’s not an orange wine, it’s a red but it has all the texture that you would expect from an orange wine. It was created by fermenting the already pressed Moscato Giallo skins with grenache.  It’s a gem that any diehard orange wine fan will love! Soooo good!

About the label: It’s an abstract painting of the chemical compounds responsible for Muscat’s characteristic aroma. 

2020 Gerler Gruner Veltliner

What you’ll taste: Lemon zest, flint, crushed sorrel leaves and lime

Pairs well with: Freshly shucked oysters and sunshine

Why Kris loves it: It’s so refreshing and elegant. I love this variety’s hallmark tingling acidity, and limey, dry finish. We tend to eat a lot of salads and seafood during the warmer months and this wine works so well with citrus salad dressings that are a go-to in our house. It’s our alternative to a dry Riesling. 

About the label: Sometimes this wine is known by the nickname “GrüVe” (aka “groovy”). So I thought it was fitting to do a gorgeously, outrageous, groovy chic label. 

2020 Gerler Rosé

What you’ll taste: Luscious strawberries and cream balanced with a savoury cranberry finish

Pairs well with: Anything and everything!

Why Kris loves it: It’s my go-to wine. You can’t go wrong taking a bottle of this to any gathering! It’s dangerously smashable with or without food. It’s dry but has so much fruit intensity it feels round and luscious in your mouth. This rosé is made from 40% grenache, 30% merlot and 30% Sangiovese. 

About the label: As an artist, I’m constantly taking photos in the winery! During the fermentation process, the surface of the juice/wine swirls and bubbles, creating some beautiful patterns. The pattern on the top of our first rosé ferment resembled a bird — a pretty painting for a pretty wine. 

2019 Gerler ‘Fog’ 

What you’ll taste: Aromas of plums and fruitcake. The palate is rich and structured, yet fresh and soft, with a complex savoury finish

Pairs well with: A cool breeze on a balmy night. It’s the red you want to drink when you don’t want the heaviness that can come with it.

Why Kris loves it: This is the best all-rounder red we have, in my opinion. It keeps the heavy red drinkers satisfied but because of it’s fresh and vibrant acid we find that many white wine drinkers love it too. It’s deliciously slurpable and complex!

About the label: I actually painted this at a stage in life where I was missing the wide open spaces of Tasmania. I’d lie on my back under trees and look up to the sky for  senses of peace and optimism. It’s actually an abstract painting originally called Looking Up. It was Dave, my husband, who saw this painting and instantly felt that it summed up this vintage 2019.  Ask any winemaker to think about their busiest vintage and they might describe it as ‘a tired, crazy fog’. There’s an intense period where everything needs to happen all at once. Grapes need to be picked, ferments need to be pressed and wines need to be cared for. In this painting, a foggy face of the winemaker can be seen.

2019 Gerler Grenache

What you’ll taste: Perfumed strawberries — fresh, soft, elegant 

Pairs well with: A duck breast salad and girlfriends

Why Kris loves it: This delicate wine is just what I crave when I want a red wine that’s not cloying and heavy. I’m a born and bred pinot noir drinker so I love a lighter bodied red. I’ve been saying for years that my favourite variety is pinot noir but with the quality grenache coming out of the McLaren Vale region in South Australia these days, I think it’s a toss-up! This grenache is so elegant and light you’ll have finished the bottle before you know it! Oops.

About the label: Bordering the property where the grenache is grown is a protected area of wetlands, where 5 endangered species of microbat can be found. One of these species is the lesser long-eared bat which is on the label. Microbats are really important from a grower’s perspective as these little dudes can eat up to 1,000 insects a night! 

Join us on our Small Bars of the Valley tour to sip some of the wines, and more, this summer.