Friday, December 17, 2004

Barossa - December 17
Last day in the Barossa. The only important things to do are to head out to Dutschke Wines to buy a couple of bottles of Wayne’s wonderful Muscat and sign his barrel of Fortified Shiraz. Then its off to Adelaide and the National Wine Centre of Australia. I recommend a visit. After all where else can you get to question Len Evans, Peter Lehmann and other notables of the Aussie wine industry?

Signing the barrel of Fortified Shiraz at Dutschke Wines.

Copyright Miranda Alexander-Pollard

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Barossa - December 16
Only two vineyards on the itinerary today and I’d never heard of either of them.

The first one, Hutton Vale, is on a dirt road miles away from anywhere. It all looks very rustic and so it should because this mixed production farm has been owned by the Angus family since 1842. The farm is now run by John and Jan Angus. Jan makes jams and chutneys while John oversees the vineyards. The tasting room is in part of the lower level of a sprawling farmhouse. The 2003 Rhine Riesling is a deep straw yellow with aromas of citrus and melon. Medium bodied and well balanced it has crisp and refreshing acidity and excellent length to the finish. (2, 2, 3.8, 10.2 = 18/20, 14% alcohol). The 2001 Grenache/Mataro was deep cherry red in color with notes of blackberry, blueberry and spices. Medium weight with evidence of oak vanilla it is well balanced with good acidity across the palate and drying tannins on the finish, and a lengthy finish. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.0 = 18.1/20, 14.5% alcohol). An interesting note with this wine was that John Angus detected some TCA in the first bottle he opened. I’ll admit that I did notice a slight “funk” but I would not have called it corked. However John clearly knows his own wines and immediately opened a second bottle and the difference was obvious. A clear lesson for cellar door staff – it pays to know your wines. The 2002 Grenache/Mataro was again cherry red, but with aromas of spices and lychees. Softer and suppler that the 2001, it was clearly the more elegant wine. Very well balanced with an excellent finish. My notes end simply with “great wine”. (2, 2, 4.2, 10.2 =18.4/20, 14.5% alcohol). The final wine was the 1999 Shiraz. This is a dense cherry red with a red edge and had been opened for several hours before we tasted it. It gave up a bouquet of cedar and fountain pen ink. Well structured it has a solid backbone of tannins and flavors that carried through on retronasal. John Angus in a disappointed tone, said it was still too closed and needed hours more to open. Later my brother John said “If that Shiraz was closed, then its going to be bloody great when it does open”. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.1 = 18.2/20, 14.0% alcohol). After the tasting we took a tour through the farm house and then the vineyards with John Angus and the family dogs. We saw Shiraz vines with their huge anti-frost fan and the co-mixed Grenache and Mataro vineyard; the GM is co-fermented. An interesting bit of wine trivia, although I’m sure it is not trivial to John Angus, is that the Angus Family once owned the Mount Edelstone vineyards. However due to the vagaries of the Agricultural Industry in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s John’s father Colin Angus sold the vineyard to Cyril Henschke in 1974, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Such friendly hospitality is difficult to leave and so we are more than just a little late to the next vineyard, Heathvale. This is another old property that dates back to 1865 and was under vines in the 1880s. However the vines were removed in the 1920s and it has only been since 1987 that the new owners of Heathvale, Trevor and Faye March, have replanted the vineyards. The wines they produce are all single vineyard. The 2004 Eden Valley Rhine Riesling is light straw with light floral and citrus notes. It has good structure and clean acidity. (2, 2, 3.8, 9.9 = 17.7/20). The 2002 Chardonnay (French Oak) was light straw in color with toasted oak, peach and honeysuckle flavors. The palate showed great structure with a creamy richness to the palate one expects from good oak treatment together with clean acidity. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20, 13.5% alcohol). This is one wine I intend to seek out back in the USA. The 2003 Chardonnay was not quite in the same league. Light straw in color with sweeter fruit flavors and honeysuckle. Softer and suppler on the palate with good structure it lacked the richness of the 2002. (2, 2, 3.9, 9.8 = 17.7/20). The 2001 Shiraz was a dense cherry red with an intense note of mulberry jam. The entry was soft and elegant and the wine showed great structure across the palate and a lengthy finish. A very distinctive Shiraz. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.2 = 18.7/20, 14.5% alcohol). The 2002 Shiraz was also dense cherry red. Compared to the 2001 this wine had a less intense initial aroma but showed greater complexity. It opened with blueberries and ripe fruit and those flavors intensified over time. On the palate it had the same soft and supple entry, and covered the palate seamlessly. Beautifully balanced, it had a rich, lengthy finish. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.5 = 19.0 /20). It’s a Classic! I asked Trevor what the Shiraz sells for in the USA, expecting to hear something around the $50 mark. He said about $25USD! (Postscript: I’m back in the USA now and the 2002 Heathvale Shiraz costs less that $25. I know because I bought some. But the interesting thing is that, as part of the 2002 Australian Shiraz tasting I’ve been doing, I already had a bottle in my cellar. I just never realized what I had!) After tasting the Heathvale wines Trevor took us on a walk through the vineyards and explained the ages of the vines and the different trellising methods he is using to gain optimal flavors in the grapes; clearly a knowledgeable and enthusiastic vigneron.

On the way back to Tanunda we dropped into the Eden Valley Hotel for a bite to eat and a taste of some Merlot. In a corner of the main bar we shared mini pizzas and a glass of the three reds scrawled on the chalk board. The Irvine Spring Hill Merlot was a dense cherry red and fragrant with the perfume of violets. Soft and supple on entry, it was well balanced with the flavors carrying well on retronasal. (2, 2, 4.0, 10.0 = 18.0/20). The Irvine Eden Crest Merlot was a bigger, richer and more complex wine with attractive notes of blueberries and black currents. Soft and supple on entry, with vanilla present on retronasal, and a lengthy finish this was quite a nice Merlot. (2, 2, 4.2, 10.4 = 18.6/20). The Irvine Zinfandel was a dense cherry red with a briery, underbrush note and ripe fruit, and just a hint of ethyl acetate (volatile acidity). The mouthfeel was medium weight and the wine was well balanced with pleasing acidity and the flavors carried through on retronasal. (2, 2, 3.9, 9.8 = 17.7/20).

Over dinner at Salters we finished the rest of the opened bottles of the Heathvale 2002 Chardonnay and Shiraz. Both wines had now been open for almost 5 hours. The Chardonnay gave notes of apricot and apple and was rich and full bodied with crisp acidity and a lengthy finish. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.0 = 18.1/20). The Shiraz was rich and jammy with blueberry and chocolate aromas. Soft and supple on entry, it was mouth filling across the palate with unobtrusive tannins and clean acidity to the finish. A wine with great structure, a lengthy finish, and flavors that are pronounced on retronasal. (2, 2, 4.4, 10.3 = 18.7/20). With all the history, hospitality and excellent wines our last full day in the Barossa should have been our best but the staff at Salters seemed determined that it should not be so. Between the air-conditioning noisily blasting out freezing cold air and coffee that took forever to get to the table they almost succeeded.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Barossa - December 14
Kalleske (winemaker)
First on the agenda was a trip out to the winery of rising star Troy Kalleske. The winery is only several years old and much of the operation is still being done in a big tin shed owned by Troy’s brother, and protected by Tyson, a Tyrolean Shepard, who is a monster of a dog; and deserves to be in the Wine Dogs book. The tasting at Kalleske was notable for several reasons. Troy Kallseke is so young, the wines are so good, and Tyson drools so much. After a while I began to wonder if Tyson’s drooling might just be because his sense of smell was letting him “taste” the wines as well. The wines tasted were from barrel samples unless indicated. The 2004 Clarry’s Barossa Red (Grenache/Shiraz) was bright cherry in color and gave aromas of fresh berry fruit. Mouthfilling on the palate it has a core of firm tannins. An attractive wine. (2, 2, 3.8, 9.2 = 17.0/20). The 2004 Old Vines Grenache was cherry red and very open with rich spice and confectionary notes backed up by ripe red berry fruits. Medium bodied with excellent mouthfeel, pronounced but refreshing acidity and a prolonged finish. A lovely wine, but as a barrel sample it can’t go into the Classic Wines section, but watch out for it. (2, 2, 4.6, 10.6 = 19.2/20). The 2003 Old Vines Grenache had more pepper and mint than the 2004 and was softer on the palate. It is another beauty, with great balance and a long finish. (2, 2, 4.4, 10.6 = 19/20). The 2004 Greenock Shiraz was purple and gave off layers of blackberry, anise and chocolate. This is a big Barossa shiraz. Very well balanced but at this stage it still has mouth drying tannins and there is quite a bit of alcohol in there but its going to be an outstanding wine. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.5 = 19/20). The 2003 Greenock Shiraz was from bottle. Dense cherry red in color it was restrained compared to the 2004 with more briar and underbrush notes in addition to its pure Barossa shiraz aromas. With powdery tannins and a prolonged finish it is an excellent, but very young wine. (2, 2, 4.2, 10.3 = 18.5/20). A barrel sample of the 2003 Johann Georg Shiraz was simply remarkable. Incredibly dark in color and very open with complex aromas of savory meats, chocolate, licorice allsorts coming in clouds from the glass. Opulent and seductive on the palate it has great structure, an excellent backbone of firm tannins, and a wonderfully long finish. The fruit comes from a vineyard planted in 1875 and which used to go to Penfolds for Grange. Well move over you overgrown bully there is a new kid in town! (2, 2, 4.6, 10.6 = 19.2/20). Everyone seems to want to make a fortified shiraz. The Kalleske 2002 VP Shiraz was dense cherry red with a prominent anise character on the nose and a big jammy aroma on the palate and soft alcohol on the finish. The alcohol used is a 50/50 mix of brandy and neutral spirit. (2, 2, 4.4, 10.3 = 18.7/20). The final wine was a 1978 Single Vintage Tawny (Shiraz/Grenache) that was the color of motor oil. Extremely rich and luscious with notes of toffee, raisins, and walnts and a clean finish. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.5 = 18.6/20). A great way to finish a fascinating tasting.

Torbreck scored points right off the bat just because they were generous enough to offer all and sundry a taste of their lineup, including Run Rig. Most cellar doors seem to think that there is something special about their top of the line wines and hold them back from most of the folks who walk in their door. To look at us you wouldn’t think that our little group spends quite a lot of money on wine per year. We didn’t really buy all that much at the cellar doors we visited, but I came back with a list that I am chasing down, and I know that John and Chris have been busy getting onto or buying from mailing lists. Torbreck is going to end up doing pretty well, some other places are just not going to get a look in because we didn’t see the wines we expected to see. I’m sure ours is a common experience.

On to the wines. The 2003 Juveniles (60 percent Grenache, 20 percent Shiraz and 20 percent Mataro) was light cherry red in color with lychees and cherries wafting up from the wine. Soft and silky on entry, it is medium bodied and very well balanced with a lengthy finish. This wine does not see any oak so it is very approachable now. (2, 2, 4.0, 10.2 = 18.2/20, 14.25 alcohol). The 2002 The Steading (60 percent Grenache, 20 percent Shiraz and 20 percent Mataro) is essentially an oaked version of the Juveniles. Dense cherry red in color this wine gave up an aroma of the barnyard. Light to medium weight and well balanced with good acidity, it was not as appealing as the Juveniles. (2, 2, 3.8, 10.2 = 18.0/20). The 2003 Woodcutters Red is cherry red and very open with spicy and jammy notes and again an aroma of barnyard. This is a wine with a soft entry, medium weight on the palate and with flavors that carry well on retronasal, but a somewhat abbreviated finish. (2, 2, 3.9, 10.1 = 18.0/20, 14% alcohol). The 2003 The Struie took things up a notch. Dense cherry red it leaps out of the glass with rich, ripe fruit, pepper and chocolate. Real Shiraz! Medium to full bodied with excellent balance, it finishes with drying tannins and a lengthy display of its pure flavors. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.4 = 18.9/20, 14.5% alcohol). The 2003 Descendant was outstanding. Dense cherry red with rich, ripe fruit that envelopes you in aromas of blackberries and the aromatics of the Viognier grape. Soft and elegant on the palate this wine has it all, balance, a solid backbone of drying tannins and an extra-long finish. (2, 2, 4.6, 10.5 = 19.1/20). One for The Classics. The 2002 The Factor was almost as good. Dense cherry red with wonderful notes of chocolate and blackberry backed up by ripe fruit and sweet oak on the palate. Well balanced with flavors that carry well on retronasal and big drying tannins on the finish, it was upset by the alcohol being a little too obvious. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.3 = 18.8/20, 14.5% alcohol). The 2002 Run Rig, the wine we came to taste. Dense cherry red in color and to my nose subdued with just hints of blackberry and perhaps red fruits. Its true nature was revealed on the palate where it is elegant, seductive and complex. There is a lot going on when this wine carresses your tongue, and to get the most from it you would need to spend hours with a bottle all to yourself. It is extremely well balanced and structured with clean acidity and a firm tannic finish. There is a little alcohol there as well, but it scrapes into The Classic Wines. (2, 2, 4.6, 10.4 = 19.0/20, 14.5% alcohol). As we tasted the Run Rig we must have all gone very quite as our server told us that we were experiencing the “Run Rig Silence”. Well in truth it is a great wine, but for me the silence was all about figuring out why I should pay $180USD ($225AUD) for a bottle when the Descendant is going for $90USD!

The next winery is Veritas where we are served by Mrs Binder. When most people would be retired she is busy serving wines quietly but effectively to anyone who walks in the door. Good-onya Mrs Binder! The 2002 Cellar Selection Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon is a dense ruby red with an intense chocolate aroma overlaying an attractive wintergreen mint character. A well structured Cabernet with good balance, acidity and soft tannins. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20). The 2003 Christa Rolf Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache is bright ruby red with an attractive jammy nose. But it lacks any impact across the mid-palate and while the tannins are firm they impart a green stalky character to the finish. Not my cup of tea! (2, 2, 4.0, 9.6 = 17.6/20). The 2003 Cellar Selection Shiraz is cherry red with a subdued nose of Christmas cake. The palate has ripe fruits and is well balanced with clean acidity and firm tannins. (2, 2, 3.8, 9.9 = 17.7/20). The 2002 Binders ‘Bulls Blood’ Shiraz Mataro Pressings is a dense cherry red and a distinct nail polish nose (ethyl acetate, VA). It has a soft entry, is quite well balanced considering and has very firm tannins but there is evident alcohol. A disappointing wine. (2, 2, 3.5, 10.1 = 17.6/20).

Smidge (winemaker) – Two Hands
Matt Wenk must be one of the busiest wine makers in the Barossa! And seeing that a number of the wines he makes use fruit from relatively young vines he’s also a bloody good winemaker. We met Matt at the Branson winery, near Seppeltsfield. The first wines we tried were bottled under his own Smidge label. The 2003 Le Grenouille (Merlot) is a deep cherry red with complex aromas of mint, pepper and other spices. Medium weight and well balanced with well matched acidity and tannins. (2, 2, 3.9, 9.9 = 17.8/20). The 2002 The Tardy (Zinfandel) is cherry red with a big fruit cake nose and the aroma of lychees that (for me) is typical of Zinfandel. The palate displays the ripe fruit and the excellent structure well. But the alcohol is not for the faint of heart. (2, 2, 4,2, 9.8 = 18.0/20, 15.5% alcohol). We then moved into the barrel storage area and the wine tasting got very educational. First we tasted 2004 Zinfandel from Langhorne Creek that had been fermented with different yeast strains. Stored in French oak the first used a Bordeaux yeast and was loaded with rich ripe flavors of blueberries and blackberries. Very well balanced the tannins were just a little hard, but it’s a pup. The second wine was also from French oak but had seen a Rhone yeast and was completely different. Almost closed to me, others said they detected spice notes including nutmeg. But the next wine is the one to look for. From Barossa fruit and again in French oak this 2004 Barossa Zinfandel was all lychees and spice. The entry was soft and very spicy with fragrant floral flavors that cover the palate. Considerably more intense that the Langhorne wines. Matt said that the wine might be called The Donald, but I see on his web site that a 2004 Barossa Zinfandel will be called Rudi. Might be time to email Matt and find out if there is more than one Zin coming from Barossa fruit! The next four wines were from the Two Hands range. The 2003 Ares (Shiraz) was a dense purple and showed great intensity and power of fruit flavors with ripe blackberry, chocolate and sweet oak. Wonderful mouthfeel and beautiful balance with big drying tannins at the finish. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.6 = 19.1/20). The 2003 Aphrodite (Cabernet Sauvignon) from a French oak barrel was a dense ruby red with pure ripe Cabernet fruit and cedar notes. Great intensity of flavor. Medium weight with an excellent marriage of structural components across the palate. If wine can make love to your mouth this may come close! (2, 2, 4.3, 10.4 = 18.7/20). We also tasted from a barrel of the 2004 Aphrodite. (I’m not sure that this is the final blend.) But the wine we tasted was obviously very young, a dense garnet in color and just oozing jam and chocolate aromas from its rich ripe fruit. It has a wonderful mouth feel with sweetness from the oak and solid tannins coming in at the finish. The opulence of the wine, even at this young stage, is amazing. (2, 2, 4.5, 10.6 = 19.1/20). The last barrel sample was a 2004 Shiraz from a vineyard next to that used for Torbreck’s Descendent. This wine has 3% residual sugar and 17% alcohol and is used as a blending component, some of it going into the Ares. It was big in all respects, and while it was not a wine that you could drink in large amounts it was certainly not undrinkable. This just goes to show that a good winemaker can make palatable big wines. Matt Wenk is one winemaker to watch.

Thorn Clarke
Last winery of a very long day and I was content to rest up before dinner and just taste through the line up without making any notes. Although as I expected the best wine was definitely the 2002 William Randell Barossa Valley Shiraz; a previous tasting note is here.

The evening meal was at 1918. We started with The Willows Vineyard The Doctor Sparkling Red. Deep cherry red in color it was almost liqueur-like with a pronounced blueberry aroma. Medium bodied and refreshing across the palate with the flavors persisting on retronasal. A slightly hard alcoholic finish. (2, 2, 3.9, 9.5 = 17.4/20, 13.5% alcohol). Over our entrĂ©es we finished the open bottle of Smidge Wines The Tardy 2002 Zinfandel. The half consumed bottle had been open in the car for about five hours. Dense cherry red with typical lychee and dark fruit jam flavors. On the palate it was rich with ripe fruit, and becoming almost cordial-like. The alcohol was more evident, but there was still a lengthy finish. (2, 2, 3.8, 9.7 = 17.5/20, 15.5% alcohol). (A little side note: I’m not sure when it was but a little discussion broke out between John and I over my use of lychees as a flavor descriptor for Zinfandel. Later, when Miranda and I were back in Adelaide, I bought some canned lychees in syrup and ripe lychee nuts to see if the flavor I had memorized was correct. I’m happy to report that while the flavor is not absolutely identical its close enough for me to continue to use lychee as a descriptor for Zin. So there!). Our main meals were over a comparison between the Greenock Creek 2001 Alices Shiraz and the Torbreck 2003 The Struie. The Alices was dark cherry, almost purple, and very open with ripe fruit, blueberry, vanilla and a hint of alcohol. On the palate it was full bodied and well balanced with firm tannins holding the finish and the flavors carrying through on a lengthy finish. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.5 = 18.6/20, 15.5% alcohol). The Struie was a very dense cherry red with sweet ripe fruit and dusty oak. Full bodied and well balanced. It finished with drying tannins that softened considerably over time. The complexity that we had found earlier in the day just didn’t seem to be there over food. But its still a hell of a nice wine. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20, 14.5% alcohol).

Monday, December 13, 2004

Barossa - December 13
Kellermeister/Trevor Jones
Sunday didn’t slow us down at all and so we arrived early at Kellermeister Wines, so early they were still working on opening up the tasting room. We admired the vineyards in the valley from their lawn while we waited. Being early does create problems, like not getting the actual tasting staff, but someone whose level of perfume says that she just wasn’t expecting to be doing this today. But she was very friendly, knowledgeable, and very ready to open a new bottle if she thought an already open one was not showing well. Kellermeister makes a lot of different types of wines. And being the first winery of the day we tried most of them. Some, like Sable and Pink Mink, most folks probably don’t want to own up to tasting and so I don’t have any notes for them! The 2003 Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay was light straw in color, very open with melon and floral notes. Not in the class of the 2002, it is still a very well balanced wine with wonderful freshness and great mouthfeel. (2, 2, 4.0, 10.1 = 18.1/20). The 2001 Vintage Blue Moon Chardonnay was similar in color but with obvious toasted oak and lacking the fruit flavors of the Virgin Chardonnay. (2, 2, 3.6, 9.8 = 17.4/20). The 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon was a dense cherry red with a pink edge. It gave leather and caramel aromas, ripe fruit on the palate and a solid tannic finish. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.1 = 18.2/20). The 1999 Black Sash Shiraz was cherry red and very similar to the Cabernet with a definite caramel flavor and ripe fruit but not a typical shiraz. Well balanced it also finished with solid backbone of tannins. (2, 2, 3.8, 9.8 = 17.6/20).

Well OK, I confess someone did buy a bottle of Sable. But it wasn’t me!

Dutschke Wines
In Lyndoch there is a road called God’s Hill. Just off that road is a new tin shed where the ever affable Wayne Dutschke will let you taste wines that have a true sense of place. When we arrived Wayne was busy testing out a new batch of port-infused coffee beans, but more on that later. After my brother John, who had organized the tasting with Wayne, made our introductions we made our way to the new shed and the wines. First up was the 2004 Ivy Blondina. Made from White Muscat, its almost clear in color with wonderful sweet floral aromatics and a spicy, lusciousness on the palate (2, 2, 4.2, 10.1 = 18.3/20; 15% alcohol). For the red wines Wayne pulled out, and I kid you not, the biggest bowled glasses I have ever tasted wine from. I was seriously concerned that once my nose went into one of these things it would have a hard time finding its way out again, but did they show the wines beautifully! The 2002 St Jakobi Shiraz was a dark cherry, and chocolate just exploded out of that glass! The wine had big rich blackberry flavors, but with a soft and elegant entry and wonderful balance. You didn’t have to wait around for the wine to hit your palate in bits and pieces; it was seamless, wonderfully integrated, with a lengthy finish (2, 2, 4.3, 10.5 = 18.8; 15% alcohol). The 2002 Willow Bend, a blend of Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, was excellent but not in same league. It gave red fruits and vanilla and had good mouth feel and was well balanced with good drying tannins holding the finish. (2, 2, 3.9, 10.0 = 17.9). The next wine, the 2002 Oscar Semmler Shiraz, was one of the best wines tasted all week. This wine is bottled from the best barrels of the shiraz vintage. Very dense cherry red, it also gave off a strong initial chocolate aroma that became a rich blackberry. Similar to the St Jakobi, the Oscar Semmler covered the palate with just a bit more of that wonderful, seamless concentration of flavor and richness. My hand written notes include “long elegant finish” with the long heavily underlined! (2, 2, 4.4, 10.6 = 19.0) One for the Classic Wines section of the Tasting Notes eBlog.

Wayne then took us through a tasting from some of his barrels. This included the 2004 Shiraz. It takes nine days to pick across the vineyard block, going from east to west. Material from the eastern part of the block, in French oak, was heavily influenced by the toast level of the barrel, while material from the middle of the block, also in French oak had much less tannin and very nice fruit. The barrel containing material from the west of the block had an unmistakable chocolate character. Also tasted from barrel were some fortified wines including the base material for Muscat which looked for the world like motor oil, the 2003 Muscat blend (rich and loaded with raisin and toffee), fortified chardonnay stock for Tawny Port, 22 year old Tawny, Tokay base (that smelled like fish oil, as it should), the 2003 Tokay blend (less fishy and a little more nutty). However the most interesting barrel sample was the 2003 Fortified Shiraz. Almost black, it had a strong blackberry jam character and reminded me of a young vintage port. But it was like velvet on the palate with the neutral alcohol spirit not intruding at all. Extremely well balanced, it had a wonderfully long finish. This wine will be extremely limited in availability. Possibly each member of Dutschke Wines mailing list will only be allowed one bottle. I’d suggest you contact Wayne ASAP about getting on that mailing list!

Oh, and the port-infused coffee. Well it is still in the experimental stage, but it was an interesting way to finish off a wonderful morning of tasting. In appreciation John invited Wayne to join us for lunch at 1812 in Tanunda, and there are no prizes for guessing where the wines came from for lunch. Thanks Wayne!

Rockford Wines
With John being a member of the Stonewallers we were ushered into the Stonewall Cellar to taste in relative seclusion away from the usual throng that gathers at Rockford. Well OK, there were just one or two other cars there when we pulled up. Everywhere you look at Rockford there are stone walls. Its all very quaint, and nowhere more so than the Stonewall Cellar. I’m sure in the winter the fireplace is a great attraction, but when was it last cleaned out? The whole room just reeks of smoke. The only way to avoid its influence was to stick your nose deep into your tasting glass. And leave it there! The 2001 Eden valley Rhine Riesling was a light straw and had a slight kerosene aroma. Light to medium bodied, a soft mouthfeel and good crisp acidity. (2, 2, 3.8. 9.9 = 17.7/20). The 2001 Wood Aged Semillion was straw yellow with bright, fresh aromas of lemon/citrus. It showed good mouthfeel, acidity that carried across the palate and flavors that carried the finish. (2, 2, 3.8, 10.0 = 17.8/20). The 2004 White Frontignac was almost clear very open floral and spice aromas, good mouthfeel and a lingering, luscious finish. (2,2, 4.0, 9.8 = 17.8/20). The 2002 Rifle Range Cabernet Sauvignon was cherry red with the wintergreen mint aroma of young Cabernet. Medium weight and well structured with clean acid on the finish. My notes say “beautiful CS character” and I bet I was trying to avoid being influenced by all that smoke! (2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 = 18.3/20). The 2002 Basket Press Shiraz was dense cherry red with blackberry and vanilla notes and rich, ripe fruit. Medium weight and well structured it was a just a little hard at the finish. Its really a baby and needs time. (2, 2, 4.0, 9.8 = 17.8/20). The 1998 Shiraz VP was dark cherry red. Very open with a big blackberry note and very evident alcohol. Medium to full bodied and well balanced, it has some sweetness on the palate and a clean grip to the finish. The alcohol used is Brandy spirit. (2, 2, 4.2, 10.2 = 18.4/20). It was an interesting tasting with Ian Bickford who also provided pointers to some of the better eateries in the area and a very interesting tour of what can only be called the antiquated but clearly effective wine making hardware used at Rockford.

My experience with Glaetzer wines was nil until we rolled up to their cellar door. And the experience started badly when the Pinot Noir bubbles we were served up were corked. It was one of those will we or won’t we moments. And in the end we just couldn’t put the young lady behind the counter through the assault on the wine she was serving. Who knows she may have taken it well. But had she tried the wine? Was she even going to know what corked meant? The day was winding down and we only had one more winery to do. “Let’s just see what the reds are like, and go.” The 2003 Wallace (85% Shiraz/15% Grenache) was cherry red with a pleasant minty nose but big tannins and evident alcohol (2, 2, 3.9, 9.8 = 17.7/20, 14,5% alcohol). The 2001 Bishop Shiraz was dense cherry red with notes of caramel and leather. Medium weight, it was well balanced with a clean acid finish. (2, 2, 4.0, 9.9 = 17.9/20). The 2001 Glaetzer Shiraz was cherry red with aromas of very ripe fruit. Another well balanced wine that finished with clean acidity. (2, 2, 3.7, 9.8 = 17.5/20). Maybe it was that first wine, but I left Glaetzer feeling that I had expected better quality than what we had been offered.

Turkey Flat Vineyards
Some of the oldest shiraz vines in the Barossa are just outside of Tanunda. Actually the advertising says some of the oldest in the world, and I won’t argue with that. The 2002 Shiraz was not available for tasting, but my notes on both the 375 and 750 ml can be found here. The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon was cherry red and had the unmistakable wintergreen mint aroma of a young Cabernet; no eucalyptus here. Medium weight and very well balanced it finished with a solid display of tannins. (2, 2, 4.1, 10.2 =18.3/20, 14.0% alcohol). In comparison the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon had a softer, more subtle bouquet of leather and earth. A well structured wine with a solid backbone of tannins but greater acidity carrying the lengthy finish. (2, 2, 3.8, 10.2 = 18.0/20). Seems they make more than just excellent shiraz at Turkey Flat

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Barossa - December 12
Its surprising how the prospect of a day of wine tasting steels the body and focuses the mind. It doesn’t hurt that the owners of the B&B you’ve rented have laid on all the necessary ingredients for a great breakfast, including humongous double-yolk eggs! And bacon. And coffee. And home-made biscuits. “And, jeez, there’s chocolates and a decanter of port!” “Better save those for later.”

An Experiment in Tasting Notes
Wine tasting at cellar doors is not my favorite way to write tasting notes mainly because you almost always end up shoulder-to-shoulder with some old dear who is soaked in perfume and wants to talk your ear off about how much she misses Porphyry Pearl. Or, more likely, you have hardly finished putting your nose into the wine glass before the wait-staff is ready to pour from the next bottle in the line-up. So rather than the usual notepad and pencils I thought I’d be a bit better prepared and brought along, oh about a 100 copies of, Hugh Johnson’s and Michael Broadbent’s Christie’s – Sunday Times Wine Club Tasting Chart. This little chart, copyrighted in 1975, allows you to mark off various aspects of SIGHT, SMELL and TASTE as well as adding your own comments. So for SIGHT, for example, you can very quickly underline a shiraz as being brilliant (clarity), dark (depth of color), purple (color), and normal (viscosity). Appropriate characteristics can be underlined for SMELL and TASTE, leaving the bulk of the tasting time for describing the more ethereal aspects of the wine. At least that was the theory. And I still think it will work, although the chart needs to be modernized in several ways that don’t need to be discussed here. What I didn’t foresee was that Miranda would point out the existence of the chart to all and sundry and even have them supplied with a copy! Of more concern was the scoring system. Even though I tried to change it so that it was similar to the 20 point system I have used for years, it was still subtly different. More than subtly different, sufficiently different, so that I found I was continually checking to make sure I was scoring within the correct range as I tasted each wine. In the end it wasn’t really saving me any time at all. So the Christie’s system was only used in the tasting of the Two Hands wines. All other tasting was done with my old system. Both are based on a 20 point system; Christie‘s - Sight 4, Smell 6, Taste 7, Overall Quality 3; Old system Clarity 2, Color 2, Smell 5, Taste 11 (which includes an assessment of Quality).

Two Hands Wines
When you visit Two Hands, and no visit to the Barossa is complete without a tasting at Two Hands, make sure you visit the loo! When you walk in the door you will know why I make the suggestion.
The 2004 The Wolf Clare Valley Riesling was watery clear with pleasant notes of pineapple and citrus, with tart apple acidity, well balanced and a pleasing finish. (4,5,6,2=17/20). The 2002 Tyre Kickers was garnet in color with an attractive fruitcake and blackberry nose that closed down after a few minutes. The palate was medium weight, very well balanced with reasonable length to the finish. (4, 4.8, 6.5, 2.2=17.5/20, 14.5% alcohol). The 2003 Brave Faces was purple/red with pleasant flavors of red fruits and cherry jam. Medium weight with soft tannins and refreshing acidity, it was very well balanced. (4, 5.1, 6.5, 2.1=17.7/20). The 2003 Gnarly Dudes was a deep purple and loaded with ripe fruit flavors. The flavor complexity married well with the soft entry onto the palate, medium bodied and well balanced, although the tannins were a little hard. (4, 5.2, 6.4 2.4=18.0/20, 14.5% alcohol). I don’t know why a blend of 67% Merlot and 33% Cabernet Franc gets called Shovel Blanc, the 2003 was cherry red and quite closed. Medium bodied but big on tannins it was not a style I liked. (4, 4.8, 6.0, 2.0 =16.8/20, 14,5% alcohol). Things improved with the 2003 Bad Impersonator, a single vineyard Barossa shiraz. Dark purple with ripe jammy fruit, it had overtones of mulberries which I find unusual for shiraz. Medium bodied and very well balanced with evident tannins and clean acidity. (4, 5.2, 6.2, 2.4 =17.8/20, 15% alcohol). The 2003 Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz was purple in the glass with a wonderful complex perfumed nose. Medium bodied and very well balanced with refreshing acidity, a solid backbone of tannins and a lengthy finish. (4, 5.4, 6.4, 2.6 = 18.4, 15.5% alcohol). Distinctly different was the 2003 Sophie’s Garden Padthaway Shiraz with pepper, spices and sarsaparilla. Also very well balanced with solid tannins and a lingering finish, there was slightly more acidity to this wine than the Lily’s Garden. (4, 5.2, 6.3, 2.5=18.0, 16.6% alcohol).

We started with their 2002 Original Sparking Shiraz. I was interested to try this wine as we have not seen very much of this wine style at all in the USA. The wine was cherry red with a dominant blackberry aroma. Slightly sweet in the mouth it became somewhat tarry on the finish. A reasonable shiraz with bubbles. (2,2,4.0,9.5=17.5/20). The next wine, the 1994 Show Sparkling Shiraz, which is 10 years old on release, was a complete contrast. Deeper in color, it had developed characters of earth and barnyard and was soft and elegant in the mouth finishing with firm tannins. Surprisingly good! (2,2,4.4,10.2=18.6/20). The 2002 Victorian Premium Shiraz was a dense cherry red with good blackberry notes but with a grapey or vinous character. It was pleasantly soft in the mouth but the acidity was a little raw and out of balance. (2,2,3.8,9.6=17.4/20) However it was the fortified that we were after and although it took $5 per glass (!) we did get to taste some of the “Rare” series. The 21 Year Old Para Liqueur Barossa Valley Tawny (1983) was almost rose in color and slightly closed but opened beautifully in the mouth. Rich and luscious, it had caramel and Christmas cake flavors and a lengthy finish. (2,2,4.3,10.2=18.5/20). The DP 90 Rare Barossa Valley Tawny was hazel brown. Rich, complex and very well balanced, it oozed walnuts and raisins over an extremely long finish. (2,2,4.4,10.5=18.9/20). The DP 59 Rare Rutherglen Tokay looked like treacle, and gave flavors of treacle, molasses and coffee, and a finish that lingered and lingered. (2,2, 4.5,10.6=19.1/20) A Classic Wine! The GR 113 Rare Rutherglen Muscat was not quite as deep in color as the Tokay but was a much richer wine with toffee and caramel and ripe raisins, and a beautifully long finish. (2,2,4.5,10.7=19.2/20) Another entry for the Classic Wines section.

Barossa Valley Estates
We dropped into BV Estates on the off chance that we might get some lunch. And we tried some wines. The only notes I have are for the 2001 Ebenezer Shiraz, which was cherry red and gave aromas of barnyard, pepper, and hint of alcohol. A well balanced wine that finished cleanly. (2,2,3.9,9.8=17.6/20, 14% alcohol). The 1999 E&E Sparkling Shiraz was consumed with lunch. What a treat! Dense cherry red, almost purple it gave off mountains of blueberry/blackberry and pepper notes. A truly mouth-filling wine, that carried its fruit flavors through on retronasal. Very well balanced, with a lengthy finish. The only drawback was that the bubbles just did not last in the glass. (2,2,4.3,10.4=18.7/20, 14.5% alcohol).

Heritage Estate
Some cellar doors are just plain friendly. The young lady serving at Hertiage was all smiles, and willing to chat away about wine and anything else – the cellar cat, the deceased cellar dog, Wine Dogs. I nearly forgot to take notes. The 2003 Barossa Shiraz was a dense cherry red with very ripe fruit, well balanced and finishing with firm tannins (2,2,4.0,9.6=17.6/20). The 2002 Rossco’s Shiraz was also a dense cherry red with ripe fruit and blackberry flavors and very firm tannins. There was a slight confectionary note to the wine and a hint of ethyl acetate. (2,2,4.1,9.8=17.9/20).

Kaesler Wines
There were some high hopes when we pulled into the carpark at Kaesler Wines, but our spot at the tasting bar was right below the air-conditioning unit. Its pretty hard to taste wine while some machine tries to freeze you! I was able to scratch down notes on two reds. The 2003 Stonehorse Shiraz was cherry red. The flavors were almost cherry liqueur-like against a prominent blackberry note. Medium weight and well balanced, it was a pleasant but unimpressive wine. (2,2,3.9,9.6=17.5/20). The 2001 Old Vine Shiraz was darker in color and quite closed, giving just a little dusty oak. Also medium weight and well balanced, it finished with some sharp acidity. (2,2,3.6,9.5=17.1/20)

Gnadenfrei Estate
Viking was closed, and we didn’t hold much hope that Gnadenfrei would be tasting either but they were. The 2003 St Michaels Shiraz is a monster of a wine. Almost purple, it has a big blackberry jam nose and over powering tannins. The flavors carry through on retronasal for a lengthy finish, but this is wine that will need considerable time to soften. (2,2,4.2,10.0=18.2/20, 15.3% alcohol). The 2003 Shiraz Grenache has the same jammy characters but is a softer, less aggressive wine. (2,2,4.2,9.8=18.0/20, 15.3% alcohol).

The Willows
The only wine I wanted to try here was the 2002 Bonesetter Shiraz. It was sold out! We did get some of their Sparkling Shiraz “The Doctor”, and there should be some tasting notes on that around here somewhere! Their Cabernet Sauvignon did generate some discussion that continued for the next few days. Apparently the grapes for this wine come from vines surrounded on three sides by eucalyptus trees, and the eucalyptus is clearly evident in the wine. Its not mint, its eucalyptus. Terroir? You bet! But how does eucalyptus get into the grapes? Why are the Blue Mountains Blue?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Sauce! Where’s The Sauce?
The best way to drink wine is in the company of friends and good food. So it was not a difficult decision to accept an invitation from Mark Wickman to join some of the Auswineforum members for a wine dinner while we were in Adelaide. Date, time and place was December 11, at 6:30pm at The Sauce. Not too difficult if you know your way about Adelaide, that is. But we had just arrived after hopping from San Diego to LA to Honolulu to Sydney, fortunately with a few nights in between. Miranda and I were met at the Adelaide airport by John (brother), and Ngaire (cousin) and Chris (Ngaire’s husband) and whisked away to Penfolds Magill Cellar Door to taste some pretty ordinary wines. Even the Magill Estate Restaurant was closed. So we decided that we would seek out The Sauce and deposit the wines we had brought for the coming evening. Its an interesting experience driving around the back streets of Adelaide. There are quite a few dead-ends and there was a lot of “No, I don’t think we can get there from here” coming from the front seat of the car. But we did eventually get there, opened and checked the wines and then left for a little tour. A minor mistake because we had a lot more of the “No, I don’t think we can get there from here” when we tried to find our way back.

The dinner was an outstanding evening and comments on the wines, as well as pictures have been put up by both Mark (markg) and Ian (n4sir). Thanks also to Steve (707) for organizing The Sauce as a venue. I would put up notes on the wines myself but from a certain point in the evening everything is a complete blank, a few minutes after we arrived! (Apologies to Shelly Berman.)

Our little band of wine merry souls had to leave early to travel out to Tanunda for an early start wine tasting the following day. On our way out to Tanunda we didn’t have a lot of “No, I don’t think we can get there from here”, but we did have a lot of “Are you sure we are on the right road?” For Miranda it was “Are you sure we are driving on the right SIDE of the road?”

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Barossa Bound
This eBlog is going on the road. Well, into the air initially, to Hawaii, then Sydney and finally Adelaide, Australia. We will then be heading out to Tanunda where we will be using Elsie's Cottage and Clara's Cottage as our bases to explore the surrounding wineries. The complete itinerary has not been finalized as yet but Dutschke, Kalleske, Rockford, Tinshed etc. are on an ever growing list. Some initial plans include:-

Sunday 12th
10:00 Two Hands
11:00 Seppeltsfield
1:00 Penfolds
2:00 Kaesler
3:00 The Willows

Monday 13th
9:00 Kellermeister/Trevor Jones
10:00 Dutschke
1:00 Charles Melton
2:00 Rockford
3:00 Glaetzer
4:00 Turkey Flat

Tuesday 14th
10:00 Kalleske
11:00 Torbreck
12:00 Veritas
2:00 Langmeil
3:00 Thorn Clarke
4:00 Peter Lehmann

The 15th and 16th are still being planned. We'll certainly taste our way through some of the fortified wines from Yalumba. Updates and tasting notes will be posted as often as internet access allows.

Burnt offerings
By Jeni Port, December 7, 2004 The Age
The heat and bushfires of 2003 left a terrible mark on life and the landscape of Canberra and north-east Victoria. The conditions also left their mark on some of the wines of that year. As bushfire smoke and haze shrouded the floors of the King and Alpine valleys during January and February - just weeks before vintage - grapevines became a susceptible target, with the smoke somehow entering the plants' system. Maybe it's through the leaves - no one knows for sure until more studies are performed - but one thing is certain, the smoke taint survived the winemaking process and was noticeable in the finished wine. The biggest indicator that something was wrong came after fermentation with a lingering, stale ashtray taste and a hardness on the finish of the wine. MORE->

What a great example of terroir!!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Aussies in Wine Spectator's 2004 Top 100
Australian wines made up 10% of the Top 100. Eight were shiraz and the other two chardonnay. The list is:-

8) Greg Norman Estates Reserve Shiraz 1999 - 96 Points - South Eastern Australia
24) Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2001 - 98 Points - Margaret River, WA
27) Elderton Command Shiraz 2000 - 97 Points - Barossa Valley, SA
28) Green Point Shiraz 2002 - 93 Points - Victoria
38) Torbreck The Struie 2002 - 94 Points - Barossa Valley, SA
45) Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2001 - 94 Points - Barossa Valley, SA
51) Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz 2003 - -92 Points - McLaren Vale, SA
73) Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz 2002 - 91 Points - Barossa Valley, SA
93) Rosemount Hunter Valley Show Reserve Chardonnay 2002 - 90 Points - Hunter Valley, NSW
95) Peter Lehmann Shiraz 2002 - 90 Points - Barossa Valley, SA

Looks like the whites sit on West and East coasts and the reds are firmly planted in the Barossa. Not a lot of news in that!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Wine Grape Varietal Table
Need to know more about your favorite grape, or more about an unusual varietal. Well De Long's WINE GRAPE VARIETAL TABLE might just be what you have been looking for. Its a (2ft by 3ft) poster, suitable for framing, that lists 184 grape varieties organized by body and acidity. The poster comes with The Wine and Grape Indexes, a useful guide that can help sort out just what grapes were used to make the wine you are drinking.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Penfolds Bin 389 2001- Danger, Danger!
Penfolds Bin 389 2001 $18.99USD
Given that Parker has refused to score wines like the Bin 389 "because their acid levels were beyond acceptable ranges" it was with trembling, and fully gloved hand, that I poured this wine into an acid proof glass. Peering through safety glasses I could just make out a dense cherry red with red edge. Initially a promising earthy, gamey nose underscored by a less than medium weight mouthfeel. Mouth drying tannins with refreshing acidity at the finish. Good retronasal. Needed time but opened nicely with plum, pepper and dark berry fruits overlaying a pleasant toasted character. Vigorous agitation revealed sweet vanilla oak. This is a wine that definitely needs some air to soften it. This adds some weight to the mouthfeel and creates a better balance between the structural components. 2, 2, 3.8, 9.8 = 17.6. 14.3% alcohol. 60% Cabernet sauvignon, 40% Shiraz. Tasted December 1-2, 2004.

This is the second bottle of the 2001 I have tried; the first being corked. If you drink the wine as soon as the cork is pulled (as I always do) you will not be impressed at all, at least I was not. The Penfolds description is "a firm base of ripe tannins" - that is putting it mildly! But with time (hours) the wine does loose that harshness and gains complexity and turns into a very nice wine. It tasted much better the next day. I got much more from the wine using an ISO than a Vinum-style of glass.

Whatever excessive acidity Parker is detecting in this wine never materialized in the particular bottle I tried. Am I about to race out and buy more? No, I'm over the poor man's Grange mystique; no I can't afford Grange. The only 389 I have in the cellar is the 1997. Don't ask me why because I don't know. One thing I do know, at less than $20USD, Bin 389 has fallen in price than a few years ago when it was in the mid-20's. It is reasonable value.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Greg Norman Scores 96, Places Eighth
Not the sort of score that the The Shark is used to making, but I'm sure he's more than a little pleased with it. Its the number of points that his Greg Norman Estates 1999 Reserve Shiraz received from Wine Spectator, which helped the wine to place eighth in the Top 100 Wines for 2004. Its also the top Aussie wine for 2004. I'll provide more on how Aussie wines did in the WS Top 100 later. Note. The PDF is up on eBob as we speak but it probably won't last as it is for online subscribers of WS only.
Sideways - Pickett's Hail Mary
Sideways Author Rex Pickett has been interviewed by NPR about his novel Sideways which has been made into a critically acclaimed film starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. It's about two ex-college roommates, now middle-aged, who set off on a week's trip through California's Santa Barbara wine country.

You can also listen to Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan's review. And NPR's Michele Norris talks with filmmaker Alexander Payne about Sideways.