Monday, April 19, 2010

Barossa Valley 'Icon Shiraz' Tasting - Oak Barrel Cellars Sydney

Last Tuesday RedtoBrown attended another excellent tasting at Oak Barrel Cellars in the Sydney CBD. The theme of the evening was ‘icon Barossa Shiraz’. The headline acts were a bottle of Chris Ringland’s 2003 Shiraz (formerly Three Rivers) and a 2005 Torbreck ‘the Laird’. The other icons were a bottle of 2006 Kaesler ‘Old Bastard’ and a 2006 First Drop ‘The Cream’.
Aside from this impressive lineup, what made the night even more enjoyable was the inclusion of some entry level Barossa Shiraz from the same wineries (plus two surprise last minute inclusions), and the fact the tasting was served blind, with the icons and entry level wines interspersed. Brief tasting notes / recollections of the icons and entry level wines from the both of us are listed below:

2006 First Drop ‘The Cream’ Shiraz
A bit of chocolate on the nose, the fruit is not as ripe as the other icons though strong in alcohol in the mouth and on the finish. Still, a blockbuster in a similar mould to the others, though with slight differences in the fruit profile that some may prefer.

2006 Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz
Barossa black in colour with some spice and old/quality oak on the nose. Yet to reach its blockbuster crescendo, has nice tannin, impressive length, and finishes with dark chocolate and a liqueur element on the finish. Tastes like it is built to age and will improve greatly with cellaring.

2003 Chris Ringland Shiraz
This is a massive behemoth of a wine with a complex nose of ripe black fruit, sweet spicy French oak and liqueur. On the palate it has lashings of sweet blueberry, blackberry and plum, gorgeous fruit with a positive (for me, though not others) vintage port element. The fruit and oak – both very powerful – are suprisingly integrated (relatevely speaking, given there is lots of oak, lots of fruit here), though there is a slight raisin characteristic in the mid palate that once again might be off putting for some. It has impressive length, and does not finish as hot as the alcohol might suggest. It is a sweet wine, powerful, supple and plush. A superb result for the very hot 2003 vintage, and a lovely, if unique wine.

2005 Torbreck ‘The Laird’ Shiraz
This was my favourite wine of the night and another Barossa Valley Shiraz of glorious gargantuan proportions. The colour is dark purple, yet with an almost brickish edge. One sniff and you are hooked - sweet vanilla laced cedar wood oak, spice, milk chocolate liquorish, you name it – one could sniff the Laird for some time and still unearth new scents. The Robert Parker description of ‘gobfuls’ of fruit flavour rings true with the Laird – in the mouth it is round, rich, full bodied and packed with sweet round, porty black fruit, more spice, liquorice and loads of sweet cedary oak (you get the message!). Though powerful, the wwine is still approachable now. The strong oak is somewhat integrated with the fruit (though it may take some time before this heady brew comes together, and fully intergrates with age). The length on this wine is impressive to say the least, as is the way the high alcohol content (14.8% on the bottle, 15.58% in the tasting booklet) does not hijack the finish. Laird is both elegant and extremely powerful at the same time – a delicious, muscular, sweet, sexy wine.

2007 Hobbs Shiraz, 2007 Hobbs Gregor Shiraz
A special inclusion at the end of the tasting, the Hobbs Shiraz is made from Shiraz grown in the Hobbs family vineyard adjacent to the vineyards of Chris Ringland (Allison and Greg Hobbs hosted Red and I for a tasting last year, and they are lovely people). This wine was the most popular of the night amongst tasters when all the scores were added up, and it was not out of place amongst the other Icons (despite being at the end of a tasting of some strong, big wines). Also tasted was the 2007 Gregor amarone style Shiraz, which was a rich, ripe and sweet wine. The concentrated flavours gained from the amarone style of sun-drying the fruit prior to fermentation is apparent, and it finishes smooth and sweet, despite its considerable alcohol content (forgot to check, but would be 15-16% based on previous vintages).

2008 Torbreck Woodcutters Shiraz
The baby brother of the Torbreck wines, the Woodcutters Shiraz still impressed many of the people at the tasting. The oak is restrained, and there is a slightly jammy nose. On the palate it has fine, soft tannins, with red and black sweet fruit and pleasant acidity.

2008 First Drop Mothers Milk Shiraz
Once again, another popular wine at the blind tasting. The Mothers Milk has pronounced French oak, a hint of liquorice, and spice on the nose. Grippy tannins give way to a surprisingly dry finish.

2008 Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz
Red and I both liked this – it seduces with the sweet new oak (and lovely all-round smell), and seals the deal with sweet powerful black fruits in the mouth. Thought this could have been the Woodcutters, and it is similar in style, if not a bit more bombastic with more obvious oak and riper fruit. A drink now wine, but one the majority of the dinner party of regular punters (like me) is bound to enjoy.

2008 Chris Ringland Barossa Valley Shiraz
The first wine of the evening, so it had the most difficult gig. A bit of cherry on the nose, fine powdery tannin and red to black fruit flavours. Decent length with a fresh, lifted finish. Not amazing, but at the price ($20) it is a good value quaffer.


Chris Plummer said...

An interesting collection of Barossa icons from what sounds like another great Sydney retailer!

I guess that's one of the highlights of the Barossa (and Sydney for that matter!), in that there's so many icons (or fine wine stores) that you can kind of pick and choose at your own leisure. I'm a bit of a sucker for the classics, and can't go past Peter Lehmann Stonewell, Grant Burge Meshach and St Hallett Old Block; I certainly appreciate the more elegant sides of the region's most famous variety.

The 2006 Old Block and 2002 Stonewell (completely different in style mind you) especially got my heart racing....

Chris P

Brown said...

Thanks for your comment Chris. I have always loved the St Hallett Old Block in particular, but also the other two classics you mention. I love how the three wineries have evolved the style over the years without compromising the wine. The Torbreck and Chris Ringland wines are unique, powerful, bruising wines - even if they were affordable, I could not drink them regularly, nor would you want to; for me they are special occaision wines, and probably wines I could have one glass of at a time. In my oppinion, you are 100% correct about the Barossa - there are so many icon wines, excellent wines, very good wines, affordable wines etc, that you can indeed pick and chose a style you feel like on the day (I think the Barossa gets unfairly labelled as being one dimensional, when in fact there are numerous different styles from the microclimates and sub regions, but that is a debate for another time!).
I have always loved the Trevor Jones Wild Witch Shiraz - in many ways a Lyndoch blockbuster, though with an elegance of the classics (and a price closer to $50 than $300). There are so many other examples of the more elegant, yet powerful Barossa Reds and more are emerging with each vintage. Better stop boring you!

Once again, thanks for your post.


Red said...

I'd happily have several glasses of the laird or the ringland! Thought they were both superb, unique wines that more than carry their alcohol levels.

Brown said...

Cant say if given the opportunity again I would stop at one glass with any $500+ wine!! I agree they are hardly "cant have a sip more than one glass" wines, though they are contemplative wines of a very high quality, not quaffers (the majority of the wine I drink unfortunately!). These wines open up with each passing minute and I would sit on the one glass for quite some time. The alcohol in both wines was very well integrated, I agree.

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