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.

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