Saturday, September 27, 2014

2013 Montalto Chardonnays - Mornington Peninsula

Simon Black is starting to produce some pretty smart wine at Montalto. Brown and I had the chance to visit him last year at the winery and taste through a range of barrel samples and there was plenty to like then. You also got the sense that things are on the up as Black improves the vineyards he has, and comes to understand these sites more intimately over time.

I tasted both the entry level Pennon Hill and the Estate Chardonnay over 3 days.

2013 Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay – This punches well above its entry level tag and registers very highly in terms of yum factor. Lovely fruit has gone into this wine. Stonefruits, cashews, creaminess, and a bit of oak spice. Generous yet restrained, it’s all underpinned by a fine acidity. Pushes through to a savoury, citrusy finish. If this was your house chardonnay over the next few years you would be very happy.
Rated: 92
RRP: $23
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2018

2013 Montalto Estate Chardonnay – Just shows a bit more class than the Pennon Hill. More palate weight but also greater definition in the wine’s line and length. Generous stonefruit, grapefruit, cashews and a nice input from the oak. It also displays a bit of flintiness, adding complexity. Classy chardonnay, and worth leaving alone for a couple of years before opening.

Rated: 93+
RRP: $39
ABV: 13.2%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2016-2020


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nickleback's Chad Kroeger to release a shredding range of new premium wines (RedtoBrown News EXCLUSIVE)

Chad hopes his new range of wines
shred as much as his soft rock mega-hits.
 The wine world is utterly abuzz at the news Chad Kroeger from Canadian rock band Nickleback will be joining the ranks of Rock n Roll wine makers by releasing his own range of premium wines under the Chateau Kroeger label. The announcement puts Chad in the same company as Maynard James Keenan of rock band Tool, and was confirmed during a press conference in the Nickleback tour bus as the band moved east to New York as part of their worldwide tour. In the conference, Kroger outed himself as a born-again wine fan. “My wife, Avril is part-French, so she was weaned on Beaujolais nouveau and loves moscato, tequila and grapefruit shooters. I also love the stuff, having drunk lots of Kristal and Grey Goose in my time. Her passion has been infectious on so many levels, and wine is one of them”.

The first wine in the Chateau Kroeger range will be the “How You Remind Me Cuvee”, an ambitious non-vintage blend of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Moscato, matured in new American oak and infused with maple syrup essence and vanilla musk. It comes in a black glass bottle shaped as a fender Stratocaster. The second in the range is the “Photograph Sparkling NV” a blend of white zinfandel, Thompson seedless, and brandy, topped up with 1982 vintage Kristal. Each bottle of the Sparkling NV will have a 50ml vial of a Chad and Avril perfume to really add to the romance of this premium wine.

The Photograph Sparkling NV is in many ways
 a tribute to Chad's love of wife Avril (inset).

"These wines rock, but have a softer, more stylish side, just like me and my buddies” Kroeger gushed. “We drink the test batches in the dressing rooms all the time. It gets us pumped before we shred on the power ballads”.
Kroeger described his wine making philosophy and the genesis of his wine label during an interactive portion of the announcement.  “I aim to make honest wine, with minimal intervention from the winemaker, sincere and true wine, just like my tunes”. Kroeger revealed his wine making techniques to the enthusiastic crowd, including playing acoustic versions of Nickleback’s greatest hits to the truckloads of grapes shipped-in from Nevada.
“I reserve the love songs I have written for Avril when playing to the grapes that go into the “Photograph Sparkling NV”. I think they taste sweeter and more sincere as a result. It is hard for the winery staff to go about their day jobs when I go to that special musical place. Tears flow, I have to admit”.
 Chad has been know to connect with
 the grapes prior to them
going into his premium wines.
When asked about the inspiration behind Chateau Kroeger, Chad recounted the moment he spoke to Maynard from Tool about his Caduceus wine label – a discussion that convinced him to pursue his wine making dream. “I told Maynard that his wines rocked even harder than his Lateralus record. He called me a lightweight and told me to fuck off, but his enthusiasm and energy was infectious. My wine dream was born that day”.
Maynard James Keenan (inset) 
refused to be quoted for this article.
The Chateau Kroeger How You Remind Me Cuvee and Photograph Sparkling NV go on sale next week for $US 450 and $US 790 respectively. They can be purchased from any Wallmart or 7-11 Stores across the USA and Canada.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Harkham Wines - Natural wine with a smile (Hunter Valley)

Maintaining a wine blog when you have a young family is tough, tougher when you combine it with a busy day job. The wine appreciation never stops, (nor do the recording of tasting notes, TBH) though the volume of articles being posted tends to inevitably decline. The post below should have been put on the blog over a year ago – the hospitality and enthusiasm of Richie Harkham demanded it, even if the quality of the writing in the post doesn’t quite. Regardless, this post was lost in the mix, and I have stumbled-upon it, dusted it off and posted it for the record. Tasting notes are from early October 2012. Thanks to Ritchie for taking time out of his day back in 2012.

The wine making industry loves ‘the next big thing’, especially when it polarizes opinions and has the potential to attract new customers to wine. In the last few years organic/biodynamic wine making practices and in particular, ‘natural wine’, have assumed this status. The growing trend of producing, selling and drinking natural wine polarises opinions amongst industry types, wine nerds and the wine cognoscenti.

While RedtoBrown have made light of natural wine in some of our posts (the ongoing ‘Wine Wars’ series of video clips being the most obvious example), on a serious note we have never shifted our focus away from the subjective assessment of the quality of the wine in the bottle for any given wine maker – be it natural or not.  If I like the taste of the wine, I like the wine: a tear-inducing, inspirational story behind the making of a wine does not mean I will enjoy drinking it.

With that elongated intro out of the way, my family headed to the Hunter Valley last October (editors note: 2012), for a relaxing few days. On recommendation of a wine friend, one of the wineries we visited was Harkham Windarra.

Owner and winemaker, Richard Harkham (Ritchie) has an infectious passion for his craft. Harkham is one of the few, (if not the only) Hunter Valley-based wineries making natural wine. This may be due to the regions successful battle with bret over the last 20 years, though it does seem strange that the major wine region closest to Sydney (the natural wine consumer capital of Australia) is not jumping on the bandwagon with more gusto.

When we met, Ritchie summed-up his winemaking philosophy as aiming for a wine that will be “as close to nature as you can get”. Ritchie noted winemakers tend to intervene too much in the winemaking process, and he tried to intervene only when necessary in a way that is done through positive energy in the cellar. As Ritchie noted, “wine is alive and always living and changing.”

Our tasting was a bit rushed, with Ritchie kindly fitting us in on a weekend prior to the arrival of a Chinese delegation keen to try his wines. The most impressive of the wines tasted had pure fruit flavours and refreshing, natural acidity. The least impressive strayed towards some left-field tropical fruit flavours and less structure. However, none of the wines tasted slotted into the cheap throw-away natural wine stereotype of faulty, funky barnyard reds and cloudy, orange, apple cider whites. Quite the opposite.

We left the winery with 4 bottles of wine (one of them a wine that Ritchie admitted did not turn out the way he would have liked, but was a wild wine to taste). The tasting notes below are for three of the wines, tasted in early November (Rose) and mid-November (the two Shiraz).  (As for the delay in posting the notes – blame my day job and downtime with my beautiful baby boy).

Harkham Aziza’s Shiraz 2012
An earthy, meaty nose with crushed grape stems, some dried florals, blueberry and dark cherry fruit. On the palate, a bit salty, with minimal tannin. Largely driven by juicy black cherry fruit and fresh acidity. The finish is earthy, meaty and savoury though clean, with a hint of residual salt.
After two days on the tasting bench/fridge, the nose opened up, with sweeter fruit coming out on the front palate, and a finish with additional dried herbs.
Given the difficult vintage conditions, and the minimalist natural wine making philosophy, this is a surprising result. Drink now.
Price: $22
Rating: 88pts

Shiraz Nouveau 2011
This wine hits home to me the razors-edge natural winemakers tread each vintage. If the winemaking is not at fault (and in this case it definitely isn’t), the fruit and vintage conditions can do their best to hijack a wine. Especially if the scientific – dare I say it, ‘industrial’ wine making work-arounds are not available. The wine had a banana-like nose with tropical undertones on the palate, arguably variable acidity, yet a core of ripe red cherry and raspberry fruit. Finished with an almost white wine textural mouthfeel. Ritchie noted that this was made from super ripe, small berries that were carbonically macerated in whole bunches in stainless steel tanks and bottled 3 months later. It was a tricky wine to make, and it shows in the glass.
Rating: 87pts

Harkham Rose 2012
Attractive light, pale strawberry colour. Nose – Sweet red fruits and a hint of spicy stonefruit (white nectarine). Juicy yet delicate fruit flavours, primarily strawberry, light and vibrant with lovely fresh, cleansing, integrated acidity. The finish is dry, with some mixed citrus peel lingering at the end. A very drinkable, refreshing wine, sweet on the nose, yet largely dry on the mid-back palate. The fresh, integrated acidity a standout. This wine passed the ‘Wife Test’, with the better half giving it two thumbs up.
Rating: 94pts

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2013 Tahbilk Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (Nagambie Lakes)

Tahbilk wines tend to cellar well beyond their supposed station in life, so it will be interesting to see how this new range of rhone blend wines go in this regard.

There’s some nice oak input here, but its mainly berry and raspberry fruit in a medium to full bodied frame. It turns very savoury with notes of leather, spice, and a soy finish. Has a good sense of balance. Enjoyable drinking now but will likely be better integrated in another couple of years.

Rated: 3.5 Stars
RRP: $25
ABV: 14.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2020+
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