Sally’s Hill, Petaluma and Climbing
Sally’s Hill Cabernet Franc 2008 (Pyrenees, Vic) – 14%
The (effective) second label of Neil Robb’s Sally’s Paddock operation, with the wines still produced at the Redbank winery, even though the Redbank brand itself belongs to the Hill Smith’s of Yalumba. Sally’s Hill wines are crafted off fruit from the estate plantings (which date back to 1973) and produced in a similar ‘hands on’ fashion (hand picking, hand plunging, basket pressing, etc) that is used to make the icon ‘Sally’s Paddock’.
This Cab Franc too tastes as serious, slightly old fashioned and proper in it’s form and structure as the top wine does, which I very much like to see. Interestingly, it tastes more regional than varietal too, as it carries less of the fragrance I normally associate with Cabernet Franc and more of the Pyrenees mint and power. Seems to work though.
Those regional characters proudly start on the nose, which smells of redcurrant, leafy Cabernet family varietal character, a lick of spearmint and some dark macerated fruit. It’s still a bit closed on the nose perhaps, with the talking really taking place on the palate. That palate is a firm, dark and tannic one, with powerful tea leaf tannins and quite prominent acidity. Viewed as a whole, this looks cool, hearty and dense – an old school, structure-first wine that might scare off anyone looking for fruit and oak generosity, but please the structure men (me).
As you can gather, I quite like this Sally’s Hill red. I like the tannins, I like the weight, I like the lack of heat and proper powerful form. It should only get better too. 17.7/92
Petaluma Shiraz 2007 (Adelaide Hills, SA) – 14%
This is labelled as ‘Shiraz’ these days’ with the Viognier no longer rating a mention. It’s an interesting move that – I wonder why?
Anyway, this is drawn off the B & V vineyard located near Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills, and comes from a vintage that was hot and challenging (to say the least). In fact, the HDD (Heat Degree Day) climate summation for the vineyard in 2007 was 1651 degrees, a figure that is significantly higher than the normal 1413 and more Barossa than Adelaide Hills. That’s of significance to the final product, as it means that what would normally be a cool climate wine style effectively becomes a warm one.
In all honesty this is actually quite well made, with no shortage of plush fruit, well integrated oak and integrated acidity, the winemaking certainly modern and clever. The problem is that it lacks the delineation, tannins and freshness that the $52.95 pricetag demands.
It all starts quite sweetly actually, with super polished red berry fruit on the nose in the modern ‘amalgam’ style. The oak treatment is polished too, all carefully handled and inconspicuous. It still smells warm though, warm and open, spicy and a fraction soupy. Palate is warm too, with lightly caramelised, soft fruit in a meaty, ripe fashion. As the palate advances, things get less enjoyable, the acidity jagged and unnatural, the tannins non existent.
Ultimately this tastes very much like a case where the season has dictated terms to the winemaker…. 16.3/88
Cumulus Climbing Merlot 2009 (Orange, NSW) 13.5%
The Cumulus operation is quite a big one, in Orange terms at least, with 508 hectares at Molong (which is not too far from Orange itself). What’s interesting about the vineyards are that a portion of them sit in the ‘Orange’ GI and the rest in the ‘Central Ranges’ GI, with the boundary driven largely by the altitude preclusions of the Orange GI. Regardless, it’s a clever business, with the wines dressed in some notably striking packaging (which I quite like) and carrying a reputation for good value.
This wine is certainly friendly enough too, fitting the plush and easy Merlot stereotype on first glance. But it doesn’t really offer more than just syrupy sweet fruit with a second look.
That fruit is evident from the first sniff, with a raspberry, cherry ripe and red licorice nose that is open and plush, if also surprising volatile. I like the tinge of herbs on the nose, a nod to the cool climate origins of the vineyard, even if it doesn’t quite show on the palate. What does show on the palate is creamy, plushly oaked and rounded, if tending quite bitter and brackish towards the finish, everything ending up a little astringent and less playful than desired.
In the wash it’s probably fair value at the $14 this goes for, but not all that impressive for the $22.95 full RRP. 15.8/86