Saturday, 30 October 2010

BEER: Sierra Nevada Northern Hemipshere Harvest 2010

BEER; Sierra Nevada 'Northern Hemisphere' Harvest ale 2010 
6.7% alc $US5.45 (plus tax) 750ml

After banging on about the disappointment that was the 2010 Cascade First Harvest, it was a pleasure to enjoy a glass of a better version of the 'harvest' style tonight, on what is my second last evening in the USA (for this trip at least).

Sierra Nevada call this a 'wet hop ale' and they produce both a northern hemisphere example (crafted from overnight shipped Washington state hops) and a southern hemisphere example (crafted from 3 different types of air freighted Kiwi hops), both of which are available over here at present.

It's a serious beer this one, although I'm not sure how much you could actually drink of it given the raw power. Golden amber in colour, it shows a spicy, heady hop driven, hop laced and hop drenched nose. The palate follows with big, spicy, almost astringent hop bitterness, followed by some richer caramel flavours through the tail.

Super bitter and almost raw yet also very tasty, this just lingers and lingers, helped along by the noticeable 6.7% alcohol. It's supercharged stuff, but in the best sort of fashion. The big red of the ale world maybe, and to be enjoyed in a similar sort of fashion. I liked it, but it did follow about 3 Margarita's...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Bremerton Range

Bremerton Range

I'm actually on holidays in the USA this week, but after noticing that my tasting notebook curiously ended up in my bag, I thought I'd put some jetlag related insomnia to good use and bash out some tasting notes. So these three wines were actually tasted and drunk last week.

I've got plenty of time for the Bremerton wines, as they are all good value and utterly affable (if not the most complex) a combination that, when combined with consistency, makes for easy recommendations.

Bremerton Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
$18, Screwcap, 12.5%

The market may call for Sauvignon Blanc but I'd argue that it's generally not suited to this region at all...

It's a big, ripe, fruit salad of a Sauv this one, with nary a hint of varietal herbs to be found. That's a turnoff I think, for the best (or at least the most distinctive) thing about good Sauv Blanc is those varietal aromatics. This, instead, has a tropical nose actually, with lush guava fruit characters, and following with a palate showing generous and reasonably broad simple fruit flavours, set a fraction short but pleasant enough.

All in all its a solid drink, but just not much to get excited about. 16/87

Bremerton Verdelho 2010 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
$18, Screwcap, 13.5%

...and instead this variety, old Verdelho, is entirely well suited, yet no one buys it (or at least that's the impression). That's a shame really for this presents with some grip and real interest.

It's not much to sniff at (for the moment at least), with a waxy pear, lightly honeyed nose that still seems a little bound up. Underneath however lies a palate full of welcome surprise, with sweet pear fruit over some very well handled textural phenolics. What's more, it lingers too, the acidity and length all very surprising for such an unheralded wine.

This, happily, tastes like a wine punching above it's weight, and the score reflects that. Well done. 17.5/91

Bremerton Coulthard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Langhorne Creek, SA)
$22, Screwcap, 14.5%

A new label for Bremerton and certainly a fair result for the vintage.

What I like most about this wine is the rich, minty, super concentrated palate. It's the sort of hearty, full flavoured wine that you just know that blokey Aussies will love. For mine it's a fraction roasted, warm and raw, but I can't begrudge the obvious quality of the winemaking and viticulture, both of which have only been challenged by the bitch of a vintage that was 2008.

Likeable, honest stuff. 16.7/89

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Golding Lil' Late Harvest Chardonnay 2009

Golding Lil' Late Harvest Chardonnay 2009 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
$23 375ml, Screwcap, 9.5%

A late harvest Chardonnay? Why not! If anywhere has a chance of making something special from late harvested Chardonnay grapes, then surely the Adelaide Hills would be it. This particular wine was produced from grapes that were left out until mid May, with a fermentation that left behind some 105g/l of residaul sugar.

It's a rather chubby wine this, perhaps reinforcing how challenging it is to get a grape like Chardonnay to perform well as a dessert style. The nose is lightly raisined, with pineapple and honeycomb richness, with some oxidative sweatiness in there too. No botrytis evident, though the grapes were clearly looking a little worse for wear when they came into the winery. Palate too is softly sweet, honeyed and fat, loaded with glycerin and creamy peach fruit. It ultimately sits a little awkwardly on the palate, finishing short and looking generally overripe, though a seam of acidity cleans it up through the finish.

I'd call the Lil' a little overripe (as in a product of out of condition grapes) personally, but I like the intent. Top options wine at the least. 16.3/87

Monday, 18 October 2010

Larry Cherubino Shiraz 2007

Larry Cherubino Shiraz 2007 (Frankland River, WA)
$65, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample

I've got to confess that I regularly struggle with Great Southern Shiraz. I love Great Southern Riesling, enjoy the Chardonnay and regularly dig the Cabernets, but Shiraz remains a far more mercurial beast for mine, with wines that I find carry a green note which I do not enjoy in Shiraz. I'm alone again on this, but again it's a personal preference. Interesting that I don't mind greenness in Cabernet though...

This, like some of Larry's other Shiraz, is built firm and dry. It smells very serious, with a peppered black fruit nose overlaid with a mulchy pong. It is obviously ripe, but also somewhat tough, firm and a little uncompromising. The palate is surprisingly sweet, if spicy, with sweet musky fruit cast ripe and spicy. It's a tad too firm and even slightly disjointed to be brutally honest, with warmth through the finish. But something in the back of my head is telling me that this just needs some time. Score reflects this. 17.4/91+

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2008

Craggy Range 'Te Muna Road' Pinot Noir 2008 (Martinborough, NZ)
$50, Cork (I think), 13.7%

Source: Sample

I think I am the only person in the land who is not much of a Craggy Range fan. Or at least it feels that way. Everyone else seems to give the wines maximum points and waxes lyrical about the fantastic concentration and precision. I just tend to find the white wines to be good, not great, with the red wines often oaky, extractive and lacking in complexity. The only exception to this rule is the Hawkes Bay sourced Bordeaux blends (and the odd straight Merlot), which can be very smart indeed. Even the Le Sol is often le not-as-amazing-as-the-scores-would-suggest in my books.

This wine just further emphasises my bewilderment. It is absolutely dripping in critical accolades, trophies and general wine critic love. But I think it's ordinary.

It smells stewed, hot and cooked, the red berry nose is fragrant but heady, a fraction roasted, suggesting perhaps that the ferment may have been too hot and the grapes picked too ripe. Palate too is ripe and full, a fraction overripe and rather firm. There is lots of flavour and proper Pinot character here but ultimately it lacks delicacy. It's going to get better, but I'm just not loving this. 16.6/88+

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Karra Yerta Riesling 2010

Karra Yerta Riesling 2010 (Eden Valley, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $25

Source: Sample 

This picked up a gold medal over the weekend, which prompted me to pop some in the fridge. Second time I've had this actually and it looks even better now with an extra month in the bottle. Definitely an opulent wine this year, but in a very correct fashion. Again excellent stuff. Maybe a little fuller than the 09?

It's green in the glass this. Water green and neutral looking. But the smell! What wafts out is Eden Riesling perfection. Lots of lime juice, wet pavement and more lime juice in a big, nose-filling dose of Eden awesomeness. Palate is dry and pithy, showing some banana ferment characters, grapefruit and soft (though powerful) acidity. Long. Very long. Interesting to note that 'soft' acidity, for I tend to think that Eden and Clare Riesling acidity can sometimes be a little hard and clunky (which I often wonder whether that's due to injudicious additions). Not this wine.

All in it's a lovely, powerful, concentrated Riesling in classical form. For mine this is what Eden Valley Riesling is all about, and it's a style of wine that I absolutely dig.

The glass in front of me appears to be leaking.... 18.7/95

Saturday, 16 October 2010

BEER: Endeavour Reserve Amber Ale 2010

BEER: Endeavour Reserve Amber Ale 2010 (Sydney) 5.2% alc

One of the simple joys of this whole wine reviewing gig is that you get wine samples sent to you gratis. Of course these samples come with an unspoken expectation that, if you like them, you'll write nice things about them (or at least write something about them). But regardless of what happens, whatever you think about them, the wine samples are still free.

Yet the same thing doesn't happen with beer. Or at least when it does, most of the beer that turns up as samples is underwhelming.

But not this one.

No, this is the real stuff. It's a proper Amber Ale, brewed using Pride of Ringwood hops, Export Pilsner, Crystal, Dark Crystal & Chocolate malt and top fermenting proprietary yeast, capped off with a vintage date on the label and a website that lists such beer geek stats as the IBU and the final gravity.

The beer itself shows the toasty, 'cocoa powder' chocolate malt characters right through the middle, with that distinctive 'Australian' Pride of Ringwood aroma (which not everyone likes, but it's well regarded) and a dry finish. It is, as expected, long, well built and just plain tasty, living up to the packaging and story nicely.

If only they were all this good....

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Spanish Goodies

Spanish Goodies

To be quite honest I really don't get to taste all that much Spanish wine. Sure some cheaper stuff floats around the place, and the odd Albarino makes an appearance, but the serious wines remain a rarity. Shame that as the finest wines really are that fine.

The following lineup tasted recently did, however, feature a few of these delicacies, again reminding of the depth and variety that spanish wines offer. Now if only they were more readily available...

All of these were tasted with food, in small brackets, with the bottle in front of us. Very civilised indeed. Prices are as per auction price (on the Alion) with many of the rest coming from Bert at Winestar. Notes are as they were written on the day.

Flight One - Aperitifs

Raventos i Blanc Gran Riserva de la Finca Cava 2003 (Cava, Spain)
85% white cava grapes, 10% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir. 36 months in bottle. $49.95
Creamy, leesy nose with that grapefruit Cava fruit overtone. Longish palate tastes of lemonade, bready yeast richness and a creamy finish. Nice wine this. Tinny mid palate the only turnoff. Good stuff, though I can't help but compare it to Champagne.... 17.5/91

Valminor Albarino 2008 (Riax Baixas, Spain)
100% Albarino. $33
Always good wine this. I had the 09 version last night and it was better again.

Slight spritz in the glass, with a nose of tropical guava and musk if cast a little fat and open. Pear lift. Sour, chalky and dry palate that is entirely dry, clean and quite pure, if a little neutral. Nice and fresh if just a little mono dimensional. 17.2/90

Flight Two 'Spicy' Varietals

Salvador Poveda Alicante Toscar Monastrell 2007 (Alicante, Spain)
100% Monastrell. $15!
Bright, ripe earthen style with chocolate oak overtones. Quite direct and full nose with nice red cherry fruit. Palate is a bit raw and ready but no shortage of flavour. Drying tannins. Entirely enjoyable for the dollars with plenty of character. 16.7/89

Cien y Pico Doble Pasta 2007 (Machuela, Spain)
100% Garnacha Tintorea. $27
Reductive, bright redcurrant nose again with that earthen edge. Bright and forward palate has red cherry fruit and a rather drying finish. Savoury but a bit short for real refreshment. Astringent tannins a distraction. 16.3/88

Laurona Montsant 2003 (Montsant, Spain)
60% Garnacha, 40% Carignan. $45
Quite obvious (and welcome bottle age) on this. Black tea and aged beef nose over a similarly beefy palate. Spicy, gamey but nicely resolved with some lovely tannins. Good, evolved and complex drink this. 17.8/93
(Group favourite of the flight).

Flight Three - Garnacha

Telmo Rodriguez Pegaso Garnacha 2005 (Castilla y Leon, Spain)
100% Garnacha. $50
Concentrated nose. Loads of new oak, boot polish and more oak. Hint of raisined fruit. Lots of bitumen, jam and red fruit. Dry and slightly dessicated palate is brutish but not terrible. Very impressive concentration and form, if notably new world. 17.3/90+
(Group favourite of the flight).

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2004 (Campo de Borja, Spain)
100% Garnacha. $40
Medicinal, spicy red fruit nose. Palate is dry and ever so slightly scalped perhaps? Dry astringent tannin. Rather awkward palate with medicinal edges. Everyone was playing the 'pick the fault game' but with no decisive success. 13.5/80

Alto Moncayo Garnacha 2003 (Campo de Borja, Spain)
100% Garnacha, $55
Heavily raisined and oak crammed nose. So much expensive vanillan oak hides all the regional goodness. Very luscious and oak sweet palate. Ultimately too much oak. 16.3/87

Flight Four - Ribera del Duero
Now we are getting serious... Lots to like here.

Pesquera Tinto Crianza Alejandro Fernandez 2004 (Ribera del Duero, Spain)
100% Tempranillo. $45
Beautiful nose. All lovely and correct. Pepper and meaty nose with that lovely rich earth + fruit Tempranillo character. Dry, nicely resolved palate with lots of dry extract but without being awkward. Love the tannins here. Yes. 18.2/93

Condado De Haza Tino Crianza 2006 (Ribera del Duero, Spain)
100% Tempranillo. $43
Caramelised nose with sweet yet dry red fruit. Some red fruit though just a smidgen  skinny and herbal through the mid palate, ending somewhat dry. Lots of tannic power though. I'd like more freshness really but you can't deny the impact. Should improve. 17/90

Bodegas Alion 2003 (Ribera del Duero, Spain)
100% Tempranillo. $140
Absolutely lived up the hype. Dried meat, pepper and red dirt Tempanillo nose. The palate is a masterpiece of meaty dry tannic power. Such length! In fact, this is all about tannins, leafy, dry, distinct tannins, though it's still quite fresh and fleshy through the middle. Just a delicious savoury dry red really. Had me thinking about Tuscan reds actually, in the very best way. Worthy. 18.6/94
(Group favourite wine of flight)

Flight Five - Rioja

Palacios Remondo La Montesa 2006 (Rioja, Spain)
60% Garnacha/Tempranillo with Graciano and Mazuelo. $28
Macerated cherry and redcurrant with black pepper. Vibrant and Garnacha driven nose. Bright and ripe, succulent palate with lovely perfume. Juicy yet without forgetting some nice drying tannins. Extremely likable (and well priced). 17.6/91
(Group favourite of this flight)

Roda Reserva Tempranillo Garnacha 2005 (Rioja, Spain)
85% Tempranillo, 9% Graciano and 6% Garnacha. $80
Always a lovely wine this. Floral red licorice nose, palate is mid weight and quite elegant, cast in the red fruit style with some herbal, meaty overtones. Very pretty and velveteen. Had me thinking about a lighter styled Aussie GSM actually (in a good way). Particularly drinkable. 18/93

Telmo Rodriquex LZ Tempranillo 2007 (Rioja, Spain)
Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha, $26
Horribly corked.

Flight Six - Priorat
I dig Priorat, but it can be variable...

Vall Llach Embruix 2004 (Priorat, Spain)
Garnacha, Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. $70
Pepper, black licorice and someone suggested cardamon pods (and I'm using it). Redcurrant. Typically roasted nose. Sinewy, dried licorice and red fruit palate with a very dried out finish. Raw oak tannins. Stewed. Not quite there. 16.8/89

Clos Mogador 2005 (Priorat, Spain)
Garnacha, Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. $190
Nutty, flor like nose. Red musk and red fruit on the nose. Palate starts surprisingly plush (Grenache doing it's thing) but then comes the tannins. Excellent tannins! Long long long long long. Oak creaminess through the middle. Love that tannin! Palate is just a little stewed. Glorious tannins, though the rest isn't totally integrated yet. 18/93
(Group favourite of the flight).

Flight Seven - Jerez

Emilio Lustau Escuadrilla Rare Amontillado (Jerez, Spain)
100% Palomino Fino. $27 375ml
Nice nutty Amontillado. Not to dry or obvious, just correct. Cheap too. 17/90

Romate Cardenal Cisneros Pedro Ximinez (Jerez, Spain)
100% Pedro Ximinez. $55
This is what it's all about. Love this stuff. Intensely thick, rich and raisined with concentrated treacle and caramel sauce. Long, soft and absolutely complete. Marvellous PX. My bag. 18.5/94
(Group favourite of the flight and up there as wine of the night).

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Ned Pinot Noir 2008

The Ned Pinot Noir 2008 (Marlborough, NZ)
$30, Screwcap, 13.5%
Source: Sample

I went through a big block of random wines (including some top end Cherubino and Craggy Range gear) on Friday and this - surprisingly enough - was one of the few I felt like drinking (I even pointed it higher than the multi trophy winning 08 Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot). Of course I may well have just been thirsty, but that doesn't quite explain it. Rather, I think that this just pushes all the right drinkability buttons (if that makes sense) in a very friendly, Pinot fruit-pure package.

It starts with ripe tomato bush and peppery meaty aromatics - which is welcomingly varietal for a Marlborough Pinot - alongside some more typical red raspberry fruit. There's quite a deal of fruit actually, which is probably why it is so appealing. Palate wise it's plump, ripe and smooth in that lovely, polished Marlborough style. Lots of flesh and proper Pinot flavour with a clever dry finish. It's not ultra serious, but it is smart drinking for the dollars, and that deserves celebrating. 17.7/92

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Grosset Off Dry Riesling 2010

Grosset Off Dry
Grosset Off Dry Riesling 2010 (Clare Valley, SA)
$28, Screwcap, 11.5%

Source: Cellar Door

It's something of a controversial wine this, but not for the usual reasons. Rather, the reason why it's controversial is because of what it's not. Or at least what it says it's not.

And that's dry.

For this wine is the first ever commercial release of an 'off dry' Grosset Riesling, the first time ever that the man that many would regard as the finest maker of Riesling in Australia, has produced a Clare Valley Rizza with some deliberate residual sweetness.

And I think he's nailed it.

What's not said is that whilst this is the first ever commercial release, it's the third time Jeff has attempted to make an off dry Grosset Riesling. It's just that previously he's never been happy enough to let it out to the big bad world.

So what's it like then?

Well, what needs to be considered is that although it's labeled 'off dry', it only contains 15 grams a litre of residual sugar, which then matches up perfectly to a massive 8 grams a litre of acidity. In German Riesling terms that sweetness level would get it into feinherb - off dry - territory, as per the label, but on the IRF's sweetness scale that would only get it to 'medium dry', a class which (perhaps) better describes this wine than 'off dry' (or does it?).

It's important to note that total acidity figure for, in my opinion at least, it's acid that really drives this wine. You can smell the sweetness on the nose - with that whiff of fruit tingles - and taste it too, with the soft, almost creamy, pineapple edge that comes from residual sugar. But it's just that - an edge, a tint, an afterthought. You never think 'hey this tastes like sugar'. Rather, all you can think is 'more please', for the extra generosity just offsets a little of the impact of the razor wire acidity, stampeding as it does through the finish, burning off any suggestion of sugary 'fat' and leaving you with a lingering, acidic warmth and proper long limey aftertaste in the process.

More-so, what I really like is just how intensely Clare this really is. The biggest challenge that many sweeter style Australian Rieslings face is that they tend to get a little bland when the sugar is retained. They lose their edge, their regionality and just taste, well, like sugary Riesling. But this doesn't. It tastes and smells like a pure Grosset Clare Riesling, with that explosive limey intensity (in this case edged with melon) that few others ever seem to consistently match.

Truth be told, I don't think it's as 'rockstar' good as the 2010 Polish Hill Riesling, and may not necessarily be better than the 'Springvale', but I can tell you that I really enjoyed drinking every last sip, and I'd wager that few other Clare Rieslings would get close for drinkability and charm at this stage of life. Others may not agree, but after enjoying this on two different occasions I'm absolutely convinced. It didn't budge over two days either this time around (though the just-bottled banana ferment esters did dissolve into the wine) suggesting that it might well live and evolve with some interest in the cellar.

I'm a Riesling fan, and a Grosset Riesling fan at that, but even with my one eye closed I can tell you this is seriously fine booze. Well done. 18.5/94

Friday, 8 October 2010

Karra Yerta Shiraz Cabernet 2007

Karra Yerta Shiraz Cabernet 2007 (Eden and Barossa Valley, SA)
$25, Screwcap, 14.5%
Source: Sample

Dear Flaxmans Valley,

I love you.

Or at least I love the wines that are produced from the grapes grown upon your rolling rocky hills. What's more, my love is stoked by just how consistent these wines are. Year in, year out, I am surprised by just how good your wines can be, like a warm and generous embrace that never loses it's intensity.
But this wine is not wholly sourced from within the confines of your vineyards. Oh no, this includes some warmer Barossa Valley fruit, contributing some different flavours to your elegant intensity.

Thankfully though, this cross blended red does your reputation good justice. It smells of ripe, briary red raspberry fruit, beetroot and sleek chocolate oak. It's a warmer nose than shown by some of the previous vintages of this wine, with a warmer palate to match, but it still feels... vital. Full of life. Soft and languid, polished and generous. It's still a little harder, a little more meaty, stewed and chewy in the context of the typical Karra Yerta style, but it never crosses over into desiccation.

In short, it is another good wine from a superb vineyard. It's not the greatest wine of the lineage, but it's - again - an enjoyable drink. 17.2/90

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Astrolabe Discovery Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Astrolabe Discovery Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
$25, Screwcap, 13.5%
Source: Sample

Sourced from two vineyards in the 'Kekerengu' coastal subregion of Marlborough and it's a biggun', with the intensity of yore (that has abandoned many similar wines of late).

Big nose. Tropical fruit, melon and herbs with firmly varietal Savvy flavours. Old school pungency. Firm palate is dry, herbaceous and bold with that mix of cool leafiness and juicy ripeness that the style/variety/region was (yes was) renowned for. Surprisingly warm finish.

Very impressive intensity and punch here. I'm not a huge fan of Marlborough Sauv but I'd like to think that I can pick out a goodun'. This is one of those. 17.7/92

Durvillea Pinot Grigio 2009

Durvillea Pinot Grigio 2009 (Marlbrorough, NZ)
$20, Screwcap, 14%
Source: Sample

Durvillea is described as a 'little sister' to the Astrolabe range, with the wines driven by some of the ladies in the Astrolabe business. Nice people they are too, producing well priced and attractive wines. More power to them.

This demonstrates the last point admirably. Strictly speaking it's borderline Pinot Grigio (a bit ripe for that) but who cares for such nitpicking. The nose is wonderfully Gris-ish with ripe musky pear and a dash of pepper. Nicely direct. Palate is light and rounded, a little viscous with oily edges. Finishes crisp and dry. A rather attractive mouthful of juicy round fruit this. Another wine that's easy to like. 17/90

Lot 13 Grenache 2007

Lot 13 Grenache 2007
$22, Screwcap, 15.5%
Source: Sample

This comes from James Hook (he of Lazy Ballerina fame) and is sourced from a single vineyard in Mclaren Vale.

It's a nice drink this. It carries the warmth of the vintage with aplomb, capped of with some rather careful oak treatment. On the nose it's red licorice, rum & raisin chocolate oak and scorched earth warm fruit. Ripe but nicely varietal, with very attractive oak. Palate is rich but not sweet, with dark chocolate wood flavours mingling with quite firm red savoury fruit. Warm finish with a flood of earth and bitumen Grenache heartiness.

It's not typically a style I enjoy, but I did find this rather attractive. Was popular around the dinner table too (if noted as a fraction warm). Good stuff. 17.5/91

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2009

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2009
$85, Screwcap, 14%
Source: Sample

Well here it is. One of the most talked about wines of 2010 and also one of Clonakilla's most popular wines of all time (even despite the price rise). This particular taste came from a sample bottle, but I also have another 2 residing in the cellar, which is where - given the state of this particular example - they will stay.

What marks this release though is just how lifted it is - no disguising the Viognier edged perfume here. It's a proper cool climate Shiraz nose all the same, with some lovely Szechuan spice and pepper over glossy purple juice. There is plenty going on in fact with meat, florals and deeply spicy fruit all ringing positive for the future. What remains is just one question - is there too much Viognier? 6% in this blend and it certainly stands out quite prominently....

That Viognier etched juiciness doesn't totally translate on to the palate though, which is properly grippy and firm, plush and sexy yet influenced by some whole bunch late bitterness. It's the sort of wine where you pick up a little rawness through the back and can sense that intention lies beneath.

In fact the raw youthfulness is the only thing standing between this and vinous legend. For my mind there is too much Viognier, but experience says that in the years to come the V weed obviousness will just melt into the wine. The reassuring bit is the proper tannins and length.

Final verdict then? Cellar worthy. Probably even a great in the making. But the excitement is still to come (for me at least).

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

2010 Tyrrell's Private Bin Releases

2010 Tyrrell's Private Bin Releases

Private Bin? Sounds like some sort of new Penfolds label doesn't it?

For lovers of Hunter wines though, Tyrrell's 'Private Bin Club' offers the opportunity to purchase some of the Valley's finest wines early and cheaply, coupled with access to a few absolutely stunning, low volume rarities that few people will ever see.

How do you get into this club you ask? Simple really, all one has to do is undertake to purchase at least a dozen wines annually, a task which is not hard considering both the quality and variety. Or at least I don't find it hard.....

Looking at the range then, it's not hard to notice that the focus is happily biased towards traditionally (and brilliantly so) styled, single vineyard/subregional Hunter Valley Shiraz, Semillon and Chardonnay, with this years releases focused on the 2009 reds (a mixed, if warm, Hunter vintage for those who picked judiciously, with soft medium bodied wines) and the 2010 whites (a warm, then wet and mildly challenging Hunter vintage, though Semillon is always somewhat immune to such vagaries. Forward riper wines though).

Just to further emphasise the quality of these current Private Bin releases, several of them - although barely bottled - have already picked up an accumulation of wine show bling, most notably at the recent Hunter Wine Show (which, ipso facto, marks these as some of the finest wines in the Hunter).

Before I launch into the notes though, a caveat: I have more Tyrrell's wines in my cellar than any other winery and am an unabashed Hunter fan. Make of that what you may.

Oh and winery notes are in Italics. Price is per bottle for Private Members only (everyone else pays more). My notes are largely as they were written on the day of tasting (a standup affair in a suburban RSL club, complete with tartan carpet underfoot).

Tyrrells 'Stevens' Semillon 2010 $21.60 11% alc
'The Stevens Semillon was harvested from the Glenoak vineyard, which is situated on a combination of light sand and red clay soils.'
Green nose and green fruit with a ripe, paw paw edge. Palate is all chalky, sandy green fruit. Long but soft style. Ferment esters still abundant. Very much freshly bottled, but a softer Stevens this year. 17.7/92+

Tyrrells Johnno's Semillon 2010 $35 11.5% alc
This wine was made from Semillon grapes grown on Johnno’s vineyard, which was planted in 1908 and is situated on the sandy soils below the winery. The fruit was hand picked and then immediately basket pressed. This is a softer, more textural style of Semillon than we commonly make due to the minimal juice clarification and fermentation techniques.

Comes in a delightful screwcapped Riesling bottle and topped off with bespoke labelling. Old school redone, and redone very well.

Soft and green nose but with a creamier twang. I like that nose - full of promise. Long, green fruit palate is actually quite fleshy yet with that charismatic citrussy acid zing. Brilliant length. Quite open already. Length! Citrussy finish. Green apple but with more weight. Stunning. Glory! (I bought some) 18.7/95

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2010 $35 12% alc
From two of the best old blocks of Semillon which have light, sandy well-drained soils.

The icon. Worthy of it's mantle too.

It's very tight, almost subdued on the nose with little bits of green fruit escaping. Palate though is...amazing... A power house of a wine, propelled by the most phenomenal natural acid that washes out the backside of your brain. Yet it's a fuller style of Vat 1, a riper, more massive wine that you just know will win trophy after trophy after trophy. Think 2005 vintage. Stunning citrus length. Long. Double long. Icon intensity. Wow. Narrowly beaten by Johnno's today, but will smash 20 years no sweat. Buy it for your grandkids birthday (I did, but not for the grandkids). 18.6/95

Tyrrell's Futures Semillon 2010
Tyrrell's very own en primeur wine, you buy this now and Tyrrell's cellar it for you, with a residual to pay in several years time (or you can trade it in). What is not spoken is that this is Tyrrell's HVD Semillon, a wine that is typically my favourite in the range. Not today though.

It's typically a softer a wine is HVD and this is no different - very clean but rounded, with quite a deal of soapy melon fruit. It's surprisingly fleshy, honeyed even, with lots of appeal and proper Semillon characters, yet I think it strictly lacks the length of the other wines in this lineup. 17.3/90

Tyrrell's Vat 63 Chardonnay Semillon 2010 $21.67 13%
Four of the best old blocks have made up this year’s Vat 63. The Chardonnay is taken from our HVD, NVC and Short Flat vineyards while the Semillon is from the Pokolbin Hills Estate vineyard. The Chardonnay was fermented and matured in French oak for three months, and the Semillon was fermented in stainless steel. 70% / 30% blend.

The cheeky value pick of the range, you can't deny the appeal.

Welcome peachy flesh on the nose with a lick of sao richness. Palate is creamy but with the trademark Semillon acidity. Playfully creamy but not overt. Oak sitting on top of the fruit at present but still attractive. Softly set and entirely pleasant, this could do with a little more bottle time to integrate further. Still an easy wine to recommend. 17.5/91

Tyrrell's HVD Chardonnay 2010 $35 13.5%
The vineyard is dry grown and was planted in 1908. The 2010 vintage marks the 100th vintage from one of Australia’s most important vineyards. Hand picked and then basket pressed, the juice was cold settled for four days before fermentation began in stainless steel tanks, then the fermenting juice was transferred to French oak barriques (30% new.) The wine stayed in these barriques until July before it was bottled.
Just bottled but unquestionably smart. Conventional sao and popcorn oak nose. Mid palate richness fans out with bracing citrussy acid. Real drive through the palate. Buttercup and cream, but no fat. Quite lovely and juicy modern Chardonnay. More to come with bottle age too. 17.7/92+

Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay 2010 (Barrel Sample)
Fresh out of wood and looking was fresh out of wood. Lovely peachy generosity but it's all dominated by oak at present. Shape underneath looks correct though. Retaste.

Tyrrell's Belford Chardonnay 2008 $29.67 12.5%
Hand picked and then basket pressed, fermentation began in stainless steel tanks before the partially fermented juice was transferred to 100% new French barriques to finish fermentation and for six months maturation.
Much more settled after the 10's. Creamy but again with that classic base acidity (the Tyrrell's Chardonnays are typically prevented from going through MLF). Gets a bit weird and distorted through the middle though, with some unusual cabbage flavours. Clean, if diffuse finish. Good, not great. 17/90

Tyrrell's Vat 6 Pinot Noir 2009 $33 13.5%
The first release since 2006, the 2009 Vat 6 Pinot Noir was made entirely from the old vines on the 4 and 8 Acre vineyard. Wild yeast fermentation was conducted and a third of the ferment was whole bunches. Maturation took place in French oak barriques of which 10% were new, and the remainder being three year old ex Vat 47 wood.

Such an esoteric wine. Lives for ages too (I've had bottles that are still alive at 15 years+ How many other Aussie Pinots out there can last that long?). The challenge will always be that Vat 6 is more Hunter dry red than Pinot.

Sap, bacon bits, raspberry and a dollop of VA. Quite expressive if idiosyncratic. Pepper, cherry and spice palate is nicely ripe and full with a quite creamy middle. Warm finish with a little smoky whole bunch influence. Raspy acid. I could drink this, but the question will always be why? 16.8/89

Tyrrell's Johnno's Shiraz 2009 13% $45
A partner to the Johnno’s Semillon, this is the first release from one of our older vineyards. The Shiraz on Johnno’s was planted in 1908 on sandy alluvial soils, in contrast to the 4 Acres and Weinkeller vineyards, which are on deep red clay. The wine was matured in a new French oak cask (2700lt) for 15 months.
Modelled on a classic 'Hunter Burgundy', this is nothing if not interesting. Beautiful purple colour, almost boysenberry purple/red. Softly softly nose with raspberry, licorice and lifted pepper. Would love to sneak this into a Rhone lineup and watch everyone get it wrong. Palate is bright, almost Viognier edged glossy bright, with a lovely flow of medium weight fruit. Perfumed and pretty, if not especially serious (or is it?). Acid but not tannins. Quite beguiling and should sneakily improve in the bottle. 17.5/91

Tyrrell's 4 Acres Shiraz 2009 13% $45
This 130 year old vineyard was carefully hand picked and sorted on the 12th & 13th February and was fermented in the traditional Tyrrell’s open vats. After ferment this wine spent 3 months on gross lees as it underwent malo-lactic fermentation in a 2 year old French oak cask (2700lt) and a new French cask (1500lt), and remained there for 15 months prior to bottling.

A cult wine in the making. but not everyone will get it...

Elegant and pretty, like Johnno's, with that same boysenberry thing going on. Hunter Burgundy again. This wine though has the length, with more weight and more tannins to go with the perfume. Still in something of a funny place right now. Will live, again, forever. 18/93+

Tyrrell's Old Patch Shiraz 2009 13.5% $45
Sourced from the "old patch" of vineyard on Neil Stevens’ property on Marrowbone Rd, Pokolbin. This hillside block was planted in 1867 and is considered one of the oldest producing Shiraz vineyards in the new world. Hand picked and open fermented using classic hand winemaking techniques along with maturation in a new French oak vat (2700lt) have enhanced this wines unique character.

Typically my favourite red wine in the Tyrrell's lineup, though I wasn't feeling as much love this year (when compared to the wines around it at least).

Rich, meaty and very Hunter. Stinky even. Pepper meets plush fruit and more noticeable oak this vintage. Immediately richer and different after the two wines before it. Sinewy palate is much cleaner than the nose, with purple fruit weight. Still a little awkward. Funny stage? 17.3/90+

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 2009 13%
Made from only the oldest and best blocks on the Ashman’s property. Hand picked and fermented in open top fermenters. The wine was then matured in new and one year old French oak casks (2700lt) for 15 months prior to bottling in May 2010.

This cleaned up at the Hunter Wine Show just a few weeks back. Multiple trophies. I don't blame them (the judges that is).

According to Tyrrell's this is the most modern of the Vat Series Shiraz. To me it just seemed the most complete. Hunter Burgundy made for the noughties. Red soil richness. Chocolate and red earth. Lots of tannins too. Maybe less pretty, more gruff and masculine? Still utterly medium bodied. Winner. (I bought some). 18.5/94

Tyrrell's Vat 8 Shiraz Cabernet 2009 13.5%
This wine is a blend of our premium Hunter Shiraz fruit from the Moon Mountain, Mathews and Weinkeller vineyards, with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hilltops region of New South Wales. After fermentation in the traditional open top vats the wine was matured in a combination of small French oak barriques (30% new) and one new large French oak cask (2700lt) for 15 months before blending and bottling.
Immediately more forward and modern, with that licorice ripe Hilltops edge. Brambles and choc mulberry flavours with more firmer fruit thanthe straught Hunter wines. Impact and dry tannins. Not as pretty but with upfront appeal. Give this to the Hunter haters. 17.7/92

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Cristo di Campobello Laluci Grillo 2009

Cristo di Campobello Laluci Grillo 2009 (Sicily, Italy)
$29, Cork, 13%
Source: Retail

Another beauty from the boys at Mondo Imports. Of particular note is how well this went with some fine sushi - it's a fish wine through and through.

The appeal here is actually quite simple - savoury, almost salty green fruit flavours, tart acidity and a leesy richness through the middle. As a wine it carries the citrus twang of Riesling, the mid palate of Pinot Gris and chalky end of Fiano, all wrapped up in a sprightly package. It was described by my (astute) dining companion as a 'kiss and a slap' - with the slap coming courtesy of the tangy acid, the kiss is the mid palate generosity.

In the end it's hardly a super complex wine, but the dry, acid-meets-textural-honeysuckle palate makes for something particularly tasty. 17.3/90

Robert Stein Reserve Shiraz 2007

Robert Stein Reserve Shiraz 2007 (Mudgee, NSW)
$40, Screwcap, 13.5%
Source: Sample

The man at the winemaking helm of Robert Stein wines these days is Mudgee youing gun Jacob Stein whom, at 26, is the youngest winemaker in Mudgee. At this years Mudgee show, Jacob's wines picked up no fewer than 6 trophies, including Champion Wine, indicating that he certainly has some talent.

A name to watch.

This Reserve Shiraz sits at the top of the Robert Stein hierachy and is built in a very traditional Mudgee red style (made in one too) with loads of red dirt, roasted meat and hearty savoury flavours. As if to emphasise it's classical disposition, there is already a fair crust, hinting at the depth and intention within. The nose too is ferrous, earthen and meaty, thick with beefy flavour and deepset oak, if still edged with rich, properly ripe fruit. Similarly the palate is dry, firm and savoury in an unequivocally 'winey' form.

It's a divisive wine perhaps for anyone raised on a red berry, sweet Shiraz diet (no flattering sweetness here) but if you dig the odd leathery Hunter Shiraz (like me) then this will be right up your alley. Liked it. 17.5/91

Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 2003

Chateau d'Yquem 2003 (Sauternes, France)
$350 (approx 375ml), Cork, 13.5%

Firstly, a big thanks has to go to Patrick The Wining Pom for sharing this bottle with us. It was, as Patrick describes so well here, a wonderful experience to enjoy a world class wine with the some likely winos.

And world class it was. Near perfect even. Everything you could possibly want in a botrytised sweet wine. What I remember most (it was a long night) was the length. It's the sort of wine that you can't forget, for it lingers. Specifics? On the nose this showed pineapple, creme caramel and lemon/orange marmalade characters with some custard oak on the fringes. Palate wise it's rich - a warm year wine - and plusher than some other Yquems, loaded with more of the orange/lemon marmalade fruit flavours alongside ginger, pineapple and toffee. Lots of flavour here, bounds of flavour even, all honey sweet and viscous through the middle.

At this point it sounds sweet and fat doesn't it? But that's where the juxtaposition starts, for it's a sweet wine that's firmly acidic, marked by plenty of that grapefruit natural acid. What really propels this forward too - and marks it as something special - is just how perfectly balanced it is. It's a massive wine, loaded with serious botrytis characters and intense sweetness (which I'll admit not everyone loves) but it never actually feels heavy, or tart, or even overly sweet. It's just perfect.

Yes. More please. Absolute perfection in a bottle. 19.5/98