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?

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