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).

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