Back in the 1920s, due to concerns that sparks from passing steam locomotives might ignite cataclysmic bush fires, a buffer zone, or "fire block," was established between the train tracks and huge expanses of grazing land. What became known as the "Fire Block" vineyard was first planted in 1923. It is now owned by Bill and Noel Ireland, former Sydney wine retailers and the founders of Flinders Bay Winery in Margaret River.
Farmed without irrigation, these ancient Shiraz vines struggle mightily here, one of Clare Valley's "most parched" sites. But, while the yields are miniscule, the fermented juice produces very concentrated and flavorful wines. Aged in a combination of French and American oak casks for 12 months, the 2008 Fire Block exhibits aromas of baked plum, huckleberry, black cherry liqueur, earth and fresh herbs. On the palate, it has a medium-to-full-bodied texture that is supported by rich blackberry and spiced plum flavors, with licorice and menthol notes emerging from the background. It's decadently rich, but thanks to the taut acidy and ripe tannins framing the fruit, it never loses its balance or focus.