The end of December and early January is an excellent time of year for reducing the size of the sample pile (or the sample wardrobe in my case).
Many winemakers/PR folk etc., are on holiday, which means fewer wines turns up at the post office. Plus, there are no events on (and everything is cancelled because of COVID), and there are more thirsty friends/family/neighbours keen to help empty leftover bottles. It’s a win-win.
On the tasting bench this week then is a Yarra Valley smorgasbord, featuring new and newish releases from a whole lot of Australian Wine Review favourites.
Right up the top of the list is the latest releases from Burton McMahon – the Yarra collab from Dylan McMahon (Seville Estate) and Matt Burton from Gundog Estate. As ever, these are detailed, precise and Yarra wines of finesse and beauty. Perhaps a little bit too much delicacy in the pristine whites, but the future looks pretty rosy.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of Oakridge wines in this list again, and I’m ok with it. Across-the-board quality is the Oakridge brand, and admirable to see it not just confined to Pinot & Chardonnay.
I could go on (that In Dreams Pinot is speccy for very few dollars, nice one Anthony Fikkers) but let’s get stuck into the reviews.
Burton McMahon Syme On Yarra Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020
From what is called the Syme On Yarra Vineyard or just Syme Vineyard (and still near the Yarra) in Seville. A few numbers for the geeks (my people): TA 5.9g/L, pH 3.62. Just 200 dozen made, with 30% whole bunches in the ferment and matured in 30% new oak. All MV6 clone FWIW. Oh, and you can buy these wines from Gundog Estate.
Succulent red raspberry fruit is the trademark, perfectly poised and perfectly Pinoty (yes, that’s a word now). Bright, yet not overripe, and gently twiggy too. I like when the stalks add spice without being dominant. Job well done. This whole wine is well done. Has this languid raspberry pinosity that makes you want to drink it. Maybe little firm acid to finish, but class. Like.
Best drinking: now and for the next five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Yes.
Burton McMahon George’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020
Similar maturation to the Syme, but picked across two picks. pH 3.62, TA 6.2g/L. It feels more stemmy and sterner than the Syme – less bright MV6 fruit and more brooding and moody dark-edged flavour. High quality if a bit dark and tannic, I like the layers of mushrooms and woodsmoke in contrast to the red fruit, even if it could do with a little more time in bottle.
Best drinking: will probably outlive Syme and drink better from late this year. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $40. Would I buy it? I prefer old mate Syme, but this is worth a bottle (and not expensive in context).
In Dreams Pinot Noir 2020
Speaking of not expensive, this in Dreams Pinot is a veritable steal. Sourced from vineyards across the Yarra, 25% whole bunches, 25% new oak. Fine boned, yet doesn’t lack fruit, with this mix of raspberry, berry coulis middle and yet a spice and delicacy with fine filigreed tannins and prominent acidity. It tastes warmer than 13%. Limpid fresh and just a little astringent, this is pretty and fine. And would you look at the price? Bargain.
Best drinking: over the next five years. But good now. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, I’ve seen it retail for $24.99!. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Oakridge Hazeldene Pinot Gris 2020
Here’s a wine to remind me about the dour state of most Aussie Pinot Gris (which is generally shit). This, my friends, is not shit. Texture is the king here, as it should be with good Gris. Pear fruit width on the palate. A bit of apple pie. A generous and generously varietal palate that is varietal and grey (it’s a colour I know, but this wine is grey flavoured) with this lingering pear pie palate and a phenolic punch to finish. Substantial Gris with its lingering palate. So convincing.
Best drinking: now is good. 18/20, 93/100. 13.2%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Sunshine Creek Cabernets 2019
High-class Yarra Cab blend from a producer on the up. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot. 12 months in barrel, then eight months in foudre. This ’19 release year is one of the best in some years for balance. Lovely dark red fruit, tending towards riper bits at the edges, dark chocolate, some dusty oak, edging towards overripeness on the finish but pulled back from the edge. Nice! Refined tannins too. It’s just a little bit warm on the tail, and the oak is a bit caramelised., but the overall impression is of a well made and successful release.
Best drinking: will appreciate a few years in the cellar. Then drink over a decade or more. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $45. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Burton McMahon D’Aloisio’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2020
Sourced from the D’Aloisio Vineyard in Seville township. Wild ferment in barrel, no malo, 10 months in wood. Despite being the more forward of the two Burton McMahon Chardonnay, this could almost be sparkling base. All white flowers, clay, white peach. It’s very delicate, the acidity prominent, and the oak making itself known because the wine is so delicate. Such a formative wine still, like many 2020 Yarra whites. It will need more time to come together as the fruit is overwhelmed. Lots of potential, though (i.e. the plus sign is essential).
Best drinking: later. Next year, or the year after for a start. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass now, more later.
Burton McMahon George’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2020
The Georges Vineyard is in Seville East. More acidity (TA 6.6g/L) and a lower pH (3.17) indicate how lean and frisky this finessed Yarra Chardonnay is. Bony, with stony, almost sparkling base acidity again. It’s going to come good eventually, and a real filigreed palate but gee, it’s achingly taut now. I keep thinking about the 2011 wines when trying 2020 Yarra Chardonnay like this, as those ’11s were very backward on release and now look superb. 2011 was a different vintage, but also cool and wet like 2020. ’20 will likely make better wines, so all I can think about is how patience will likely be rewarded.
Best drinking: later. two years, most likely. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Same. A glass now, more later.
Rising Chardonnay 2020
A cursory search on the interwebs lobs up that this can also be had for under $25. Bargain klaxon! This Yarra white is quite yellow for the low, low alcohol. However, it doesn’t taste underdone either – grilled nuts, yellow apple and quince, the palate rounded thanks to clever lees and oak despite the acidity giving a firm grapefruit handshake. Reminds me of a modern AC Chablis. It’s a little tart to finish, but quality for sure.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $25 in retail land. Would I buy it? Yes yes.
Oakridge Over The Shoulder Pinot Grigio 2020
Yarra Grigio, but it’s more like just an underling of the Gris above. Lots of varietal pear flavour going on here – in small font on the back label, it reveals that this is all Hazeldene Vineyard fruit which means maybe early picked grapes of the same ilk of the Gris. Has some solidsy richness on the palate and lots of texture here. Thanks to the palate width, you could call this a Gris, although in Australia, all the Gris/Grigio labelling is a hot mess, so what does it matter. Anyway, this is good Grigio, which shares much of the same DNA as its older brother, if with more chalky acidity.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11.5%, $24. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Oakridge Vineyard Series Barkala Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
In the vein of recent Oakridge Cab releases, here’s another that leans towards the light, luncheon claret mode. I like the intention, which is undoubtedly fresh, though the tannins are hard-edged. Leafy, dusty, and firm Yarra claret style of fine leafy flavour, just-ripe blackberry fruit before a pointy finish and dusty tannins. Unquestioned class and style, but it’s just a bit sharp. Will live for an eon; the score remains conservative.
Best drinking later. You could come back in five, and it will have barely budged. I keep thinking about the 80s Mount Mary wines for context, and they’re thirty-year wines. 17.5/20, 91/100+.12.7%, $44. Would I buy it? Later maybe.
Sticks Rosé 2021
Yarra Valley rosé done well. Early picked Yarra Cabernet & Shiraz. Lightly herbal, yet generous dry rosé with strawberry fruit and creamed edges. Freshness feels right, with plenty of fruit, maybe a bit firm to finish but can’t derail the balance. Good stuff.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/201, 91/100. 12.5%, $21. Would I buy it? Yes.
Sunshine Creek Pinot Noir 2019
A Yarra Cabernet drinkers Pinot. That’s the impression here, Sappy red fruit, with a slick of lightly toasty oak sweetness through the middle, the flavours bolder than the alcohol would suggest, the palate firm and ripe – no doubting the intensity, even if a little more delicacy wouldn’t go astray.
Best drinking: probably next year, and drink over six or so years. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? Later.
Oakridge Over The Shoulder Cabernet Merlot 2020
Light, elegant, blackcurrant-framed Cabernet with black fruit pastilles and then prominent tannins to finish. It’s a good, solid experience of Yarra claret, even if the tannins are a bit much for such a light red. Long, though. Class at this price, but it needs a good five years to be drinkable.
Best drinking: later. At least three years for a start. It will live. 17/20, 90/100. 13.2%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass.
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