Sunday, September 4, 2011

2009 Streicker ‘Bridgeland Block’ Syrah

A Margaret River name unfamiliar to most, although John Streicker has been turning out small volumes of wine from his Bridgeland, Ironstone and Yallingup vineyards for several years now.

Lively, purpling, blood red colour. The nose opens to bright redcurrants, violets, dried herbs and flowers; savoury meats and some smoky char. On the spicy side there’s cinnamon and white pepper – the bestest of peppers to be found in shiraz in my view. The oak starts to kick in more as the wine opens – it’s on the varnishy, yet toasty side. There’s also some intense coffee and crushed ant aromas (better than it probably sounds), and after a glass or two the nose pours out more complex, sweet and lovely perfumed aromas. Sexy.

The tannins are evident on the palate – a little powdery, but turning silky with time in glass. It’s a nice mid-weight style with beautifully balanced structure - acid/oak/fruit all in harmony. On the flavour side there’s a good balance of sweet/savoury, and a creamy brew of blueberry and redcurrant, some vanillan, pencilly oak, and a gorgeous smattering of white pepper. The finish is long and smooth.

Yep, this is very nice booze. It’s an easy drink for a 2009 at this point, but there’s an element of seriousness to it. Then when it kicks into higher gear it really starts to assert itself and become more expressive. The structure should see it cellar mid-term but she’s looking the goods right now too.
Value: $38.50 by mail order – sure is a big price. Maybe too high for some, but at least you know you are getting something quite smart, if not quite in the brilliant category.
Tasted: September 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Sample

Producer: Streicker Wines – The label was established in 2002 around the time John Streicker purchased his vineyards – Ironstone (Wilyabrup), Yallingup Protea Farm (Yallingup), and subsequently the Bridgeland vineyard (Rosa Glen).
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Bridgeland Vineyard, south-east of the township Margaret River – a cooler subregion with longer growing season.
Winemaking: Open ferment. Matured for 18 months in French oak.
Vintage: A mild and gentle growing season with no rain, hail, or bird issues, however a Looper bug infestation did knock some vineyards about and yields were low. Generally however, this is an excellent year.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

2010 Printhie Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Frankland Estate 'Isolation Ridge' Riesling, 2011 Marq Vermentino

2010 Printhie 'Mountain Range' Sauvignon Blanc
Nettley, showing a little age. Lemon and orange rind, grassy, some wild sage-bush. Lemon-scented honey aromas blend with lime, passionfruit and guava, with a little green tea thrown in. The palate is developed, as expected by now, and shows lemon curd, gooseberry, green bean and roasted green capsicum. Nice weight, texture and acid.

Following on from the outstanding 2009 vintage Savvy and maybe falling short of those heights, but still a good wine – although I would be drinking it soonish. A stylish feel, but probably lacks the oomph factor of the previous vintage. As chance would have it, I learned via Twitter that Gary Walsh (Winefront) was tackling the 2010 MCC Sauvignon Blanc on the same night and giving it big raps. I must have a crack at this wine. Stay tuned.
Value: $18 – there's good value in the entire Mountain Range.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Purchased

Producer: Printhie Wines – - owned by the Swift family.
Region: Orange, NSW - the NSW central tablelands east of Sydney - a region of high-ish elevation.
Vintage: A difficult vintage with yields down across the board for many – although some excellent quality prevailed.

2010 Frankland Estate ‘Isolation Ridge’ Riesling
Minerally, slatey, flinty... There I said it. Floral aromas with citrussy lime and pear – there’s more going on here than in the average riesling flavour spectrum. There’s freshness and zing, lifted flavours and aromas. Refreshing. There’s broad flavours in the citrus and tropical sphere, and some spice and fruit blossom, but there’s also drive and length and focus. And there’s more of that flinty goodness.

I don’t care what Philip White says, if I want to call a wine minerally I damn well will, and you all know what I’m talking about. Pure and fresh. Naturally exciting. This is a very good, benchmark WA Riesling. I’ll have some more please.
Value: At $32 it aint cheap, but this is the sort of wine you can pull out at a dinner party and impress the guests. A bit wanky, I know, but that’s wine for you sometimes.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Sample

Producer: Frankland Estate – 
 family-owned, established in 1988 by Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam.
Region: Frankland River, West Australia. Adjacent to Great Southern in the cooler south of WA.
An ideal vintage for the Great Southern and Frankland River regions. Warm summer days and cool nights. Hard to make a bad wine from this year.

2011 Marq Vermentino
All I can tell you about this new player in the Margaret River region is that it's the private label of Happs winemaker, Mark Warren, and a variety you don’t usually see around Margaret River. It’s light and slightly oily-textured – the flavours are in the spectrum I quite like: lime and pear, peach and apple blossom, grapefruity, floral and perfumed – neat, tidy, gently flavoursome in a restrained sort-of way.

Maybe too gentle? It doesn’t have the grunt of other vermentinos I’ve seen, nor the viscosity, but it is freshly bottled so perhaps showing some shyness at the moment. Ne'erless, it's a delightful little romp in the fields, and a perfect pre-dinner drink over spring and summer. With food? You’d be mad not to pair it with seafood – sardines, of course!
Value: Price unknown.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Gift

Producer: Marq Wines –  Happs winemaker Mark Warren's own label.
Region: Margaret River, West Australia.
Vintage: A cracker vintage in the west – perfectly warm temps during the day and cool nights – fruit was ripe with good acids. A winemakers delight.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2010 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

Alert readers will know this wine was tasted a while back as part of a broader look at 2010 SBS blends. The wine performed pretty well in that line-up. But ranking wines in tasting line-ups or shows is a dangerous thing, providing only one side of the equation quite unrelated to the others – including the real experience of real people drinking wine for pleasure. That's what we were doing.

The Cape Mentelle SBS sits at the upper echelon of the price range for these styles of wine and wears the burden of the label’s reputation, meaning it has to be good every year to command the price they’re asking. Sure, there’ll be the usual robots who buy this wine every year so they can have a piece of Cape Mentelle on the table at dinner parties, but there’s no doubt you would find equally excellent examples of SSB/SBS from Margaret River at much lower prices. That said, this is a very good wine.

A colour of clean, fresh straw. Grassy and minerally chalk hits the nose up front, some grapefruit tang and pithy lemon. There’s a cool crispness, like un-ripe peach, and a line of gooseberry. Subtle, stylish background oak, and there’s smokiness, spice and some green sweet-pea aromas too.

The palate is creamy yet bursts with flavour mid-palate. Tangy grapefruit again, lime, juicy citrus 
 quite frankly mouthwatering and begging for some spicy Asian fare to tease out it's restrained power. The grassy, herbal characters continue here, plus the chalky minerality, but it all adds to the complexity – a simple complexity if that’s the right wording, because after all, these wine styles need punch and delicacy in equal measure, and this wine nails it. Crisp, without appearing to be, and great length. There's oak again which helps draw out the palate and add creamy texture.

Good wine. It’s on the serious side – the lean and keen and mean side – but that makes it sensational with food. We did Thai green curry and Thai fish salad. Getting the food/wine matching right is key to allowing the wine to express it’s best, and vice versa. The underlying sweetness of the SBS burst forth when paired with the chilli and rich creamy coconut curry.
Value: $28 at cellar door – it’s right up there and you’re paying for ‘label’ here, but it’s a very stylish drop.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Cellar Door

Producer: Cape Mentelle – Established in 1970 by David Hohnen and friends, the winery is considered one of the elite producers of Margaret River. Hohnen later went on to develop Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and then sold his winery interests to the massive LVMH Group. He now runs pigs and sheep while keeping his toe in the wine industry by way of McHenry Hohnen Vintners.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly loam and some sandy soils over a clay base (the majority of the fruit comes from Cape Mentelle's southern vineyards, specifically Chapman Brook).
Winemaking: 54% Sauvignon, 46% Semillon. Approx 15% fermented in French and American oak. Four months on lees.
Vintage: Another superb year in the blessed west. Brilliant for whites with warm, dry conditions throughout summer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2008 Xanadu Shiraz

Another Margaret River red found it’s way onto the bench this week – a shiraz this time – the discreet mistress variety in this cabernet-centric, cool-climate region Western Australia. Xanadu have been around since 1977, and wine devotees will remember well the public listing, the rapid increase in production, the awkward management that led to the temporary demise of the beloved label. And the resurrection under the reins of the Rathbone family. But... to the wine.

Dark red, muddy sort-of colour. A not-very-traditional meaty aroma greeted, with smoky char, burnt cherry, or sweet tar? A light prickle for the senses. More recognisable characters of blackberry and red-fruits, carob, black olive and cinnamon quill. There’s a purple-ness about this wine. Purple for me describes a freshness and richness, a youth of sorts, a vibrancy. The oak looks silky, but it’s definitely on show. Actually, it ebbs and flows, but is always precise. There’s a little green/white pepper. The muddiness = less varietal character, but no less interesting.

The palate strikes me as creamy, yet still murky, and the finish is drying a little. Medium weight, it is bassy and the forest floor flavours dominate. But I also see redcurrants, plum and raspberry – quite a sweet palate really, but dense. Smoky BBQ char again, tannins firmish – will need some food (duly supplied in the form of osso bucco). On the warm side maybe, but this wine opens beautifully in the glass and shows some seductive shapes and flavours, while at the same time feels secretive and restrained. Yes, the finish is drying but the food sorted that out.

Really enjoyed this over two nights. It’s got some mystery, and in many ways lacks varietal definition, but who gives a toss really. It’s a bloody nice drink. It charms even when you lift the glass, and your eyes absorb the muddy colour before it reaches your nose and lips. X-Factor? Yeah, there’s that. As is often the case, the food really allowed this wine to show it’s best. Good stuff.
Value: A $29 retail price is most comfortable.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Gift

Producer: Xanadu Wines – Established in 1977 by the Lagan family, doctors who migrated from Ireland in 1968. Rapid growth and a public listing in the mid-90’s saw the spectacular collapse of the company. The current owners, the Rathbones, bought the assets of the business in 2005 and seem to be doing a sterling job of rebuilding the brand. Winemaker – Glenn Goodall.
Region: Margaret River, central.
Site: Roughly half the fruit is estate grown from the Stevens Road vineyard in central Margaret River, and the rest from growers. No specific site info available.
Winemaking: Partial whole berry fermentation, combination of tank and French oak maturation. A dash of Viognier is in here too.
Vintage: A classic vintage. 2008 was an excellent year in the region, following on from the superb 2007. The 08’s tended to have a little more structure in both whites and reds – a little firmer and robust, without losing that general elegance of Margs. Probably the 08's will outlive the 07's.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2002 Sandalford Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

A cool year, a big-name company, a benchmark variety in a classic region. A Monday night tipple that went something like this:

A vibrant brick red colour, mingling purple and brown at the rim – deceptive really. Opens with dusty oak and a delicious, driving core of rich dark fruits filling my nostrils, some redcurrants, leather and spice. Good ol’ Margaret River. There’s some savoury meaty/gamey elements, pencilly and cedary oak, mocha, and a denseness that smells chewy, if that is an acceptable depiction. As it opens up a bit you get a real choc-cherry character – more hallmark Margaret River.

The palate still has some grip (imagining what it was like when it was youthful), although starting to show some softer, velvety licks. Blackberry and smoky/tarry oak dominate the palate, though seamlessly wedded. For a medium-bodied style it has some power, and grace, and shows its cool climate chops. The cool 2002 vintage adds extra aromatics – even the palate tastes of sweet perfumed goodness – and a mighty fine structure.

Enjoyed over two nights, this wine showed hints of brilliance, but something was holding it back – couldn’t quite put my finger on it – almost nothing in it really, but I suspect the cork was having an impact on this particular bottle. Again, I’m going to downplay it, because the wine was still an excellent Margaret River cab. Loved it.
Value: A web search reveals this wine was released at $35, which is higher than I’d guessed, but not unreasonable. I taste wines as ‘blind’ as possible so I had no idea of pricing, or other factors for that matter.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Cork – a clean example, although may have been faintly influential on the wine
Source: Cellar

Producer: Sandalford Wines – The Swan Valley vineyards were established in 1840, while plantings at the Margaret River site began in 1970. Owned by the Prendiville family since 1991. Winemaker – Paul Boulden.
Region: Margaret River.
Site: Some of the oldest Margaret River vines – 30 years in 2002 – nestled in the famed Wilyabrup valley.
Vintage: Cool and dry and late. A beauty if you’re chasing age and structure. Some very fines wine were made, although many were sleepers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2004 Chatto Shiraz

I found this at the back of the ‘drinking cupboard’ – the cupboard reserved for wine slated for drinking at the next available opportunity. I can’t remember when the hell it got in there but it was obviously some time ago because I have no idea where it came from and it was all dusty.

A ruby, brick red colour, it attacks nervously with varnishy, charry oak, before settling down to flaunt fruit aromas of black plum, dark cherry and redcurrant. There’s typical pepper – black and white – licorice, chocolate, mocha, and some lovely aromatics of lavender and lanolin. On the savoury side there’s dark meats, mushroom and scorched earth. Medium bodied, the oak is strong (and French I think) but doesn’t tip too far.

On the palate it is equal parts murky dark and clean vibrancy, still exhibiting primary fruit flavours. Black plum and cherry again, pepper, and add blackberry and christmas cake to the list. Still a grippy wine, and taut, until an hour or two of air when it begins to fully open and express itself.

Enjoying it still as it continues to evolve in the glass. It still feels like a baby and makes me wonder how many of these styles of wines are actually cellared appropriately, given their release dates of some years earlier.
Value: A web search reveals this wine was released at $35, which is higher than I’d guessed, but not unreasonable. I taste wines as ‘blind’ as possible so I had no idea of pricing, or other factors for that matter.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Unknown!

Producer: Chatto Wines – Jim Chatto’s own label established in 2000. He now works for Peppertree as far as I can tell. Not sure if he’s still making wines under Chatto label. Anyone?
Region: Hunter Valley, Pokolbin.
Site: 40 – 50 year-old vines.
Vintage: A mild lead-in to vintage until a heat spike in Jan/Feb. Late Feb rain stuffed a few producers but those who picked before the deluge were rewarded.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2010 Patrick Of Coonawarra ‘Wrattonbully’ Riesling

A little break from the blog due to work demands, but here I am back on my feet with a left-field Coonawarra Riesling. A quickie follows..

Colour of light straw. A punchy, lemony fresh nose hits you from the outset, some steely-ness and chalky limestone minerality. Phenolics showing a little but in good check. Sweet aromatics of rosewater, some lime rind, musk and then the fruit spectrum opens up to peach and quince/pear. There’s some bassy notes yet the wine still dances lightly across the nose.

The palate is juicy lemon – a real fruit salad opens up – tropical even. It’s creamy, not crunchy – no piercing acidity here. Flavours of lychee, dragon-fruit, peach, green apple, pear and quince again. It straddles the wire between the high delicate and the low bass notes triumphantly. Is there some sweetness on the palate? Dunno. But if there’s some residual, it’s well handled. The palate lingers nicely, and despite a low 11% alcohol it has good carry.

It’s a goodie. I’m not overly familiar with Wrattonbully Riesling but from this example it looks like the variety handles itself well in the region, if not overshadowed by the reds.
Value: $26 – not outrageous, but up there. This wine is a double trophy winner at the Limestone Coast Wine Show, so it has some notches in it’s belt.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Gift

Producer: Patrick Of Coonawarra – – Owner/Winemaker Patrick Tocaciu.
Region: Wrattonbully, a relatively new wine region situated between Padthaway and Coonawarra.
Site: Rich limestone, terra rossa.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

2007 Torbreck ‘The Struie’

I employed my usual strategy of refraining from web research, reading back labels or tasting notes, but I knew, I just knew in my heart-of-hearts that this wine was going to be heavy on the ethanol. No surprises to follow. And there’s no introduction required to this Barossa producer so I’ll throw myself headlong into the task of bringing you a snippet of Struie – a 100% shiraz from the Eden and Barossa Valleys.

Deep, inky, blood-red with purpling edges. Kind-of exciting to see this colour – you know you’re in for a biggie. Dense dark plum and liquorice greet on opening, with some syrupy mocha and punch of pencilly oak. There’s mint and spice – cinnamon and clove, white + black pepper. It’s brambly and earthy with a touch of savoury tomato, while the fruit spectrum covers the dark and brooding black stuff to rich, red and blueberry aromas – it’s raisiny and sweet-smelling. Other characters I jotted down include caramelised fig, toffee apple, vanilla pod. It’s lush and plush.

The palate is red-fruited raisins, some blackcurrant slipping through, white spice and pepper and a little star anise mintiness. Chewy and flavoursome – savoury like rich, slow-cooked ragu, or tarry backstrap molasses, and sweet like a fiercely baked blackberry pie. This wine is cookin’. Rounded and complex, texturally soft and pliant – the tannins seem to be either very fine, or softened. The alcohol fleshes out the back palate with the dense, yet sinuous oak. They’ve really backed off the structural elements – tannin/acid – to bring you a wine of suppleness and flavour. Viscous to all hell.

I enjoyed this. It was worryingly drinkable for a high-alc style. But to be honest, it doesn’t really have the X-Factor that you would expect from this label, and you know I love an X-Factor. Yes, the alcohol shows (it says 15% on  the label, but who knows?), but it’s not overdone for the style of wine. I think I enjoyed the recent bottle of big-alc Kay Brothers more than the Torbreck (see here for the Kay’s) but altogether this was an enjoyable beast over two nights – one with pizza, and one with lamb roast. Is good, is Torbreck, is not cheap, is not short of fans, is worth a look.
Value: Current release (2009) is $48.50 at cellar door. I vaguely recall buying this 2007 for $40-ish somewhere, so that makes sense. I think it’s OK, considering The Factor is currently $125 and The Laird $700.
Tasted: July 2011
Closure: Cork (a good specimen)
Source: Purchased

Producer: Torbreck – – established in 1994 by Dave Powell, formerly of Rockford. A share-farming and semi-virtual enterprise until the 2000’s when they acquired their own property – the Hillside vineyard in Lyndoch – and established their own winemaking and cellar door facility on a nearby property.
Region: Barossa and Eden Valleys, South Australia. Eden provides the varietal clarity and structure while the Barossa provides the power.
Site: 40 year-old Eden, 80 year-old Barossa.
Winemaking: Matured in old and new French oak for 18 months.
Vintage: Eden was hot, the hottest for a long time. The preceding winter was dry too. A little rain in Feb eased the pain. Early, short – yet she was a hottie and correspondingly a goodie. Much the same in Barossa – an early and short vintage, low yielding, but some good quality amongst the carnage.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2008 Chapel Hill ‘il Vescovo’ Sangiovese

This, my second review featuring a wine from Chapel Hill’s ‘il Vescovo’ range – the first can be found here  – and I don’t mind saying up front (spoiler warning!), I liked it muchly.

Sangiovese around the world can look decidedly different whilst managing to maintain the basic characteristics of the variety. But does anyone do it as well as Chianti? It’s a style thing. So yes, and no, but don't expect an essay on it here. This beauty from McLaren Vale does a pretty fine job of it. Here’s what it looked like:

Lively blood red, bright colour. A note of charry oak greets the nose, a little varnishy; some vanilla-scented spice, musk. Lovely floral aromas of lavender and violets, a touch of liquorice and tar – attacking the nose – some herbal stalky elements, and a yummo whiff of Thai red curry. There’s some coastal heath and native shrubbery notes, and that’s a good thing as I’m a guy who likes a bit of coastal heath and native shrubbery. I also get a sweetish ribena-like character which is a whole lot better than it probably sounds. Ribena for grown-ups.

The palate is round, supple, yet dense and lively. Mouth-watering is the right word, featuring redcurrants and blueberry pie, dark cherry, dried prunes and figs, raisins; and a lovely tomatoey savoury/sweet flavour. Structurally precise, balancing flavour-weight, oak, tannin and acid. The raisiny flavours were so seductive, like a coffee hit.

Seductive, addictive, and a high drinkability factor. Seems to have nailed the savoury/sweet combo and although the wine looked even better with pizza (naturally), it handled itself with aplomb sans food.
Value: A very, very reasonable $22 a bottle – a bargain I say.
Tasted: July 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Purchased

Producer: Chapel Hill – – owned by the Swiss-based Schmidheiny family since 2000.
Region: McLaren Vale, South Australia.
Site: The Kangarilla Vineyard in the foothills of the Mt Lofty Ranges at the eastern edge of McLaren Vale.
Winemaking: Open fermenters, hand-plunged, eight days on skins before basket-pressing. Matured in 2, 3 and 4 year-old French oak for 16 months.
Vintage: Good winter rains followed by a dry spring. Although January was a hottie, the remainder of summer provided ideal ripening conditions. Generally a good year.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Margaret River Cabernet Tasting 1989 - 1999

Well it started small, and as things happen it got a little out of hand and bottles just kept getting opened. A mate was cleaning out the cellar and asked a few buddies to join in a tasting of random wines – all Margaret River – from 1989 to 1999. The following are brief notes on the wines.

The wines are scored as per wine show criteria and based on all tasters feedback. Yes, I hate pointing but in a tasting of this nature it’s helpful to be able to ‘rank’ the wines, as opposed to scoring on a single basis with no comparative. The wines were also tasted before food, and during food, and this affected the results somewhat. They were also tasted over several nights because there was shitloads left and we didn’t want to throw them out.

The wines, by admission, had travelled widely and the storage had been less than desirable on occasion, but all were judged on the merit of the glass in front of us. Comments below referring to brettanomyoces are for information purposes only, and not to fault the wines unless excessive. It should be understood that it was not until the late ‘90’s when Australian winemakers really learned what brett was all about and how to handle it. Too late for a few of these wines.

This tasting was a real cork fiesta for those that froth at the mouth over bark seals and lotteries. It’s difficult to judge a wine and vintage based purely on a single bottle analysis under cork. This was a tasting not about great wines, but great bottles... as they say. But here goes (wines listed in vintage order):

1989 Xanadu Reserve
Browning coffee colour. Initial hit of tar and char, some medicinal mint – befitting both the location and producer – and the merest, tiniest hint of brett. Opened to coffee and chocolate characters, potpourri and the scent of an Indian spice market. The palate opened ragged and raw, but boy did this one settle down with plush, plummy, blackcurrant fruit. Bloody good and still looking the goods on night three – 18.

1989 Leeuwin Estate
Browning coffee colour. Smoked meats on the nose, cedar and tobacco, a touch sweaty with some vegemite aromas which I would normally associate with low-level brett, but in this case I think it more age and site-related. Further on the nose: tar and char, inky redcurrants and perfumed spice, and a touch of curry. There’s a lean-ness on the palate and a contrasting richness which, after time in the glass, takes over. Very bloody good, although had diminished on night three – 18.5.

1990 Xanadu
Herbal blackcurrant, meaty and leathery – showing its age. There’s some lingering richness and coffee choc flavours, but on the whole this wine was viewed as past best, drying and tired. But not bad for the ‘standard’ label – 15.

1990 Xanadu Reserve
Browning coffee colour. Lovely earthy blackcurrant and trademark Xanadu mintiness. Dense molasses and tar, cocoa butter, some herbal elements but also sweet confection and spearmint. Structure still sound, tannins a little dry perhaps but this is very smart for it’s age – 18.

1991 Xanadu
Red brick colour. Earthy blackcurrant, dusty, marshmallow sweetness. A driving tarry aroma hits hard and genuine primary blackfruits. Looks quite fresh. The bouquet offers floral scents of violets, rose-petal and lavender, plus an attractive hint of Thai green curry paste. Huh? Yeah! Palate is weighty for the age, with dense red and blackberry flavours, earth, spice, and just the slightest hint of brett which I was quite happy to forgive. Nice – 17.5.

1991 Xanadu Reserve
Sadly, maybe cork-related, rooted.

1992 Xanadu
Lighter, transparent brick red colour. Intense blackcurrant. Clean, lifted aromas. Straightforward and still quite neat structure – firm tannins, acid still hanging – aromas of mint, choc cherry. Raspberry and redfruit flavours. Simplish, but elegant, and a good blend of savoury and sweet. Loved the food. Nice gear – 17.5.

1994 Cape Mentelle
Warm brick red. Hints of bandaidy brett – a little too much – but behind that we have some lovely dense, brambly blackberry and some very stylish oak, fresh. Bugger the brett. Tarry and charry BBQ meat. Savoury/sweet. This could've been a contender but the brett killed it’s chances – 15.

1994 Mosswood
Warm brick red. Meaty and herbal, dusty – some black tar and a touch of perfume. Some Indian spice on the palate, blackcurrant/blueberry. But something’s not quite right. Maybe cork, hard to say. Expected better – 15.

1994 Leeuwin Estate
Dark brick red. Dusty black olive, fresh savoury/sweet combo. Raspberry redcurrant, plummy. Strong core of cedar and gum (classic Leeuwin). Satsuma plums and tar. Densely layered, fresh, sumptuous. Teeniest hint of brett but nothing to be concerned with. Tannins still firm, but generally structure holding up splendidly. This is good – 18.5.

1995 Vasse Felix
Dark brick red. Touch of brett leaps out but a vein of dark chocolate richness sweeps in. A ripe year in ‘95 and you can see it here. Light and airy sweetness on the palate – redcurrants and blueberry pie. Another goodie spoiled by excessive brett – 15.

1996 Amberley Estate (Cabernet Merlot)
Browning brick red. Dark and brooding nose, some lean-ness, but clean and a driving core of dark fruits. Liquorice, coffee and tobacco, some BBQ char. Is good. It put some of its better-known siblings to shame – 17.5

1996 Xanadu Reserve
Inky brick red. Wow. Hallmark Xanadu mint leaps out of the glass, sweetish yet tarry. Blackcurrant velvety richness, great length. Meaty, curry flavours spring to mind also. In pretty smart condition and came alive with the spicy food later in the eve. A good one – 18.5.

1997 Rosabrook (Cabernet Merlot)

1998 Amberly Estate (Cabernet Merlot)

Something wrong with bottle number one, and a subsequent bottle was marginally better. Safe to say the wine had succumbed to faults and/or possible cork issues.

1998 Vasse Felix
I’m afraid the brett fairies have escorted this wine to the back of the secret garden where we can no longer see it for the good wine it once probably was.

1999 Rosabrook (Cabernet Merlot)
Inky-black deep red. Bounced out of the glass with Margaret River maritime fishiness – not altogether a bad thing. Some burnt rubber sulphidey issue which caused a second bottle to be opened which fared better. Smoky and minty, sweet/savoury stuff going on, dark and red-fruits, with typical blackcurrant richness. A warm year in Margs, and although this was not earth-shatteringly good, it’s holding up pretty well. Or this bottle was – 16.5.

1999 Sandalford
Hmmm. Vegemite and vomit unfortunately. That’s about all I can say.

In summary, this was a very good smattering of older Margaret River cabernet, from a cellar that has apparently been well-travelled and spent occasional periods under somewhat poor conditions. This tasting showed the strength of Margs cabernet to go the distance, and particularly the wines in the cooler years where, in their youth, richness and flavour may have given over to structure and form.

Brief Vintage Rating
1989 – a wildly under-rated year of inclement weather and intense bird pressure, but this tasting proved the ugly ducklings could be belle of the ball.
1990 – considered a very good year. A dry, mild summer allowing grapes to reach full sugar/flavour ripeness. Some excellent wines produced.
1991 – one of the best, although the debate rages between this and 1990. Some heat spikes early in vintage in an otherwise ideal harvest season.
1992 – considered a Jekyll/Hyde vintage. The winter and spring was difficult, yet summer turned on the good weather. Late rain during vintage impacted some. All about structure.
1993 – dry and cool year after hail had reduced yields significantly. Some good wines made. A good year. (no wines from 1993 featured in our tasting)
1994 – another of the best – perfect ripening conditions. Cooler later in the vintage but this year the structure was matched by richness and flavour.
1995 – hot baby, hot. But even under these conditions Margaret River showed what it’s made of with wines of power, yet finesse. Great year.
1996 – another very good vintage, with ideal ripening conditions producing wines of fine structure and flavour concentration.
1997 – a good year that almost wasn’t. The weather gods kept the rain at bay and Margaret River basked in sunshine and warmth.
1998 – a mixed bag, with mid-harvest rains and bird craziness. Those who waited out the rains were rewarded with ripeness and structure. A difficult year.
1999 – late season, and warm/hot. Some mid-harvest rains again but wait, wait, wait was the buzzword. Some big flavours in this year and matching structure. A beauty.

Friday, June 24, 2011

2008 Luke Lambert Nebbiolo

Big bottle. Wax seal. Diam cork. As you progress through the ritual of opening this wine, the moment arrives when you pour the wine from the heavy glass vessel, and there’s an expectation you’ll see an inky black liquid oozing from the neck into your wine glass. But it’s not inky black. It’s light and transparent, with brick red hues like a pinot; unexpected really, but that’s the colour of this nebbiolo.

Opening notes of mint and raspberry lead to a wide spectrum of aromas ranging from the floral: violets and lavender, to the herbal: wild heath, sage and anise: to the savoury and dry: black tea, char, white pepper and tomato pizza sauce base (yes, I love balsamic!). There’s strong pencilly notes too – perhaps an oak derivative – but the general tone is in the red-fruited spectrum.

The palate runs with a similar reddish theme of raspberry and cherry flavours; a touch of marshmallow sweetness. There’s great drive and depth of flavour, but without the weight – that’s OK, it doesn’t need weight. It’s supple, textured and layered; seductive and savoury; with surprisingly citrussy acid and firm, yet fine, tannin. There’s some smoky char and tar too. It works a treat with food – on this occasion: pork sausage, roast potato, sundried tomato and olives.

It has the X factor, of which I am particularly fond yet inadequately equipped to elucidate with any precision. I think the best is yet to come. Hell, it’s still evolving in my glass.

I like it, as is obvious by now. I think I’ll start scoring wines in this blog with a simple X factor – yes, or no. OK, that may be a little simplistic. But this is another wine that speaks clearly of variety and place when supped alone, yet evolves and sings loudly when coupled with food.
Value: It ain’t cheap at $38 a bottle, but it’s one of those ‘gotta try one’ wines.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Diam (appears clean)
Source: Purchased

Producer: Luke Lambert Wines – – cultish producer, but don’t let that put you off. Based in the Yarra but this wine from Heathcote.
Region: Heathcote, Victoria.
Vintage: Good winter rains followed by a warm spring and summer, ending hot in some parts. Generally a good Heathcote year.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2010 Printhie Mountain Range Pinot Gris

I’ve been under the weather this weekend and had to postpone a big tasting I had planned with a few buddies yesterday. But before I succumbed to the horrendous man-flu that cut me down so savagely in my tracks, I snuck this wine in. Here’s a brief note on it.

I don’t usually read anything on the wines I’m tasting so I’m not distracted or influenced by others. Nor do I read the back labels, so I don’t even know the wine handling usually. I went in blind on this one. Pinot gris is a tough ask on wine-tasters – my partner likes them, and when quizzed she says ‘because they don’t have much taste’. Hardly a recommendation I know, but sometimes you just want a simple white wine and not have to think too hard about it. That’s pinot gris. So, although I was expecting the usual non-descript pinot gris style, I was pleasantly surprised to find much more.

Lovely aromatics of rose petal and sherbet, some green apple and nashi pear. There were some herbal qualities too, in a nice way – imagine rubbing a fresh bay leaf between your fingers before smelling them. Also liked the orange rind-iness. And the honeyed lime.

Taste-wise I picked out some limey citrus flavours and some marzipan, but the remainder fitted into the floral/spice spectrum: sandalwood, musk, rosewater – and ending with ripe stone fruits: peach, nectarine. There’s a creaminess and layering on the palate too which led me to suspect some barrel work. It’s very well-handled – there, but not there – if you know what I mean.

This is probably the most enjoyable pinot gris I’ve had in many a moon. Quite pleased with my tasting efforts too, as my notes uncannily reflect what the Printhie dudes wrote on their back-label – an unusual occurrence. But it's the booze that matters, and this is good booze.
Value: Very good value at $17.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Printhie Wines – – owned by The Swift family.
Region: Orange, NSW – the NSW central tablelands east of Sydney – a wine region of high-ish elevation.
Vintage: A difficult vintage with yields down across the board for many – although some excellent quality prevailed.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

2009 Willow Bridge ‘Wild Ferment’ Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc

This wine appeared in a sample pack I received a few months ago and I’ve only just got to it. Yes, I know it says 2009 and I bet you’re all groaning right now. But I have to tell you, I didn’t check the vintage before opening and tasting this wine and assumed from the outset it was current vintage, being 2010, until I looked at the label. It actually looked pretty fresh for it's age.

Willow Bridge Estate are a sleeper out here in WA – we’ve all heard of them, but not many wine nerds probably get around to giving them a crack (this nerd included). They’re roughly 10 years old, and based in the Ferguson Valley (where?). They’ll hate me for saying this, but to set the scene for you, the Ferguson Valley is located approx 100km north of Margaret River in the hills immediately to the east of the regional city of Bunbury. It’s quite a little tourist hub now, can be very pretty, and is worth a visit on your WA trip.

The winemaker is Simon Burnell, formerly of Cape Mentelle in Margaret River, so he knows his stuff. Fruit for this particular wine is sourced from the Pemberton wine region, located south-west of the Ferguson Valley. I love Pemby Savvy. Alright, I know, I’ve probably confused you all now. It doesn't really matter. Read on..

Colour is pale to golden straw. All pineapple and marshmallow, flinty minerality and nettles. Some herbals/florals – nice – and some attractive spice characters in the form of anise and vanilla. Lively pungency still, soft in the acid department, and finishing with sweetish banana passionfruit aromas.

The first thing that I note on the palate is the creamy texture, which I’m guessing is aided by the partial natural fermentation. Flavours are in the greener tropicals – kiwifruit, rockmelon – and some citrussy lemon. On the fringes there’s herbal flavours of lemon myrtle, and lemongrass. Too much lemon you say? Oh, and a bit of lime and a touch of lovely wheatgrass.

This does look pretty fresh for 2009 and is drinking well right now. Pemby is quite a bit cooler than Margaret River and therefore the wines exude a bit more lean, yet punchy, minerality, and a bit less of the tropical stuff. When they get the balance right, it’s very nice indeed. I enjoyed this and will probably seek out the 2011 version when it’s ready later this year. I think this wine forms part of the ‘Winemakers’ range, which, thankfully, has undergone a label change in recent times.
Value: The current release is $25 – I’m assuming this wine was in line with that. Up there, but a decent drop.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Willow Bridge Estate – – Established in 1996 by the Dewar family.
Region: Ferguson Valley, Western Australia, although this wine is from the Pemberton region, south-west of Ferguson.
Site: Well-drained Marri soils, ironstone gravelly loam over clay.
Vintage: A top vintage in Pemberton – good winter rains preceded a mild and warm growing season without weather extremes or disease.

Monday, June 6, 2011

2007 Windows Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine picked up the Trophy for Wine Of The Show at the WA Boutique Wine Awards – a show I’d never heard of before now. (Turns out to be the Blackwood Valley region’s local event, and I guess any producer of a certain small size can enter). I’m not gonna say the judges messed up, but this wine must've looked a whole lot better in 2008 when it won the Trophy.

The green stalkiness on display is just too much and I found my notes peppered with the word 'green' throughout. The dominant aroma was freshly cut capsicum. OK, major negative dealt with swiftly.

On the plus side there’s a pulsing, driving blackcurrant thread on the nose and throughout the palate, some lovely BBQ char and tar aromas, savoury black olive. Herbal notes include bay leaf and sage, and there’s tobacco leaf and eucalypt wrapped in vanillan oak.

The palate has some decent flavour weight and length, but the greenness and herbal spectrum of flavours dominate, in my view. The dense, chewy blackcurrant is attractive. I feel the structure also lets this wine down a bit – the acid is still too crunchy and seems out of kilter with the rest of the elements.

I hate to say it but this was a bit of a disappointment. Further on-line research shows it never soared to the heights of the Trophy in WA, winning Bronze medals elsewhere and 89 points from Halliday. Look, it’s not a bad, bad wine. It’s just not a Trophy-winner in my book.
Value: The current release is $32 so I’m assuming the 2007 vintage was around the same, or slightly less. I think that price is a little too high for this wine (2007).
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Windows Estate – – Established in 1996 and now owned by the Davies family, the winery/vineyard is located at the northern end of Margaret River (near Yallingup).
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly and sandy soils over a clay base. The website declares the property as dry-grown.
Vintage: A mild winter leading into a warm and early vintage, finishing hot. A much-heralded vintage in Margs with many wines achieving great show success around the world, especially for cabernet.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Delcado Zuleta ‘La Goya’ Manzanilla

A little background: Bodegas Delcado Zuleta is the oldest family-owned sherry producer in the Jerez region, and is located around the town of Sanluca de Barrameda. Manzanilla is the appellation name for fino sherry made from the Sanluca area. The La Goya is a manzanilla pasada, which means the ageing is for eight years in contrast to the usual 4 or 5. The (white) grape variety used in producing La Goya is palamino.

It was a Friday night and we were feeling all wintery so we lobbed a pot of fennel & potato soup on the stove. In true wintery fashion I pulled out a bottle of La Goya to match, and this is what we saw...

A lovely pale golden straw of pristine clarity. As expected, rancio and nutty characters expressed themselves strongly. There was a slight medicinal quality hovering in the background, perhaps more kindly described as a greenish spearmint. I get a hint of my old favourite descriptor – maritime. And then there’s florals (rose petal, camomile and frangipani), and fruits (apple, pear, poached quince), some toast and marmalade, green peppercorns and capers, varnishy oak, and a dollop of overripe orange rind.

Creamy on the palate with some tarty citrus flavours, nutty and raisiny, some lanolin. Prior to the food, the palate fell away at about the 2/3 mark, but when matched with the fennel soup it bounced back, and the back-end came alive with citrus freshness and sweetness.

This particular La Goya was bottled December 2009 so perhaps needed to be topped a bit earlier than we managed.

Yeah, it’s a good drink for the price, and a worthy pour with a soup starter at your dinner parties.
Alcohol: 15%
Value: $18 for 375ml bottle. A fair price for an import of this pedigree.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Bodegas Delcado Zuleta – – Established in 1744.
Region: Sanluca de Barrameda, Spain.
Site: No specific site info but Sanluca is a cool and humid seaside village.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2006 Hillcrest ‘Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon

Since purchasing the property in 1999 David and Tanya Bryant have meticulously set about developing their small Yarra Valley vineyard, and the resulting wines made from it, into a powerhouse of European classical style. The early wines were made by Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip fame, however the more recent wines were made by David, having undertaking his apprenticeship with the big guy. Current production is under 1,000 cases per annum which surely gives the Bryants leave to call themselves “micro-boutique”.

If I’m right, the vineyard produces four levels of quality – Village, Estate, Premium and Reserve. The Village wines come from newer plantings since 2000, while the higher end use the fruit from the original 1970 plantings. Tonight’s wine is under the Estate label and it looks a little like this..

A lively red brick colour, slight browning around the rim. The first whiff and you get a sense for the European style these guys are chasing. It looks classic claret, and the word is ‘black’. Black tar, black olive and blackcurrant. To redress this dark fixation I’ll note a little white pepper on the nose and some juicy redcurrant. Pencilly oak hangs in the background and the wine opens further to reveal some herb and florals – fresh-cut sage, rosebush, rosemary jelly. It’s quite seductive really. You know it’s not a big wine, but all on the nose appears complex and complete. So far, so good.

The palate is soft and plush, plummy. There’s savoury olive again and some rare lamb in its juices. The sweet/savoury balance is finely tuned. Again, old-fashioned claret springs to mind. The wine has the appearance of being quite simple, with medium weight and length, but its seductive powers lie in the flavours and balance. Blackcurrant dominates, cedary oak, fresh herb, silky tannin. A wine of texture and class.

It’s good. I could not find fault with this wine – it’s no orgiastic, hedonistic mind-blower, but there’s a restrained elegance and sophistication that really appeals. We dusted it off with some home-made pizzas and it went down a treat. I guzzled it.
Value: $37 at the time of purchase. It’s up there, and I know my notes are all positive, but I think it’s probably a bit on the high side.
Tasted: May 2011
Closure: Cork (an excellent example)

Producer: Hillcrest Vineyard – – Established in 1970, purchased by the Bryants in 1999. Now farmed as organic and yields are between one and three tonnes per acre.
Region: Yarra Valley, Victoria.
Site: High elevation, grey gravel over yellow-grey loam. The vineyard is reportedly unirrigated.
Vintage: Good spring rains followed by a warm summer and mild Autumn. A very good year with optimum hang time and ripeness.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

2003 Cape Mentelle Zinfandel

Oh my freakin’ goodness. Do these wines still get made today? Apparently so, according to the Cape Mentelle website (quite possibly the most frustrating of any wine producer on the planet). The current vintage is 2008 and makes no mention of alcohol strength, but I’m gonna say right up front this 2003 is badged with 16% and shows every freakin’ bit of that. Read on...

The colour is dense and dark and brooding, with brick red hues and even a slight purpling around the edges. The first thing that hits you on the nose is the alcohol – no surprises there. There’s a whole lot going on in the glass than that, but it’s hard to escape the over-awing sweetness of high-octane rocket fuel. But I’ll have a go. To make it easy I’ll simply list the characters and descriptors that sprung to mind as I took my first look at this beast.

Cracking oak
Cane basket (yeah I know, weird, but I'm guessing oak-derived character)
Brambly red fruit drive
Boysenberry jam
Savoury black olive
Shoe leather
Star anise, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
Xmas trifle where grandma spilled the entire contents of the sherry bottle in the cake mix

Often when tasting wine I try to delineate the berry fruit characters between black, blue and red but this one covers all of them with equal intensity. You can smell the alcohol, and quite a VA lift. I felt a little woozy after merely smelling this wine in the process of writing the above notes. I sat down to regain my composure.

The palate follows a similar theme, and it’s lush and viscous – full of fruity richness, xmas pudding, candied oak – well-integrated after all this time in bottle. There’s a bit of an ethyl acetate bite. The alcohol and oak drive this animal but thankfully there’s some other stuff going on. Like florals – lavender and violets – and some intense fruit-weight – marzipan, spice, coconut and cherry ripe. In fact imagine a cherry ripe chocolate bar soaked in sherry.

Shit, I really dunno. It’s a brute. Too porty for red wine, too winey for port. I only managed one glass before succumbing. If it was made to look like this, then it was cleverly made. Is it a good drink? I can’t say. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow night and let you know. With food? Well, the food tamed it slightly.
Value: I don’t know the price because the Cape Mentelle website doesn’t offer such things. And I can't remember where I got this bottle from.
Tasted: May 2011
Closure: Cork (an excellent example)

Producer: Cape Mentelle Vineyards – – Established in 1970 by David Hohnen and friends, the winery is considered one of the elite producers of Margaret River. Hohnen later went on to develop Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and then sold his winery interests to the massive LVMH Group. He now runs pigs and sheep while keeping his toe in the wine industry by way of McHenry Hohnen Vintners.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly loam and some sandy soils over a clay base.
Vintage: A dry winter, mild spring and summer. February was hot and sugars accelerated, but a cool change in March created some difficulties with phenolic ripeness. Average year for the region.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2010 Margaret River Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc Tasting

Is Margaret River the king of Semillon Sauvignon blends? Nah, I’m not buying into those arguments, but the 2010 vintage was a very smart one indeed for the region. These wines represent a good cross-section of producers and styles – some oaked, some not, some pretending not to be oaked. They were tasted blind at an informal gathering a little while back and I finally got around to writing them up.

All wines are from Margaret River. All wines are 2010 vintage. The following are not all the wines tasted, just a snapshot, and not all the 'medal' winners are listed. There’ll be a brief note on each wine lifted straight from my tasting sheet, plus a ‘medal’ rating for those that made the cut. I hate scoring wines, but in the interests of comparison – or rather, ranking – I’ve fallen back on the tried and (un)true format of the 20-point score, and therefore wine-show medal ratings.

Edwards Semillon Sauvignon Blanc - $23
Subdued on nose; herbal, green bean. Under-ripe citrus, tangy grapefruit a with touch of pineapple. Seems tired?

Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc - $22
So2 attacks. Green apples, tangy lime. Crisp, acid bites. Flavours not developed. Has weight but finishes short

Preveli Wines Semillon Sauvignon Blanc - $19
Touch reductive on opening, some funk. At the greener end of the spectrum – green pea and herb, some zesty lime, peach fuzz and passionfruit/grapefruit. A minerally herbal style.

Flametree Semillon Sauvignon Blanc - $22
Touch of oak? Simple citrus/tropical aromas. Palate lean, underdeveloped. Some grapefruit. Fruit lacking intensity, but wine is sound.

Fraser Gallop Estate Semillon Sauvignon Blanc - $22
Citrus and herb on nose, palate goes tropical. Good complexity, weight and a bit of ‘X’ factor. Bit of oak maybe? Very good wine.

Hamelin Bay ‘Five Ashes’ Semillon Sauvignon Blanc - $22
Grassy, wet straw. Oak evident, yet unassuming. Harmony wine; flavours integrated and complex from tropical to citrus. Very nice.

Redgate Wines Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $21
Salty dog! (What’s the pH?). Matchstick flint, minerally – like mineral water. Lifted aromas of citrus and passionfruit, but slightly subdued. Lacks weight.

Cullen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $35
Lean. Grapefruit tang, lemon/lime. Some drive on palate. Citrussy, plus green tropicals. Some oak too. Uninspiring.

Cape Mentelle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $28
Stalky and lean with some meaty & earthy characters. Grapefruity. Good weight – flavours at herbal and citrus end – nice length. Serious style. A keeper.

Watershed Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $17
Pungent, ripe tropical fruit salad. Fresh and zesty palate. Crisp, weighty, long, good. Simple, yet fulsome!

Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $24
Grassy, lime zest, passionfruit & pineapple – citrus lemon/lime on palate, nice acid, weight and length. Some dustiness – touch of oak?

Vasse Felix Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $25
So2 on opening. Minerally, salty seaweed. Cut grass. Fruit in tropical spectrum yet lean oak cools things down. Palate opens in glass. Complex. Good fruit/oak balance. Well made.

Xanadu Sauvignon Blanc Semillon - $26
Exotic! Tropical, wild yeasty aromas. Floral. A steely line and a sweet muskiness. Behind: fuzzy citrus, passionfruit and Asian fruits. Wild!
Gold (An atypical style, but I like a bit of boundary-pushing. An out-there wine)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

2010 Rosily Sauvignon Blanc

Had this wine for dinner a couple of nights after the Woody Nook, and because it’s in the same neighbourhood I thought I’d bang up a couple of notes as a comparison exercise.

Rosily are one of the quiet achievers in the region – you see there wines around the cities a bit so I guess their distribution is good. I’ve often enjoyed the cabernet in good years too. The 2010 Sauvignon Blanc goes something like this:

A punch of gooseberry opens the account with some typical Margaret River minerality, a bit of smoky bacon, and a poke in the eye with a lemongrass stalk. There’s a touch of green pea too but it’s blown away by some lemon sherbet and a jube-like aroma. Yellow jubes to be precise. I even detected a spot of spearmint which caught me off-guard, but hey, I like spearmint.

The palate is all citrussy zest, lemon and lime – crisp, nutty – a few green tropical fruits, lychee, gooseberry and some raw pineapple. There’s a bit of green tea too but the fruitier flavours fill every crevice of the palate and coat the tongue in lovely creamy textures. Looks like a bit of oak influence to give some complexity but not so you’d notice it. Good weight/length. What more could you want?

Yep, I liked it and gave it a more confident thumbs-up than the Woody Nook. Tasted cleaner and fresher and the texture won me over.
Value: $22 at the bottlo. Justified.
Tasted: May 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Rosily Vineyard – – A relative newcomer with vines established in 1994 by the Allan family. Mike Lemmes is the winemaker.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Soil specs run from gravelly loam to coarse gravel to light sandy soils over a clay base.
Vintage: Another superb year in the blessed west. Brilliant for whites with warm, dry conditions throughout summer.

2010 Woody Nook Sauvignon Blanc

In days gone by, on visits down south, these guys were a staple – if only for the Nooky Port, which if given as a gift would cause one’s friends to titter and wink and blush. At a more serious level the winery was renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc – trophies and gold medals adorn the walls of the cellar door, alongside a gazillion business cards pasted as wallpaper around the tasting room. And of course the Nookery CafĂ© was always worthy of a stop for a good/big feed. Well time's hurtled on and port’s a little out of fashion and, for many, the Woody Nook wines also fell out of fashion with the onslaught of new producers, new decades, and new tastes.

On a quick visit for lunch recently we hooked into a platter for two – lovingly ‘80’s in style – and a bottle of the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. Here’s what it looked like:

Opening with the struck match flintiness of a little sulphur, the nose turned more pleasantly to some lean minerality, cut grass, lavender and pungent herbs – lemongrass and sage. On the fruit side of things I picked out some banana passionfruit and rockmelon – greener tropical fruits generally – some lemon zest and lime leaf. Overall I kept coming back to a driving core of dried orange peel and a sense that the fruit was perhaps a little attenuated.

On first taste the palate tickled a tad with sherbetty acid before stretching out into paw-paw and passionfruit fruitiness, and that old perennial – tinned pineapple. Some good palate weight but I found a little too much coarseness again, flinty coarseness really, but it rounds out at the end and the length is good.

I kept swinging between like and ambivalent. In the end the good-guy in me won out over the picky, pedantic bad-guy and I’ll give this wine a moderate thumbs-up.
Value: $22 at cellar door. Fair enough.
Tasted: May 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Woody Nook Wines – – established in 1982 by the Gallagher family but now owned by Peter and Jane Bailey. Neil Gallagher remains as winemaker.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: 17 hectares in total, half of which is non-irrigated. No specific soil profile available, however this part of the region generally contains gravelly loams with underlying clay.
Vintage: Another superb year in the blessed west. Brilliant for whites with warm, dry conditions throughout summer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

2005 Domaine de Villeneuve ‘Les Vieilles Vignes’

Since taking ownership in 1993 the Wallut and Roy de Blicquy families have been knocking out some pretty smart booze from their Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyards. Although I have no information as to the precise blend of this wine I’m guessing it’s predominantly Grenache, with Mourvedre and Shiraz and possibly up to ten other red varieties. So, here’s the gen on the 2005 ‘Les Vieilles Vignes’.

A dullish brick-red colour greets, slight browning at the edges but still retaining some purple hues. Tarry, charry black plum and cherry lead the way on the nose, with meat and spice – star anise, cardamom – some marzipan character and a touch of VA (it's OK). There’s some brambly earth and blackberry, red raisined currants, and a little leafy black tea and herb.

The structure of this wine is pretty sound. Firm yet approachable tannin, relaxed acid, supple texture, mid-weight and a reasonably lengthy sweet finish. On the flavour-ometer we get black cherry, rasberry/blueberry, earthy, gamey and pretty much all-round grenachey-ness. There was a muddy coffee character, some tar,licorice and coconut, and a certain marshmallowy sweetness that was highlighted when combined with our spare ribs and pork belly and rice.

I almost forgot about the oak treatment because, quite frankly, I didn’t really notice it – I’m sure it’s there and supporting the structure perfectly, but it melds so effortlessly with the savoury flavours it doesn’t stick out.

I liked it. Quintessential Rhone and probably best tried with food. More savoury than sweet – it handled the spiciness of the ribs and the salty crispness of the belly nicely. A bloody nice wine from a bloody nice vintage.
Value: This aint cheap. I picked this up at a bargain rate from a mate who was changing his wine-list, but I think in the big wide world you’d pay near-on $80 for it. Big number, wine is good, you be the judge.
Tasted: April 2011
Closure: Cork (a perfect example)

Producer: Domaine de Villeneuve – – owned since 1993 by the Wallut and Roy de Blicquy families.
Region: Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone Valley, south-eastern France.
Site: A mixture of red clay, silt and pebbles – some sites on silt, clay and fine sand – a real historical maritime area.
Vintage: Outstanding. Warm, but not hot, with cool nights. Wines will be long-lived.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

2004 Castano Hecula Monastrell

Castano is the producer. Monastrell is the variety, but don’t be frightened because you probably know it better as Mourvedre or Mataro. Bodegas Castano is the biggest producer in a region known as Yecla in the south-east of Spain, a little west of Alicante. Monastrell is the major variety in Yecla. Although it can vary between regions and climates, Monastrell has a reputation for colour, tannin and alcohol. Picture painted, on with the notes.

Starting to brown a little around the edges but otherwise a dense purple/black. The nose leads with rich, ripe, sweetish raisiny blackcurrant and a liberal dose of redfruits. There’s a touch of aged leatheriness and some spicy vanillan licorice, a whiff of cardamom/cumin, and on the savoury side some char and tar and black olive. There’s gorgeous red berried ripeness and choc-cherry mocha. The oak is very subtle, savoury and stylish.

The age is showing more obviously on the palate with raisiny coffee choc, molasses, orange rind and raspberry coulis. There’s some satisfying black tea bitterness – tannins probably – I’m not complaining. And some smoky, gamey flavours to promote the savoury elements. But how’s that mouthfeel? Smooth as a baby’s back-end. Supple. Texturally lush. Probably the alcohol – it is 14.5% after all.

The Hecula Monastrell spends 6 months in French oak.

Gee I enjoyed this. It’s getting on a bit in life but it’s still a really good brew, especially with good company and a few home-cooked pizzas – casual style. Everyone loved the texture and blend of sweet/savoury. You could call it a quaffer, and it probably qualifies for that at approx $25, but it’s a bit more special than that.
Value: Approx $25 in Australia – very good value for a decent import of this quality.
Tasted: April 2011
Closure: Cork

Producer: Bodegas Castano – – the largest producer in Yecla, Spain, with 450Ha of vines. A family affair.
Region: Yecla, south-eastern Spain.
Site: The vineyard source for this wine is 750m altitude and include 35 year old bush-vines. A combo of dry sandy stone and limey clay.
Vintage: Exceptional for the most part. Warm, dry conditions – generally rain and disease-free.