Dave Powell hasn’t changed. The loud, opinionated, chain-smoking winemaker who founded cult label Torbreck in the Barossa two decades ago — and acrimoniously parted ways with the company in 2013 — is back with a new brand, a new set of wines. And he’s still loud, still opinionated and still rarely without a fag. Only this time round he also has a new collaborator: his 22-year-old son Callum.

When I arrive at the Powell & Son winery in Lyndoch, in the wide open country of the southern Barossa, Powell senior is leaning against the stone wall of a con­verted 1840s farm cottage, the winery’s office and tasting room, cigarette in hand. After the usual expletive-laden greeting (I’ve ­arrived a bit late), he introduces me to Callum and another man, Paul Breen, general manager of Powell & Son and owner of one of the Eden Valley vineyards that supplies grapes to the new venture.

“Paul and I have been mates since kindergarten,” says Powell. “He was with me for years as general manager at Torbreck. And that’s the last time I’m f . . kin’ mentioning Torbreck today.”

It isn’t. As we head into the winery to taste the raw 2016 vintage whites and reds from tank and then work our way through the 2015s in barrel in the cellar, Powell talks about Torbreck a lot. Which is hardly surprising: for almost two sometimes-turbulent decades it was his life. From the moment the first Torbreck wines burst on the scene in the late-1990s they — and their maker — attracted a lot of ­attention: powerful international critics such as Robert Parker in the US lauded the rich, seductive, full-bodied styles, encouraging Powell to raise the prices of his top wines, build the business rapidly and travel the world widely and flamboyantly.

It’s not surprising to find parallels between the former and present labels: each relies on grapes sourced from loyal local growers, and the wines are arranged in a clear price/quality pyramid, with larger volumes of lower-priced grenache blends and shirazes on the bottom and decreasing volumes of increasingly expensive wines the further up you go, culminating in a single-vineyard shiraz priced extravagantly at $750 a bottle.

There are important differences, though: a (very good) riesling has been introduced into the ­Powell & Son range and there is more emphasis on the finer, more savoury flavours of grapes grown in the cooler, higher Eden Valley. It’s symbolic that while the top $750 Torbreck shiraz, The Laird, is sourced from a vineyard between Marananga and Seppeltsfield — the heartland of full-bodied, powerful Barossa reds — the top Powell & Sons shiraz, Steinert, comes from an old vineyard high in the Flaxman’s Valley subregion of Eden Valley (though a richer, Marananga-sourced shiraz called Kraehe will be introduced to sit alongside the Steinert from the 2015 vintage).

Callum, now in the third year of a winemaking course, has been helping his dad since infancy.

Callum, now in the third year of a winemaking course, has been helping his dad since infancy.

And the other difference, of course, is Callum. Now finishing his third year of the winemaking course at Adelaide Uni, and with years of experience helping his ­father in the winery, Powell Jr has already notched up vintage in France’s Rhone Valley working for legendary producer JL Chave — an experience that turned him on to the quality of the marsanne and roussanne grapes (both originally Rhone varieties) growing in the Barossa.

“I reckon we can use them to make a good Barossan white,” says Callum, taking a sample of lovely, crunchy, intense 2016 roussanne he’s made and splashing it in my glass. “I really like roussanne and I think it’ll go really well blended with some marsanne we’ve fermented in oak.”

Callum is also a big fan of the Eden Valley. “Because it’s part of the Barossa, many people expect shiraz from Eden Valley to be a 16 per cent alcohol monster,” he says. “But because it’s higher and cooler, the wines are different — still ripe and flavoursome, but they don’t punch you in the face.”

Powell Sr reckons the time ­Callum spent in France, working with Chave making syrah (the French name for the shiraz grape), helped him appreciate Eden Valley: “He sees more expression of syrah-like characters in the grapes grown up there,” he says.

Father and son winemakers, Dave and Callum Powell.

Father and son winemakers, Dave and Callum Powell.

As he lights another cigarette, Powell tells a story of the moment he knew his son would follow in his footsteps.

“Callum and his younger brother and I had dinner at Aria (restaurant in Sydney),” he says. “Callum was 16. I bought a 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo — one of the most expensive single vineyard nebbiolos. I had a glass, Callum had a glass, I went to speak to (chef) Matt Moran and when I came back to the table the f . . kin’ bottle was empty. He said, ‘That was good, Dad. Did it cost much?’ I said, ‘About a term’s f . . kin’ school fees.’ ”

Callum laughs. And then wistfully says: “What I’d really love to do one day is find a little half acre of perfect land in Eden Valley and plant nebbiolo.”

Now that would be different.

Powell & Son – the wines

2016 Eden Valley Riesling $30: This is an absolutely stunning young riesling: scintillating citrus, precise juicy lime and a more-ish, thirst-slaking quality found in the best examples of this grape grown in the Eden Valley. The 2015 vintage, from the same 80-year-old vineyard, is also a lovely, fragrant wine and is well worth buying, but the 2016 is in another league.

2014 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro $50: When I first wrote about Torbreck back in 1997, the wine that impressed me most was The Steading, a humble, earthy grenache blend aged in big old barrels. So it’s good to see a similar styled wine released under the Powell & Son label: it’s an approachable, supple, mellow red with a seductive sprinkling of woody spices (cloves, cinnamon, fenugreek); good now but will also cellar well.

2014 Loechl Eden Valley Shiraz $100: Made from shiraz grapes grown in a 50-year-old vineyard in Eden Valley, this is quite a voluptuous wine, showing a fair bit of rich dark oak influence, but underneath all the braggadocio there’s a fabulous, compressed, savoury quality to the tannins — a sinewy vineyard/regional character that I also tasted in the 2015 Loechl out of barrel and the newly fermented 2016 out of tank.

2014 Steinert Eden Valley Shiraz $750: So is it worth the money? Is this, a first release from a new company (albeit one headed by a winemaker with a 20-year track record, and made using grapes from an acclaimed 120-year-old vineyard), really worth 750 smackers? It is bloody marvellous: a wild cavalcade of dark, brooding, hedgerow berry fruit, heaps of deeply seductive dark oak and then this incredible, enfolding blanket of fine but persistent, savoury tannin. And Powell tells me he’s almost sold out. So some people must think it is.

It played out like a like a lost season of the ’80s TV soap, Dallas. Barossa born and bred David Powell spent a stint as a lumberjack in Scotland in his youth before returning to his vine-roots to become a cellar hand at Rockford Winery and eventually forging the mighty Torbreck wine business, named after his lumberjack days, from scratch. Then he lost it all in August 2013 when his business partner, American billionaire Peter Kight, “ousted” Powell to take control of the brand. A full on he-said-she-said public battle ensued and, let’s just say, the accusations were salacious enough to make even J.R. Ewing blush. A year after parting ways, Kight then shelled out, by all accounts, a very large sum of money to purchase what is referred to by the locals as, “Australia’s most expensive vineyard.” Formally known as Gnadenfrei Vineyard, located next to the Gnadenfrei Church in Marananga, it is now better known as The Laird Vineyard, Kight’s lock, stock and barrel flagship. And, over two years on, the Torbreck portfolio remains largely the same, while Powell’s influence on the wines he named after his old lumberjack days increasingly fades. But what, many avid followers ask, has happened to David Powell?

In September 2015 I caught-up with David Powell and his son Callum, a young, talented winemaker in his own right, still studying oenology at Roseworthy, in Barossa. As I drove down a dirt road in Lyndoch towards the address I was given, it was like going back in time. In fact, I hardly recognized the newly renovated, original Torbreck winery when I arrived right in front of it. I had last visited it some years ago when doing a tasting with former Torbreck winemaker Dan Standish, during a stint when he was making his own “Standish” wines there. It was pretty much just a shell then. There is something very sentimental about Powell and his son doing-up the old Torbreck place for their new project, although I never thought I’d be using the word sentimental in the context of David Powell.

I’ll let my tasting notes of the bottled wines speak for themselves. After the tastings, I asked Powell, “What’s different?” Powell commented that he had no interest in doing the Torbreck thing all over again. “It’s back to basics for us,” Powell said, including his son as a full partner in this project – a “father and son work ethic. We’re working with small parcels and a focus on Barossa – but not just Barossa Valley – with an emphasis on Eden Valley.” Now there’s a surprise! Powell focusing on the generally cooler climate, more restrained expressions of Eden Valley? But it works, with all that power for which Powell has perhaps been best known now being expressed as bright, polished intensity.

“Our focus is on finding great vineyards and fruit. We’ll be naming the single vineyard wines after the founders who originally planted the vineyards in order to pay homage to them. We haven’t named them all yet though because we’re still researching the history of some of the old vineyards.” These single vineyard flagship wines include two Shirazes, one coming from the “Steinert” vineyard of 120+ year old vines in Eden Valley, and the other a yet unnamed wine from a vineyard of old vines located in Marananga in Barossa Valley. There will also be a single vineyard Grenache coming from the 100+ year old Barossa Valley vineyard that was formerly the basis of the Torbreck Les Amis label. The Steinert Shiraz was produced from 2014, while the first vintage of the Marananga Shiraz and the Grenache will be 2015 (both currently still in barrel).

2014 was the first vintage for “Powell & Son,” the wines soon to be released. This was what winemakers euphemistically label a “challenging” year. I’ve referred to it as a rollercoaster vintage in my other South Australia reports, its mid-season marked by scorching heat waves, followed closely by bucketing rain. My most recent Barossa tastings in September 2015 suggest that while they were some very good to excellent wines made in 2014, it is not a consistent year in terms of quality. Powell comments, “2014 wasn’t a bad vintage, but you had to know what you were doing. Generally it was more of a Grenache year. Eden Valley Shiraz was more successful than Barossa Valley.” And 2015? “2015 was near perfect and gave decent yields,” he grins, in typical David Powell fashion, daring me to disagree. I can’t; the barrel sample tasting I conducted with Powell of his 2015s revealed some incredibly exciting wines in the pipeline. David Powell is back.

2014 Powell & Son Riesling
The 2014 Riesling is both pronounced and expressive with a lovely honeysuckle and orange blossom nose plus an intense core of lime cordial. Dry, light to medium-bodied and elegant, the palate slowly opens to reveal nice vibrancy and texture, with a long and minerally finish. 300 cases produced.

2015 Powell & Son Riesling
The 2015 Riesling is a step-up from the previous vintage, offering gorgeous floral, jasmine and lemon drops notes with hints of crushed stones, beeswax and yuzu. The palate is intense, zesty and very tightly knit with tons of freshness and an appealing steeliness carrying the taut flavors to a long finish. 600 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Barossa Valley Shiraz
Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2014 Barossa Valley Shiraz has notes of crushed blackcurrants and blackberries with suggestions of tar, licorice, black pepper and dusty earth plus some raw meat notes. The palate reveals a concentrated, very serious wine for the “entry level” with savory, muscular fruit supported by nice freshness and a firm backbone carrying the long and chewy finish. It would benefit from another year in bottle. 600 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Grenache Shiraz Mataro
Blended of 70% Grenache, 25% Shiraz and 5% Mataro, the 2014 Grenache Shiraz Mataro gives a lovely perfume of kirsch, anise and cloves over a pronounced core of mulberries, black cherries and black berries plus some mincemeat, chocolate box and loam nuances. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is surprisingly fine and elegant, with youthful brightness supported by firm, grainy tannins and it finishes with great freshness, plus tons of spiced orange notes. 450 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Barossa & Eden Valley Shiraz
The deep garnet-purple colored 2014 Barossa & Eden Valley Shiraz is beautifully perfumed of black raspberries, crushed blueberries, black cherry pie, violets and anise with a meaty undercurrent and hints of lovely fallen leaves and potpourri. Elegant, lively and vibrantly fruited in the mouth, it has ripe, fine, firm tannins and great length with a touch of herbals coming through in the finish. Give is another 2-3 years in bottle. 600 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Loechel Shiraz
Coming from the western section of a single vineyard in Eden Valley of 70 year old vines, the deep garnet-purple colored 2014 Loechel Shiraz offers wonderful depth of expression and complexity. Black plums, blueberry pie, roses and tar intermingle with sage and dark chocolate nuances. Full-bodied, taut, rich and voluptuous but in no way heavy, some toast and spice notes compliment the fruit on the palate, framed by lovely fine tannins, finishing gracefully yet with great persistence. 250 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Steinert Shiraz
This single Steinert vineyard wine along with the upcoming (from 2015) yet to be named single vineyard wine from Marananga (Barossa Valley) are the Powell & Son flagships. Coming from a single vineyard of 120+ year old vines in Barossa’s cooler Eden Valley, the 2014 Steinert Vineyard Shiraz is a very pretty wine possessing a deep garnet-purple color and lifted nose of kirsch, crushed red currants and black raspberries with suggestions of wild thyme, lavender, black pepper and cloves. Medium to full-bodied, it has a firm backbone of grainy tannins supporting elegant yet intensely flavored fruit with great harmony and freshness to the very long finish. Note that while I didn’t produce a note for it, a barrel tasting of the 2015 vintage of this vineyard and the single vineyard wine from Marananga revealed two very profound 2015 wines in the pipeline.