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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cradle of Hills Splash+Merge 2012

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to get an invite to Paul and Tracy Smith's Cradle of Hills Wines inaugural Splash+Merge event. The word inaugural is mine, because I am very confident that they will must do this again, and if the wine drinking public is lucky, they will do it many more times.

The wine industry should be paying close attention here, because this is a perfect example of how you encourage people to understand what makes a great wine.

I was going to say 'teach' about great wine, and it was in fact termed a 'masterclass', but that could conjure up suppressed memories of classrooms, being required to pay attention, and worrying if there's going to be an exam at the end.

In fact, it was about having enormous fun, imbibing both knowledge and wine, and generally wondering how life could get better.

The backbone idea was to allow us to see that blending 3 very good wines could actually produce something even better. Blending is in fact used by almost every winery to some degree, even with single variety wines. I won't go into all I learned on blending from Paul Smith (winemaker/host), except to say I reckon I would now be able to wrire enough that you'd be bored silly with my knowledge - this is something that Paul did not do!

A brief rundown though, is that we started with a 2011 Shiraz, 2011 Mourvedre, and 2012 Grenache. The idea was to try each wine on it's own, pick what was it's strengths, and combine those to create something even better.

There was 19 of us, divided up into groups, and there was the lure of both pride and a bottle of Scarce Earth, for those who came up with the concensus best blend to encourage us to be somewhat serious.

Our group ended up with 6 blends, in parts of Shiraz/Mourv/Grenache;
50/50 (no Grenache)
and probably not surprisingly blend #6 was our best. But what was surprising is that the 3% Grenache really made a noticable difference, probably because it was younger and added some lift to the nose.

The final blends were tasted by all, blind. Meaning we didn't know which wine as opposed to our personal state, of course all of us were using the spitoons and nobody was getting sozzled!

We didn't win.

In fact a Shiraz/Grenache 65/35 got about 70% of the votes, which Paul said and I agree, was because it's the best 'drink now' wine. Our Mourv heavy blend was rated by Paul as the one to lay down the longest, so it really does depend on what you're making the wine for.

I'd like to just add too, that I was not the driving force behind the large Mourv percentage, though our group was certainly the biggest proponent overall. Also, despite the negative 2011 vintage talk, trust me that this is a very good Mourvedre already, and the Shiraz also - those vinyards are on a fair slope and get the benefit of a sea breeze, not to mention very good vineyard management, (though I do seem to have mentioned it), so whilst it shows somewhat as a cool vintage there is no negatives to these 2011's, unlike in some places.

BTW Paul, if you read this, my bet is the 2011 SM will be 60/35/5 based on my own post competition blend, but don't let me influence you ;)

There was also a lunch offered when booking, and everyone had been wise enough to hang around for that. The food was all sourced from the Willunga markets, which has some truly excellent produce from local farmers. Superbly served up by Tracy, who showed that a degree in Horticultre qualifies you to make a bloody good salad to go with beautiful hams.

CoH wines were available with lunch at CD prices, also half bottles, but I am not stupid and ordered full case of 2010 Shiraz Mourvedre with my lunch.

Here's some pics to make you all jealous. If any guest doesn't want their photo shown here, please contact me and I will swear out a Stat Dec that you were nowhere near the place and all resemblance to you is purely coincidental.

On the way to the barrel store Paul was explaining a little about their vinyard. Oh, I didn't mention the barrel store above. The day was full of bonuses like that.     

Shiraz vines. Apparently they are 2 weeks ahead of the Cab Sav. This is a good thing.

Wee baby shiraz grapes, vintage 2013 on it's way.

The aforementioned Cab. You may notice the ground cover which is due to the organic nature of these vineyards, ie. no herbicides here!

The only thing that could have made the day any better was if you could bunk down in the barrel store at the end. Probably best we didn't, but we did have a taste of the 2011 and 2012 Scarce Earth Shiraz, which thanks to us is now even scarcer.

We were probably supposed to be listening to Paul here, but there was splashing and merging to be done!

The failed 5. Due to our sacrifices, you may be sure that a 33.3/33.3/33.3 GSM won't be on offer this year.

If I was classy I would have taken a pic before eating, but venison salami and great chorizo does not give a belly much patience.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cork Ignorance

You'd think the cork vs screwcap debate is over, but having just come back from the USA, I was baffled to see so very few screwcaps in use, and none on premium wines even from Australia.

I just read this by Robert Mann,Senior Winemaker & Estate Director of Cape Mentelle Vineyards, a guy who knows wine better than most;

"Last month we were busy tasting, topping and re-corking the Cabernet wines in our cellar, dating back to the first wine produced from our vineyard in 1974 up until the 1989 vintage and missing only the 1975 (the cows ate the crop). All of these wines were characterised by modest alcohol levels generally below 13% and all were still in great condition, if you exclude the 40% of bottles rejected due to the deleterious impact of the cork through oxidation and taint."

How heartbreaking would it be if you were the proud owner of a 1974 CM Cab, and after half a lifetime of careful cellaring, you had to tip it down the drain simply because it was sealed with a 'natural' product instead of a reliable one?

Sure, a good winery will replace the bottle if cork affected, but with a recent vintage, and half a lifetime's cellaring is lost.


Premium wines come sealed with screwcap.

Gamblers wines come with corks. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2009 - Revisit

I reviewed this nearly a year ago, and after opening a bottle last night I was so impressed I thought I'd  check what I thought and give an update on how it's travelling.

Before reading my old review, my impression is this is a very classy wine, excellent complexity, and lacks nothing. It's only flaw is I've drained the glass without even getting two paragraphs done!

So how does it compare to my review a year back?

Well, the colour is a bit more crimson now, which you'd expect. It's still got that something dark and wicked, but now it seems a little more savoury with Christmas ham and a lovely aromatic sweetness that reminds me of Roquefort cheese.

The biggest change is the tannins which have that brilliant blend of firm and soft, giving mouthfeel without dryness. Another 2 years won't hurt, but you can safely crack one now, though it is better after 24 hours so still I reckon I'm right about it's potential long life.

Surprisingly it's still apparently available. It would have to be my favourite 2009 Shiraz and a bargain for this quality really.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Whistler Hubert Irving (Red Blend) 2010

This wine exudes quaff, and I don't mean that in a negative way. This is a wine that goes with everything a red wine goes with; food, fireplaces, friends and footy on the TV. By the way, I didn't have any trouble coming up with four F words, I had more problem in limiting to 4 clean ones.

Possibly, probably even, the reason this wine goes with everything is it's a blend. In Australia we seem to be fixated on single variety, but how many of us are aware that most of the single variety stuff is a blend of vineyards, sometimes a blend of regions, and occasionally a blend of States. It can even be a blend of vintages, but it's rare to get an admission of that.

I have nothing against single variety, and indeed single vineyard is pretty hard to beat when it's a good 'un, but I reckon there should be a lot more labelled blends out there. And a bit more willingness to experiment beyond GSM, Cab-Merlot and Cab-Shiraz.

This one is somewhat unusual, with 30% Mourvedre, 30% Merlot, 25% Grenache, 8% Shiraz and 7% Cab Sav, and they go so well together. Mostly red fruit on the nose with a touch of rosemary and oregano, reasonably full body and chewy tannins give longevity to red and black fruits on the palate,  and there's just enough quality acid to keep it all in balance. I reckon this would be a cracker if it had been made with their premium fruit.

Very good value at $16-$19, ready to 'quaff' now and good drinking for the next 5 years.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sieber Rd Shiraz Mataro 2008

The deer have gotten into the vineyard again.

You'd think they would be still full after gorging themselves on the half fermented raspberries and blackberries from the bushes that line the north paddock. The buggers had even been eating the wild black olives.

So in the immortal words of Ugluk, looks like meat's back on the menu boys, and it's venison.

To the self marinaded vension, we've added a sprinke of black pepper, a dash of garam masala and given it a rub with thyme and lemon peel.

Juicy, tender and gum lickingly good. Probably should have aged it a bit more, and it got a tad charred on one edge when we had the BBQ too hot, but the charcoal aids digestion they say.

Recommended++, but not easy to find outside cellar door and not even on the website, so you might want to email them and ask.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pyramids Road Mourvedre 2011

I was pretty excited to try this as it would be my first Granite Belt wine. In an attempt to be unbiased I decided to have a pseudo blind tasting with friends prior to dinner, and then try the wine again with food. Only I knew what the wine was and where it came from.

The blind tasters had a variety of aroma descriptors; raspberry, lime, chocolate, old leather, rain on hay. The concensus was the nose was very complex with the fruit being somewhat in the background. Everyone agreed the palate was quite peppery with probably the best descriptor being 'like rocket'. Overall it was felt the palate was not yet living up to the nose and that the acid was currently too obvious - "I can smell the wine that this will become, but I am not tasting it tonight".

My notes were that it had a nice beefy aroma, some cocoa powder, fruit blend of cranberry, raspberry and blackcurrent, with fine dusty tannins. I did not find the acid to be as noticable as my friends, but not being a fruit driven wine I can see why it was comparitively sticking out.

We went back to it a few hours later with dinner, which was BBQ chicken thighs with a Thai green curry dipping sauce - I got the idea from a Jamie Oliver recipe and it worked extremely well. The best thing was the wine absolutely melded perfectly with this dish, and if I do say so myself one of the best meals I've had for a while.

I really enjoyed it, particularly with the food, and I rate it Highly Recommended as a dinner wine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Longwood 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark and sultry, lithe and muscular, intensity and complexity, balanced and finished impressively.

You thought I was describing the wine, yeah? Actually I was watching the Olympic women's artistic gymnastics floor exercises and that would be my description of the Romanian competitor, Catalina Ponor. Eventually she would win the silver medal ahead of our own superb Lauren Mitchell. I thought Catalina the most impressive of them all, but the American was good enough in the end to win the gold.

Let's face it though, all those gymnasts are better than 7 billion other people at what they do, regardless of the medals, and the beauty of their skill brings us to tears at times. Beats me how the judges come up with the points at this level, all of the girls are clearly champions.

I'll avoid saying anything about the comparison with assigning points to wine.

At the risk of sounding like a marketing writer, I rather amused myself by comparing Catalina to this Longwood. Keeping in mind I have no commission to be made, and as tacky as it is to compare wine to an Olympic athlete, the description above is, in my opinion, very accurate.

It is of course a McLaren Vale Cab, so lovers of Coonawarra or cooler climate Cabs need to consider that this is more about blackberries, licorice, and dark chocolate, rather than earthy, mint and herbal characters.

I left half the wine a day to breathe some more and, as expected from Phil Christansen, it's even better today. He's got a real knack of making wines that age wonderfully. There's a bit of sediment suggesting perhaps no fining was done, and I love that. This wine can't have been too long bottled, as it saw 20 months in French oak.

It's hard to talk about the price of this wine without sounding like a bad wine retailer ad, but it's price has no relationship I can see with it's quality. This is not remotely a quaffer despite being $10 a bottle! It is a high quality limited production wine.

It's also not close to it's peak, which is at least 5 years away, and more likely 10. In all honesty it could do with a year to meld before drinking, but that intensity of flavour is so hard to resist drinking now, just give it a long airing before you do, and please put a number away for future years.

Highly Recommended+++  and the value excellent.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Whistler Mourvedre 2009

My nose told me this would be good. My nose got it right!

If I might digress a moment, I've mentioned before the acrid bitterness of sulphur dioxide on some freshly opened wines. The thing is many well made wines, even those designed to live for decades, don't always have it. So I can't help thinking perhaps some winemakers are dosing SO2 as though they are putting their wines under cork. Certainly breathing a wine is almost always a very good idea, but if I was having this in your average restaurant that wouldn't know what a decanter was, then I'd be swirling my glass vigorously, trying to cope with the aforementioned bitterness. I don't see the reason for it in the era of the screwcap.

Wine whine aside, this one just confirms to me that Mourv is something we should see more of, perhaps it will be mostly in blends, but it really does stand up up well on it's own. BTW, I think blends are 'the next big thing', but only if the industry does it right and not just blend for the sake of it.

Savoury, sweet, spicy, meaty, lush, and yet focused. Big nose as I said before, and that's not a line from Brian's Life, full body, very fine tannins, lovely acid, and long length. Very enjoyable indeed as a sipper but even better as a food wine.

Rating: Highly Recommended 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Neil Hahn Yanyarrie Shiraz 2010

I picked this one up at Melbourne St Cellars on special and had no idea what I was buying. If you were to buy it direct from Hahn Barossa Vineyards - which might be tricky as they are listing the 2009 still -  it would cost $17.95.

It's rather a shame many smaller wineries can't keep their websites updated, and given the extortionate prices some web developers charge for minor changes, I am not surprised they don't. If I could give some advice here to wineries, make sure your web developer gives you full access to all passwords and hosting information, that way you can shop around if they start being silly with pricing for updates.

This is day 2 for the Shiraz, and it's held up pretty well for what is not a premium priced wine, and is in fact better tonight than last night, which is always a good sign of a well made wine.

The only fault with this wine is also why I am blog reviewing it. Since I review for fun, and all of my reviews are of wines paid for by me, I'm finding reviewing anything that isn't inspiring to be a chore. This wine interests me because it's pretty much one dimensional in flavour, but it's a flavour that is not as common as I'd personally like. Black cherries.

There may be some other hidden flavours but black cherries dominate strongly for me. They are on the nose and the palate, and giving the glass a swirl even the colour is black cherry.

My daughter has had a laugh at me for slurping air through the wine looking for something more, she probably think's I'm a wine ponce. But I laugh at her taste in music, so we're even. Plus I did find a little spice, so the noise was worth it.

Right, so if you like black cherries, with a little bit of spice, then this might suit you.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cradle of Hills Wines

I was going to just review the 2009 Shiraz Mourvedre, but when I went to pick them up I ended up spending about 3 hours with Paul and Tracy Smith. I tasted all their bottled wines and a fair bit of what they have in barrels, so here is a bit of an overview of their new and upcoming wines.

First thing I remember is that the view from their winery is lovely, a sweeping vista looking over the vines west to the sea, and looking the other way the vines are cuddled by the hills that meander their way down to Sellicks Beach. This area is well known for growing top notch grapes, it's probably because they are happy grapes.

The second thing is Paul and Tracy are thoroughly down to earth type people. This is a winery started by people who love wine, they know it's going to be very hard work, but talk with them for a short while and the passion is obvious. They also have a very clear goal of what wines they are wanting to create, and they have the talent to make great ones.

The third thing that interested me is that there is a unique individual aroma that all of the Cradle of Hills wines have, even the Mourvedre that they don't grow has it, though the Mourv is grown pretty close by. That aroma is particularly stunning in the 2009 Shiraz Mourvedre, but the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon also has it in spades. I wish I could describe it, but suffice it to say pretty much all of their wines I would be happy to have a 1/4 of a glass and just breath it in all afternoon.

Reviewing the 2009 Shiraz Mourv is pretty much a tease as it's almost all gone. However, whilst we were there Paul invited us to a prelude of the 2010 by allowing us to do a rough test blend. The rough goal being to get something like the 2009 - and why mess around too much and change the target when you've pretty much nailed it on your first vintage eh? For this fun blend there was a Shiraz-Grenache, the Mourv, a bold fruity Shiraz and a more austere Shiraz. We did a couple of blends and it's amazing how much a small change in percentages makes for a much larger change in the final wine. Before blending I would have expected to like a blend just of the big fruity Shiraz and the Mourv, but it absolutely would have lacked balance and character.

Our blend will not be the final one, but what is clear was the 2010 will likely be at least as good as the 2009 even without my input, and since I'd rate the 2009 as Excellent++ you'd be mad not to get on the mailing list.

I was going to waffle on about some of the other barrel samples, but I'll shorten it by saying the future looks extremely bright for Cradle of Hills, and that's good for us wine lovers.

PS. you gotta check out the very cool label, and have a read up on how it was created;

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sevenhill Cellars Inigo Shiraz 2010

Hmm, been a while since I wrote a blog entry. It's not been for lack of drinking good wines. In fact it may be the opposite really. Anyway, I'm back like Batman.

This Inigo is typically a good wine most years, but unfortunately 2009 wasn't one of those, which is interesting considering how good the 2009 St.Ignatius is. Regardless, I am happy to say this 2010 is a great return to form. For those who know these wines, I think the 2008 was marginally better, but there's not a lot in it, and time may prove me wrong.

Dark crimson red meniscus and glass that's black as a nun's habit, although I don't recall seeing any nuns at Sevenhill.

Bit of sulphur stink even after a quick double decant, and I could still taste the SO2 bitterness, so give this one a good bit of air before imbibing.

The nose is a tad light, but I think that's more to do with the winter room temperature - I am all greenie tonight and the heater isn't on. I'm smelling the hills around Clare, where of course the air is laden with regional vinous aromas. Lovely stuff.

I was really pleased with the tannins, these 2010 babies are smooth like talcum. Mouth coating and gum licking goodness.

Mostly black fruit, crushed blueberry, with a bit of red there for interest, a dash of garam masala and gently stirred with a bay leaf.

There's good balance here, a well made wine that's not yet actually into it's drinking window, though that shouldn't stop anyone trying it out young-ish.

Highly Recommended++ especially at sub $20 retail if you do some homework

Monday, March 19, 2012

Marius Matarius 2010 (Preview)

It's a straight Mataro if'n you haven't guessed it from the name.

So there I was, sitting with a large glass of the Matarius in my hand. In struts Underworld's Selene (aka Kate Beckinsale). She's wearing tight black leather, and has a faint aroma of gunsmoke, and blood.

She's a vampire, of course.

I look at her.

I look at the glass.

I look at her again.

And I really can't decide whether to offer her the glass, offer her my neck, or swallow the wine and then offer her my neck.

Then I realise the vamp in tight black leather was in the glass all along, and I've already offered my neck...

....and my soul.

Outstanding wine.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Inkwell Shiraz 2010

I was going to describe this as inky black with a very thin purple rim, then I realised how stupidly obvious that sounds.

And then I got a whiff of the bouquet and forgot all about the colour.

I have a pretty good smell memory, in that I can detect smells in the wine that remind me of other smells. What I often can't do is remember what those smells are, and it drives me crazy trying to work it out. This one however didn't take me too long tonight; it's cinnamon.

I tasted this wine yesterday at Dudley Brown's winery which is in full swing for vintage 2012 - I also tried a 2012 Shiraz that is about 2 weeks old and was pressed yesterday and put into barrels, but try not to be jealous.

I'd also sampled this 2010 Shiraz last October and with neither of those two previous tastings did I get cinnamon. It's been breathing 24 hours and tonight it's pretty clear to my snoz. Whether it's to do with the extra air, or just part of this wine's development only time will tell.

The aroma overall is brilliant, and whilst I could pick the cinnamon out, it is part of a blend of spices and fruit that has my nose jammed firmly in the top of my glass.

There's a heap of Indian spices on the palate too, combining with the dark fruit flavours. It's full bodied without being at all sweet, and really has me hanging out for a curry. Tannins are firm and very fine, acid balance is excellent, and has an extremely long finish.

Right, we're on day 3 now. I got distracted and didn't finish the post, but I did manage to hide the glassful still left in the bottle. I have to hide it well too, my wife has a 'girl look' for the good ones. You certainly can't tell it's been open more than 48 hours.

The cinnamon has faded a fair bit, and it's more just overall Indian spices to me. Dudley claims cardamom and I certainly wouldn't disagree, but that may also be the power of suggestion.

I'm not sure when this wine will be released, but I believe it's not too far off, possibly when vintage madness is over. I'm always a little hesitant to score a preview of a wine that isn't released because basically the winemaker hasn't declared it "ready". So let me put it this way, I'll be buying a dozen when it's released - at least.

This post was written a week ago, it got delayed for a few reasons.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Marius 2012 Harvest

I left home at 6am and it was already very warm. The forecast four days earlier said it was going to be around 30C, but by the day before harvest that had jumped to 39C. Since Marius wines are hand picked, and are picked by his customers, then picking at night or rescheduling at such late notice can't be done so easily. The best laid plans of winemakers are often thwarted by the weather.

Early in the day the vines provided decent shade

At this point taller vines would have been welcome

We took it in turns to be on the sunny side, but soft Steve (not in photo) opted to go shadey only later and pick through the vines
Someone had that sunscreen that smells strongly of coconuts, luckily we wore gloves else the wine may have ended up with a more tropical bouquet.

Only one person dropped out of the harvest team, which says we are all dedicated and will suffer a lot to get a free tasting of several Marius vintages. A great crew to pick with.


Cut the red wire, not the green one!

I have to admit I might have trimmed a few more leaves than I really needed to. Roger's very neat vines are pretty easy to pick from, but sometimes working out just where the top of that bunch is can be tricky.

Is that Edward just there?
When picking opposite someone, which is fairly often, you need to be aware of Mr. Scissorhands, who may also be wondering where the red wire really is.

Roger has small ones, and he likes em that way

The Marius vines are dry grown, and the foliage is kept a lot thinner than many vines you'll see through the Vale. This results in smaller berries, which is desirable as most of the flavour is near the skins and small berries means a better skin to juice ratio. The penalty for Roger is low yields every year, but better wines because of it.

This year however yields were extra low, with many Shiraz vineyards across the Vale down 40-50%. That was in part due to the weird weather ie. high summer rainfall in 2011, where the vines did not set themselves up for the following season properly.

A few rows are extra low yielding with even smaller berrier and bunches because....

The low yielding vines with the water stealing pines in the background

The workers enjoying the fruits of previous years labours

This is Roger not telling us what's in the 2008 End Play but dropping some hints, I'm now 66% certain I know what it is

The rewards, not in drinking order, and possibly a few bottles are missing, none in my esky I promise. The 2010s are not released, this was an early preview for a lucky few, and keep in mind review samples for some of the professional reviewers are sent in somewhat early as you never know how many months they'll take to get around to reviewing them.

Apparently the Symposium does not sell as quite as well as the straight Shirazes, but the 2006 is starting to hit it's straps now and is Oustanding drinking, the wine of the day for many of us there. There will not be a 2011 or 2012 Symposium for a few reasons, but I strongly recommend you do yourself a favour and try the 2010 and the Matarius when released.

Love this
Getting even better with age

May become my new favourite
Great character
Many years left

Some of us are lucky