Clarendon Hills Wines Unmasked

Clarendon Hillls

2001 Clarendon Hills Sandown Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Tasted blind:  Opaque purple/ brown colour. Lovely lifted nose that grew in intensity over a 4 hour period, starting quite closed and dumb when opened and evolved to beautiful black currents, spice, anise and cedar. The weight of the wine was quite light in the mouth but had great intensity and flavour redolent with black currents, cedar, liquorice, chocolate and toasty oak. Very fine grained tannins and a long lingering finish. Drink over next 10 years. 96/100.

Winemaker Roman Bratasiuk likens this wine to French St Julien second growth, Chateau Leoville Las Cases. Grapes sources from 50-90 years old vines around the town of Clarendon, cropped at 2.5 tonnes to the acre. Nicks Wines gave this wine 99/100.

2006 Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Syrah, Mclaren Vale, South Australia

Blind tasting notes: Nose of spice, pepper, anise, mocha, grilled meats/bacon and dusty oak. Rich mouthfilling palate with great intensity and full of spice , coffee and rich cream. Strong drying tannins and long finish. I picked this as a 2008 McLaren Shiraz. Not too far off…. Drink over next 3-6 years. 95/100.

Nick wines tasting notes: The nose is a pure sniffing pleasure, with violet top note followed by anise, liquorice, cedar and vanilla. The palate flavour profile is explosive – black and white pepper is overlaid with plum, liquorice and spice – totally mouthfilling, with outstanding length and depth. Fine dryish tannins, perfectly balanced – a touch more assertive than the other vineyards Syrah, but well structured. Exceptionally long aftertaste of plum, liquorice, spice and a hint of smoky oak. Cellar 8-10 years (2016-2018) 99 Points

Magical McLaren Vale – 2006 Oliver’s Taranga HJ Shiraz

Oliver’s Taranga HJ Shiraz is their flagship wine from vines planted in 1948. Only 600 dozen of this wine was produced. McLaren Vale in South Australia is known for producing big, rich, ripe and earthy reds. This 2006 wine from a good year is no exception. There is an uncompromising quality and delightful richness to this wine.

Oliver's Taranga HJ Shiraz 2006

A big wine and bigger steak

It poured with an intense purple colour and quite opaque despite its age. The nose was rich with floral notes, perfumed, spicy and redolent with dark berry fruits. There was also dark earth, and leather evident. On the palate there was a creaminess and texture that flooded the senses with dark berries, vanillan oak, dark chocolate and clotted cream. Not for the faint hearted! This rich wine went well with a rare scotch fillet steak (ie prime rib minus the bone). A stronger man might finish with a cigar and vintage port…….

Score 95/100 and will keep for another 5 years, but drinking superbly now. Price AU$50

Day 2:  Still going strong! Lovely blackcurrent, spice, dusky oak and white pepper nose. Palate still rich and full with blackcurrent, chocolate and earth. Almost too strong for the Osso Bucco. Strongly recommend this wine – current vintage 2010 also a cracker!

QANTAS Wines

After the madness of a late night check-in and security its nice to escape to the airline lounge. The QANTAS LAX Lounge is one of their busiest and sometimes seems busier than the outside terminal. However….they do usually have some reasonable wines to taste, so while waiting for the QF94 back home to Melbourne, I had time to try 3:

2007 Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva Tempranillo, Spain. An easy to drink wine although a little dull. Nice dark brambly fruit and mocha on the nose with a savory fruit driven palate. Nice savoriness and mouthfeel, but abrupt finish. 86/100

2011 Hess Select, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California. Nice bright fruit on the nose with cassis, perfume and violet notes. Good red fruits on the palate with mocha and cedar notes. Clean and well put together. Needs some time in the cellar. 89/100

2010 Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia. Dark purple colour with beautiful aromatic nose of dark fruits, mocha, vanilla, pepper and spice. Lovely creamy mouthfeel with dark berries, coffee and spice. A big wine with a long finish that would complement a hearty steak……not something I was contemplating close to midnight! Good drinking and will cellar well for 5-8 years. 92/100

There was an interesting looking central coast pinot, but its time to board…..

Food and Wine in Canada’s Capital

Beckta menu2008 Riesling

I was in Ottawa last week and got together with 2 sommelier buddies, Astrid and Perry to try some local wine and food. Naturally I had to bring some Aussie reds to compete. We selected the Beckta dining and wine restaurant on 226 Nepean Street, Ottawa. A great restaurant with great food and friendly service. We enjoyed sharing our wines with the Beckta’s sommelier.

We started the evening with a Riesling from Ontario – a 2008 Henry of Pelham, Speck Family Reserve. The wine opened with a soft nose with some secondary kerosene characters and soft apple and citrus on the nose. The palate was broad and flavoursome without that steely backbone evident in many top Aussie Rieslings. A very enjoyable wine that complemented my Root vegetable soup. A good pairing!

Aussie CabernetsNext we tried 2 aged Aussie cabernets from my cellar: a 2004 Balnaves from the Coonawarra district in South Australia that is famous for its cabernets and a 2005 Chapel Hill from McLaren Vale in South Australia that’s probably better known for its big shiraz reds. Both wines were stunning and were tasted after one hours decanting.

Quebec Duck Magret
The Balnaves colour was a dark plum with a purple hue and the nose was redolent with blackberry and blueberry fruit, earth, and cedar. The palate was soft and mouthfilling with spicy berry fruit, cedar and tobacco leaf. The tannins were nicely integrated and the wine would easily cellar for another 5+ years. I enjoyed the wine with the Quebec Magret Duck that was cooked medium rare to perfection and the flavours worked well with the wine.
The Chapel Hill was a monster wine with bid fruit, and big tannins. Even though only a year separated the two wines the difference was palpable. My view is that the stelvin enclosure on the Chapel made the difference. The wine was young and fresh and still quite primary, with rich spicy black fruits, anise, pepper and cedar. The palate had not integrated fully and the wine definitely needs more time in the cellar! However, Perry said it worked well with his Wellington county beef striploin that was most enjoyable.

My scores: Riesling 91/100, Balnaves cabernet 95/100, Chapel Hill 93/100.
The reds cost approx $35 each when purchased.

Sensational Penfolds St Henri 2004

Well cellared - note no travel on cork!

The Penfolds St Henri Shiraz is an iconic Australian wine that relies on fruit purity rather than oak to express its character. The grapes are drawn from multiple vineyards in South Australia (Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek and Adelaide Hills) and is predominantly Shiraz (95+%) with a small amount of Cabernet. The wine is aged in large old oak vats.

Opened 10 Oct 13. The wine was quite subdued on opening, but began to open after an hour. Soft spicy cherry and black fruit on the nose with a hint of tobacco leaf. The palate was plush and mouthfilling with beautiful dark berry fruits, plums, mocha, anise and soft earth. Great balance, integrated tannins, rich fruit and a long finish. Lovely wine, but a little closed even after 3 hours.

Day 2. Wine still drinking beautifully with some secondary characters starting to emerge.

Day 3. Wow! The wine has blossomed. Dark, rich berry fruits, earthy undertones and great balance. Wonderful structure and polish. You could be excused to think this had only been opened a few hours ago! I wondered how it would taste on Day 4…..but I’ll never know as I didn’t have the willpower to stop! Could easily cellar for another 5+ years, but why wait? Great wine. 96/100

Well cellared wine – note no travel on cork!

A weekend in the Barossa Valley

The Barossa Valley in South Australia remains one of my favourite wine areas in Australia. Big bold beautiful reds, picturesque rolling hills and very friendly people. Four of us hired a little cottage called Hallet’s Hideaway. For anyone spending time in the Barossa, I strongly recommend it. In a quiet rural location, it looks out over vineyards, is immaculately kept with modern appliances and a good open fireplace. We all bought wine from our cellars which we had masked and served the wine blind. Tasting notes from wines served blind from 9-11 August 2013 follow:

2009 Corton Charlemagne – Louis Latour Grand Cru, Burgundy, France

On opening, pale yellow with golden hue. Beautiful buttery nose with hints of pear and melon. Instantly recognised as a very classy chardonnay. Unctuous, mouthfilling viscosity. Pale yellow, beautiful mouthfeel and flavour that floods the palate. A finish that lasts and lasts. Slight bitter aftertaste initially that disappeared within an hour after opening.
Day 2 – Softer, broader, still rich and mouthfilling but lacked the intensity of Day 1.
Perfect complement – Tarragon chicken.
Hommus/Cheese – not good match!

2006 Tyrells Stevens Hunter Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW

Fri 9.8.13 Opened (Served blind). Bright herbaceous crisp nose, amazing bright acid, watery colour. Lifted acidic mouthfeel with hint of oak. Great intensity, but still a refreshing summer wine
Day 2 – Drinking better, softer, more integrated flavours, plush mouthfeel.

2006 Sena Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile

Fri 9.8.13 Opened (Served blind). Bright red brick, perfume, blueberries, butter chocolate, velvet tannins, coffee/mocha, and hint of tobacco. Beautiful viscous mouthcoating feel. Elegant, sophicated, amazing balance – no edges. Score 95.
Day 2 – Smoky nose blackberry fruit. Earthy on palate, still a great wine.

2011 Mollydooker Velvet Glove, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Fri 9.8.13 Opened (Served blind). Beautiful plum/purple colour. Creamy, cassis, rich mouthfilling, opulent black and red fruit, great balance but bawdy and in your face!
Day 2 – Still fresh, bright fruit on nose and palate. Softened only slightly, slight stalkiness on back palate.

Penfolds – 1996 St Henri Shiraz, South Australia

Fri 9.8.13 Opened (Served blind). Aged cigar/tobacco character, brownish edges, bright brick red colour. Dumb initially but opened over an hour, steely nose, mocha, oak, dusty, soft tannins.
Good food wine with beef bourgignon.
Day 2 – Dark berries, tobacco leaf on nose. Still drinking well. Secondary characters on palate, more pronounced leather, cigar. Fruit faded.

2003 Trevor Jones, Wild Witch Reserve Dry Grown Barossa Shiraz 14.5%

Fri 9.8.13 Opened (Served blind). Tight, restrained nose, light fresh red fruits, drying tannins, slightly acidic, astringent finish. Disappointing Score 87.
Re-tasted Saturday 10th – Similar to Friday
Mon 12.8.13 Amazing metamorphis!! The wine has opened. The nose has soft, red berry fruit with traces of anise, hint of volatile acidity, very complex, very appealing. Fine dusty tannins, mocha flavour with soft berry fruit. Leathery aged finish. Very enjoyable
Lost freshness, gained complexity. Very interesting to watch. Score 90.