I do this blog for fun, the wines here are some of the very few I can be bothered to write up. The cream has risen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Whitefeather Red 2006

Some people have a knack for being able to make you feel comfortable and welcome, they make you feel like they're an old friend you've known for years, even when you've only just met them. That's what John Saunders is like.

John's clearly put his style stamp on the Saunders Springs Vineyards in McLaren Vale, and that style goes way beyond just the name. But before I get ahead of myself there's the view driving down to the cellar door through the vineyard;

Saunders Springs Vineyard - McLaren Vale

The haze you can see over the house is from the brilliant wood oven he's built in dining area. Oh before I show more pics I must apologise to you and John for the terrible quality, they really don't do the place justice.

You can see the wood oven in the back left. There's a huge table you can just see part of on the front right, this was from a salvage yard and was clearly cut a very long time ago, off what must have been a massive tree. The design of the area around the oven and cellar door feels like you've stepped back to a 150 years ago. Give me class like this over chrome and glass any day.

I took several pictures of the cellar door area, and almost all of them are horribly blurry, which has nothing to do with the wines I assure you. However, at least I have a good picture of the brilliant bar design which John made from old hogs heads (wood not swine), it's hard to see in the pic but the front of the bar is quite straight;

Oh yeah, I was gonna review a wine. The Whitefeather Red 2006 has won a number of awards at wines shows, and I'm rather skeptical of wine judges these days, but getting Silver/Highly Commended at the McLaren Vale Wine Show is something that is more than reasonable to crow about I reckon. 

The wine is 81% Cabernet and 19% Shiraz, and matured in French and American oak for 13 months. It's full bodied with very good fruit, however I found the tannins somewhat dry at tasting and they are hiding the fruit a little at this stage. We later had the wine with dinner and as a food wine the flavours really come out to dance on the tongue. I reckon this one has many years before it's hit it's peak too.

Highly Recommended if you're having with food and ****.

Google is a bit of a failure when it comes to finding Saunders Springs have a look here: http://www.saunderssprings.com.au/

PS. tastings are by appointment, which I reckon gives you a good excuse to ask if the wood oven can be fired up for a pizza or two and you can see if I was right about the wine with food.

Moredsir makes wine!

I've made wine before, with mixed success, but I find it fun regardless of the outcome. So here's a little taste of what we did last weekend.

Find the Shiraz grapes

Fill as many tubs as you can fit in 2 cars

Marvel at Nokia's idea of colour correction

How to de-stem: place grapes on old bread tray
roll hand over grapes, grapes fall through holes
Stems stay on top. Viola!
No amount of foot scrubbing was acceptable to the crew, so plastic soled boots for the crush!

 The de-stem and crush took a bit over an hour and we ended up with 100L of must (from the Latin vinum mustum meaning young wine) which is the juice, skins and seeds. Yeast was added, a bit of yeast nutrient and our work was done for now. For the curious, the must was 26 Brix flat, so around 14.5 Baume. I have little control over temperature so I'm happy it's sitting around 22C.

We must have matured in our winemaking practices as nobody was asking "is it ready yet?".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Head Wines The Blonde 2009

You know how you buy a wine purely on a reviewer's glowing recommendation, then when you get it you think the wine is pretty mediocre to say the least? This is not one of those wines.

I got some of this as I liked the idea that Alex Head is trying to make complex and classy wines from the Barossa Valley, somewhat inspired by wines from Côte Rotie in France's Rhone Valley. Actually he's gone well beyond "trying".

I'm a fan of big, bold, powerhouse BV Shiraz, but I don't want to drink it everytime I have a red. Indeed I drink red wines largely because of variety, and I'm often mystified by those who drink just one brand of anything. So, I'm pretty impressed by this wine that is not a run of the mill Shiraz-Viognier.

A quick sniff after opening and you can initially pick up the apricots like in a lot of SV, but a bit of breathing in the decanter and that melds with the other rich Shiraz aromas. On the tongue the tannins initially had me thinking they are a bit big and grippy yet, but they're balanced with superb acid that gives this wine a very more-ish mouthfeel. The fruit is just brilliant quality, absolutely top notch stuff.

I won't be opening another bottle of this for at least 3 years, though that is going to be really hard to manage. Not sure how available this is as only around 300 cases are made and it's well past the release date.

Rated excellent and ****

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Marius Harvest 2011

Whilst I wasn't in the place I most desired to be at 7am on a Saturday, I did appreciate the sunrise over McLaren Vale as we arrived at Roger Pike's vineyard. Earlier in the week, the weather forecast suggested we might get some rain, but I don't think I saw a cloud all day and you can see a long way from up there.

Roger made sure we had everything we needed, including plenty of food and drinks. It was a very enjoyable day, I found that after a while I settled into a rythym and could run pretty much on auto-pilot, with just enough of my brain tasked to watch for the very rare bad grapes - a stalled verasion caused just a few grapes to not fully ripen, and an even smaller number suffered bunch stem necrosis.

In the end I thought the picking went very quick, and I was suprised just how fast beer-o-clock came around. I thoroughly recommend the experience if you get the chance. Cheers to all my picking mates, hope to see you all again next year.

Fantastic weather and fabulous view, not long after sunrise.

Small, black and very tasty
Some bunches weren't so easy to pick off the vine
To make wine, first get a bucket of grapes

The bin is half full - I think I'm being optimistic
When the grapes reach the top of the bin it's beer-o-clock!
Amazing what people will do for a taste of Marius wines

The after picking session included some incredible wines from Roger. I didn't take notes so I've only got overall impressions, and thus I also hope I got the years right!

2008 End Play
Probably the lightest of all Maruis wines that I've tried but that's due to the tannins being fairly subdued compared to the others. Could be a Shiraz Sangiovese blend, maybe, but nobody dropped any hints that I heard. Very good wine.

2006 Simpatico
Wow, just wow. Drinking beautifully now but clearly many years ahead, great complexity. Excellent wine.

2005 Symphony
Superb wine, the kind of wine that makes you close your eyes so you can devote more of you brain to your tastebuds. Showing a bit of age complexity, my #2 overall if I was ranking.

2006 Symposium
Mind bogglingly good, my favourite Marius to date, though I'm a latecomer to them. More compexity than the 07, but that could simply be the extra year's age, but she's certainly a more classy Queen. Outstanding.

2008 Simpatico
Slightly surprising to me this wine is already into it's drink now window, it is earthy and savoury and very impressive. I like it a little bit more than the 07 Simpatico. Excellent.

2008 Symphony
A bit more fruit forward and less 'developed' than the Simpatico and thus I won't be touching mine (if I get my hands on some) for a couple of years at least, the orchestra is still tuning up atm. However clearly a great wine with fabulous structure, I have no doubt I would rate it excellent in about a years time.

We also had an unblended barrel sample that I am unsure of the year which was very interesting, and a sample of the straight Mouvedre which again I am unsure of the year, but I found it a bit young with very dry tannins so I don't have a good handle on it's flavours as a single variety. 

A great tasting session and it's abundantly clear that Roger is an artist when it comes to creating balanced and complex wines that get better with age.

I believe the 08s are being released after the 2011 vintage madness gives him some spare time to do it.

I know very little about how the flavours of ripe grapes translate into wines, but I can tell you the 2011 grapes tasted absolutely delicious, and combined with me tenderly soothing every bunch I picked into the bucket you can all expect the 2011 vintage to be superb.   Grin

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cardinham Estate 2008 Shiraz

Lovely dark burgundy as I poured into the decanter but quite black in the glass. I last tried this on a Sunday morning back in November, and that was after vowing I'd already bought enough reds and so was only going to Cardinham to see if I could snaffle a bottle of their world beating 2003 Reisling.

Considering the early hour I felt my palate was abnormaly accurate so was surprised to see Gary Walsh's review pinned to the wall giving this only a 90. I told Noel, the winemaker, that I thought he had been hard done by with 'only' a 90 but Noel was all philosophical about it. I think you can afford to be philosophical when you make wines as good as he does.

Trying it again now, I do agree that the tannins are a bit too rustic but merely in the sense that this is clearly a wine to age for a while if you want to see it at it's best, and it should be a ripper in 5 years or so. There's plenty of delicious fruit, balanced acid, and good savoury complexity. The finish is fairly long and comes in waves.

Pretty big wine for a Clare Shiraz, but still quite classy. I'll also give you the tip that the barrel samples I tried of the 09 and 10 wines were extremely good stuff, keep an eye out down the track.

No hesitation in giving it a Highly Recommended++ and **** at $20

Since I have been slack about pics lately, here's one of the 2010 Cab Sav barrel sample at around 10 months old - as you can see the bloody thing was trying to climb out the glass!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Madeleines McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007

This has got a really great nose, it's voluptuous and full like Barbera Streisand's konk but sexy as hell like Catherine Zeta-Jones' sculptured schnoz. Not sure I would have picked this blind as a straight McLaren Vale Shiraz as it's got a little of that cooler climate style to it, ie. some pepper and spices with a few herbs.

If I was trying to be picky I'd say the 15% is showing a bit, but considering this ain't a fruit bomb and not remotely jammy then I'm not sure that's much of a negative really.

Recommended++ and **** and I'm really looking forward to trying this again in 2-3 years.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kalleske Pirathon 09

Not a proper review because I didn't take notes - I was distracted by good friends and good food. However, I can say for sure that it's bloody good stuff. I've a few 09's now and it's looking like a great Shiraz vintage in SA.

Highly Recommended+++ and **** especially if you can get it for $20 like I did.