Coonawarra Roadshow 2010 - quick snapshot
I was particularly slack at this years Coonawarra Roadshow (an annual Coonawarra fest that moves around Australia, spreading the word on all things Coonawarra wine, via some old school mega tastings), spending more time chatting to winemakers and the like rather than actually tasting all that much wine. But I still got what I came for - which is typically to find out who is doing good things and how the vintages are looking.
On that topic, the predominant vintage on pour this year was 2008, a vintage brought forward perhaps by the tiny frost driven yields of 2007 and being spruiked by many as a strong one.
Personally, I found many of the 2008 Coonawarra reds to be noticeably rich, ripe and consumer friendly, built in a style that already looks attractive. This contrasts to the almost non existant, highly variable 07's, the mid weight and also variable 06's, the very good, ripe, full 05's and sublime, classic 04's. The only challenge of 2008 was that, given the heatwave conditions that much of these grapes ripened/were picked in, the alcohols and impact were up a notch.
In the right hands that just means more open and full flavoured wines, but alcohol heat marred more than a few wines in this lineup. More to the point, I think that this is a decidedly unclassical Coonawarra vintage, leaving a slew of wines that lack that lovely, dust,y red earth varietal/regional interplay that Coonawarra Cabernet in particular does so well. On the flipside, the wines that still showed some restraint and varietal character looked very smart indeed.
In other words, it's a vintage were generalisations just don't cut it....
Oh and before we get into the tasting notes themselves a word of caution about scores. Young Coonawarra Cabernet rarely shows well and even young Coonawarra Shiraz can be a handful, so take careful note of the plus signs. They are very relevant.
The artisan Coonawarra winemaker (and organic at that) Highbank typically offers a refined expression of Coonawarran reds. Wasn't quite feeling the love with the Merlot, but the Cabernet is the sort of wine you would want to take to dinner. Somewhere with nice napkins.
Highbank Merlot 2005
Choc mint and leaf nose, palate is mostly velvety smooth but ends with a metallic twang. It's not without charm, though I was looking for more. 16.5/88
Highbank Cabernet Blend 2004
Looked almost out of place amongst these younger wines. It's actually a rather graceful wine, which rarely makes for a standout in a mega tasting. Nose is nicely regional with leaf, mint and red fruit. Palate is nicely resolved but still firmly dry and structured. Balanced and entirely drinkable. 17.8/92
Balnaves Cabernet 2008
A big'un. Thick, rich, mildly reductive nose of oak and lots of ripe ripe fruit. Palate is impact and power but not quite at the expense of drinkability (though boozy). It's a wine still fitting into it's skin, but certainly itching with fair potential. 17.2/90+
Parker Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet 2006
Shitloads of chocolate oak, with more oak than fruit. Oak tannins to finish. It will get better with bottle age, but it may always be too oaky. 16.2/87+
Parker Estate First Growth Cabernet Blend 2006
Big choc oak hit on the nose, palate too crammed with fruit and oak. Warm, oaky and rich with a golden heart. Oak driven, but not terrible. Should improve. 17.1/90+
Wynns Glengyle Cabernet 2007
The perils of 07. Quite a mid weight, almost pretty nose, with reducrrants and red fruit. Slippery palate is properly Cabernetish but has a big hole through it, as if something was left behind in Coonawarra. If they find it, the score should go up. 16.4/88+
Wynns Black Label Cabernet 2008
Wynns fans rejoice (that's me), your maker has delivered the goods. It's a ripe year wine, ala 98 Black Label, and framed sweeter as a result. But the black fruit and proper tannins of this ripe and full Cabernet are pretty impressive all things considered. Hang out for someone to sell this at $20 a bottle and fill the boot I say, for this is a goodun'. 17.5/91+
Petaluma Coonawarra 1998
I couldn't get near the Petaluma table as it was swarming with fans, but I did sneak in a sip of this. It carries a tobacco, pepper, mint and meat bottle aged Cabernet nose, with a roundish palate and fully resolved tannins. Dinner table wine. Lamb please. 17.9/93
Bowen Estate Cabernet 2008
15 odd percent alcohol and withering. Barely recognisable as being from Coonawarra. Berry fruited, strained and raisined nose with light and sweet palate. Falls away quickly (but the alcohol doesn't). Very simple wine. 15.7/85
Lindemans Limestone Ridge Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Continues the fine recent run of this label. Looking very young, sweet and a bit oaky at this stage, but still the palate feels rightly proportioned, with nice tannins and proper weight. Bottle age winner. 17.6/92++
Lindemans Pyrus Red Blend 2008
Again very youthful, looking sweet and boysenberried but again just about right. Nice definition behind that youth, with classic length, a long palate and no shortage of tannins. Like. 18/93++
Lindemans St George Cabernet 2008
Looking particularly varietal this vintage, with mammoth tannins, the only thing standing in this wines way is the warmish finish. Long term wine but a masochists drink for now. 17.2+++
Majella Cabernet 2008
Historically I've been quite a fan of Majella reds and this is no exception. Nice to see some herbaceous varietal character here, intermingled with that trademark Majella oak/fruit richness that wins friends everywhere. Really long too. Loved it. 18.3/93
Leconfield Cabernet 2008
Surprisingly round and creamy oaky, as if in an attempt to further distance itself from the weedy Leconfield Cabs of the early noughties/late 90's. What saves it is the shut up tight finish, which jolts you back into realising that this is just plain too young. Leave and it should come up well in time. 17.2/90++
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