Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tyrrell's Vat 9 2009 & 2011

Tyrrell's Vat 9 2009 

The sentence "medium bodied with amazing length and layers of flavour" is written across the bottom of my note pad but I thought I should start with that line as it embodies this wine totally. There are so many flavours throwing themselves out of this wine it is hard to comprehend. Well it isn't hard but the wine is locked up and controlled that you will have to wait for a while before true love rises from the bottle. If you haven't tried a Hunter red then get your hands on a bottle of this and be blown away. 

Alcohol: 13%
Price: $80
Rated: 94+
Drink: 2016 - 2029

Tyrrell's Vat 9 2011

This wine is light bodied in the red end of the spectrum. In fact it is so light one of my mates thought this was a pinot noir. What this wine possesses that set this apart is an immaculate structure with plenty of spice and length of flavour. I could see why many wouldn't rate this wine that highly but I think that is based on the style of the wine, not being to their liking, and not based on the quality of the wine as it offers a huge amount in a Hunter sort of fashion. You could drink this now but I think it will shine with a few years under it's belt.

Alcohol: 12.9%
Price: $80 ($49 for members)
Rated: 90
Drink:  2016 - 2031

3 Tales Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Marlborough experienced a cool 2011 vintage which is perfect if you are after a more restrained style of Sauvignon Blanc.

3 Tales Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Even thought the first thing I notice about the wine is the fruit flavours of gooseberries and passionfruit, the wine is much more than that. In fact the profile is not overt at all, its more introverted and thoughtful than normal for this variety. It is the type of wine that doesn't look good too cold or too hot but if served just right will surprise the senses. In the end a little chalkiness added a bit of interest and enjoyment which would make it brilliant to drink as the weather warms up a bit.

Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: RRP $18 but you can find this for $13 which is a steal
Rated: 87
Drink: Now - 2015
Importer: De Bortoli

Felton Road Pinot Noir's & 2008 Chardonnay

Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2011

Tight as hell at this stage but equally as powerful.  Felton road's base Pinot Noir always delivers much to be enjoyed with a little extra twig action this year.  Don't get me wrong, the wine is still chock full of fruit in the form of cherry, spice, blueberries and dried rose petals with a touch of thyme making its move in the back ground.  The wine has beautiful length and poise but is held back by a little alcohol heat on the back palate.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $56
Rated: 92
Drink: 2015 - 2020
Importer: Red + White

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2011

I have never tasted a block 3 before and I can see why this sells out quickly. This tastes like it has been injected with wild herbs and dark cherries before a mouth puckering set of tannins take over. The wine has layers of flavours and texture but it is a little to coiled up tight for full enjoyment at this stage of it's development. Watch out for this one in a few years time as it will rock your world.

Alcohol: 14%
Price: $95
Rated: 95+
Drink: 2017 - 2026
Importer: Red + White

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2008

The main feature of these Felton Road wines is that they are reserved and cerebral in their approach. What happens here is that there are elements of richness mixed with a lightness of weight. Once the wine is open I can smell caramelised nuts and smoked peach before an army of grapefruit marches in to take over. The mid-palate is rich as hell but everything finishes light and vibrant. Drink now? NO!

Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $55
Rated: 92+
Drink: Give it four years.
Importer: Red + White

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Chardonnay 2011

Earlier this year the 2010 version of this wine came to my attention and I must admit I was blown away by its quality. This year the wine now is under the chosen block label which it fully deserves. But the big question is does the wine stack up?

Chapel Hill The Chosen Gorge Block Chardonnay 2011

Once again this wine is lighter in weight and is more restrained in the flavour spectrum than is normal for your McLaren Vale Chardonnay.  The wine started out with a touch of fresh mixed nuts before the flavours moved to lemon and melon rolled in fennel seeds.  By the end of the 4 days that I tasted this wine a nudge of grapefruit emerged which was a big surprise for me. If this was in a blind line up I may have said that this was from the Adelaide Hills minus the nectarine flavour that I normally associate with the Hills.

Alcohol: 13%
Price: $35
Rated: 89
Drink: Give it four years in the bottle before opening them


Quartz Reef Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Central Otago has been one of the most talked about areas in the New World for the production of quality Pinot Noir. So much so that everyone has stood up and taken notice. The area is a haven for cool climate winemaking so when this came across my desk, I immediately took out a huge glass.

Quartz Reef Bendigo Estate Pinot Noir 2010

This is a beast of a Pinot with wild flavours of field plums and fresh picked cherries before a hulk of an oak derived tannin structure and warmth from the alcohol kicks in on the mid palate. If the alcohol can work itself out then you have something really special on my hands but at this stage the two areas of distraction just took over for me. This is still a very good wine with a hefty price tag from an area that commands big dollars for entry.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $80
Rated: 87
Drink: Not now
Importer: Red + White

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Woodlands 2012 Vintage Roundup

Woodlands Vintage Roundup 2012

With vintage 2012 now put to bed, its time to look back over the last 4 months and the wines it produced.

While 2012 showed a second ‘la nina’ pattern (wet cold conditions) in the east, Western Australia had another warm dry vintage.

In the winery we we able to pick both Woodlands vineyards at optimum ripeness, with only the last four to five tonnes being picked with rain approaching.

In terms of vintage weather, at Woodlands we do not believe ‘the hotter the better’. Very hot early vintages in Margaret River can ripen sugar before tannin, leading to rough astringent tannins. Our 2012, in comparison to warmer vintages such as 2007 and 2011, has softer finer tannins as a result of the summer being warm and dry, but never too hot.

With all the wines now resting in barrel, we now turn our attention to bottling our 2011 wines, and trying to stay out of the infamous Margaret River rain!


Friday, 20 July 2012

Sutton Grange Giove 2009 + American Beef Ribs

Sutton Grange is located near Bendigo but they produce very different wine that is typically associated with the region.  All of the wines that I have tried from this producer have structure at the forefront of their mind. The first planting for this winery started in 1998 and the vineyards are run biodynamically. Gilles Lapalus is the winemaker for the estate and his wines manage to combine drinkability, savoury style and insane levels of inbuilt complexity and texture.  These wines, along with many of his other wines have the best tannins and acid structure in Australia. If you are into the over the top fruit bombs then this winery is not for you but if you dream of food friendly wines of interest, then get a hold of some of the Sutton Grange wines.

American Beef Ribs

These ribs are so satisfying but they take 7 hours to cook so you will need to think ahead.  Also beef ribs aren’t that common in Australia so you will need to find a butcher that knows what they are doing.  I have only been able to find one butcher that is located an hour and a quarter from my house so I make a special trip well in advance to procure the best parcels for this dish.


1 large rack of beef short ribs
4 tablespoons mustard

5 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 tablespoon chilli flakes
3 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoon honey, runny
knob of butter, runny
2 tablespoon water

Rub mustard over ribs and leave over night. Heat oven to 130 degrees. Mix paprika, chilli, pepper, salt and oil together to make a firm rub. Cover ribs with rub and place on tray with the rub facing towards the sky and cook in over for 5 hours.

Mix sugar, honey, butter and water together to form a soft mixture. Take out ribs from over and place on a board.  Insert some foil in tray and place mixture on foil. Return ribs face down onto tray and cover with foil. Cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours and 140 degrees. 

To serve slice meat long the rib line and serve with mash potato.

Sutton Grange Giove 2009

To begin with this wine is very dirty and twiggy but over the course of four days, bobbles of tart blackcurrant, licorice stick, dried provincial herb and mint emerge. The flavours are lip smackingly dry and  are so seductive and inviting that I just want another glass to fill the void that now resides in me as I have finished tasting. Every time I went back for another sip another flavour poked its head up from the voluptuous liquid. Cherries, chocolate coated strawberries and pocketfuls of warm forest mulch added intrigue to the symphony of medium bodied flavours. The true enjoyment comes from the structure of the wine.  Imagine a thousand Swedish women or men, depending on your orientation, spooning you for all eternity! That is how these tannins make me feel! Enough said.

Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $60
Rated: 93
Drink: 2018 – 2029

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Patritti Saperavi 2010

The Saperavi grape has been cultivated in Geaoria for centuries. Widely regarded as one of the ancient varieties, this grape variety produces robust wines with plenty of acid structure, even if grown in warm climates.  This should make it a perfect variety for the Barossa.

Patritti Saperavi 2010 

Massive wine in a totally rambunctious style that will rock you boat or tip your sail which ever way your nose fly’s.  The boat, for me, has drifted a little too far towards the shores that are a burning.  That said if I had paid full price for this I would still be happy as this wine is like what a baby bird says.  Cheap, cheap….cheap, cheap.

Alcohol: 14%
Price: $16
Rated: 83
Drink: Whenever you want

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Greenstone Rosso di Colbo Sangiovese 2009 + Suppli

Greenstone is one of the new kids on the block but they are already kicking goals with their savoury style wines that they produce from their young vineyards.  One of the secrets to their success is the relationship that they have with Italian Alberto Antonini.  Alberto has imported all of the top quality Sangiovese clones which they have planted on the old Cambrian soils in Heathcote, Victoria. These guys are one winery to get onto before they become a household name.


I decided to pair this wine with an entrée that originates from Rome.  These risotto balls are perfect by themselves or on a platter with some anti-pasta.


25 grams unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1.25 l high quality chicken stock
2 cups arborio risotto rice
75 grams parmesan, grated
2 eggs, beaten
handful of fresh basil leaves, one for each ball
75 grams mozzarella cheese, cubed. one for each ball
vegetable oil for deep frying

Warm chicken stock over medium heat. Add butter into medium pan and once melted add onions. Cook onions until soft.  Add rice and cook for 1 minute whilst continually stirring.  Add a cup of warm stock to the rice and allow to absorb.  Make sure that the rice has enough stock at all times. Cook rice until creamy with an al dente middle.

Remove from heat and mix in eggs and parmesan.  Spread mixture on a baking tray and allow to cool completely.  If you are in a rush, place mixture in the freezer for thirty minutes.

Once cool, divide the mixture into portions, a little larger than a golf ball. Place in the middle of the ball a cube of mozzarella and basil leaf. Coat ball in flour.

Heat oil in large saucepan over hot heat until you can add a piece of bread and it will turn brown in 15 seconds.  Once the oil is hot add balls to oil and cook until brown. Allow enough room in sauce pan so the balls do not touch.  Remove ball onto paper towel to remove some oil and serve hot.

Greenstone Vineyard Rosso di Colbo Sangiovese 2009

This wine starts out sour and savoury which is such a change from your normal fruit laden Sangiovese from Australia.  There is a little cranberry action underneath the sour cherries, spice and pepper. These flavour pop out at me, especially the spices as they mesmerise my mind. While the structure of the wine doesn’t quite have the punch for massive points this is the sort of wine that would work so well any night of the week with a large variety of foods.

Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $28
Rated: 87
Drink: Now – 2016

Kalleske Old Vine Grenache 2010

Kalleske Old Vine Grenache 2010

This wine comes off of a block that was planted in 1935 and has been run organically ever since the first vine was planted.  As the 2010 vintage experienced near perfect conditions, I was very excited to see what Troy could do with such fruit.  Many Grenache based wines from the Barossa have a boiled lolly component but this wine doesn't have any of those flavours.  This wine sits beautifully in the red berry flavour spectrum with hints of flowers and dried rose petals blowing in the wind.  I would almost call this wine restrained in its approach but the sweet oak is masking some of the detail at this stage of the wines development. What separates this from a lot of the other wines in the area is the tannin structure.  It slowly coats the interior of my mouth and lays down the foundation for some serious enjoyment. The balance of flavour and structure is beautiful and there is still one more trick up this wines sleeve and that is a silkiness to the palate weight. Just yummo! While I think this isn't drinking at its peak now, I would only give this a few years in the cellar before I would rip into them.

Alcohol: 15.5%
Price: $45
Rated: 93
Drink: 2014 - 2020

Friday, 13 July 2012

Patritti Lot 3 Shiraz 2010

Patritti Lot 3 Shiraz 2010

The grapes for this wine comprise all three blocks from Patritti’s home block.  That means this wine is part old gate, JBP and Wirri Wirri Patritti combined which gets me excited just thinking about the prospect of tasting it.  This wine is aged in new French oak and is only the free run juice making this wine made in a super premium fashion. Once the bottle is open, the room fills with bright and savoury floral aromatics which transfer easily onto the palate.  There are flavours that bounce onto my mouth with energy that I used to have when I was in my late teen but these flavour do so in an elegant and cerebral manner. The wine is lighter in weight than the JPB but it certainly doesn’t lack depth or length of flavour. In fact it took three days for the tannin structure to emerge from under the flavours of blackberry compote, Dutch licorice, chocolate covered blueberries and Asian spice.  Once those tannins took hold they never let me go. It was as if a single tannin had walked down my tongue and dropped a time bomb. Three, two, one…boom and the bomb has started an avalanche of ripe tannins which cascade over my tongue enveloping every inch of my mouth.  Now compared to the JPB this wine has a little more balance between oak and flavour but I could understand if people preferred the JPB as it is a little more full bodied wine. However, I see the Lot 3 wine as having greater balance, length and beauty but only by the smallest of margins.   

Alcohol: ?
Price: $30
Rated: 95
Drink: 2020 – 2037

Recently I seem to be receiving a few samples of wine that have only just been bottled or haven't been given a label which is something I consider to be very cool.  Getting in on the ground floor feels so good. Hand painted and I love it.

Deen de Bortoli Vat 7 Chardonnay 2011

The Deen de Bortoli label is targeted towards the entry level market and is produced from fruit from both warmer and cooler climates.  This combination of warm and cool climate fruit is supposed to result in a wine that has richness yet still retains vibrancy.  Unfortunately 2011 was so cool that warm climate fruit was a scarce resource.

Deen de Bortoli Vat 7 Chardonnay 2011

Vintage condition in 2011 produced some very lighter style wines with plenty of acid structure. This wine, once it comes into contact with my tongue is a test amount to that but the flavours don’t really get past my front palate. There is a little lemon twist and salty nuts to begin with before a drop of peach juice makes an appearance but then that is it.  For the money this wine still offers some value and could work well at a BBQ.

Alcohol: 13%
Price: $9
Rated: 80
Drink: Now

One of the most unique Australian wine styles - Semillon

One of the most unique wine styles in Australia would have to be early picked Semillon that receives no oak adulteration.  This style was pioneered in the Hunter Valley by Lindeman’s, McWilliam’s and Tyrrell’s in the early settler days.  Similar to Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling the absence of oak allows for the pure representation of the variety.  Many consider the varieties and wine styles like Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon to be the polar opposite to the over-oaked and ultra ripe old school Chardonnays that went out of vogue some ten years ago.  Now it is interesting to see the increased attention that Semillon has garnered in recent times as people continue their journey along the wine styles continuum.

As an Australian, I am extremely proud of our countries heritage, especially when the visionaries of the past have forged new wine styles that are so unique in their flavour profile and aging ability. As it turns out, dry Semillon pairs perfectly with a variety of lighter style foods. Generally, when people come around to my place for dinner, I like to serve a wine that will stimulate conversation thus breaking the ice and get the juices in the mouth flowing in anticipation for food.  Young Semillon serves that purpose brilliantly.  As recent times have seen the advent of celebrity cooking shows, cookbooks and cooking programs run by some of the top chefs it is no wonder that Australia has seen a large increase in top quality meals being prepared at home.  Coupled with this fact, people have found the food styles of Asia to be fascinating.  This may have come about as a result of more people experiencing the culture due to cheap flights or the elite chefs focusing on flavours and refreshing styles of food that match our hot climate.  Whatever the reason, the amount of Asian food being cooked and consumed at home has increased the most out of all cooking styles.  The focus of these home chefs has moved towards showcasing quality ingredients in a light and refreshing manner. 

Due to this change in cuisine people now require a wine to match and Semillon fits the bill spectacularly. Since the flavours and structure of Semillon complement and enhance the Asian style flavours let us look at a small selection of quality wines that people could find around the country. I would suggest that if you haven’t tried them before then head out and grab a selection so you can experience the different styles, young and old, from a truly unique Australian variety.

Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon 2011

Andrew Thomas has worked all over the Hunter Valley with many of the iconic producers but it is the wines that he makes under his own label that are the most enchanting.  Andrew focuses on individual vineyard wines that he takes from some of the best sub-regions within the Hunter Valley

Every moment this wine is open it builds weight and breadth.  Initially the flavours of lemongrass and lime tart take centre stage which both dazzle and delight before spring flowers waft over me on a warm breeze adding richness to the mid-palate. I am captivated by the fact that each time I come back to this wine a new flavour has emerged which suggests that if you can keep your hands off it time will reward you. Wow this sip tastes of tinned passionfruit while the next reminds me of Chinese star jasmine. What can I say but to finish with noticing that the length of this wine is gorgeously long and the flavours excited me.

Alcohol: 11.5%
Price: $28
Rated: 93
Drink: Now or later

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2006

Constantly Tyrrell’s make the bench marker Semillon and this is no different.  To begin this wine opened with lanolin and French toast before everything seemed to transform to a more youthful flavour profile. Does that mean this wine had a face lift? No but it does mean that it has been eating healthily and working out as the natural goodness of lime wedges, mandarin peel and lemon grass started to take over. To sum up this wine the words sculptured and pungent come to mind but that is nothing compared to the length of this wine. Simply amazing and doesn’t need anything more said.

Alcohol: 10.7%
Price: $70
Rated: 95
Drink: On its 15th birthday

Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon 2006

The Hunter has had a stranglehold on top quality Semillon until this wine came along. Not unlike the Vat 1 the flavours are more akin to a two year old wine with notes of high class lime cordial which provides the backbone for all the other flavours to hand off. Imagine one of those science skeletons that you see in the movies and now replace the backbone with lime. The rib cage would be fresh cut grass, with a little crystal as the legs and the arms being spice. Every flavour works brilliantly but they all depend on the spine of cordial to hold itself together. Luckily the spine of this wine is in pristine condition which will allow this to age gracefully for another decade.  While it will age well, there is a lot to be gained with opening one now. I guess at 25 bucks a bottle many people will be able to afford to stash a few away.  I’ve gone out and bought a dozen, six to drink now and six to drink in six years. My thoughts are that a wine of this quality at this price point is rare as hen’s teeth.

Price: $25
Rated: 93
Drink: Whenever you want

Henschke Louis Semillon 2009

Steven and Prue have been crafting Semillon for some time now from their 50 year old block in the heart of the Eden Valley.  From a textural point of view this wine has already started to evolve which is consistent with the flavour development.  Initially the wine was a bit mused but eventually specks of grass and lanolin emerged with a touch of caramelised pears poking their head out. On the palate these flavours transfer well with a slice of lemon wedging into my consciousness.  When you compare this wine with the other Semillons there is a distinctive difference which I would happily recommend to buy as a result.

Alcohol: 12%
Price: $22.50
Rated: 85
Drink: Now or over the next 5 years.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Legend of Terroir part 2

The Adelaide Hills wine region spans a vast mountainous range with differing varieties planted at different altitudes over this large region of 795 square kilometers. As many wine makers in this region are focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this article will outline some of the characteristics of the region followed by the history of Chardonnay and the type of winemaker that endeavours to craft quality Pinots. 

Image from Trip Advisor

It is coming into summer in the Adelaide Hills and the plant life is going wild. In fact due to the cool climate and healthy rainfall during the winter months the flora and fauna is thriving.  The fruit set has come through on the vines, while the maple trees have started to put on a large amount of bright green leaves which has meant that the areas that have embraced the local markets look particularly brilliant.  Many communities have gone further with their art and cultural displays which may account for the close community feel that pervades every district.  Most Saturdays and Sundays you can drive down to the farmers market to purchase the seasonal fare which last week-end happened to be Woodside’s turn.  The markets are not the most formal of events, almost all of the stalls have been set up by the farmer that planted the produce and then picked the day before bringing it down for sale.  This particular day the cherry man was out in force. His cart was filled with lush dark red cherries that seemed to glisten in the sun, inviting me over for a taste.  As the season was a little late this year due to the unseasonal cool weather I am definitely in for a fix of these juicy small wonders.  It is brilliant that so many towns in the Adelaide Hills have embraced the seasonal and regional food as it makes visiting each and every town exciting and unique. Two things that I think food and wine should possess. Come the start of autumn, when the leaves start to change to a darker red, brown or yellow the atmosphere in the hills is electric.  It is an experience sitting in a winery as the leaves gently rock back and forth moving closer towards the ground. If you get a chance to visit the area, I would try to organize it for the change of season as it is spectacular.  As the region has ideal growing conditions for strawberries, stone fruits, cherries, apples and pears the climate lends itself to the cooler climate varieties. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two such varieties and in many examples of wines from these grape varieties taste like the types of fruits that grow in the area. It’s as if the wines have absorbed the essence of their environment, especially if they are made into a sparkling wine. 

When winemakers talk about cool climate varieties it would be interesting to know what they mean and how cold is a really cool climate.  In fact the region was first recognized as a potential premium grape growing region as a result of Brian Croser and Stephen George understanding that in other regions around the world, such as Alsace and Burgundy, cool climate varieties do best in areas that successfully grow fruit trees such as apples and pears.  The Piccadilly Valley which is located in the heart of the Adelaide hills has an average January temperature of 17 degrees Celsius whereas the Barossa’s average January temperature is 23.  The Piccadilly Valley is the coolest of the Adelaide Hills sites followed by Lenswood and Woodside. As you move further south towards Mount Barker the average temperature rises to 22 degrees during January. This means that while Pinot Noir and Chardonnay may reign supreme, other varieties such as Sangiovese and Shiraz may shine in areas further south. 

Winemakers are starting to understand that varieties need to be placed in an environment that suits their needs, which is something that the Cistercian monks understood in Burgundy. Many believe that Chardonnay originated in Lebanon as they were one of the first in the world to produce wine.  Recently a DNA analysis has discovered that Chardonnay is the lovechild of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, a near extinct native variety of Croatia.  As Pinot Noir and Chardonnay now live together in Burgundy, Central Otago in New Zealand and Adelaide Hills. The Cistercian monks noticed that the cross pollinated variety produced medium sized berries on tightly compacted bunches so they decided to plant a separate vineyard.  As looters were a problem during this period the monks built a wall around the vineyard to ward off any potential problems.  The walls still stand today around the Clos de Vougeot vineyards in Burgundy.  It is no wonder that Pinot and Chardonnay like similar conditions as they are related.

What is interesting is that Pinot is even more fickle and difficult to grow than Chardonnay. Many winemakers and connoisseurs regard Pinot as the Holy Grail of wine experiences. It drives people to extreme lengths to produce a quality wine or to spend obscene sums of money to secure a bottle of the elixir. Quality Pinot requires a delicate hand and a great understanding of the vineyard and conditions but when it is done well the wine has an ethereal quality that has depth of flavour yet is light on the palate.  As a result is it often described as a combination of extremes in one bottle.  Generally the variety is medium bodied with a fine tannin structure and bright natural acidity which makes it perfect for a diverse range of food flavours.   When I was thinking about the people that are all consumed by the pinot grape I started to think what type of winemaker would pursue such a difficult variety.  I pictured them as an earthy sort of person that doesn’t shower as that would be a waste of time that they could have used to focus on nurturing those vines.  They would either live in a semi built house or in amongst the vines so they could feel the heartbeat of the vineyard. These small bands of driven winemakers pursue an almost unattainable goal of perfection but when they do get it right I’ll be one of the first to buy a bottle.

With Chardonnay and Pinot Noir considered the leading light in the Adelaide Hills I tasted extensively from wineries in the area and four wineries were clear leaders in quality and style. The first and the only one to focus almost exclusively on Pinot Noir is Stephen George from AshtonHills.  When you drive up towards the cellar door on a rough dirt road you get the feeling that he is the type of winemaker that is my stereotypical Pinot maker.  The cellar door is a quaint rustic tin shed that looks like it was built before time, but it does provide perfectly for an experience for your taste buds once you start his tasting journey.  Stephen comes across as friendly yet thoughtful and deeply patient.  He has recently finished a 20 year vineyard experiment on clone selection.  He has documented over that period which pinot clones produce the best quality grapes and he has started to plant them out into the rest of the vineyard. This patience is an underlying factor for producing quality wines and Stephen thinks that to show the best quality he needs to be out in the vineyard constantly.  When I arrived he was shoot thinning and in the coming weeks will be shoot positioning.  When asked what type of winemaker he is Stephen replied that he isn’t a winemaker he is a farmer.  The vineyard at Ashton Hills is located in the coolest part of the Adelaide Hills, which has similar climatic conditions to Alsace and Burgundy, so Pinot Noir is the leader of the pack with aromatic whites coming in a close second in terms of quality. Stephen is now adapting his varietal mix to suit the conditions of his vineyard so Pinot Noir will be the majority of the planting with Pinot Gris coming in second.  When you taste his wines you can see how much care and attention has gone into them.   They are slow to evolve in the bottle yet they are an honest expression of the vineyard and the climate for that particular year.  It’s sort of an expression of Stephen himself.

Whilst Piccadilly Valley is extremely cool, the wines from Shaw and Smith, which is located in Balhannah, are from a slightly warmer area.  Martin Shaw crafts immaculate Chardonnay, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc from his estate and a small vineyard in Macclesfield.  When I first met Martin he was dressed neat casual yet it felt like it was decidedly within a business attire structure.  His attire and demeanor was elegant and sophisticated and made me feel at ease.  Once we sat down he talked honestly about the problems that the industry faces and the ways that he and his team are tackling these issues.  You could see the intensity and focus on his face.  Martin talked about how the Adelaide hills has proved itself as a producer of quality Sauvignon Blanc which I definitely agree with but when I tasted his Chardonnay and Shiraz I was extremely excited about these wines. Martin’s personality is personified in his cellar door.  It is a beautifully constructed building that would fit perfectly in an architectural magazine with floor to ceiling glass windows allowing the patrons to look out over the massive lawn area and the lake that is home to a squadron of ducks and ducklings.  The grassy area would be perfect for a picnic on a warm summer’s day with a glass of Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc in your hand.  The grass is so lush with every blade standing to attention it almost feels like a crime to sit on it. I think that this is the length that Martin and his team go to produce an absolutely spectacular experience.  When I got home I opened the wines from Shaw and Smith and started writing my notes.  Over the five days that they were open I noticed some words that were similar to the words that I had written in relation to Martin.  Smart, Sophisticated, Honest and Focused. It is as if someone has crammed Martin into every bottle of Shaw and Smith.  I would recommend going out and grabbing a bottle today and freeing Martin from his glass prison.

Just next door to Shaw and Smith, Rod Short from Romney Park is crafting some unique and restrained wines from his seven acre block.  Rod is a one man band when it comes to his whole production.  When I visited his vineyard and winery he was madly working away amongst the vines.  Everything is done by his hand and spring is one of the busiest times of the year.  Since retiring from full time work, Rod decided that a little hobby farm with some vines planted to a variety of different grape varieties would be the best way to occupy his mind and keep him invigorated.  He now works longer hours than he did before retirement. When tasting his wines you will understand that the time has definitely paid off.  Over the fifteen years since planting the vineyard, Rod has slowly pulled out and replanted the space to the varieties that produce the best quality. He thinks that Chardonnay is the leading light on his estate.  That’s not to say that his Shiraz or Pinot aren’t good but the Chardonnay and the Sparkling Blanc de Blanc are consistently exceptional. The Romney Park philosophy is to treat the grape with respect by not doing much with them.  They are handpicked and moved to the winery which is located 50 m from the vineyard then the free run juice is gently pressed off into French oak barrels.  The wine then stays there until it is ready to bottle.  As we sit next to his pond and talked about wine making it is easy to see that he loves his land and treats it with the utmost respect.  He takes this a little further with his pest control team.  They consist of five guinea fowl which spend every waking moment roaming the vineyard consuming anything that moves.  You could say they are on a search and destroy mission for pests.  Rod certainly runs his vineyard under sustainable practices and the vines are ultra-healthy as a result.

Ngeringa has taken the sustainable practices a little further.  Their vineyards are located near Mount Barker so the temperature is a little warmer again and therefore Erinn and Janet Kline have predominately planted the vineyard to Shiraz, Chardonnay with a little Pinot and an experimental block with every Mediterranean variety under the sun.  The Estate is run using a closed loop farming technique which basically means that they use animals such as sheep to keep the weeds and pests to a minimum.  All the byproducts from the animals are used as fertilizer for the vineyards and their vegetable and grain patch while the excess food and grape product feeds the animals.  I love this philosophy as it has a low impact on the environment.   Due to the elevation, Erinn believes that he is best suited to produce an elegant food friendly Shiraz and Chardonnay with great depth of flavour on a medium bodied frame.  When you look at the Ngeringa vineyards you can see a lot of experimentation going on.  Errin believes that Sangiovese may have a fine home in the Adelaide Hills but he has a project currently in operation to see which clone produces the best quality.  Since Errin is experimenting with many European varieties it is no wonder that a lot of overseas winemakers come over to help with vintage.  I guess this promotes conversation and discussion regarding best winemaking practices.  You can see in the Ngergina wines something special and that has to do with the structure that runs through all of their wines.  They pull you back for another sip.  Erinn is extremely happy with his upcoming 2010 releases and says that they will be totally different to his 2011s.  The 2010 vintage was a near perfect ripening season so expect pepper and spice and all things nice in his Syrah while the 2011 vintage was very cool which means that the acid structure will allow these wines to develop for decades. 

As a group these four producers talked about the vineyard as being the most important aspect in producing quality wines.  Whilst all of them focus on different varieties they have worked out which variety is best suited to their climate and all of them are continually experimenting with refining their plantings.   Below are the tasting notes from the wines from these four wineries and I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite between the lot of them.  What is clear is that the Adelaide Hills produces some spectacular elegant wines of distinction.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Brokenwood Semillon 2011

Young Semillon is going through a bit of change as winemakers are weaving in extra layers of complexity and flavour. Some winemakers are even treating the variety like they would German Riesling.

Brokenwood Semillon 2011

Balance: Beautiful balance that combines mouthwatering acidity with revitalising flavours.

Flavour: Great level of complexity at this age with flavours of lemon peel, spring flowers, lemongrass and pungent spice.

Length: Massive!

Alcohol: $11
Price: $20
Rated: 90
Drink: Now to 2020

Amadio Sangiovese 2009 + Aubergine Fritters

The Amadio's are one of the larger grape growers in the Adelaide Hills but they majority of their grapes is sold to other players or is exported into Asian under their own Amadio brand. Many of their premium wines come from vineyard that are in the Kersbrook area which is where this wine comes from.

Aubergine Fritters

As I assumed this wine would be on the lighter side of medium body, I decided to pair it with a nice and light entrée.

2 Aubergines cut into medium to thick slices
30 ml Olive Oil
1 Egg
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Large handful of parsley
120 grams Bread crumbs
100 grams Parmesan cheese, grated
90 grams Feta cheese
45 grams Plain flour
Vegatable oil for frying

Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Brush aubergine with olive oil and then place on a tray in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove aubergines from oven and allow to cool. Combine the aubergine, garlic, shredded parsley, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, feta and egg in a large bowl. Divide mixture into medium size balls and place on a plate of flour before frying them. Heat vegetable oil in pan until ultra hot. Lightly coat balls in flour and heat in oil until golden. Serve immediately.

Amadio Sangiovese 2009

Kersbook has a bit more heat that a lot of parts within the Adelaide Hills but it is still cooler than the Barossa. As such you get more spicy savoury notes in this wine and they are cuddling up to some sour cherry fruit. The wine is only just medium bodied and the tannin structure works brilliantly with the food. While this is streets away from the wines coming out of McLaren Vale, it is pure Sangiovese in a more restrained and earthy style.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $18
Rated: 88
Drink: Over the next 5 years

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Patritti Merlot 2009

When I think of the bargain wines of the century a few come to mind.  Any Semillon is the first and Halliday was the man that got me onto that variety.  Next is Mike Press from the Adelaide Hills which came to the front of my mind by Campbell Mattinson. As these two gentleman and the wineries that they recommended have shaped my buying in the past I would like to share one winery that I think joins these ranks as the best  value driven winery in Australia.

Patritti Merlot 2009

I wasn't expecting much from this wine but from the get go I new this was going to be a great value Merlot that offered a little extra. The palate is plumpy with spicy plum working its magic before some savoury crushed flowers and licorice join the team.  This is an easy wine to like as it slips down my throat with control and refined goodness.  What is most enchanting is the amount of tannin that holds the structure together and carries the flavour along my tongue.  While this is not the best wine going around for $12 it beats a lot of wines three times its price. Time to get on board!

Alcohol: 14%
Price: $12
Rated: 86
Drink: Now - 2016

Kalleske Eduard Shiraz 2009

The Kalleske family has been growing grapes in the Barossa for decades.  In fact their oldest planting dates back to 1875 but the blocks that contribute to this wine are from a single planting in 1905 and two planting in 1960. Old vine Shiraz at its most specular, just have a look at the vineyard management of these blocks. They plant a cover crop of broad beans in winter as you can see below.

And they utilise old school trellising methods

As such the yields are very low.

Kalleske Eduard Shiraz 2009

Masses of very ripe dark fruits bounce from the glass but these dark fruits are wrapped in a capsule of sweet oak.  This is an impressive Barossa wine that gladly hangs a bit of bling around its neck.  What stands out most is the exotic flavours of Iranian dates and dried figs like the ones you see on a cheese platter. Well the cheese platters my mates bring around every time we get together that is. The ripe theme continues with a little tar and coffee grounds making an entrance towards the mid-palate.  The wine finishes with a light brush of tannin which suggests that it is open for business. If you are into ultra plush and very ripe fruit then this will dazzle your senses but it doesn't have the vitality for humongous points. 

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $85
Rated: 89
Drink: Now - 2020

Kalleske Eduard Old Vine Shiraz 2009