A big day is planned today with back to back appointments in the far flung areas of the region; specifically most of them are in the Eden Valley area. The majority of the appointments are at wineries that are new and most I have limited experience with, so it will be a day of discovery.
High up over the Barossa with the clouds below 1
Speaking of ďdiscoveryĒ my first appointment was at Eden Springs which is located at High Eden (just up the track from Mountadam) and Richard Wiencke was kind enough to send me directions using all the short cuts to get there in the quickest possible time. The directions were very good and thorough (about the length of this chapter in fact) but if you are ever visiting the vineyard and take the suggested route, make sure you have a compass, and a qualified car rally navigator with you. †
The views on the way to the winery are spectacular; from the start of the climb into the hills overlooking the Barossa all the way to the top so make sure you allow some time to enjoy it. A lot of the trip is on dirt tracks, so speeding is not an option if you want to get there in one piece.
My first trip to this winery was two years ago and I was impressed with what they were doing and the value of the wines. Richard and Meredith have owned the property since 1992 but the first vines were planted in 1972 and much of the crop was sold to Mountadam. In 1998 they started bottling a limited amount of wine under their own label. This isnít a get rich quick operation; itís one of those thatís done more for the love of fermented grape juice than anything else, just the sort of wines that have been made for enjoyment. Production of all the labels is extremely limited and this is one of the vineyards that I purchase from every year, even if itís only a mixed case.
Eden Springs 2000 Shiraz sells for $22.50 and there is a small quantity still available. The wine is 100% single vineyard fruit. The bouquet shows blackberry, char (but not overdone) warm fruit and menthol and the palate flavours follow the bouquet and linger very respectably. Tannins are silky, the acid unobtrusive and the fruit pure ample in weight which all mesh harmoniously and provide a seamless wine with a firm but silky consistency that has a wonderful mouth feel and balance. This is a well made wine thatís drinking well now but will still improve a little in the short term. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, its worth buying.
Eden Springs 2001 Shiraz sells for $22.50 and is also a 100% single vineyard wine. Stylistically consistent with the 2000 wine it displays slightly sweet and better fruit. Creamy, almost silky tannins provide a solid backbone; the pure reasonably persistent fruit is ample in weight and provide well balanced wine with attractive mouthful. The palate shows blackberry/mulberry spectrum fruit of good intensity with a complimentary mint finish. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the wine is drinking well now but will improve over the next few years.
No fancy CD facilities here, itís the family kitchen 1
Eden Springs 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $24.50 and only 130 cases were made! The bouquet although a bit dumb and soft, has loads of appeal and just needs more air time to show its true colours. This is a good regional Cabernet with the structure to improve and go the distance. The pure fruit comes across with initial sweet blackcurrant that goes savoury and builds in intensity as it travels with very drying smooth but dusty tannins on the end.† It makes you want to come back for another sip. An ample weight wine with a very solid backbone and layered structure, itís harmonious now but should become seamless in time. Damn good wine for the price, its rated as Recommended now with **** for vale but the rating will improve as it matures after 2007.
Because production has been so limited and Richard insists on only using the best available fruit from his own vineyards for the ďGold Leaf LabelĒ wines, he has decided to do some special Ďone offí wines from time to time with a ďRed Leaf LabelĒ. Currently there is a 165 case production of Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot available but itís only for sale via his ďvirtual cellar doorĒ and not through retailers. The wine is all Eden Valley fruit.
Eden Springs 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot sells for $19.90. Quite simply, this wine has great ample weight fruit, itís pure, deep and persistent and although it seems like a fruit driven wine, it does have enough slightly creamy dusty tannins to support it. Flavours are mainly black, blackcurrant, mulberry, aniseed with hints of chocolate leading to a drying finish that goes into the next shire. This is one of those wines that I hate having to spit! With its harmonious complexity and supple consistency it would also be a great party wine, but its way better than that description. Rated as Recommended with **** for value its offers superb value.
Eden Springs Summary Ė Itís difficult to get single vineyard wines, let alone for under $25 so if you havenít tried the wines from this micro producer you should. They are without exception well made and express the regional characteristics. (Eden Springs is happy to do mixed dozens.)
From here there is a pleasant drive up mainly dirt roads through the hills to the famous Henschke Cellars. Along the way, the scenery is open and interesting, especially this little piggy stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I wonder what the story is behind this one is?
Henschke had recently released a number of new wines so I couldnít have picked a better time to call. Helen Brock is the ĎScottish lassí who manages the CD and has great delight and pride in letting everyone know that she has been there for 25 years. Helen obviously loves her job and has not only kissed the Blarney stone, she must have swallowed part of it †for she certainly has the gift of the gab. I am willing to bet not many people walk out of here without purchasing some wine. Helen even almost got me talked into trying a Pinot.
Henschke 2001 Henry Seven is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Viognier (70/25/5%) that is sealed in a ROTE and sells for $27.30 at CD. The Viognier does not lift the nose is as much I would have expected (a good thing) but it still shows reasonable complexity. Very sweet upfront raspberry flavours goes savoury and into chocolate as it progresses across the palate and finishes with respectable length. Consistency is firm but supple, the structure solid and the complexity developed. It should improve over the next five years and whilst itís a good wine, itís not my style. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.
Henschke 1999 Keyneton Estate sells for $33.80 at CD. I normally love this label but initially the slight char put me off. The black fruit is pretty obvious and drives much of the character of this wine showing savoury blackcurrant, aniseed, plums, a hint of spice and pepper. The ample weight fruit also has good intensity and length and is ably supported by smooth but dusty tannins. The more I tasted the wine the more it grew on me. Rated as Recommended with ** for value it is good drinking now but should peak about 2006.
Henschke 1999 Abbots Prayer (85% Merlot 10% Cabernet) sells for $64 at CD. The aromas are inviting and perfumed with floral petal notes, cassis and mint. Bucket loads of dusty tannins and deep fruit provide a solid foundation for this ample weight wine. Sweet cassis, savoury mulberry and chocolate finish dry as the tannins kick in. A well made wine with well developed complexity, it has the stuffing to last, about 2008 should see it peak. Rated as Recommended now with ** for value, the rating should increase as it matures.†
Henschke 2000 Mount Edelstone sells for $66.50 at CD and as there was no Hill of Grace made in this year, the fruit for that wine is now in the Mount Edelstone. The bouquet is very complex and inviting with sweet berries, plums, hints of vanilla, fern green notes and all sorts of other things. The fruit is delicate but deeply seated and shows red cherry, sweet cassis, savoury chocolate, light aniseed and mint which build across the palate into a long drying finish. Lovers of medium weight refined wines showing elegance and sophistication will appreciate this wine. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, it should peak around 2007 or beyond and the rating may possibly improve in that time.
Henschke 1999 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $97.40 at CD. Complex and inviting (light) blackcurrant and a forest of berries aromas greet the olfactory senses and flow through to the palate with initial sweetness that goes savoury. A wine of obvious high quality, its ample weight has everything in the right proportions with dusty drying tannins and pure deep fruit but it needs loads of time to show its best. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value I would like to try it again in about 2008 or even later.
Henschke Summary Ė All wines are well made and constructed, the quality is evident, but then so is the price and there seems to be a surcharge for the brand name.
My next appointment was just down the road in the centre of the thriving metropolis of Moculta but I was an hour ahead of schedule so how would I fill in that hour? Well, it took all of five minutes to walk the length of the main street so I decided to front up to my next appointment early. When I made the appointment David Barnett was kind enough to ask me if I wished to join him for a light lunch as there are no facilities in this part of the world.
There used to be, it was called the Hentschke General Store (and no I didnít spell it incorrectly †) and it sold a huge range of goods, it was the biggest store for miles around. It is now the home of the Barnettís and the future cellar door of Hartz Barn Wines. A B&B is also planned for the future.
As I was an hour early I sent David into a tizz as he wasnít ready for me but that was fine as we had a chance to have a chat and get to know each other as we got everything ready. The first wine they produced was in 2000 with the General Store Shiraz. In 2001 they produced 300 cases of each of their three varietals and last year they produced 1200 cases in total. Maximum production is planned to be 2,000 cases so they intend to stay small.
Their current home is also the office, storage shed, labelling department, packing room, loading dock and shipping department. Initially the fruit was purchased from growers although David is coy about proving details about his fruit source. They have purchased land and started a vineyard just down the road from their current location fairly close to the Hill of Grace Vineyard. The acreage is much greater than they will ever need and plans are to sell the excess production once they have enough grapes to fulfil their own needs.
During my conversation with David one thing quickly became evident; he is a stickler for the smallest detail. No doubt that detail has and will find its way into the wines which can only have a positive impact on everything they do. David was generous enough to open a bottle of every wine they have every produced so I received a good picture of what they are doing; itís impressive for such a new venture. †
Hartz Barn 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $37 (freight free) via mail order. The bouquet is clearly inviting, slightly lifted with perfumed notes and showing good fruit purity. A well constructed wine with clever use of oak and tannins results in an attractive creamy mouth feel with the pure fruit providing sweet initial red berry spectrum flavours which evolves into blue fruit with a hint of milk chocolate and a slightly drying finish. The wine is medium weight with a refined complexity and solid structure that exhibits some elegance which should become seamless in time. Rated as Recommended with *** for value (just) the rating should increase as the wine matures in 2006.
††††† An impressive line up of wines 1
Hartz Barn 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled four weeks previously and will be released in April 2004. Impenetrable dark purple with a lovely bouquet the wine shows great fruit and a reasonable varietal Cabernet definition. Although the fruit is only just about medium in weight, it shows intense blackcurrant, mint and chocolate flavours which finish with very good length. This is a perfect example of being knocked over by a feather. The fine grained dusty drying tannins provide some stuffing and sufficient backbone to make this an ample weight wine an, with its already well developed complexity, it should just keep getting better and better as it ages. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2009. I really liked this wine.
Hartz Barn 2001 Mail Box Merlot sells for $37 (freight free) via mail order. Super sweet red berry aromas are more reminiscent of a Grenache than a Merlot but there is dusty oak too. The wine shows terrific structure with ultra fine grained drying tannins and very high quality super sweet fruit. Itís medium weight, with a supple consistency and harmonious agreeable complexity which shows upfront sweet red berry, almost strawberry flavours and milk chocolate. Itís very good for a straight Merlot and like most Merlots at this level they donít represent wonderful value but this one is a quality wine. Rated as Recommended with *** for value it should peak in about 2006.†
Hartz Barn 2002 Mail Box Merlot was bottled four weeks previously and will be released in April 2004. The wine showed signs of bottle shock but it was still possible to obtain a representative picture. Initial raspberry/strawberry spectrum fruit is well contrasted by dark chocolate. It has a much more interesting and enjoyable flavour profile than the previous vintage. The weight is ample, the structure well supported by smooth ultra fine grained powdery tannins and the pure deep fruit provides a well developed level of complexity. One of the better Merlots I have tried, itís rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value and should peak around 2006.
The General Store Today 1
Hartz Barn 2001 General Store Shiraz sells for $41 (freight free) via mail order. There is absolutely no doubt this wine will be hugely popular and will sell quickly. The intense strong blackberry which leads to prune, stewed fruit and onto other berry flavours is enhanced by the smooth tannins that provide an attractive seductive mouth feel. Itís muscular in weight and is drinking well now but to me the fruit is a bit on the dead side (despite only being 13.5%) but I doubt that will stem its popularity and appeal. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Hartz Barn 2002 General Store Shiraz was bottled four weeks previously and will be released in April 2004. Technically this is a better wine than the previous vintage despite being 14.4% alcohol which is not at all obvious. Itís youthful but well balanced. Very sweet upfront red fruit goes into blackcurrant, blackberry, cassis, aniseed with dark chocolate and the flavours build across the palate agreeably and finish long. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value the wine should peak about 2007.
Hartz Barn 2000 General Store Shiraz was their original wine and David was kind enough to open one of his personal limited remaining bottles for me to sample. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine and if this is an example of the way these wines are going to mature then the winery will be a winner. Smooth integrated velvety tannins provide a wonderful mouth feel and the ample weight blackberry, milk chocolate and pepper flavours roll around the palate seamlessly and finish attractively. This is a lovely wine and is rated as Highly Recommended, it should peak fairly soon and plateau for a few years.
David in front of the proposed CD 1
Whilst I tasted the wines David was busy in the kitchen preparing his idea of a light lunch. Fresh bread rolls, cold chicken and salads, all of which were perfectly prepared and presented but there as enough to feed a small army. Sitting down to eat it was a most enjoyable and relaxing break to the day. Once again I was impressed with Davidís keen eye for detail and the small points. Some may find it pedantic but I can understand it as a quest for perfection and ďalmost rightĒ is just not good enough. This attention to detail augers well for the future of the winery.
Hartz Barn Summary Ė The wines are not inexpensive but without exception they are well structured, competently made and attractively presented. The market is currently crowded and gaining a foothold is not easy under the circumstances. I canít help feeling that if the wines were a bit more attractively priced in the initial stages their job of gaining a foothold in the market would be made easier. But that financial decision does not detract from the wine.
The next appointment was down the road (just out of Anguston) at another new establishment that I had never been to, Thorn Clarke. By European standards it is new to the wine business; it has only been going for six generations but by Australian standards thatís almost as far back as the wine industry goes. The company is family owned; it looks like it has serious backing and takes a long term view of things. One of the family vineyards was planted in 1854. The company has four vineyards that supply grapes for their own wines.
The family members all have a string of individual successes in their own right. For example, David Clarke who is the Chairman is a financier, vigneron and qualified geologist. James Irvine is the consultant winemaker. They have recently built a new winery and office facility at their Milton Park Vineyards and what a great spot it is away from it all! I met with Steve Machin, their Marketing Manager.† They essentially have three ranges of wine. Their entry level is called the ĎSandpiperí in Australia but its called ĎTerra Barossaí in the US, the middle rung is represented by the ĎShotfire Ridgeí range and their icon wine is the ĎWilliam Randellí Shiraz. They produced 30,000 bottles in 2002 and will produce 36,000 in 2003.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Steve Machin
Thorn Clarke 2001 Sandpiper Shiraz sells for $15 at CD. This is a good BBQ wine for the price showing a smooth nose with clean berry, pepper and a hint of varnished oak. The wine is ample weight with silky tannins and a seamless structure. Complexity is simple but agreeable showing sweet fruit going into savoury pepper and chocolate. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value, itís ready to drink now.
†Thorn Clarke 2001 Sandpiper Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $15 at CD. Stylistically very similar to the Shiraz with off sweet cassis and raspberry spectrum fruit, its medium weight and has a soft silky consistency. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value, itís ready to drink now.
Thorn Clarke 2001 Shotfire Ridge Quartage (is a Bordeaux blend with 46% Cabernet Sauvignon) and sells for $22 at CD. The sensational creamy smooth mouth feel is reason enough to buy this wine alone. But there is more, it has some solidity to its structure as well as being velvety seamless and showing a modicum of elegance. The wine is medium in weight and well balanced with pure fruit showing off sweet berry fruit and milk chocolate on a good length finish. Itís a harmonious food wine thatís rated as Recommended with **** for value.
Thorn Clarke 1999 Shotfire Ridge Shiraz sells for $22 at CD. The wine shows a lifted nose of vanilla and liquorice. Smooth tannins provide a good supple mouth feel and the pure fruit presents an agreeable complexity of blackcurrant/black berry, liquorice chocolate and vanilla flavours on a long finish. A nice wine thatís easy drinking, its rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Thorn Clarke Cellar Door 1
Thorn Clarke 1998 William Randell Shiraz sells for $40 at CD. Another wine with a sensational mouth feel from the silky tannins and medium weight, pure persistent fruit which provides a refined harmonious complexity that is still tight but should become seamless in time. Blackberry, liquorice, chocolate and vanilla have intense flavour without any extraction; a gladiatorís paw encased a kid leather covering. A very good wine, its rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value and will be perfect over the next four years. An exclusive offer is available to readers of this Tour Diary that contact the winery and tell them TORB sent them. They can purchase the wine for $25 a bottle by the case. Thatís great ***** value! Limited quantities available so be quick.
Thorn Clarke 2000 William Randell Shiraz sells for $40 at CD. Smooth slightly dusty tannins and distinct fruit combine to form an ample weight wine with savoury meaty taste, pepper, chocolate and coconut. Itís a little hot and whilst it rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value itís not for me.
Thorn Clarke Summary Ė The Sandpiper Range is consistent and the Cabernet Sauvignon is stylistically similar at both price points. The Shiraz is not as consistent but considering how long they have been going they have done amazingly well. This winery is one that should do very well in the future, they clearly know what they are about and what they want to achieve.†
Last appointment of the day was with Steve Kurtz at Kurtz Family Wines. As usual we met at his parentsí house as they are another micro producer and donít have a CD. This is the third time I have met with Steve and his wines are always good and represent some of the best value possible. The family are long term growers who sell their grapes to one of the largest companies in the Barossa. In fact the majority of the fruit from their Lunar Block regularly goes into a certain unnamed icon Black Label wine that costs over $100 a bottle, but the same grapes are also placed in their own Lunar Block Shiraz that sells direct to mail order customers for $25 a bottle.
Kurtz Family 2001 Boundary Row Shiraz is a wine that I have been looking forward to trying. Production is very small, only about 90 cases for domestic consumption with about the same amount going to the US. The wine was barrel fermented and then matured in half French oak (all new) and older American oak.
Dusty tannins are in the creamy spectrum and provide a balanced backbone for the muscular weight rich wine that has a harmonious well developed complexity. Across the palate, the mouth feel is pleasant with contrasting flavour sensations from savoury blackberry, coffee essence and chocolate leading to a mid palate sweetness from the raspberries and finishing to liquorice. This is a very fine wine for the price, rated as Recommended †with room for improvement as it matures over the next 3 years with ***** for value. I have no vested interest in this but if you are interested, itís available only to my readers at TORBís mates rates for $15 a bottle ($180 a dozen) plus freight if you are interested email Steve Kurtz direct.
Kurtz Family 2000 Lunar Block Shiraz was bottled two months ago but there is no release date scheduled yet and it will sell for $25 to mailing list customers. The wine is matured in 100% French Oak and has a similar flavour profile to the Boundary Row Shiraz but is a step up in quality. Dusty smooth tannins provide an attractive mouth feel and the medium weight fruit is clean and provides a pleasant flavour profile with sweet and savoury flavours that linger well but finish a fraction short on the palate. That may be fixed with time as there is no doubt there is some bottle shock at play and the wine will improve as it matures around 2006. Itís well made and shows some elegance and is currently rated as Recommended with **** for value but that rating should improve.
Kurtz Summary Ė Well made wine with obvious great fruit as its source is consistent from year to year and great value to boot. What more can a consumer want?
That was it for the day except that I felt like a good dinner †so it was of to the 1918 Restaurant which had always been excellent previously. It still is but the prices are over the top and there is much better value available elsewhere in the Barossa. Today was a good day with some new finds and an opportunity to visit a few old favourites. Tomorrow should be even better as I am to start the day at Veritas and Rolf is always exceptionally kind in his hospitality, so itís pleasant dreams ††and something to look forward to tomorrow for me Ė and the next chapter for you.† ††
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Copyright © Ric Einstein 2003