Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2007 Tobacco Road Cabernet Sauvignon (Gundagai, Big Rivers, Heathcote) $13 - Retail

Tobacco Road is the quaffer range of the Victorian Alps Wine Company (Gapsted being their premier label). What sparked my interest was that it included some fruit from Gundagai (along with the Big Rivers and Heathcote among others).

At $13 a bottle, do not be expecting a complex, heady mix of dusty, spicy fruit (or Red’s pet Cab descriptor –gravel). On the nose there are oodles of sweet vanilla, jammy blackcurrant and even some strawberry cream lollies. The palate is soft, round and juicy, minimal tannin and acid, and average intensity. What it lacks in line and length it makes up with juicy gluggable (if non-varietal) fruit. It does not finish with any bitter or mouth-coating tannin (the curse for me of the entry-level Cabernet), nor is it sickly or cloyingly sweet (I would put out a Lost in Space ‘Warning’ on this wine to any cool climate pepper-fiend).

Given the modest price, it is what it is – an uncomplicated, full flavoured and highly quaffable wine. I want to try some Gundagai-only wine one day, and any recommendations would be more than welcome.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2005 Mount Pleasant OP & OH Shiraz - Hunter Valley - $35 (retail)

For a long time i really didn't think much of Hunter Valley Shiraz. I think this was the result of having a relatively undeveloped wine palate, along with the fact that there is plenty of wine of questionable quality produced in the Hunter, especially in the more difficult vintages.

As I have really developed my love of wine over the past few years, the styles of wine that I like have grown, and I've also worked out that with the Hunter you really have to sort the wheat from the chaff. Know your good Hunter vintages, and the Hunter wineries that consistently produce, and you will be rewarded with truly unique wines that will cellar beautifully. Add to this the wonderful history of the region, and I've become a Hunter convert.

The 2005 Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill (OP&OH) Shiraz is a great example of all this. The fruit from this wine is sourced from the Old Paddock vineyard, which was planted in 1921, and the Old Hill Vineyard which was planted in 1880. The wine itself has shown the ability to age beautifully over the years. Importantly 2005 was a decent vintage in the Hunter.

This is a somewhat dark and powerful Hunter Shiraz. It has a deep bouquet of earthy, meaty notes along with some nice oak. On the palate it has intense flavours of sour cherry, pepper, and chocolate. It is a wine of length and has fine but firm tannins. It has persistance well after the wine has been swallowed. I will be leaving my other bottles of this wine well alone until at least 2015, at which stage I think it will be a superb example of everything that is great about Hunter Shiraz.


Monday, March 29, 2010

2007 Quealy Rageous Sangiovese Shiraz Pinot Noir (Mornington Peninsula) $30

It is not every day you come across a Sangiovese, Shiraz and Pinot Noir blend. I am familiar with the Hunter Valley Shiraz Pinot style from the bottles of Mountain X I have had in the last few years, and have consumed the odd Fox Gordon Shiraz Tempranillo, but have not seen this unique trinity in the bottle shops (at least the ones I frequent!). A few weeks ago I was in transit on my way home from a holiday, and the flight lounge I was in was stocking this wine - the adventurer inside of me felt compelled to try it.

The Rageous is 51% Sangiovese, 30% Shiraz and 9% Pinot Noir, and has a slightly cloudy deep crimson colour. On the nose there is sour cherry, thanks in part to the Sangiovese and Pinot; though a distinctive Pinot-style stalkyness is also present, along with hints of spice and subtle coconut ice.

On the front palate the Pinot is more obvious, the wine fleshing out with some herbal notes and ripe red fruit on the mid to back palate as the shiraz component kicks in, finishing juicy though not over-sweet with more cherry, dark red berries and fine tannins in support. The wine is medium bodied and could be served chilled - more of a spring-summer quaffer than a winter warmer.
Winemaker Kathleen Quealy makes wine with pizzazz. I like the marketing, the labels on the bottles and the philosophy and approach (which in the bottle and on the website suggest a slightly leftfield, 'think outside the box' philosophy, combined with mature vineyards and well honed winemaking skills). I like the fact the Rageous encapsulates this approach, and did so without me being familiar with the winery prior to tasting it (I have since done some snooping and made enquiries about where to find these in Sydney).

The combination may on paper appear to be a little Frankenstein's bride but its uniqueness and personality finds me strangely attracted.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Australian Benchmark Wines vs Young Guns

I was lucky enough to go to a tasting earlier this week that was set up as a Benchmark vs Young Guns tasting. For each variety a benchmark Australian wine was chosen, along with a wine that perhaps has aspirations to one day be called a benchmark. It was a great evening, with plenty of outstanding wines. Below are the wines that were tasted . . .


Benchmark - 2009 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling – Clare Valley - Actually not quite as austere as previous vintages of this wine that I’ve tried. Nice nose of citrus and bath salts. Full and round in the palate with good citrus fruit. Great length.

Young Gun - 2009 Henty Estate Riesling – Henty – A distinctly different nose of lime and some floral notes. Nice minerality and acidity that was a touch volatile. Not especially long. Like the style of this Riesling (closer to Eden in style which is my preference when compared to Clare), but it isn’t yet in the same class of the Polish Hill.


Benchmark - 2006 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay – Margaret River - the nose initially was all struck matchstick but that eventually blew off, giving way to a lovely nose of grapefruit, spicy oak, and a bit of cinnamon. The palate is extremely long and of an elegant style, not being as rich as the warmer 2005. Grapefruit and some nuttiness. Should age superbly.

Young Gun - 2008 Sorrenburg Chardonnay – Beechworth - A milky, rich nose that I really loved. Very tasty on the palate with a nice toasty, nutty palate. Really enjoyed drinking this, though once again it’s not yet of the same quality of the Leeuwin (though it is half the price of the Leeuwin!)

Pinot Noir

Benchmark - 2008 Bindi Original Pinot Noir – Macedon – a beautiful plush nose with lovely cherry fruit and nicely understated oak. On the palate it’s wonderfully complex with intense flavours of sour cherry, ginger spiciness, some stalkiness, and a long, long finish. Great tannins. This is one of the best Australian pinots I have tried and should sail well beyond 10 years.

Young Gun - 2007 Tomboy Hill “The Tomboy” Pinot Noir – Ballarat - started with a pongy, funky barnyard aroma, but with a bit of air gave way to a nice varietal cherry nose. Palate of spice and sour cherry. A very enjoyable Pinot but not in the same league as the Bindi.

Shiraz Viognier

Benchmark - 2008 Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier – Canberra – This was the first time I’ve tried this wine, and given that every wine critic under the sun waxes lyrical about this wine, and that I’m not always impressed by Australian Shiraz Viognier, I had a fear that the wine wouldn’t quite live up to the hype. Happily that fear was unfounded! A superb perfumed, sexy nose of berries, plum, French oak, and just a tiny, tiny hint of apricot. On the palate the plum flavours travel down the palate in a direct line before finishing with excellent length. There’s some nice complexity here and one thing I wrote down was “perfect pepper”. I’m not always a huge fan of some of the pepper flavours in cool climate shiraz, but for me the pepper profile on this wine was a superb component of the wine. Wonderful wine, and with 2009 shaping up as a great Canberra vintage I’ll be stocking up on this wine.

Young Gun - 2006 Hobbs Shiraz Viognier – Eden Valley – Nice nose of berries, fruit cake and with a hint of meatiness. Quality oak. Lovely fruit through the palate with some nice pepper flavours. Follows the same theme as the other comparisons, in that it’s a really nice wine but not of the same quality as the Benchmark wine.

All up a very enjoyable tasting, for which the common theme was the step up in quality between the Benchmark wines vs the challengers. This is not in any way to criticise the “Young Gun” wines, as all were very good wines. Indeed in terms of flavour profile I preferred the Henty Estate Riesling to the Polish Hill, and the Sorrenburg Chardonnay is arguably a more enjoyable wine to drink right now when compared to the Leeuwin. However, when considering perhaps the more objective elements of a wine (if there is such a thing!), such as length, structure, and balance, the Benchmark wines were a step up from the “Young Guns”. Implied in this of course is the likelihood of longer term cellaring of these wines as well.

Many thanks to Matt Heageny from Union Bank Wine Bar in Orange who hosted the evening.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2002 Nieto Senetiner Bonarda - Argentina

This wine was courtesy of my brother, who spent some time in Argentina a few years back. This wine has been in the cellar since he brought it back with him.

I’d never had a Bonarda, and despite it being quite widely planted in Argentina, it’s a difficult variety to find out a lot about. Apparently the variety is originally from Piedmont in Italy, but then there’s even confusion about that! Whatever the case, having tasted this wine I would suggest we might be hearing a lot more about Bonarda coming out of Argentina . . .

The wine was a dark, deep red colour with some hints of brick that underscore its 8 years of age. It had a nice nose of dark fruits, well integrated oak, sawdust, and some appealing smoky, tobacco aromas. On the palate it was medium to full bodied, with ripe dark fruit flavours. It was however, in no way overblown and had a nice level of complexity. It had a savoury finish with some chewy tannins and a hint of those smoky/tobacco flavours which I really liked. It's drinking very well now though pretty sure it has at least another 5 years in it.
If I’d drunk Bonarda regularly I reckon I would have really enjoyed this wine. The fact it was something completely new and tasted distinctly different from what I normally drink, meant I enjoyed it all the more! Lovely drop.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mornington Pinot Noir Tasting – Oak Barrel

A couple of weeks back, Brown and I went to a Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir tasting at the Oak Barrel, a bottle shop in downtown Sydney. It was a very well organised and informative event, and most importantly the wines were superb. The tasting was organised into sub-regional flights of Red Hill, Merricks, and then Tuerong, before finishing off with some premium single vineyard wines. While most of the Pinots were distinctly from the Mornington Peninsula, they provided a great exploration of the sub-regions and the effects of different micro climates and terroir on the Pinot Noir grape. Each sub-region was discernibly different to the other, going from the lighter Red Hill wines through to the more powerful pinots of Merricks and Tuerong. Added to this, the wines within each subregion had their own unique aroma and taste. The highlights of the night were:

2008 Ten Minutes by Tractor 10x Pinot Noir - $38 - a lovely cherry bouquet with some gamey, meaty aromas. A long wine of complexity with spice and fine chewy tannins

2007 Paradigm L’ami sage Pinot Noir - $60 - a fragrant varietal nose that on the palate was tasty, savoury, tannic and chewy. Great drop.

2008 Port Phillip Estate Pinot Noir - $35 - this wine was part of our New Zealand vs Australia Pinot Noir Face-Off and showed up well again on the night -

2008 Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir - $31 - very nice savoury nose. A beautifully balanced palate of savoury flavours, a bit of pleasant stalky bitterness, drying tannins, and good length.

2006 The Cups Estate Mornington Peninsula - $31 - this had one of the most beautiful, interesting bouquets with a hint of truffle which I loved. On the palate there was lovely fruit and really enjoyable, complex spice flavours.

2006 Stonier Windmill Vineyard Pinot Noir - $60 - the left field wine of the night, and indeed the wine of the night. It was the lightest coloured pinot of the tasting, though did not lack for any flavour whatsoever. A gentle varietal nose, with a flavour profile on the palate that really shone. It had wonderful structure and length, with intense flavours of sour cherry and spice. With the nice acidity and flavour balance, this should age beautifully . . .

The tasting was held in a casual, friendly but informative environment, and the tasting room itself is lovely and fit for purpose (enjoying fine wine). We will make every effort to be at upcoming tastings throughout the year. Thanks to Oak Barrel for a superb evening.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2002 Sevenhill St Ignatius Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec.

I love the Clare Valley. For me it is always an under the radar region: It can produce good to great Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet and is home to some lovely cellar doors (not to mention the home of Wendouree – enough said), yet seems to not receive the attention of other regions (at least from my view from Sydney).

My local wine shop at Randwick is stocking some wines from Sevenhill, the historic winery in the Clare Valley still being run by the Jesuits. The St Ignatius had some bottle age so I decided to give it a go.

It is a deep and dark crimson with brick tinted edges. On the nose it is all Christmas cake, dark berries, liquorice and spice, with suggestions of ripe Jammy fruit and coconut ice. A relatively smooth entry leads to a flurry of dark chocolate, cloves and menthol on the middle palate. The finish is quite long, with earthy, drying tannin on the finish that might be off putting for some, though I warmed to it.

As the wine saw more air the tannins softened, though there was still oodles of chocolate, fruit and nicely integrated oak. For the price it was a good value wine, and one I would recommend for those curious about Clare Valley Cabernet blends. Caesar’s interest was raised by the wine, and lept into the photo (presumably checking if the Jesuits were up to anything other than making wine), as is the want of a Caesar.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NSW Wine Week – Sydney Cellar Door – Belgravia, Capital Wines, Bidgeebong, Thomas Wines, Brokenwood

The Sydney Cellar Door was a wine tasting with wineries from all over NSW, as part of NSW Wine Week. It was held in Hyde Park on a beautiful Autumn afternoon, and it was great to be able to taste numerous wines from the different wine regions. The highlights were -

Orange2008 Belgravia Apex Chardonnay. I’ve been a fan of Orange Chardonnay for a while now, and this wine just reinforced that view. A wine of elegance that still had good power and thrust on the palate. Lovely fruit, some nuttiness, and a judicious use of oak which happily is becoming commonplace in lots of Australian chardonnay.

CanberraCapital Wines – Was very impressed with their entire range of wines with the standouts being the 2009 Riesling, the 2008 Reserve Shiraz, and the 2008 Reserve Merlot. The Merlot was possibly the best Australian Merlot I have had. Merlot is a variety that generally we have done very poorly in Australia, and as such it was a bit of a revelation to taste a Merlot that not only had beautiful plummy fruit flavours, but also lovely tannin and structure (a rare thing in Australian Merlot). A wine to look out for if you’re after a quality Merlot!

Tumbarumba is a region that I think might one day match the Margaret River in producing Australia’s top Chardonnay. A lot of the Chardonnay fruit from the region has historically been blended into many of the top Australian Chardonnays like Hardy’s Eileen with little recognition for the region. More and more Tumbarumba Chardonnays, however, are now being recognised as being from Tumbarumba and I’m loving what I’m tasting from the region.
Bidgeebong – 2006 Icon Series Tumbarumba Chardonnay – I could drink a lot of this Chardonnay. It’s a Chardonnay with a rich, creamy texture, which nevertheless has a leanness and steeliness which points towards it being a Tumbarumba. Lovely citrus and peach flavours. Could be aged for at least another 5 years though its drinking beautifully now. Great drop!

Hunter Valley – I tried to stay away from the Hunter wineries on the day simply because it’s the NSW wine region I am most familiar with, however I couldn’t resist its offerings in the end . .
2009 Thomas Braemore Semillon – Young Semillon often has little appeal, tasting a bit like water with a squeeze of lemon, and you really need to wait 10 years for it to work its magic. This Semillon, however, has some surprisingly tasty, intense fruit at this stage. It also has great length and acidity which points to a long, long future ahead of it.

2007 Thomas Kiss Shiraz – A darker, more full-bodied shiraz than is often the case in the Hunter. Some lovely lush fruit that nevertheless still has some earthy, savoury flavours that are typical of the region. Very good length.

2007 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz – this was the final wine of the day that I tried, and it was for me the wine of the day! A wine of great length, lovely tannins, and wonderful savoury flavours that build in intensity along the palate. If only spending $100+ per bottle was no big deal . . .


Saturday, March 13, 2010

2008 Wynns Cabernet Shiraz Merlot – Coonawarra - $10

Wynns were one of the first wines I remember drinking, and it has been a bit of a staple in my family. In my own cellar, Wynns are the best represented winery.

I’m not sure of the RRP on this wine but I picked it up for $10 a bottle, and it has to be just about the best quality $10 red wine I can remember having. The colour of the wine is a lovely deep crimson and it smells of dark fruits, to a lesser extent red fruits, some nice oak, and a hint of smokiness. On the palate it has good structure, with some nice tannins that give the wine a really nice chewiness and grip. There’s lovely quality fruit, with some chocolate, pepper and a slightly bitter finish. Given the quality of this wine and the pedigree of Wynns wines in the cellar more generally, I’d reckon this wine has a solid 10 years ahead of it. Not bad for $10 . . .


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2007 Yering Station Pinot Noir $26 retail

When visiting the Yarra Valley back in 2008 I found Yering Station to have a large and well-run cellar door. The wines were mostly good value for money and the staff were very friendly (even suggesting other wineries where I could scratch my Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz itches). Their Shiraz Viogner is always dependable and I was a big fan of the 2006 Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, this Pinot from 2007 is a clear example of what smoke taint can do to an otherwise above average wine.

2007 was a very tough year for the Yarra Valley, with bushfires and frosts; with a few more years of bottle age from release, this wine smells unmistakably like smoke – that is the first and lasting impression. With a swirl it reveals some nice strawberry and spicy plum notes, and this is backed up on the front palate. The fruit is subdued on the middle palate and overpowered on the finish once again by an acrid smoke taste. The wine finishes with a ‘waking up in the morning after spending 8 hours in a smoky club’ kind of flavour, and lingers long after the underlying fruit fades.

A real shame as there is enough in this wine to suggest the fruit would have produced a very good end product if the region was not hammered by bush fires and smoke taint. Unfortunately for wines of this vintage, the ashtray tastes and smell will only get more pronounced with age as the primary fruit dies down. The joys of Mother Nature I guess.

PS - Parramatta Oscar did not have any of the wine, though he was keen on some....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2007 Cape Mentelle Trinders – Cabernet Merlot - $22 . . . proudly sponsored by Katie

This wine has been very positively reviewed by wine critics and on some other blogs. I’m here to add my voice to the chorus of praise.

Balanced. That’s what I kept thinking while drinking it. Every element of the wine seems to be in perfect balance and harmony with each other. It smells like a Margaret River Cabernet with dusty, gravelly berry fruits along with a hint of olive. The most noticeable thing about this wine is its beautiful structure. The flavours of the wine course evenly down the palate in a tight, direct line with excellent length. It tastes of dark berry fruits, herbs, a hint of chocolate, and finishes with some slightly sour notes. It has some very gentle, powdery tannin, and with the wonderful structure and balance of the wine it should ensure that it ages beautifully over the next 10 years. On the first night I tried it, despite its obvious quality, it lacked a pure enjoyment factor, but on the second night it really came together, indicating that it will really be singing with a few years in the cellar.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Decade Old Wine – 2000 San Vincenti “Stignano”, 1999 Koppamurra Cabernet Merlot Cabernet Franc

These two wines were both gifts that I’d had in the cellar for a while. I’ve found it hard to find much information on either wine, so didn’t really know what to expect or whether they’d be past their best . . . happily they were both in fine fettle.
2000 San Vincenti “Stignano” – Super Tuscan - Merlot Sangiovese blend – Very enjoyable and surprisingly powerful. The colour was darker than I would have expected from a 10 year old red from Tuscany and it had a nose of dark fruits, earthiness and well integrated oak. It was on the palate, however, that it was most impressive. Round, plum flavours came across with drive, power, and some impressive tannins. Plenty of yum factor with this wine and it has at least another 5 years left, if not a lot longer.

1999 Koppamurra Cabernet Merlot Cabernet Franc – Wrattonbully – This wine received minimum filtration, and this was evident in the slightly murky, faded crimson colour. Some people might find this a bit unappealing, but a lot of “murky” wines are actually wines of character and taste (exactly because of the lack of filtration), which turned out to be the case with this wine. Reminded me of a Coonawarra Cabernet with a lovely smelling nose of blackcurrant, a hint of mint, and an appealing touch of musk (I've not had much Wrattonbully, and given that it is only 20kms from Coonawarra and also has terra rossa soils it was interesting to see the connection). Plum, blackcurrant, and some earthy flavours on the palate are supported by a nicely structured palate, that has reasonable length and some gentle tannins. Could be aged for a few more years but I would be drinking it now.

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