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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Winter in McLaren Vale

Winter in the Vale? Well it is technically, it is July after all, but with a beautiful sunny day around 20C it doesn't feel too much like winter today. Roger Pike of Marius Wines told me he had a fairly thick frost the other morning, so I guess winter is lurking around, it was just taking the day off today I guess.

A lot of vineyards are in the middle of pruning right now, and that's where I interrupted Roger giving the legionnaires a short back and sides. The 2011 vintage went very well for him, as you would know if you read my picking article a few months back. He happened to have on hand a part bottle from a barrel sample of the 2010 Shiraz, which had been exposed to the air for the last 5 days. Despite that, the wine is showing great promise indeed, and I couldn't even detect any VA.

I also called in on Dudley Brown of Inkwell Wines. Apparently the 2008 Shiraz and 2009 Zin are all gone, though perhaps tiny amounts may be available at retail. Dudley was generous in giving me a taste of a number of barrels as well. They all showed great promise, with some interesting blends likely coming out of them down the track.

One interesting comparison was between two 2011 Inkwell Shiraz barrels, where this year he was careful to seperate during harvest the grapes from two geologically different areas of his Shiraz vineyard. Roughly in the middle of that vineyard the soil changes, literally in a single step, and you can taste it in the grapes and thus of course the wine, where the difference was quite clear. I think Dudley called it geoenology, aka terroir if you're French.

And when you actually taste just how much the soil affects the wine, you then have to shake your head at the monumental idiocy of the South Australian government, who actually approved housing development on one of the oldest geological areas of McLaren Vale.

(Anyway, enough about the foolish, looks like Rann is about to get run outta the top job anyway, perhaps he can take Rau with him.)

I also called in on Redheads Studio, who I have been meaning to check out for a while and was thankfully reminded of by Dudley. Because of all the barrel samples and needing to drive home I only tried a limited selection. Showing my excellent taste I chose the Longwood 2009 Pinot, which was quite clever of me because Phil Christiansen who is the winemaker was at the cellar door. I had been wanting to meet him since trying his very good 2007 Shiraz - I tried his 2010 Shiraz whilst I was there, which is also very good and top value as it's a cleanskin right now.

Clearly a talented winemaker is Phil, and if he points a large knife at you, just check if there's French goats cheese on the end of it, and if there isn't then say something nice about the wine - I hedged my bets by saying nice things and eating the cheese.

The Longwood Pinot is definately my style, and I suspect many Shiraz drinkers would like it a lot, with the complex flavours of Pinot Noir but with a bit more oomph on the tongue than many deliver. Highly Recommended.

I can also recommend the La Curio 2008 Reserve Shiraz, and if you like Grenache then you'd probably like the La Curio 2008 Reserve Grenache as well.

I need to go have a lie down, was a pretty hard day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Clare Valley - on your bike!

I'm off to the Clare again next weekend and decided it's about time I wrote about my last trip there when we rode the Riesling Trial. We won't be on our bikes this time as it's mid winter, and whilst it's likely the weather would be fine enough to ride we're not going to gamble on it.

So, what is the Riesling Trail anyway? It's a bicycle trail and a set of loops within the Clare Valley, see this brochure for more details. It's called the Riesling Trail because that is what the region is most famous for, and rightly so as the trophy below proves, but there are also some great Chardonnays too, and more importantly some brilliant red wines, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The main trail between Clare and Auburn is a very easy ride as the trail follows the defunct train line path, and trains aren't too good with rolling hills so the trail is quite flat.

The views from the trail are brilliant, and for the most part it's a very safe ride with no cars to contend with. You're often riding with the vineyards on both sides of you, or amongst the shadey gum trees that line a lot of the trail.


There's also a few bridges across the more major roads. The one below goes across Quarry Rd.

The path we took was starting near Kirrihill and Tim Adams, we rode down to Penwortham via Sevenhill Cellars. Then we did the John Horrocks loop, which is along the country roads which are quite winding and you need to be careful of traffic, and also be aware that loop has some quite steep sections where the kids needed to walk their bikes at times.

One side benefit of travelling that pathing is the trail from Clare towards Penwortham is ever so slightly uphill, you don't really notice it on the way south but coming home after those hills near Skillogalee and Jeanneret we were able to rest our legs since we hardly had to pedal at all.

The negative thing about riding your bike when wine tasting is that you really can't purchase the wines there and then. What I did was make careful notes, flagging any wines I wanted to buy, and dropped in with the car the next day on the way home. Please don't abuse the hospitality of the wineries by using the bikes as an excuse not to buy, most can freight your wine for you at a pretty cheap rate.

It's hard to highlight wineries as they were all great, but Cardinham Estate, Pauletts, Sevenhill Cellars and Crabtree stood out in my mind for various reasons that trip. I do suggest you skip the wineries owned by the corporates since you can buy their mass produced stuff much cheaper from the supermarket chains. Instead try to visit the smaller wineries making higher quality wines that have some character and life in them.

I'll try to be good and post more on the upcoming trip.