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SOUTH AUSTRALIA MAY 2001 BY -  Ric Einstein

I was lucky enough to spend a week in South Australia doing nothing but eating good food and tasting wine from the 12th to the 19th of May.  During that time I tasted and made tasting notes of approximately 170 wines, so by its very nature is posted into the extremely long.  I suggest you pull a cork from a bottle of good red, settle back and come touring McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and the Barossa. The post will be broken up into four sections, this overview and one for each of the three regions visited.

Please note, due to some “introductions” I was able to taste a number of wines that have not been released yet. This series of posts contain TN’s on wines that no one has had an opportunity to review yet. If you think it is painful to have to read through about 170 TN to get a few gems, just imagine the amount of crap I had to drink in order to be able to spit out some good stuff! Hang on, I must still be drunk, that should be the other way round. J

However, prior to getting into the tasting notes, I will summarise a few subjects I hope you will find interesting.  The first one is in relation to vintages. As we all know 1998 in South Australia will go down in the annals as a “ripper” of a year. Weather conditions in 1999 were a lot more difficult and this has been reflected in the wines that I have recently tried.  There are some very good 1999 wines around, but there are also some shockers. Generally speaking the 99’s are a lot lighter in fruit weight than the previous vintage.  The smart wine makers who have let the fruit shine through have been able to make good wine.  The wine makers who have an over reliance on oak have produced pretty ordinary plonk. More on the use of oak later.

The 2000 vintage is the exception that proves the rule that even years in Australia produce the best wines. It’s generally agreed by most wine makers that I spoke to that 2000 was an absolute shocker and very good wines, let alone exceptional wines will be very few and far between. A number of wine makers confirmed they have “decommission the fruit” and elected not to produce their premium labels in 2000.  Quantity of top-quality grapes was also down.

Whenever I went everyone was raving about how marvellous 2001 will be. A couple of wine makers who shall remain nameless privately admitted they felt 2001 is nowhere near as marvellous as reported. They feel it’s being “hyped up” after a very difficult 1999 and an almost impossible 2000.

The example was cited of a well-known wine personality who was interviewed on television and stated, “their grapes had ripened very early and harvest had been completed (in record time) a few weeks previously.” Another very reputable wine maker who saw this interview told me he wondered why if harvest had been completed weeks previously, why were they still picking grapes on that property four weeks after the television interview?

Some areas were picked very early, but many of these early picked grapes had very little flavour. The middle of the ripening period was exceptionally good and these grapes should produce very good wine.

The second subject I would like to touch on relates to the oceans of wine that will be coming on stream over the next few years from new vines.  Wherever you go in South Australia you see acre upon acre of new vines.  The wine glut is coming; there is no doubt about it.  Just as an aside, when you consider the quantity of new vineyards that have been planted by investors with no contracts to supply the wineries with grapes, one wonders how many of these investors will be burnt badly.  One knowledgeable insider told me he doubted Australia even had the capacity to actually crush and ferment the grapes that are coming online in the next two years.

On a related subject, many grape growers are becoming increasingly concerned at the low prices that many of the major wineries are offering them for their product.  As a result, many of the growers are starting to keep some of the grapes for themselves and have contract wine makers produce wine for them under their own label.  This is why we are seeing so many new labels from new producers. In many instances these wines are being made from older vines and the finished product is not only very good, but great qpr as the new wineries are to gain a foothold in the marketplace.

I believe this practice will expand at an exponential rate over the next few years.  This is great news for wine lovers; the biggest problem is tracking down and finding these new producers. The bad news is in many instances a large percentage; if not the entire production is being exported to the United States.  There are number reasons for this phenomenon.  Firstly the low Australian dollar makes the wines particularly attractive to the US.  Secondly the producers’ sell the wines in one hit and in many cases are paid upfront and this leads to my next topic.

The takeovers of many small wineries by the big four started a few years and culmination was the formation of “South Mount” or “Rose Corp” recently. Wine retailing in Australia has now changed forever.    Small wineries are finding it increasingly more difficult to build brand identification and gain shelf space in Australian retail shops and restaurants as the majors gain an increasing stranglehold on the Australian marketplace.  This is another reason that so many of the new and emerging wineries are exporting.

The majors are releasing new brands on almost daily basis. They have the cash and marketing budget as well as the ability to promote these wines. It’s becomes very expensive for small wineries to use wholesalers. In many cases they are just seen as another wine and the wholesaler often doesn't have a huge incentive to push the new brands, particularly when the older wines in their portfolios are doing reasonably well on retail shelves. As a result I believe we will see an increasing reliance on cellar door sales and mailing lists.

The final topic that I wish to flag, but not discuss in any great detail yet is the increasing incidence of TCA and dud bottles. The statistics and the comments that I picked up on this trip are frightening and I intend to discuss this in a separate post.

Finally prior to getting into the post proper,   I would formally like to thank a number of people who made my trip so memorable.  Firstly to Sue Davis for putting up with me, providing a room in the McLaren Vale Davis-Hilton Hotel and having to listening to me talk about nothing but wine for four days, especially considering she doesn't drink. To John Davies and Seven (707 is known as Seven by his mates) for each spending three days with me tasting all that good (and not so good) stuff.

It would also be very remiss of me if I didn't thank my employer for the week, Tom Porter of the Moss Vale Hotel, who was kind enough to make me Bottle Shop Manager and lined up a raft of appointments with the major wineries.  Likewise I would also like to thank John Gorman for promoting me to the exalted position of Australia's foremost Internet wine writer (sic) and lining up a stack of appointments for me with many small up-and-coming wine makers that I would normally not have had access to.

Finally my thanks must go to the cellar door staff and winemakers who spent so much time with me talking knowledgeably about their wines and answering a myriad of stupid questions. For obvious reasons there are  too many to name individually, but you all know who you are and my thanks goes to you or making my trip so memorable.

As all wines reviewed have been rated using the TORB Scale I have included the scale in this post.

The TORB Wine Quality Rating System

<b>Cats piss </b> (not devoted to NZ Sauvignon Blanc.)

<b>Barely Drinkable </b> (possibly applies to most Oz PiNot.)

<b>Acceptable </b> (normally used for GreenAsh blends.)

<b>Agreeable </b> (not exclusively for cheap Cabinet Sauvignon)

<b>Recommended </b> (not exclusively for cheaper Shiraz)

<b>Highly Recommended</b> (not restricted to S.A only.)

<b>Excellent </b> (unusual to find anything other than RB material here.)

<b>Outstanding</b> (must be top notch, normally benchmark wines)

<b>The Ultimate</b> (very few and far between.)

 

The TORB Wine Value System

* BAD news – wines where the producer has delusions of adequacy

** Normally not worth buying unless its very high quality special occasion wine.

*** Pretty much industry standard reasonable value for money.

**** The extra good QPR drops that we all search out.

***** Like hens teeth, typically some poor sod has sold a dozen at six pack price.

Now onto the reviews.

Part Two McLaren Vale

Oliver Hill winery is small winery whose wines have received some reasonably positive reviews in the US lately.  Tasting are by appointment only.  The winery is owned and run by Stewart and Linda Miller and has Linda admitted to be a lurker; “hello Linda.”

Oliver Hill 2000 Shiraz>is priced at $25.  The aromas are floral, violet, sweet spice, with subtle cedar notes.  Tannins are light and unobtrusive, no doubt due to use of French oak.  The wine is a medium weight, with an elegant structure and refined complexity.  The palate shows sweet young fruit; it is very well balanced with little or no oak impact.  It's not your typical big McLaren Vale Shiraz, and even in its infancy you can see this is going to be very elegant wine.  It should peak somewhere around 2003. Recommended with *** for value.

Oliver Hill 1999 Shiraz which has just about sold out, has a very closed nose and doesn't yield much beyond the obvious liquorice aroma.  Tannins are slightly bitter, acid is slightly tart and the fruit persistent.  It has ample bodyweight, firm consistency, a solid structure and an agreeable complexity.  It just needs time to soften and integrate, which I anticipate will be somewhere around 2005. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

The barrel sample of the 2001 Shiraz that will spend one-year in old French oak has simply glorious fruit.  If the final blended product is as good as the barrel sample, it will be a truly excellent wine and great value for money.   One to watch out for.

Oliver Hill NV Liqueur Portsells for $30 for a 500 ml bottle.  It's a Grenache Shiraz blend with very sweet fruit and an almost musket like aroma and taste.  The nose shows raisins, brandy spirit, and some rancio characteristics. There is a substantial amount of 15-year-old material in this wine.

Hastwell and Lightfoot are growers that started making wine a few years ago. They have no cellar door and tasting appointments must be made.  It was really rough to have to sit on Martin Lightfoot’s veranda overlooking the vineyards and chat about the meaning of life whilst trying their excellent value for money reds.   Both their Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $16.50 a bottle direct from cellar door.  The wine is made by Nick Haselgrove at Kays. For orders email hlwines@senet.com.au

The 99 H & L Shiraz is a violet colour. The nose shows earthy violets, pepper, eucalyptus and liquorice.  It's a medium bodied wine with a consistent structure and an agreeable complexity with sweet fruit, slightly powdery tannins, fresh acid and fruit weight that is just adequate. Recommended with *** for value.

The 99 H & L Cabernet Sauvignon is a violet colour with a fairly light hue. The nose is dominated by cedar, dark berry fruit, capsicum, and a touch of mint.  The balance of the wine is good but dominated by oak at the present. A solid tannic backbone holds it together.  The sweet fruit on the palate with capsicum, leads to a eucalyptus finish.  The wine has ample body with a firm consistent structure and layered complexity.  It needs time to soften and come together and ideally this wine should be cellared till 2005. The wine was matured in 50% new American Oak. The one concern is that there may be insufficient fruit for the long-term but at $16.50 it's not a big gamble.  Recommended with ****  for value.

Cascabel Winery is a fairly new winery that is starting to experiment with exotic Spanish and Italian grape varieties. Duncan and Susanna Ferguson run the winery. 

Unfortunately only wine available for tasting was there 99 Shiraz that retails for $23 and is almost sold out.  The wine exhibits an aroma of sweet pepper with intense flavour, and a dark pepper finish.  It is a very well crafted wine with medium intensity, soft consistency, a powerful but elegant structure and refined level of complexity.  It has a warm long finish and the taste lingers for ages. The wine is aged in 30% new and 70% older French oak. It should peak around 2005+ and is rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value.

This is a winery that is worthwhile watching.

Speaking about wineries are worth watching, Penny’s Hill is currently having a truckload of money spent on new facility including what will be a very swish cellar door, restaurant and function facilities.  They are also basically building a new winery from scratch.  The wines are reasonably impressive for the price and are currently being exported to the United States as well as being available locally via cellar door and mail order.  The owner of a winery, Tony Parkinson, is a switched on businessman and I am sure this winery will go from strength to strength. John and I enjoyed a very hospitable “shed tasting” followed by tour of a new facility.  The wine maker is Ben Riggs.

Penny’s Hill 1999 Shiraz Cab Merlot retails for $22 CD and is a well balanced mid weight wine with smooth tannins, unobtrusive oak and persistent flavours showing sweet fruit and a reasonable length liquorice finish.  The consistency is soft and the wine shows an agreeable and harmonious complexity. It’s rated as Recommended with *** for value. Best drinking would be about 2003+.

Penny’s Hill 1999 Shirazis bright purple in colour with a dark hue and sells or $25 CD.  The nose shows tar, spice, liquorice, sweet cherries and slightly medicinal finish.  Tannins whilst silky are slightly dusty, the acid is lively and the obvious fruit reveals sweet spicy and peppery.  The wine is only been in the bottle for three weeks.  It has ample bodyweight, a solid structure, and harmonious complexity. All the ingredients are there, it just needs time.  Highly Recommended with **** for value and the wine should peak around about 2004.

The Penny’s Hill 1999 Grenache is a ruby colour with the light hue and sells for $20 CD. The nose shows spice, pepper, plums and is not your sickly sweet Grenache nose.  Tannins are soft but slightly drying, the acid is crisp and fresh whilst the balanced fruit is persistent. The palate has sweet fruit with a spicy finish, definitely not a Grenache trying to look like a Shiraz.  Although the wine is 15% it’s not hot, or one-dimensional. It has a reasonably long finish, and should improve.  More Grenache should try to look like this wine. Recommended with *** for value and should peak around 2004.

The 98 Vintage Port is a knockout. It retails for $25 for a 500 ml bottle. The palate has intense sweet fruit finish with a touch of pepper.  Tannins are velvety smooth, the wine shows a rich consistency, solid structure, sophisticated complexity. A joy to drink now, it should improve the age. Highly Recommended with **** for value. I couldn't resist buying four bottles. As this was the end of the day, no spitting with this wine, I enjoyed every drop of it, and so did David Paxton who dropped in to have a quiet little drink with our host.

To accompany dinner that night John very generously pulled out a bottle of Seppelts Great Western 1985 Hermitage out of his cellar. The wine only showed slight bricking which was surprising considering its age. The nose showed sweet berry fruit, leather and pepper. On the palate it was perfectly balanced and integrated with amazingly fresh acid and medium weight but persistent fruit.  The flavours were sweet fruit on the uptake with leather and liquorice to finish.  The wine has soft velvety consistency a round structure and a harmonious and developed complexity.  An absolute joy to drink and is rated as Highly Recommended.  

The next winery visited was Pirramimma.  The 1997 the Petit Verdot retails for $20 and has a nose showing spice and floral scents.  Tannins are smooth, unobtrusive but slightly powdery with fresh acid. There is balanced persistent sweet spicy fruit on the uptake with a drying chocolate finish. The wine has a medium weight body, supple consistency, and an agreeable level of complexity.  It should peak around 2002, and is rated as Recommended with *** for value.

Pirramimma 1998 Petit Verdot is purple and colour with a bright hue.  The nose is closed but shows some floral (rose) scents and subtle white pepper.  On the palate it has a floral spicy taste with a slightly bitter finish with dusty tannins. The bodyweight is medium, the consistency soft.  It’s a reasonable wine from the price if you like Petit Verdot.  It should peak around 2003 and is rated as Recommended with *** for value.

The Stocks Hill 1999 Shiraz is violets in colour with a lightish hue and retails at $14.50. The nose shows cherry and chocolate. The palate follows the nose with a sweet cherry taste.  The wine has smooth integrated tannins with balanced acid, medium bodyweight, soft consistency, a slightly short structure and a simple level of complexity.  It's an ok wine for the price and is rated as Acceptable with *** value and should peak in a couple of years.

The next winery visited was Hamilton’s </b>who have been around forever.

Hamilton 1999 Grumpers Block Shirazsells for $21 CD.   The nose has beautiful lifted perfume with floral notes underneath.  There is a fairly high level of smooth tannins and unobtrusive balanced acid. The body has ample weight and a firm consistency, with a solid structure.  The palate has very pleasant up front cherry taste but there was a slightly tannic bitter finish that detracts from the wine. This may well disappear in time.  The wine should peak around 2003 and is rated as is Acceptable with *** for value.

Hamilton Hut Block 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $21. It has an oaky nose (American and French), cassis, tea and tar.  On the palate the wine is not as oaky as the nose would indicate, but the fairly strong drying tannins needs time to integrate.  The wine shows ample bodyweight, firm consistency and solid structure.  It should peak around 2005+ and is rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

Hamilton 1998 Burton Vineyard is a blend of Grenache and Shiraz that sells for $29.  The nose is floral and the closest description is the perfume in velvet soap with menthol and eucalyptus to back it up.  There is a huge amount of smooth but drying tannins with balanced integrated acid, but to me the wine seemed like an oak filled monster at 15.5%. I am not sure there is enough fruit underneath that oak for this wine to ever be in balance.  Acceptable with *** for value.

Hamilton 1999 Noble Semillon Sauvignon Blanc retails at $16 for a half bottle. Light straw in colour it has a fresh light sweet lemon aftertaste and unobtrusive integrated acid, the fruit is balanced, delicate and pure. The body is medium weight with a soft consistency, elegant structure, and a refined complexity.  Worth buying for a change if you want something a bit different in a sticky.  Recommended with *** for value.

 

From there are we went to Sylvan Springs Estate and this was a real find.  David Pridmore is a fourth generation grower who owns the winery. His forbearers originally owned Tatachilla. Many of the vines are 30 years old and the grapes had previously been sold to one of the big four.  David is now holding back some of his best grapes for his Sylvan Springs Wines which are being made by Brian Light.  At this stage, all the wine are being the made with new oak,  French for the Cabernet Sauvignon, and American and for the Shiraz The wines will retail in the shops for under $20 and are outstanding value.

Sylvan Springs Estate 1998 Shirazis dark purple with a very attractive musky floral nose. Tannins are smooth and well balanced and the persistent fruit shows sweet cherry on the uptake with the bitter chocolate finish.  The wine has a solid structure and a slightly simple complexity.  Whilst the wine has a good nose, the palate is not as rich in fruit as it could be.  However this is not a bad wine for a first effort.   Rated as Recommended with *** for value and a peak of about 2003.

Sylvan Springs Estate 1999 Shiraz was a much better wine than its predecessor. It’s dark purple in colour with a beautiful dark hue.  The wine was matured in 30% French and 70% new American oak.  The nose is still closed but showing signs of liquorice, chary oak and dark berry fruit.  On the palate the wine taste of dark sweet cherries with a liquorice aftertaste and a very long finish.  The silky smooth tannins and persistent fruit combine with a full-bodied structure and harmonious complexity to give a terrific balance, great mouth feel and a long finish.  It's Moorish!  Rated as Recommended now, but no doubt will move to Highly Recommended in a few years time when it peaks ***** for value. 

Sylvan Springs Estate 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon is also a baby with a closed nose.  It’s showing some chary oak, chocolate, dark berries and minty notes.  The abundant tannins are smooth and slightly drying and the deep fruit is currently buried, it will take years to come out.  It's a full-bodied Cabernet, with firm consistency, solid structure, very good complexity and great value for money.  It is currently rated as Recommended but no doubt will move to Highly Recommended when it matures in about 2006. Also ***** for value.

You had better getting quick for these two, Gavin may have some or email me at amagnet@hotmail.com for details I purchased a dozen of each of the 99 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz.

The next winery visited was Shottesbrooke who continually produce some very good value Shiraz year after year.

Shottesbrooke 1999Cab Merlot Malbec retails for $18.50. The nose shows violets, berry and spice.  The tannins are smooth, the acid and fruit balanced.  It has medium weight body, soft consistency and agreeable complexity.  Best described as an inoffensive crowd pleaser and rated as Agreeable with *** for value, drinking well now.

Shottesbrooke 1999 Shirazretails for $18. It is almost purple in colour with dark hue.  The big porty nose shows spice musk and violets. On the palate the sweet cherries and floral flavours are under a layer of intense pepper.  Tannins are smooth and unobtrusive, the full body blending well with a soft consistency and solid structure.  It shows good complexity with a soft finish and is quite enjoyable now. Recommended with **** for value.

The 1998 Shottesbrooke Eliza Shirazretails for $35 and is available only at CD. This wine is released only when they have exceptional fruit, the last release was 1995. Only 500 cases were produced.  The nose is intense, showing complex dark berry, chocolate, plums and black pepper aromas.  The palate is perfectly balanced and already reasonably integrated.  It shows full-bodied spicy flavours and sweet black berry fruit.  The French oak has been deftly handled. Tannins are silky smooth, the structure is solid, elegant and almost seamless.  However it is not a wimpy wine as it’s full-bodied, with harmonious complexity.  As PLCB would say it's “juggable.”  It's drinking extremely well now but will continue to improve for a long time. Rated as Outstanding with *** for value.  I bought a case for myself, a six-pack full Brian and a six-pack for Tom.

We experienced a great morning, will the afternoon be as good?  The next stop was very disappointing,  Hugh Hamilton. The new cellar door building is perched on top of the small hill and has a stunning view but I guess when you are going to serve wines like the wines we tried, you need something positive in your favor. To me, it almost seems that the wines from this winery are made for people who don’t want to know they are drinking wine.

Hugh Hamilton 1997 Cabernet Shiraz sells for $15. The nose has lifted aromas of plums, liquorice and spice.  Tannins are smooth and unobtrusive with the palate showing liquorice and pepper finish.  The body weight is a lean to medium, with soft consistency and a plain and uncomplicated level of complexity. Acceptable with *** for value.

 

Hugh Hamilton 1998 Shiraz sells for $16.50. It shows light perfumed spice on the nose with slightly dusty tannins dominating the palate and the bitter aftertaste.  The wine is medium body with a hollow structure and simple level of complexity. Barely Drinkable with ** for value.

Hugh Hamilton1996 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $20.  The nose shows violets and cassis and the palate has sweet berry fruit upfront with a sour cherry finish.  Tannins are smooth, unobtrusive and integrated.  It's a medium body wine with firm consistency and agreeable complexity. Acceptable with *** for value.

Hugh Hamilton 1994 Cabernet Merlot sells for $28. Rhubarb violets and cedar on the nose with sweet berry fruit on the palate.  Tannins are smooth and integrated, the wine has a medium weight body, supple consistency, a long structure, a harmonious complexity and is drinking well now. Recommended with *** for value.  The pick of a very ordinary bunch.

Hugh Hamilton 1994 Merlot sells for $28. The nose shows violets, perfumed spices with a sweet cherry fruit on the uptake and a dark chocolate finish. It's a medium weight wine with soft consistency, agreeable complexity, and is drinking well now. Agreeable with ** for value.

From there are we went to Tatachilla in the Main Street McLaren Vale.

Tatachilla Padthaway 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $20.80. The first bottle was corked so they opened a second, and as that was corked they opened a third.  They were not game to try a fourth. I went back in a few days later and asked what was going on. I was informed there was a problem with the wine, the wine makers had their suspicions but were not prepared to commit themselves until they had finish their testing.  However it was interesting to note the wine was unavailable for tasting of sale.

Tatachilla 1999 Shirazfollows in the footsteps of some excellent quality predecessors that are good value for money. The current vintage is $22. Almost dark purple, the nose shows violets, liquorice, black berry aroma and some minty notes.  It has a muscular body, rich consistency, a solid structure, a good level of complexity and a long finish.  It should peak somewhere around 2005 and is currently rated as Recommended but should move to Highly Recommended as it matures, **** for value.

Tatachilla 1998 Vintage “1901 Cabernet Sauvignon” sells for $40 and is only available from cellar door.  The nose shows cassis, liquorice with a minty finish.  A combination of 35% Padthaway fruit with from 65% coming from McLaren Vale.  The wine is definitely a youngster with huge amounts of dusty tannins, deep intense fruit that shows sweet red berry, liquorice and dark berry fruit that finishes very long.  It has a rich body, supple consistency, and a big round structure and should peak after 2006.  Excellent with *** for value and I purchased a six-pack.

From there we moved across the road to Hardy's Tintara Cellar Door.

We were informed that the Hardy's Tintara 1999 Grenache had been released that day.  (Whoppie poo, I just love GreenAsh!)  The cellar door manager was extremely excited about it and was raving about the wine.  He told us it was getting better as it opened up.  One sniff was enough to tell me it was corked.  A second bottle was opened and it was also a dud. The cellar door manager didn't believe me the second time so I suggested here tried sipping it, the picture of pure horror was enough to prove the point. He didn’t offer to open a third!

The next wine opened wine was Chateau Reynella 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon that was a cancelled export order. It was on the special for $19.95 having been reduced from a theoretical $35.  The bouquet showed elegant perfumed cassis and a hint of mint. On the palate the wine showed integrated powdery drying tannins, delicate sweet cassis under oak.  It's a medium body wine with firm consistency, big tannic structure and a developed complexity that still needs time for the fruit to come through. It is interesting to note that I drank a bottle of this wine a few nights later and showed in a very different light.  My host informed me he had bought dozens of the wine and the quality was very inconsistent.  I rated the wine as Recommended with *** for value at $19.95 and zero stars at $35.

1999 Hardys Padthaway Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $20.  This wine is very much a baby with plums, dark berry fruit and mouth battering tannins.   The deep fruit is there and may eventually emerge.  The body weight is muscular, the structure big and the complexity agreeable.  This may turn out to be a most enjoyable wine in about four of five years from now.  Currently rated as Recommended with *** for value.

It is interesting to note the last time I went to Hardys Cellar Door in McLaren Vale I stated it was one of the best in Australia with a fantastic range of wine on offer for tasting.  That opinion has now changed considerably.  The building is still the same and looks fabulous, but the range of wines on offer for tasting was limited and disappointing, especially when you consider the huge range of wines that BRLH sells.

d’Arenberg 1998 Noble Riesling sells for $30. Colour is amber gold and the palate is rich in apricots with a marmalade finish.  It's a rich round harmonious wine and rated as Recommended with ** for value and is basically way overpriced.

Coriole 1999 Shirazsells for $24 and I had been looking forward to trying this wine after an excellent 98 and favourable early reviews.  The nose showed plums and liquorice which followed through to the palate. However this wine exhibited a slightly bitter tannic finish.   I suspect it may have been a slightly oxidised or dud bottle.  I rated the wine as Agreeable with *** for value but I would be prepared to retasting wine and rate it again.

Coriole 1998 Botrytis Chenin Blanc sells for $15 a half bottle.  The palate is a basically apricot with not much diversity of taste.  It's a lighter style of sticky with not much complexity or excitement.  Rated as Acceptable with ** for value.

On the eighth day my trip I went back to McLaren Vale, but by this stage I was suffering from palate fatigue and sensory overload, so if the following a few tasting notes from the McLaren Vale area are not the way you would see them, please understand why.

Scarpantoni has been a long time favourite of mine and makes big reds that are not for the faint hearted.

Scarpantoni 1999 Block 3 Shiraz retails for $20.  Dark purple in colour, the nose shows vanilla, violets, pepper and spice.  The palate is an interesting combination of dark berry fruits, liquorice, smoky oak and a pepper finish.  Whilst the body weight is ample with pretty obvious fruit and dusty tannins, with agreeable complexity,  this is a much lighter wine than in previous years.  I expect this wine will peak around 2003, and is rated as Recommended with *** for value.

 

Scarpantoni 1998 Block Estate Reserve retails for $36 and is a blend of 50% Shiraz and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.  I purchased a six-pack of this wine on release and was looking forward to trying it.  The young lady behind the counter was kind enough to open bottle for me but unfortunately it was corked.  Almost no aroma and very little flavour, so she opened another bottle. The second bottle was dead!  The third bottle was opened from a different case and much to my horror it was dead to.  Whilst I was there, a customer walked in and wanted to purchase some Estate Reserve.  To their credit, the staff refused to sell it stating that it looked like the stock had a problem that needed to sort out next week when the wine maker was there. PS. Phil Scarpantoni rang me back today to inform me that only the first bottle had been affected by TCA, the other two were dead due to the very cold storage conditions.  I was impressed with his dedication to customer satisfaction. Just to prove it is OK, he is sending a bottle for me to try, so I don’t have to raid my own cellar stock.

Scarpantoni 1997 Botrytis Riesling/Chenin Blanc sells for $15 for a half bottle.  The nose is sweet apricot and the palate follows the nose with a marmalade finish.  The wine has strong fruit intensity with refreshing acid, the complexity is agreeable and the wine is good value for the price.  Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

Scarpantoni 1991 Shiraz Vintage Port sells for $30 for a 500 ml bottle.  The nose on this wine is black, liquorice, tar and dark cherry.  The palate follows the nose with a chocolate finish.  This is a full body wine, with soft consistency, a good structure, a developed complexity; the tannins are smooth and totally integrated. It's drinking very well now and his rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.

The next winery I visited exports their entire production to the United States. Phil Christiansen is the wine maker with years of experience working for Hardys and was involved in the making of Eileen Hardy Shiraz, Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tintara amongst others.  He has gone out on his own and is contract winemaking for a number of other small producers, including helping Lengs and Cooter. I tasted many barrels samples of his wines, and  this is one wine maker to watch in the future.

 

Longwood 2000 Shiraz is being bottle as I type this post and I was lucky enough to taste a quick sample.  It has a fairly complex nose of mint, liquorice, plums etc.  I am not going to tell you any more about it, but if you see it in the US, buy it! There is one case less than there could have been going to the USA; it will be in my cellar.

A few years ago one of the great buys was the 1996 Maxwell Ellen Street Shiraz.  Unfortunately I have not been particularly impressed with many of their wine since then. I was looking forward to trying the 1998 Lime Cave Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately it was sold out and the 1999 is now available.

Maxwell 1999 Lime Cave Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $24.  The nose shows subtle cedar and cassis and to my jaded olfactory machine, it wasn't particularly impressive.  On the palate there were lots of powdery tannins, balanced acid, medium weight fruit that finished with a sour cherry taste.  The wine had a firm consistency, solid structure, fairly plain complexity that I found a bit one-dimensional.  In its favour was a very long finish for the price.  Acceptable with *** for value, the rating may well improved as the wine approaches its peak in 2005.

Maxwell 1998 Ellen Street Shiraz</b>sells for $20. (With apologies to Glenn Green who is a mate of mine and was responsible for making this wine.)  In my opinion this wine is not a patch of 1996.  The nose is chary oak, liquorice and pepper.  The tannins are smooth and dusty, it has medium body weight with soft consistency, but the chary oak on the palate and the bitter finish is not my taste.  Rated as Barely Drinkable with ** for value.

John Davies who was with me when I tasted these wines agreed with my assessment of the Shiraz. However he disagrees with me on the Cabernet Sauvignon. John has previously drunk a bottle and thought it was pretty good.

The last winery to be visited in McLaren Vale was Fox Creek.  Unfortunately when I arrived there was a busload of tourists and it was very difficult to doing any serious tasting.  The Short Row has sold out and the Reserves were not available for tasting.

Fox Creek 1999 JSM sells for $22 cellar door.  The nose shows lifted spice, sweet pepper and liquorice.  There are lots of smooth powdery tannins, young acid and deep fruit, all in all a well-balanced wine with sweet black pepper and lingering liquorice aftertaste.  The wine has an interesting combination of flavours, is full-bodied with firm consistency and solid structure.  Whilst it's drinking nicely now, I think it should actually peak about 2004+. Recommended with *** for value.

McLaren Vale Summary

After my last trip to McLaren Vale I made the comment that a number of winery seem to be involved in  “formula winemaking” where many of the wines tasted pretty much the same.  I very pleased to say that on this trip I found generally speaking that was the case.  This may have something to do with the fact that I visited many new and small wineries rather than many of the big manufacturers. 

The other thing that really stood out in McLaren Vale is  the area appears to have backed off on its use of oak.  Even when new oak is used it is generally not as overpowering as it once was, and oak tannins seem to be much tighter indicating fine grained high quality barrels are being used. Not many vanilla oak milkshakes served on this trip.

The wineries to watch out for in the future are:-

Sylvan Springs Estate

Cascabel

Longwood

Penny’s Hill

The low lights were:-

Down grading of wines available at Hardys Cellar Door

Hugh Hamilton Wines

Part 3 – Coonawarra

Coonawarra - is the best part of a four-hour drive from McLaren Vale so John I had very early start on Mother's Day morning, in fact he had the temerity wake me up before the sparrows had a chance to break wind.

The first winery you get to in Coonawarra isS Kidman who makes some excellent value wines.  As I tried their very good 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon last November I didn't bother trying it again at cellar door.  However if you see the S Kidman Cabernet Sauvignon, it must buy.

S Kidman 1998 Shiraz sells for $18.  This wine is a contradiction in terms. The colour is purple with a bright hue.  The nose shows fresh pepper and eucalyptus.  Smooth tannins and oak dominate the palate. The acid is sharp and in my opinion the fruit is unbalanced.  It's a medium body wine, with hard consistency, an agreeable complexity that should peak around 2003 or 2004.  It's a glass stainer, but unfortunately the nose does not follow through to the palate. Agreeable with *** for value.

Gartner Family wines is a new winery in Coonawarra that has employed Peter Douglas of Wynns fame as their wine maker. 

 

Gartner Family 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25.  The nose is classical Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine exhibits fine grain powdery tannins, crisp balanced acid, the oak currently dominates the pure fruit but there is no doubt it will improve dramatically as it reaches its peak in 2005+.  It has ample body weight, solid structure and an agreeable complexity.  It’s currently rated as Highly Recommended (in time I am positive this rating go up) with **** for value. 

Keep your eye out for these guys, they currently building a new winery and will be a shining star in the future.  I bought six bottles.

Next stop was Rymill. This winery is worth a visit just another look at the architecture, it's a pity the wine isn't as good as the building.

 

Rymill The Bees Knees NV sparkling red sells for $25. Ruby in colour, the body is a lean with firm consistency, a short structure and plain complexity. Acceptable with *** for value.

Rymill MC Squaredis a blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, it sells for $19.  The wine has little in the way of tannins or oak, there is lively acid and delicate fruit on the palate with very sweet light cherry and raspberries flavours.  A light summer wine, with a lean body, soft consistency, delicate structure and harmonious complexity, it’s an early drinking style. Agreeable with *** for value.

Rymill 1998 Shiraz sells for $23.  The wine has matured in 40% French and 60% American oak.  Tannins are smooth, acid is a balance but crisp, and the pure fruit is delicate.  It's a medium body wine with subtle consistency and a reasonably diverse complexity.  The aromas are of spice, pepper, cedar, mocker coffee and some minty notes. The wine should peak around 2004. Recommended with *** for value.

Rymill 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $22.50.  The wine is typical of the difficult vintage in Coonawarra.  The colour is dark violet and the nose has aromas of cedar, strawberries, understated but lifted green notes of eucalyptus or mint.  Tannins are dusty and drying with sweet medium weight fruit.  On the palate the wine seems to the oak heavy, with firm consistency and the fruit might show through in the future. Acceptable with *** for value.

Rymill 1998 June Traminer sells for $12 a half bottle.  Light gold in colour, the sweet fruit of raisins, figs and spice with crisp acid, contribute to a medium to full body wine, with a rich consistency and an agreeable complexity. Agreeable with *** for value.

Hollicks 1999 Cab Merlot sells for $19.50.  An uncomplicated wine with an agreeable complexity, soft consistency and a slightly lean body.   Acid is crisp and fruit weight at best medium.  The wine exhibits spice pepper and sweet fruit on the palate.  Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

After the very good reports on the 1998 Wetherall wines I was looking forward to visiting this winery.  Unfortunately the 99 were unexceptional.

Wetherall 1996 Sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25. Pretty unexciting wine with medium body, supple consistency, elegant structure and an agreeable level of complexity. Agreeable with *** for value.

Wetherall 1999 Shiraz sells for $20. The aromas are of spice, white pepper and liquorice.  The tannins are smooth and velvety with ample body weight, the solid structure backs up an agreeable level of complexity.  The tastes are white pepper, liquorice and sweet berry fruit. John said, “I could drink this all-day.” It's a well-balanced early drinking style wine that is rated as Recommended with *** for value.

Wetherall 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $22.  The nose appears to still be closed but shows spice, sweet light berry fruit flavours and vanilla.  Tannins are smooth and unobtrusive with persistent balanced fruit, leading to a palate of cassis and pepper.  A slightly bigger than medium weight body, with soft consistency, tight structure and agreeable complexity.  The wine should peak fairly soon and is rated has Agreeable with *** for value.

Balnaves 1998 Cabernet Merlot sells for $24.  The nose has lifted aromas of cassis chocolate and vanilla.  There appears to be an  unbalanced level of drying, slightly puckering tannins, sharp acid and obvious fruit.  It’s big in the oak department and the fruit is underneath, but quite honestly I don't know which will win in the long run. Acceptable with *** for value.

Balnaves 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $29.50. An interesting nose showing mint, cassis, spice, (no green notes) vanilla/caramel, but the oak is French.   Quite a contradiction in terms.  On the palate, there is good sweet upfront cassis, loads of mouth puckering tannins, liquorice and chocolate to finish.  The fruit is persistent and pure with ample body weight, the consistency firm. The layered structure has reasonable complexity and a long finish.  It's good wine but not quite me. Rated as Highly Recommended, it should peak in about 2005+ with *** for value.

 

Next stop was my old favourite, Bowen Estate.   This is a “rustic and basic” cellar door where they have nothing to prove and they let the wine speak for itself.

Bowen 1999 Shiraz sells for $21. As usual, the wine shows pepper dark chocolate with a subtle mint note to finish. (I would be amazed if I ever tried a Bowen Shiraz that didn't have loads of pepper.) </font> Tannins are fine grained, the fruit is a well balanced, persistent and pure.  There is ample body weight, the firm consistency, solid structure and the harmonious complexity leads to a long finish. All the more amazing when you consider this wine had been bottled four days previously.  It should peak about 2005. Highly Recommended with **** for value. Needless to say, I purchased a six-pack.

Bowen 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $22.  The nose shows cedar, rich cassis, liquorice and some green tea.  Great use of oak, fine grain smooth tannins, the pure and distinct fruit produce a perfectly balanced wine with a palate of sweet cassis, a terrific complexity of other flavours and a long liquorice finish.  It has ample body, harmonious complexity and can best be described as very clean wine.  It should peak somewhere after 2006 and I rated it as Excellent with **** for value. Needless to say, I purchased a six-pack.

Is looking forward to trying the 1998 Katnook Estate wines.  Some months ago I tried the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon and was not very impressed, despite a number of people's favourable comments, so I was anxious to try it again.

Katnook Estate 1998 Merlot sells for $38. The nose had a slight amount of VA, earthy notes, spice and liquorice. (I need to point out I have never been a great fan of straight Merlot and preferred it blended in Cabernet Sauvignon.) The palate has very sweet upfront fruit, some pepper and vanilla.  Tannins are silky smooth, the wine has ample body weight, a firm consistency, and an uncomplicated level of complexity.  It’s slightly better than most Merlots I have tasted but I can still only rate it as Recommended with ** for value.

Katnook Estate 1998 Shiraz sells for $38. The wine is just purple with the fairly light hue. The nose shows predominantly liquorice and spice.  There are lots of smooth tannins, fresh acid, balanced and persistent sweet fruit that follow the bouquet.  Ample body weight, a firm consistency, solid structure and good level of complexity make this a good wine that should peak around about 2005, but one that I'm not tempted to purchase.  Rated as Recommended with *** for value.

Katnook Estate 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $38.  This wine has very good structure with drying, puckering, powdery tannins. The obvious and persistent fruit leads to sweet cassis on the palate with the long chocolate finish. The delft handling of oak, muscular body, firm consistency, and solid structure add up to well-developed level of complexity. Highly Recommended with ***  for value, this wine should peak around about 2005+ and I must admit I was very tempted to purchase some.

Lindemans in Coonawarra has a fabulous array of wines available for tasting and a stop at their cellar door is a must.  This was a last stop after a long day and I was anxious to taste the 98 Trio that had recently been released. The Trio each sells for the ridiculous amounts of $49 for an individual bottle at cellar door. (10% less by the dozens, which still makes the wines way overpriced, even if Murray does love them.)

Lindemans 1998 Pyrus blend is a very well made wine with cassis, cedar and mint on the nose. The palate closely follows the nose and exhibits a chocolate finish. Tannins are silky smooth, the fruit obvious, the consistency supple leading to a harmonious level of complexity. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.

Lindemans 1998 St George is almost purple in colour with a bright hue.  On the palate the wine shows sweet cassis with a sour cherry finish and a nose that is classically Coonawarra Cabernet.  In terms of structure, the wine is a well balanced with lots of mouth puckering tannins and persistent but distinct fruit. It has ample body weight, supple consistency, a solid layered structure and a refined complexity leading to a long finish that is the quintessential Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  Rated as Excellent with *** for value and worth purchasing if you can find it on special for less than $40.  It should peak around about 2006 and was my choice of the Trio.

Lindemans 1998 Limestone Ridge has persistent sweet peppery fruit taste with hints of caramel.  Tannins are smooth and unobtrusive.  Medium bodied with a soft consistency, the structure is elegance and tight leading to a sophisticated level of complexity.  Rated as  Highly Recommended with *** for value  this wine should peak around 2005+.

Lindemans 1992 Sparkling Shiraz sells for $40 and I think from memory is only available from cellar door. The wine is starting to developed leathery notes over the sweet pepper fruit.  For my palate I found this wine to be very simplistic and uninteresting. Agreeable with ** for value.

Lindemans 1995 Coonawarra Porphyry sells for $14.50 a half bottle and is only available from cellar door.  It’s lightish gold in colour with oranges, lemons and caramel on the bouquet.  The acid is slightly piquant and the fruit weight is lighter than most stickies.  The palate has sweet tropical fruit with citrus aftertaste and clean finish.  The wine has a velvety consistency and harmonious complexity.  It is only 11.5%.  Rated as Recommended with **** for value.   I purchased a six-pack.

Lindemans Padathway 95 Botrytis Riesling is only available from cellar door and sells for $14.50 for a half bottle. The nose is overly sweet and primarily apricots.  The palate follows the bouquet and the wine shows a soft consistency, hollow structure, and plain simple complexity.  Acceptable with (just) *** for value.

After a hard day working on the salt mines, John I went out to dinner and he was kind enough to bring two bottles of wine from his cellar.

Wirra Wirra 1995 RSW Shiraz received and almost unbelievable 96 points from James Halliday, but it is interesting to note that Jeremy Oliver rated it 17.9 out of 20. Unfortunately like a lot for restaurants the glasses provided could best be described as “boob measurers” rather than implements designed for the enjoyment of nosing wine.  On the palate the wine had rich sweet pepper and spicy fruit, soft integrated tannins; but initially finished with a sharp acid finish.  The wine clearly improved with food and the acid was nowhere near as noticeable, but once the food was finished the sharp acid and hard finish reared its head again.

Noon 1993 Shiraz or possibly more correctly it should have been called Noon 1993 Port.  This was a last vintage made by Drew's father and it was a huge porty wine.  The wine had a porty (there is that word again) nose with the nice sweet fruit, silky tannins, and dark chocolate aftertaste.  This was a big in your face wine and as John so aptly put it “elegance is no substitute for power.”  The porty wine had a slightly short finish and was almost one-dimensional, but was still most enjoyable.  I would have rated this wine as Recommended.

Nine o'clock on Monday morning saw us knocking on Zema Estates door.  The 98 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from this winery were excellent and I was looking forward to trying their new offerings.

 

Zema Estate 1999 Cluny sells for $20.  The bouquet shows slightly lifted white pepper and spice.  Tannins are smooth and unobtrusive with balanced acid and medium weight fruit.  The wine has a soft consistency, an agreeable complexity and is ready to be dunk now.  It’s a simple uncomplicated early drinking wine.  Agreeable with *** for value.

Zema Estate 1999 Shiraz sells for $20.  This wine is closed and locked up tight.  The bouquet is liquorice, pepper and vanilla. It has very good oak and tannin treatment.  The wine has ample body weight, a velvety consistency, seamless structure, with liquorice and pepper on the palate.  Currently rated as Recommended, I am confident as this wine matures over the next five years it will be Highly Recommended with **** for value.

Unfortunately the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon was not available for tasting at cellar door.

Zema Estate Family Selection 1998 sells for $40 and as Brian raved about it, I was looking forward to trying it.  The colour is very dark purple, but this wine is still closed.  The bouquet is cedar, cassis, leafy or tea, and cigar box is starting to develop.  There are lots of dusty tannins and the wine has received tremendous oak treatment.  The fruit is there but under a lot of dominant oak and will need at least five years to emerge.  It’s a full-bodied wine with firm consistency. Currently I would rate this wine as Highly Recommended (that may move to Excellent if the fruit eventually emerges) with *** for value.

This is a wine than I would consider buying along with the Katnook Cabernet and the St George, in fact it would be a hard choice which one of these three to purchase.

Next up was Penley Estate were an appointment had been arranged by Clayton Page for John and myself.  Sandi Davis who amongst other things is their chemist took us on very educational tour of their new winemaking facility.  There clearly has been a lot of money spent on this winery with all the latest that technology has to offer, however they do retain some of the old fashioned winemaking equipment and methods.

Penley Estate 1998 Hi Land Shiraz sells for $18 dollars.  Almost purple in colour with a lightish hue, the bouquet shows vanilla, spice white pepper mint and liquorice.  Tannins are smooth, acid refreshing and the body is medium weight with firm consistency, a fairly ordinary wine with an acceptable level of complexity. Agreeable with *** for value.

Penley Estate 1999 Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $20 dollars. Typical Coonawarra nose of cassis, cedar, vanilla and eucalypt.  On the palate, the wine has good sweet blueberry fruit with lots of smooth tannins and obvious distinct fruit.  The body weight is ample, the consistency firm, the structure solid and a good level complexity for the price.  Recommended with **** for value the wine should peak about 2004+ and went it does, the rating will probably increased to Highly Recommended.  I purchased a six-pack.

Penley Estate 1997 Shiraz/Cabernet sells for $28 dollars. This is a soft early drinking style wine that could best be described as  “a crowd pleaser.”  It has ample body weight, soft consistency, round structure and an agreeable level of complexity.  The palate shows sweet upfront berry fruit with a pepper finish. Recommended with *** for value.

Penley Estate 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $60 dollars.  This is Penleys flagship wine and this vintage is indicative of many wines from 1997.  The bouquet is cedar, green leafy notes, tea and cassis.  On the palate, there are powdery drying tannins with sweet fruit on the uptake that is dominated by oak that will take time to integrate, and a sour cherry finish.  The wine has ample body weight, firm consistency, solid structure an agreeable level of complexity. Recommended with ** for value.  It should peak around 2006.

Next stop was the legendary Wynns.

Wynns Ovens Valley Shiraz 1995 is only available from cellar door for $19.50. The first bottle opened was going off so my notes on this wine are fairly brief.  There was sweet almost cherry like fruit on the nose with some spice to back it up.  On the palate the wine showed nice clean sweet fruit but was slightly simple, lean body weight, soft consistency, and a short finish but has developed complexity. Acceptable with *** for value.

This was my second tasting of the Wynns 1998 Shiraz. The wine has actually improved quite a lot over the last six months.  Tannins are smooth, slightly dusty and integrated.  The body of the wine is medium with persistent pepper and sweet berry fruit on the palate with a supple consistency, solid structure and an agreeable level of complexity.  Rated as Recommended with *** for value.

This was also my second tasting of the Wynns 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon that sells for $27. The nose is typical Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon,  which follows through onto the palate.  Tannins are smooth, dusty and the balanced fruit fairly obvious with ample weight.  The wine has a firm consistency, layered structure and the good level of complexity for a wine in this price bracket.  It should peak around about 2006 and at that time I would anticipate it would be rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.  This is a wine worth buying.

Wynns 1998 Michael Shiraz is $88. Although this wine is closed it did show a fair degree of complexity with lifted aromas of sweet raspberry fruit over pepper, eucalyptus and some vanilla.  On the palate the wine showed beautiful clean sweet fruit in the raspberry and strawberry spectrum. Loads of smooth tannins lead to a firm consistency. The structure is seamless, there is an intricate and refined level of complexity and a very long finish.  In short good well made wine that will take at least five years to peak.  Excellent but not good value **. I feel that this wine is just too expensive

Wynns 1998 John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon is $88. Okay, so I tasted, but what can I tell you?  This wine is 100% completely and absolutely shut.  It has a muscular body, firm consistency and tight structure.  Is much too young to rate, but like the Michael, is just getting too expensive.  I have John Riddoch going back to the 1988 vintage in my cellar, but I absolutely refused to pay $88 for this wine when it is released so young with such a high price tag.

Next stop was Beringer Blass - Jamisons Run Coonawarra winery.

Mildara 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $20.  The 98 vintage of this wine was one of the standout great value 1998 wines, so I was looking forward to trying the 1999.  The bouquet showed mint, cassis, earthy mushrooms and spice.  The primary flavours surprisingly enough were liquorice, (there was no indication of this on the nose,) and cassis.  It's a medium body wine with firm consistency and slightly short structure. All in all the okay wine considering the price. Recommended with *** for value.  It should peak around 2003.

Greg Norman 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Blend sells for $29.  The wine has unobtrusive tannins, crisp acid with chocolate dominating a sweet cassis fruit palate.  It's a medium body wine with a softish consistency and agreeable level of complexity.  It’s another crowd pleaser.  Recommended with *** for value.

Jamisons Run 1998 McShane's Shiraz sells for $28.  The wine is bright purple with a closed nose showing vanilla, sweet clean berry fruit, probably strawberries.  Tannins are slightly drying and the fruit is persistent on the palate with sweet cassis, strawberry, intense pepper and a dark chocolate finish.  There is ample body weight, a layered but tight structure, and a good level of developed complexity with a fairly reasonable length finish.  The wine is morish, and a winner.  It should peak about 2003 and is well worth buying. (More damage to my credit card, Tom another six bottles to add to the order list.) Highly Recommended with **** for value.

Jamisons Run 1998 Alexander Block Cabernet Sauvignon also sells for $28.  The bouquet of this wine shows cedar, eucalyptus and violet notes.  Currently the huge tannins overpowered the fruit.  The wine has a hard consistency, solid structure and simple complexity.  To me it seemed lacking in fruit and an oak bomb. Acceptable with ** for value.

Jamisons Run 1996 Reserve sells for $38.  Unfortunately I can't tell you what this wine is like because three dud bottles were opened one after the other.  They gave up after that.

From there we have long drive back to McLaren Vale when I stayed at John and Sue’s place (again) and John was kind enough to once again raid his cellar and he open a bottle of Clarendon Hills 1994 Shiraz.   The bouquet of this wine was absolutely fabulous.  All aromas were in the dark spectrum and included plums, liquorice, blackberry, blueberry etc. On the palate the tannins were tightly integrated and the fruit was pure, distinct and deep. There were plums and liquorice on the front with a sour cherry finish and the acid cut through the cream in the Spaghetti Carbonara that Sue had prepared beautifully. It’s a full-bodied wine with a diverse, developed complexity and the solid structure. The wine is drinking superbly and is at its peak.  Rated as Excellent.

Coonawarra Summary

Clearly 1998 was a very special year in Coonawarra and most of the1999’s I tried did not measure up very favourably at all. There will be some exceptions like Bowen who produce good wines almost every vintage and others like the Penley Phoenix. However, generally I would be pretty careful purchasing 1999 and 2000 Coonawarra wines.

Wrottenbilly and Padathway have huge amounts of new vines and I believe that’s where the real expansion will come from in this part of South Australia.

I then spent a very productive and exhausting three days in the Barossa Valley.

Part 4 - Barossa Valley

First stop was a fairly new winery called Ross Estate.   The winery was started by a retired engineer by the name of Darius Ross who wanted something to do.  However he didn't anticipate his new hobby would take off at anything like the rate that he is currently experiencing.  Rod Chapman makes the wines and Rod had many years experience as a senior wine maker at Penfolds. .  It is quite obvious that Rod really knows what he doing, letting the fruit speak for itself,  and even in the extremely difficult 2000 vintage, he has produced some very credible wines.  Without exception all wines I tasted were very well balanced and were reasonably refined,  none of them were over the top in anyway shape or form. This is a winery that is going to do extremely well.  The wines are also being exported to the United States.  The currently have approximately 300 acres and a production of 9,000 cases.

Ross Estate 1999 Old Vine Grenache sells for $17. (The vines are 70-90 years old.) The bouquet shows spice, mask and some slightly green notes.  Tannins are smooth, acid is refreshing, and the obvious fruit leads to a palate of sweet liquorice, pepper and blackberries.  The body weight is medium with a soft consistency and an almost elegant structure.  This is a well-balanced wine and would be perfect slightly chilled on a hot summers day. It should peak soon and is worth buying. Recommended with *** for value. This wine is just about sold-out.

Ross Estate 2000 Old Vine Grenache  is about to be released.  It has just been bottled and the nose is still closed but shows an attractive sweet musky perfume. On the palate the wine has nice sweet fruit, and almost musk take-up with chocolate finish.  The fruit is a medium weight and pure, the wine has a supple consistency, a tight structure and a more than agreeable level of complexity.  It is still a baby and should peak in a couple of years. Rated as Recommended with **** for value. (High praise indeed for a GreenAshe from this red bigot.)

Ross Estate 1999 Merlot sells for $25. The nose is totally closed.  Tannins are smooth and the wine is well balanced with delicate fruit showing sweet raspberry and spicy pepper finish.  It is a medium body wine, with soft consistency, an elegant tight structure with an agreeable complexity and it is not overly sweet.  It should peak around 2004 and is rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

Ross Estate 2000 Shiraz  sells for $26. The wine has been matured in American oak and shows raspberries, smoky oak and pepper. The bouquet is just beautiful.   There is a lightish amount of smooth tannins, and the fruit is obvious and distinct leading to a palate of sweet raspberries fruit with a pepper finish.  There is ample body weight, supple consistency, a harmonious complexity and the long finish and just for good measure it's a glass stainer even though it's only 13%. Highly Recommended with *** for value, it should peak in the 2004. <font  A more than credible performance for such a lousy vintage.

Ross Estate 2000 Blend sells for $25 and is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot. A bouquet of cedar, mixed berries and menthol lead to a palate of sweet fruit including plums, raspberries and liquorice finish.  Tannins are smooth and powdery but totally unobtrusive, the acid is refreshing and the medium fruit weight is persistent.  The wine has a soft consistency, a solid structure and agreeable level of complexity.  Rated as Recommended with *** for value.

Ross Estate 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25. The wine borders on just dark purple and has aromas of cassis, chocolate mint and cedar that leads to a palate of sweet dark cherries, sour cherry, cassis, and a chocolate finish. This is a good well-balanced wine for the price that needs time  to come together and developed, it will be best drunk after 2006. The powdery tannins, the piquant acid and deep fruit make up a full-bodied wine with firm consistency and developed complexity. Highly Recommended with *** for value.

Ross Estate 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon is being bottled as this is being typed. The aromas are raspberries, cassis with some minty notes. Light tannins are smooth but slightly powdery, the fruit is pure raspberries and the finish on the wine is sour cherry with a touch of green.  The wine has a medium weight and a firm consistency that will soften in time.  In 2004 when this wine is just about at its peak it may be even better than the Recommended rating it is receiving with *** for value.

Schild Estate is another new winery rightly next door to Ross Estate. The wine is now also being made by Rod Chapman.   I must admit when I first tried the 99 Schild Estate wines, that were made by John Zilm at Craneford I was not overly impressed.  I later found out that John Zilm had grave reservations in even trying to turn the grapes from the 99 Schild Estate into wine.  Basically the grapes were just too high in alcohol when they were picked. I am sure this winery will improve as time goes on and is also one to watch.

Schild Estate 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $23. It has aromas of lifted violets, cassis, liquorice and spice leading to a palate of sweet berry fruit with a chocolate aftertaste. It's a medium body wine, with supple consistency an agreeable level of complexity and the long finish.  It's simple and uncomplicated with a distinct chocolate taste.  Rated as Agreeable with *** for value it should peak fairly soon.

Schild Estate 1999 Shiraz sells for $23. It shows aromas of sweet plums and other dark berry fruit leading to a palate of liquorice and plums.  The fruit is persistent, the balanced acid piquant, the tannins slightly dusty making up a medium weight wine with supple consistency, solid and almost tight structure, with a plane level of complexity. Agreeable with *** for value it should peak in the next couple of years.

Schild Estate 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon   is being bottled as this is being typed. The nose shows restrained sweet raspberry, strawberry, cassis and menthol. On the palate the wine has powdery balanced tannins, fresh acid and distinct fruit that will lead to a taste of sweet raspberries on the uptake and a light chocolate finish with a very good length.  Its medium weight with supple consistency, an almost elegant structure and a harmonious level of complexity.  It's good wine that is well worth the price. Recommended (with room for improvement as the wine peaks around 2004) with *** for value.

 

Schild Estate 2000 Shiraz is yet to be released.  Aromas of violets, perfume, liquorice and plums combine with dusty unobtrusive tannins and distinct fruit of sweet plums and berries on the palate.  The wine has ample body weight, supple consistency, a solid structure harmonious complexity and a good long finish. Recommended with **** for value, it should peak in two to three years.

 

Next stop was an old favourite, Charles Cimicky  where we were met and entertained by the vivacious Jenny Cimicky.  To be polite I tried their clean skin.

Charles Cimicky 1997 Shiraz Cabernet Clean Skin sells for $12.50. The wine shows aromas of liquorice and plums with a touch of VA and was a little closed due to the cold. The wine was well balanced with a slightly lean body, soft consistency and simple level of complexity. Acceptable with *** for value and it's not going to get any better.

Charles Cimicky 1999 Daylight Chamber Shiraz sells for $20 and the 98 was fantastic value. Unfortunately the open bottle was corked and a second one that was opened was also corked.  The same thing happened with the third. It is interesting to note that whilst agreeing the wine was slightly corked, the staff elected to leave the wine out for general tasting.

Charles Cimicky 1998 Signature Shiraz sells for $32. This is my sort of wine.  The aromas were lifted sweet floral with some musk leading to sweet fruit on the uptake with a lovely chocolate finish.  Tannins were drying and slightly powdery and the fruit very distinct.  It's a medium body wine with supple consistency, a tight structure and a refined, sophisticated level of complexity. Highly Recommended now, I sure that as this wine improves over the next three or four years it will be rated as Excellent with *** for value.

Charles Cimicky 1998 Reserve Shiraz  sells for $52 and is limited to two bottles per person in Australia. The nose is still fairly closed and shows liquorice, blackberry, a complex spectrum of other dark berries and eucalyptus.  The wine has great balance with integrated smooth silky tannins, obvious distinct and deep fruit tasting of multiple dark berries and liquorice.  A solid but seamless structure with a sophisticated and harmonious complexity all add up to a full-bodied wine with an incredibly long finish that needs lots of time to come together to show its best.  Rated as Excellent now,  I sure it will move to Outstanding as the wine matures over the next five years or so, *** for value.

I didn't need to buy any of the Signature or the Reserve Shiraz as there is already a case of them in my cellar.

From then we moved on to another grower who is starting to make his own wines.  Steve Kurtz of  Kurtz Family Wines is starting off small but has some good ideas and John Zilm of Craneford is a working with Steve to help him make his wines. These wines are being exported to the United States as well as being sold locally.

Kurtz Family Wines 1999 Grenache is sold out but we still got to try it.  The wine has a meaty nose with perfume underneath.  It’s well balanced with refreshing acid. On the palate it has a slightly bitter herb taste with sweet spicy fruit below it.  It has a medium body, a hard consistency, solid structure and ordinary level of complexity.  I rated this wine as Barely Drinkable.

 

Kurtz Family Wines 2000 Grenache  is retailing for $18 the bottle or $130 a case by mail order.  The nose is perfumed spice leading to a palate of bitter cherry flavours.  The balance of the wine is good, its medium body, firm consistency and simple complexity. Acceptable with *** for value.

Kurtz Family Wines 1998 Shiraz is sold out but we still got to try it. The Shiraz is a step up from the Grenache.  The bouquet shows sweet berry, chocolate, liquorice and tar leading to a palate of sweet dark chocolate, lots of oak flavours, with a slightly bitter sour cherry long finish.  The wine should peak in a couple of years and is rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

Kurtz Family Wines 1999 Boundary Row Shiraz will be sold for $25 a bottle when it is released in September.  The wine spent twenty-seven months in oak and will be bottled soon. The nose shows chocolate, spice and pine. The palate is dominated by dark chocolate, the powdery drying tannins will take years to come together. The fruit is deep and persistent, but it's there.  This is a real case of “no wood no good.” It is a full-bodied wine with firm consistency, solid structure and diverse level of complexity.  Currently rated as Recommended, if left for five or six years that rating could well improve. Members of this forum will get mates rates and can pick up the case for $180 ($15 a bottle,) **** (at least) for value.  If anyone interested, e-mail me at amagnet@hotmail.com for details

 Kurtz Family Wines 1999 Lunar Shiraz will be sold for $40 a bottle when eventually released.  Only 60 dozen bottles will be made and it has spent twenty-seven months in new French oak.  The palate is sweet berry and dark chocolate, with silky smooth tannins, refreshing acid and balanced fruit.  It’s a muscular wine with firm consistency, solid structure, and intricate complexity.  A class act but will take at least five or more to come together. Highly Recommended with ** for value.

From there 707 and I went to  Veritas Winery and spent a few enjoyable hours with Rolf Binder.  We had a wonderful time walking through the winery and sampling numerous barrel samples whilst Rolf patiently explained some of the nuances and intricacies involved in making good wine.   As always, time spent with Rolf was a very enjoyable educational experience.

As soon as we walked into the winery Rolf presented me with a mystery wine and asked me what I thought of it. Tasting notes are as follows. The colour is dark purple, almost black with a very dark impenetrable hue.  The nose is red bigot heaven, all dark aromas including blackberry, liquorice and chocolate.  There are loads of smooth and drying tannins with persistent, obvious and strong fruit.  It’s a high-quality, full-bodied wine, the consistency firm, there is a big solid structure with an intricate complexity and it will take at least five years to peak.  I rated it as Highly Recommended.  It turned out to be a Fox Creek 1999 Reserve Shiraz  and considering the price escalation of this wine, I am glad I elected not to buy any.

We struck the winery on a good day.  Rolf decided to open up seven different bottles of his yet to be released wines  to see how they were progressing, and 707, myself and a few other people got to try them all. This was “power tasting” as all wines were tasted and extensive notes taken in under an hour.  Glad I don't have to do that every day of the week, no matter how good the wines, but it was a great experience and I look forward to doing it again someday with Rolf. As these wines have not been released, these are the very first published tasting notes for them, and  some of the wines are brand new varieties from Veritas.  Prices quoted are approximate Australian prices, they are yet to be finalised.

 Veritas 2000 Shiraz will be a cellar door only wine and will sell for approximately $20.  The wine has a big closed nose showing menthol and mint.  There are unobtrusive dusty tannins, persistent fruit leading to a sweet and spicy floral taste with a slightly bitter finish that should recede quickly as the wine matures.  It has ample body weight, firm consistency, an agreeable level of complexity and a good structure.  It should peak about 2003 and is currently rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

 Veritas 1999 Bulls Blood,  which is a blend of Shiraz and Mourvedre Pressings, sells for approximately $30. The bouquet shows spice, musk and pepper that led to a palate of attractive spicy, racy cherries and a hint of pepper with an enjoyable and long chocolate finish.  In terms of structure, tannins are slightly dusty, and the fruit whilst being ample, is both persistent and obvious.  The wine has a developed complexity and supple consistency.  This is good well-made wine that's different from your everyday Shiraz and Cabernet.  I finished the bottle over dinner and it went extremely well with food.  It's already drinking well now but may improve a little over the next few years. Highly Recommended with *** for value.

 J.J. Harn 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon is expected to retail for approximately $25.  The colour is violet and the nose shows menthol, pine, and sweet berry fruit below.  The fruit weight is medium, but persistent and deep leading to a palate of sweet cherries that is overshadowed by fairly smooth powdery tannins.  This wine will need about 5 years to show its best and is rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

 Veritas 1999 Mourvedre Grenache for retail for approximately $20 and will be a cellar door only offering.  The wine shows good balance with drying tannins, fresh acid and medium weight fruit intensity.  The nose is distinctly herbal with cloves and sweet spices leading to a palate that is very sweet with upfront spicy raspberry flavours. The consistency is firm but supple, it has a solid structure for its fruit weight and an agreeable level of complexity.  It's a good value everyday drinking wine  that should peak in a year or two. Agreeable with *** for value.

 J.J. Harn 1999 Shiraz   is expected to retail for approximately $40. This is a sort of wine that I love to analyse.  From the first sniff you just know you are going to love it.  It has eclectic nose of chocolate, blackberry, smoky oak, pepper and menthol.  On the palate the acid in balanced and unobtrusive, the tannins smooth but slightly powdery, and the fruit deep and intense.  The flavours are sweet dark perfumed chocolate, black berries, cherries and a slight pepper finish.  It’s a full-bodied wine with supple consistency, solid structure, a developed and diverse complexity leading to a long finish makes me say, “I want another glass.”   Excellent with *** for value  it should peak about 2005.

 Veritas 1999 Hanish will retail for approximately $40+. This wine is a baby that needs years to show its best.  The nose is basically still closed tight but is showing some intense floral perfumed aromas and tailing off with some minty notes.  The palate is a multitude of sweet dark fruits, pepper with loads of oak.  The tannins are drying and puckering.  It's a full-bodied wine with a rich consistency, a big solid tight structure, and sophisticated level of complexity.  In reality it's too early to rate this wine, but if I had to put my neck on the block, I would rate it as Excellent (with room for improvement) and *** for value.

It looks like I know what I'm going to buy myself for my next birthday, a mixed case of JJ Harn Shiraz and Hanish.

The next day I was looking forward to my visit to Elderton as they normally have the ability to make some pretty good wines even in ordinary years.

 Elderton 1997 CSM sells for $28.95. The wine is still young showing sweet blackberry and dark chocolate on the palate that is dominated by oak.  It’s medium bodied with a firm consistency, solid structure and simple complexity.  It’s still fairly tannic and in my opinion not as good as previous vintages.  It should peak about 2005 and is currently rated as Agreeable with ** for value.

 Elderton 1999 Shiraz sells for $19.95 but can normally be found for substantially less. It's almost purple in colour with light pepper, liquorice and vanilla on the nose.  In the mouth there is sweet black berries over pepper and the wine is much lighter than in previous years.  It’s a tad over medium in weight, with supple consistency and an agreeable complexity.  Agreeable with *** for value based on the discounted price of about $16.

 Elderton 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $19.95 but is normally available for less.  The aromas are lifted vanilla, raspberry and chocolate.  The palate is dominated by chocolate.  It has ample body weight, supple consistency, an agreeable level of complexity and is generally an uncomplicated wine that should peak about three years time. Agreeable with *** for value.

 Elderton 1997 Command Shiraz   sells for $75 at CD. The nose is fairly complex with cedar, tar, dark berries tea and eucalyptus. The slightly dusty tannins still need time to integrate with the young acid and very persistent deep fruit that show sour cherries, tea and aniseed on the palate. Surprisingly enough the wine is only medium weight, with a firm consistency, layered structure, an intricate developed complexity that leads to a long lingering finish that hangs around for ages.  Rated as Excellent now, the rating may improve over time and I really would love to try this wine seven years, but considering it gets * for value, that's not likely, as there is no way I would spend $75 for this vastly overpriced wine.

 Elderton 1999 Botrytis Semillon sells for $13.95. The nose shows passionfruit and apricots and is consistent with the palate.  The wine has refreshing acid, the medium weight body, has a velvety consistency, the layered structure leads to a great taste that is not cloying. The wine has a crisp finish and it’s a lighter style sticky. Rated as Recommended with **** for value.

Overall, the Elderton wines on the trip were disappointing.

Next stop was the old Barossa icon, Peter Lehmann.

 Peter Lehmann 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon   sells for $22 cellar door but is normally available for about $18.  Light purple in colour the aromas are chocolate, smoky oak and cassis.  On the palate the wine is chocolate, with berry nuances, powdery tannins, medium bodyweight, supple consistency, agreeable complexity and finishing with a reasonable length. Agreeable with *** for value at $18.

 Peter Lehmann 1999 Shiraz sells for $22 cellar door but is normally available on special for about $16.  The wine is purple in colour with lightish hue and not as intense as the 98 vintage.  The aromas are pepper, sweet fruit characters and vanilla.  On the palate the wine has some powdery tannins with distinct sweet berry fruit that finishes with crisp acid but the fruit fades a little and finishes slightly short.  The wine has ample body weight, softish silky consistency, an agreeable level of complexity and is rated as Agreeable with *** for value. It’s close to its peak now.

Peter Lehmann 1997 Eight Songs Shiraz that sells for $50 and cellar door and you are unlikely to find it for less in retail shops. Matured in French oak, the wine has a beautiful nose  with lifted aromas of cedar, sweet raspberries and cherry fruit.  It’s a beautiful wine to drink with lots of activity on the palate, sweet raspberries, chocolate, liquorice, powdery tannins, with a silky consistency and a layered structure. It will improve as the tannins integrate, This is a restrained wine rated as Excellent that only needs about five years to show its best, *** for value.

Peter Lehmann 1995 Stonewell Shiraz sells for $55. The wine is dark purple with a closed nose showing dark plums, chocolate, vanilla and mint.  There are loads of fine grain tannins and the deep dark concentrated fruit resides under a layer of dark chocolate.  This is a heavy bodied wine, with firm consistency, a solid structure, and reasonable level of complexity. It's good wine as long as you don't mind a fair bit of oak.  Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value it should peak in about four years.

Peter Lehmann 1994 Black Sparkling Shiraz sells for $35 and is only available from cellar door.  The wine is in the liquorice and chocolate spectrum with raspberry nuances.  It has a sophisticated and refined complexity with medium bodyweight and the rich consistency.  It's drinking will now but should still improve for many years. Highly Recommended with *** for value, but for the money, there are a lot of other Sparkling Shiraz that I would prefer to buy.

Whilst there was nothing wrong with the line up of wines from Peter Lehmann, I have had far better wines from this producer when better vintages have been available.

Next up was right next door at Langmeil   and I was looking forward to their wines after having seen something positive reports on the 1998 wines in particular, and some very favourable tasting notes on the 1999 Shiraz.  My last visit to this winery was very disappointing when I tried what were in my opinion some very ordinary 1997.

Langmeil 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $19.50. The nose was quite interesting with multiple different berry scents, earthy mushroom aromas and liquorice.  The dusty tannins are unobtrusive, the fruit weight persistent leading to a palate of raspberry, blackberry and liquorice.  It’s a medium weight wine with silky consistency. The layered structure and complexity is good for the price point.  Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

Langmeil 1999 Shiraz sells for $22.50. The nose shows chary oak and liquorice leading to a palate of dark flavours, cherry and pepper finish.  The bodyweight of this wine is ample, with firm consistency, solid structure and agreeable complexity.  It should peak in about three years. Agreeable with *** for value. 

Now I have given the analytical tasting notes on this wine, let me tell you what I really thought about it.  I know my comments will offend some people because they have been many positive TN published about this wine, but this wine is just not for me.   The best way I can describe it is to say take a glass and fill it with blended charcoal, throw a couple of pieces of liquorice in the middle, grind a heap of pepper over it and place and cherry on top.   In my not so humble opinion wine makers should let the fruit speak, not rely on huge amounts of toasted oak.  OK, I will get of my soapbox now and get back to the TN.

From here on in, the rest of the day was fantastic with some terrific wines tasted.  The next winery visited was The Willows and this little winery is one of the Barossa's best-kept secrets.

The Willows 1998 Shiraz   sells for $22.  The nose was quite complex showing perfumed light violets with pepper and a hint and eucalyptus.  The wine has a good mouth feel with smooth integrated tannins, balanced acid, strong and distinct fruit leading to a palate of rich pepper and a cherry finish.  It's full bodied, with a consistent solid structure which leads to a longer lingering finish.  The only minor downside is the wine is slightly one-dimensional.  It should peak in about three years and is rated as Recommended with **** for value.   If you plan to buy this wine, get in quickly as they are running out.

The Willows 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon   sells for $22.  The wine is lightly perfumed with raspberries and mint.  Tannins are totally unobtrusive, the fruit whilst medium weight is very pure leading to a palate of very sweet raspberries, redcurrant and a light chocolate finish.  The wine has a refined structure, supple consistency and a sophisticated complexity from the price point.  It's a lighter style of wine, particularly when you consider it comes from the Barossa, and is rated as Recommended with *** for value.  It should peak in about two years and is a worthy of consideration for valuable cellar space.  In time, I think the Cabernet will be better wine and the Shiraz.

 Next stop was very interesting. Craneford Winery and Restaurant that is located at Turo about 15 minutes out of Nuriootpa. The wine maker and owner is the well-known John Zilm who made both “Seven” and I most welcome.  We walked in to see a table with about a dozen bottles of wine all set up for tasting.  Most of these were barrel samples of his 2000 and 2001 wines for us to try. This combined with tasting some current and back vintage wines gave us a real sense of what John was trying to achieve and the quality of his wines.  Most of the wine is exported to the United States, a fair bit is sold through the restaurant and a small amount goes to a limited number of retailers in Australia.   This is another winery to watch over the next few years.

John has some dry grown Grenache vines that and 95 years old and produce a half a ton of wine to the acre. His 50 year-old vines produce a massive (sic) 1 1/2 tons per acre. John uses a very sensible mix of French and American oak that allows the fruit to speak for itself.

Craneford Wine 2000 Grenache  was sold to a private club in the United States who purchased the entire production.  The palate is full of spicy raspberry flavours with a clean white pepper finish.  The wine has phenomenal length and a great finish.  This is a good as Grenache can get,   almost enough to make me consider actually drinking some.

Craneford Wine 1998 Shiraz was sold out ages ago but John kindly provided a bottle from his own personal stock for us to have with lunch in the restaurant. The wine is dark purple with lifted violets, liquorice, vanilla and a touch of spicy.  On the palate there are smooth integrated tannins, a deep level of fruit that leads to dark berry fruit flavours and a liquorice finish.  It’s a full-bodied wine with a velvety consistency, almost seamless structure and a longer finish.  It's drinking beautifully now but should still improve a little.  This is a very smart wine for the price.  (The 1999 vintage retailed for $25.)

Craneford Wine 1999 Sparkling Shiraz sells for $26 cellar door. The wine has loads of fizz with an almost violet tasted, very sweet mulberry/blackberry fruit and the chocolate finish.  It's a medium bodied wine with soft consistency, harmonious complexity and the sort of wine that goes well with food. Recommended with *** for value.

By the way the food in the restaurant is quite eclectic, most enjoyable and very well priced.  It's worth a trip to see the lovely old building, eat the excellent food and partake in a glass or three of their most enjoyable wine.  It's a really good experience and worth a detour for lunch or dinner.

Eden Springs   is a new winery that is located high in the Eden Valley just down the road from Mountadam.  It’s owned by  Richard Wiencke and his wife Meredith.  It's a single vineyard winery with vines that are up to 30 years old.     In days gone by, all the grapes were sold to Mountadam but now, Eden Springs holds back some of the best grapes and the wine is made for them at Mountadam. Their maximum production will be a 1000 cases a year and they use French and American oak for the Shiraz, and entirely French oak for the Cabernet.  The winery has now sold their entire supply of 1999 wines, but there is some stock available from a couple of selected retailers.  This wine is also being exported to the United States.  As well as the 99 vintage wines (tasting notes below) we tried barrel samples of the 2000 wines, and this is another winery to watch in the future.

Eden Springs 1999 Shiraz  sold for $19 cellar door.  It was a very cold day when we arrived in the Eden Valley so getting the wines to open up was very difficult. However the Shiraz showed spice, subtle violets and hints of pepper.  The tannins are unobtrusive, well balanced and slightly dusty.  The fruit is persistent on the palate and tastes of sweet plums, pepper and a light chocolate finish.  It’s a tad over medium weight, with supple consistency, harmonious complexity, with restrained persistent fruit that leads to a reasonably long finish.  This is good honest well made wine with clean fruit intensity.    Recommended with **** for value.

Eden Springs 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon  sold for $19 cellar door.  The nose shows cedar, cassis, subtle violets notes and a hint of menthol. Is has great balance with a medium bodyweight, firm consistency, solid structure and refined level of complexity.  This is a very well made wine with obvious tannins and oak on the palate and a tremendous purity of fruit.  A must buy. Recommended with **** for value.

My only regret is that I split a mixed case with Brian sometime ago so I only have three bottles of each.

Unfortunately the last winery of the day was not exactly a high point.  None of three wines I tried at Hamiltons particularly impressed me.

Hamiltons 1999 Grenache Shiraz sells for $18.50.  On the palate this wine has sweet plums, liquorice and chary oak.  It has muscular bodyweight, firm consistency, solid structure and an agreeable complexity.  It should peak around 2004 and is good if you like a lot of chary oak. Agreeable with *** for value.

Hamiltons 1998 Fullers Barn Shiraz   sells for $25.  The nose is dominated by chary oak, liquorice and black plums.  (Any dark wine that is heavily influenced by chary oak is not my style.) The palate on this wine is almost reasonable with liquorice, black plums, chary oak and a spicy finish. Even though the finish is long, it’s dominated by chary oak.  The wine is muscular, with a firm consistency, a solid structure and agreeable level of complexity. Agreeable with *** for value.

Hamiltons 1998 Railway Shiraz  sells for $25. The palate of this wine shows sweet plums, liquorice, chary oak and more sweet fruit than the Fullers Barn.  The structures of the two Shiraz offerings are fairly similar. Agreeable with *** for value, this wine should peak around 2004. 

 

After a long day of tasting I was lucky enough to have dinner with  Rolf Binder from Veritas and Rick Burge of Draycott fame.  This was a most enjoyable evening and whilst I didn't make tasting notes I do have a few tasting vibes for you.  Judging by the number of bottles these two brought to dinner, I am glad that no one was thirsty. J

Rolf brought some Austrian staff called “Big John” by Scheubhofer and one glass would have been more than enough, but I had to be sociable so I drank two.J  Just to torture me, Rolf also brought a bottle of some Frog stuff, a bottle of 1998 Perrrin Hermitage. The palate of this wine was very interesting as it showed apricots and citrus, flavours that I would not normally associate with a Hermitage or Shiraz grape.   The tannins were fairly green.

Then Rolf redeemed himself by opening up a bottle of Veritas 1998 Heyson Shiraz.   At long last some real wine! This wine is an excellent well-made wine with integrated tannins, good floral fruit flavours, ample fruit weight, terrific structure and balance, a long finish and a velvety mouth feel.  Moorish!  I could drink this wine all night.

The next bottle opened the brought by Rick unfortunately it was suffering from mercaptans, so it was with extreme reluctance that I agreed to help Rolf and Rick drink a bottle of   Burge Family 2000 Draycott Shiraz.   As this wine has not been released yet, I am not sure if I should be giving the full details but maybe a few tasting vibes will be in order. The wine just slipped down my throat and tickled my tonsils to the point they wanted to sing. It has perfect balance and harmony.  A great result from the difficult vintage, no wonder the Yanks lover wine so much, it's a real class act.

Than just to compare, Rick let me try a barrel sample of the 2001 Draycott.  No notes on this one, you just have to wait a few years to get it.  By the way, you heard it first here; there will be no more Reserve, just Draycott, one wine, one label. 

The new day saw the start of my last full day in Barossa Valley and first stop was an old favourite Saltram Winery.

Saltram 1999 Shiraz Cabernet sells for $15.  The aroma is fairly restrained showing subtle liquorice, plums and a hint of pepper, which follows through to the palate.  It's a medium bodied wine with supple consistency and simple complexity that could best be described as average everyday drinking wine. Agreeable with *** for value.

Saltram 1998 Pepper Jack Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $27 CD and for about $35 retail.  It is matured in the combination of French American oak.  The bottle had just been opened and the nose was fairly closed, but did show cassis, cherry and sweet vanilla.  It's a medium bodied wine with unobtrusive low levels of smooth tannins, soft consistency and  an elegant structure., An agreeable complexity leads to sweet fruit with a lightish berry taste and a light chocolate finish.  This could best be described as a wine designed not to offend anyone and is drinking well now.  Rated as Acceptable with ** for value.

Saltram 1997 Pepper Jack Shiraz sells for $27 CD or about $35 retail.  The bouquet is filled with rose petals, sweet liquorice and oak. Tannins are slightly dusty but unobtrusive, the fruit is medium weight and overall wine is reasonably well balanced.  It has a soft consistency, a slightly tight structure and an agreeable level of complexity.  The palate shows sweet, lightly spiced berry fruit with a light pepper finish.  It should peak in a year or two and is rated as Agreeable with ** for value.

Saltram 1999 Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $22 CD but is normally available on special for substantially less.  This is a medium body wine with hard consistency, short structure, powdery tannins, piquant acid, leading to sweet cassis and sour cherry on the palate that finishes a bit green.  It should peak around 2004 and is rated as Acceptable with *** for value based on $18 purchase price.

 

Saltram 1998 Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $22 CD but is normally available on special for substantially less. This wine is much more attractive than its 1999 counterpart.  It's also medium bodied, the structure is solid with firm consistency, it has intricate complexity and is a very well made wine that only needs another three years or so to peak.  On the palate the wine has persisted fruit weight, sweet layers of berry fruit with a slightly sour chocolate finish. Recommended with *** for value.

Saltram 1999 Mamre Brook Cabernet Shiraz  sells for $22 CD but is normally available on special for substantially less.  This wine is indicative of a rather ordinary 1999 vintage.  The nose shows menthol, sweet subtle dark berry fruit, pepper but is heavily influenced by green scents. It's a medium bodied wine with a slightly hard consistency, mouth-puckering tannins that finishes green on the palate.  Rated as Barely Drinkable with ** for value.

Saltram 1997 No 1 Shirazsells for $45. At last we are getting somewhere! The wine has intense and intricate nose of chary oak, sweet blackberry and pepper. The palate follows the nose exactly.  It’s a medium bodied wine with supple consistency, solid structure and harmonious complexity that has a longer lingering finish. It would be a good food wine and it’s almost ready to drink now. Highly Recommended with ** for value.

Overall I was very disappointed with the offerings from Saltram. The wines produced by them in 1996 and 1998 were honest well-made good quality wines at a reasonable price.  Unfortunately I left with the impression they are into formula wine making whereby their 1997 and 1999 wines were generally very ordinary or overpriced for the quality.  Many smaller wineries right throughout South Australia were able to produce more consistent quality than Saltram was able to achieve in 1997 and 1999. This begs the question, if smaller wineries can do it, why can't some of the larger producers do it too?

The next stop was Penfolds were I tried a number of the new releases.

Tollana 1998 Bin 222 Cabernet Sauvignon  is always great value and normally sells in the high teens.  The nose of this wine shows dominant cedar, cassis and mint.  The cedar dominates the palate of sweet cassis fruit and a fresh acid finish.  The wine has medium body weight, a firm consistency, solid structure and it just needs time for the oak to integrate.  It should peak around about 2005+ and is rated as Recommended with *** for value.

Tollana 1998 Bin 16 Shiraz  is a similar price to the Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose shows sweet plums and pepper which is reflected on the palate.  It's a medium weight wine with supple consistency, solid structure and an agreeable level of complexity.  It's good well made wine that is indicative of a good year. Recommended with *** for value, it should peak in the next two to three years.

Penfolds 1999 Koonunga Hill is always great value. This is a great wine for the price and whilst it’s drinking well now it will probably improve.  The nose shows lifted perfumed berries, spice and white pepper. It's a medium bodied wine with layered flavours and harmonious complexity.  Rated as Agreeable with **** for value.

Penfolds 1998 Bin 28 Shiraz shows tar, white pepper and a hint of mint and oak aromas.  It's a medium bodied wine with a soft consistency and reasonably developed complexity.  On the palate the wine has sweet liquorice, blackberries followed by a touch of spice and pepper.  Recommended with *** for value, it should peak around 2004 and hold for a number of years.

Penfolds 1998 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon  is dark purple with a dark hue.  This wine has a wonderfully complex nose showing cigar box, rich cassis, multiple dark berry aromas, a touch of tea and mint.  A nose you want to sniff all day.  Huge amounts of dusty powdery drying mouth puckering tannins combined with refreshing acid and full-bodied fruit to give the wine that has a firm consistency, a big solid layered structure and intricate complexity.  All components are there, it just a baby that needs lots of time.  Outstanding with almost *** for value (provided he picked it up that mates rates) it should peak around 2006+.

Penfolds 1996 Bin Grange  What a nose! The bottle had been open for a while and showed some VA.  Plums, blackberry, liquorice, a hint of eucalyptus plus almost every imaginable aroma you wish to think up was probably there.  The balance of the wine is just perfect.  Naturally being Grange it’s full-bodied with a firm consistency and solid layered structure. The complexity is fantastically well developed and sophisticated.  This is the most approachable young Grange I have ever drunk and this wine won't take 20 years to reach its peak.  Rated as <b>The Ultimate,</b> they just don't get better than this.

From 96 Grange to 99 Richmond Grove, what a come down! L

Richmond Grove 1999 CSM  sells for $12.50.  A perfumed nose of lightish floral scents and a hint of musk.  Balance is questionable due to the delicate fruit weight versus the weight of the oak.  The wine is medium bodied with a soft consistency but has a slightly hollow structure and an agreeable level of complexity for the price.  It’s a drink now wine with sweet light cherry fruit, chocolate and a slightly green finish. Acceptable with *** for value. (What an awful come down after Grange! Back to reality!!)

Richmond Grove 1997 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon  sells for $18.50. The palate is dominated by oak over sweet cassis and raspberries.  It has medium body weight, a soft consistency, an agreeable level of complexity and it’s a good wine for the price that needs about three years to show its best. Agreeable with *** for value.

Richmond Grove 1994 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is a back vintage release and was opened especially for me.  It has an integrated nose of earthy mushrooms cedar and capsicum.  The wine is reasonably well integrated, and just about at its peak.  On the palate there is some sweet fruit but it’s slightly lacking and is dominated by the oak. I don't think this wine will never be properly balanced.  Rated as Acceptable.

Richmond Grove 1997 Shiraz sells for $18.50. This wine was a step up from the previous wines tasted.  The nose shows intense black pepper, plums and liquorice.  The palate follows the nose with sweet plums, sweet liquorice and a savoury pepper finish that gives a good combination of flavours with a long finish for this price point.  It’s good wine for the price and rated as Recommended with *** for value and I don't think it's a get terribly much better.

Richmond Grove 1998 “Limited Release” Shiraz  sells for $18.50. (I guess there is a limit to everything.) The nose is interesting with subtle pepper, floral aromas and eucalyptus.  The palate shows black pepper, liquorice, plums, and a spicy finish that is reasonably long. It's a medium weight wine with soft consistency and lighter than either a 94 or 96 vintage.  It a drink now wine that is rated as Recommended with *** for value.

In the past I generally found Richmond Grove offered some fairly good value for money wines that were well-made and above many of their peers in terms of quality.  Unfortunately I did not find that to be the case on this trip.

Their stable mate and big brother, Orlando, however did provide some fabulous wine and more than made up for their little brothers ordinariness.  A tasting of their premium wines had been arranged for me and I was looked after wonderfully well by Robin Shaw, Cellar Door Manager, who is very passionate and knowledgeable about her company’s wines.

Orlando St Hugo 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon  sells for about $35.  As you are aware 1997 was not a brilliant year in Coonawarra and this is reflected in this wine.  On the palate the wine has sweet black current, some pepper, chocolate finish and some green tannins.  The acid is slightly tart as well.  It is a medium bodied wine with a firm consistency, tight structure and a reasonable length but nothing to get excited about. Agreeable with *** for value.

Orlando Centenary Hill 1994 Shiraz sells for about $45.  This was the first release of this wine.  Whilst I can see the obvious quality of this wine, it's not exactly my favourite sort.  Smokey oak, plums liquorice and eucalyptus on the nose lead to a palate of liquorice allsorts, smoky oak and black chewy tastes.  It’s a full-bodied wine with harmonious complexity and solid structure that should peak about 2005. It’s worthy of a Highly Recommended rating with *** for value.

Orlando Centenary Hill 1995 Shiraz sells for about $45.  This wine is similar to the 1994 offering, and a step up in quality.  The aromas are cooked fruit and smoky oak leading to a palate that is dominated by smoky oak, sweet plums and liquorice.  This is a very well structured wine that deserves an Excellent rating with *** for value.

Orlando Jacaranda Ridge 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for about $55. This is top shelf stuff.  Dark purple in colour of a bright vivid hue.  The nose is clean with rich sweet red currents.  There are lots of perfectly proportioned smooth tannins and balanced acid to complement the persistent fruit intensity.  The palate is black cherry and dark chocolate.  There is ample body weight, a solid but seamless structure with a sophisticated and harmonious complexity. The tannins still need to integrate and this wine should peak and about 2006.  Rated as Outstanding with *** for value, I have a six-pack on order.

Jacobs Creek Limited Release 1996 Shiraz Cabernet retails for approximately $55. This is the first release under the Jacobs Creek label of a super premium wine.  It's a blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Initially the nose was fairly closed and dominated by pepper, liquorice, and mulberry.  The palate is layered with sweet raspberries on the uptake, a heavy concentration of pepper in the middle palate coming back to sweet raspberries and touch and liquorice to finish.  Oh what a long finish it is!  The wine is full-bodied, with supple consistency, a layered structure, which combines to make a very complex and harmonious wine.  It should peak in another four years and justly deserves an Outstanding rating with *** for value   Another one on order.

Last stop of the day was  Grant Burge who arguably has one of the best cellar door operations in Australia.  Everything is always available for tasting, even their top wines.

Grant Burge 1996 Cameron Vale Cabernet Sauvignon This wine was so closed and unexciting that I was sure it was suffering from mild TCA. The second bottle was opened and was exactly the same.  The lady from cellar door was fairly sure it just needed airtime to come good and kindly gave me a bottle to take with me to try later that evening.  She was correct, it wasn't corked but to be quite honest it was very ordinary and unexciting wine that the best could be rated as Acceptable.

Grant Burge 1999 Filsell Shiraz sells for $22.95 CD but is normally cheaper from local retailers.  The wine has an enjoyable nose of spice over raspberries/red currents, eucalyptus and a hint of vanilla.  The palate follows the nose with a liquorice finish.  There is ample body weight with soft consistency and an agreeable level of complexity.  It's good honest wine that deserves to be rated as Recommended with *** for value.  It should peak in a couple of years.

Grant Burge 1997 Holy Trinity  that is a blend of 39% Grenache, 31% Shiraz, 30% Mourvedre and sells for $27.95. The wine has spent 18 months in French oak. Frankly I don't know what to make of this wine.  It had a nose dominated by perfume and menthol. The palate is lolly sweet with pepper and a liquorice finish.  The consistency is silky, the structure is bordering on seamless but the whole picture is marred by a slightly spritzig sensation on the tongue that almost seems like the wine is going through malolactic fermentation.

Grant Burge 1996 Shadrack Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $39.95. I was anxious to try this wine again as I purchased it 18 months ago when I last visited the winery.  The nose shows mint, and sweet subtle berries leading to a palate of sweet cassis, fresh mint and a dark chocolate finish.  The body weight is ample with silky consistency and seamless structure.  It has intricate complexity and a long finish.  It’s about a year or so away from its peak and is now rated as Excellent with *** for value.  I am very glad that I have some in the cellar.

Grant Burge 1996 Meshach Shiraz sells for $90.  The wine is perfectly balanced with sweet multiple dark berry fruit, dark chocolate and liquorice to finish.  Whilst the wine is full-bodied and has a firm consistency with a tight solid structure, it’s not an in your face wine.  The complexity is intricate, refined and harmonious leading to incredibly long finish.  It's just a baby that needs lots of time to come together, at least five years. Outstanding with ** for value.

Bright and early the next morning I headed out to visit my last winery in this area and arrived at Henschke as they opened at 9 o'clock.

Henschke 1998 Kenyeton Estate </B> blend sells for $34 cellar door but is normally available for less.  The wine has ample body weight, silky consistency and agreeable level of complexity.  It's worth drinking just for the structure.  On the palate it has a great mouth feel with blackberry, chary oak and chocolate. Recommended with *** for value its drinking very well now.

Henschke 1998 Abbots Prayer  blend sells for $64. A beautiful nose of perfume notes, subtle violets, rose petals and liquorice.  The palate is mulberry and chocolate and once again this wine has a great mouth feel.  In terms of structure, the finish is only average.  It should peak in about three years time and is rated as Recommended with ** for value.

Henschke 1977 Mount Edelstone Shiraz  is a museum release wine where every bottle has been opened, checked topped up and recorked. The wine was quite fresh considering its age.  The nose showed leather characters, liquorice and coffee.  The wine was totally integrated with a layered structure, silky consistency and harmonious complexity.  An interesting exercise to show how well the wines can age.  Rated as Highly Recommended.

 

Henschke 1998 Mount Edelstone Shiraz sells for $64.  Lifted aromas of tar, black pepper, fruit (by this stage I was suffering from sensory overload in a big way) and violets.  On the palate the wine shows tar, black pepper, plums, liquorice and could best be described as an explosion of flavours in the mouth.  It has a muscular body, supple consistency, a layered structure, an intricate complexity and a very long finish.  It should peak in about five years and is rated as Excellent with ** for value.

Barossa Summary

Many wineries are still relying on too much oak or heavy tasting of oak.  The wineries that are letting the fruit speak for itself and not try to make formula wines are even able to produce good wines in poor years like 1997 and 1999. It is evident that formula wines don't work as well has crafted wines.

There are a number of new wineries to watch in this region including, Ross Estate, The Willows, Eden Springs, Craneford and no doubt there will be many more springing up over the next few years.  Some of the more established small wine makers are also going from strength to strength, for example Veritas and Burge Family Wines. These are just a few names that spring to mind.

Some of the larger wineries are clearly struggling with quality in poorer vintages after pumping up their volumes year in and year out.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these TN as much as I enjoyed making them.

Cheers

Ric

 

Copyright © Ric Einstein 2003