MELBOURNE 2000 BY - Ric Einstein
I have spent the most wonderful week that you could possibly imagine doing nothing but eating great food and tasting wine. What a way to go! Firstly, before I go any further it would be remiss of me not to thank Murray who was the most perfect host anyone could wish to have looking after them and I would also like to thank David Mattner (aka 389) for all his efforts in putting together a fantastic off line that I attended. That was a truly memorable event, I enjoyed meeting the Melbourne branch of “The Internet Professional Plonk Lovers Executive” – hence forth to be named “TIPPLE.”
This post buy its very nature is going to be very long, there are tasting notes of well over 100 wines and I am going to break it up into sections. This first one will be for the wines tasted prior to attending Plonk 2000. Sorry if some of the reviews sound a bit boring, but its difficult to keep that sort of thing riveting and exciting. Before I get into the reviews, an explanation of my scoring system is required. I use a dual coded system. One rating is used for wine quality and another rating for wine value.
Cats piss (not devoted to NZ Sauvignon Blanc.)
Barely Drinkable (possibly applies to most Oz PiNot.)
Acceptable (normally used for GreenAsh blends.)
Agreeable (not exclusively for cheap Cabinet Sauvignon)
Recommended (not exclusively for cheaper Shiraz)
Highly Recommended (not restricted to S.A only.)
Excellent (unusual to find anything other than RB material here.)
Outstanding (must be top notch, normally benchmark wines)
The Ultimate (very few and far between.)
* BAD news – (guess which Victorian $100 92 vintage gets a gong here?)
** 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 prior to getting to Melbourne, I stopped of at Marion’s place and had dinner with her. We had a Dalwhinnie 91 Shiraz – Nose showed black berries and crushed ants. Difficult to nose the wine as the glasses were designed to “look good.” The wine is big, balanced, well made, a good mouthful of rounded flavours that linger for ages. Its also still a couple of years off its peak. Rated as Outstanding and ****.
Arrived in Melbourne and my old mate “Mr Bill” drove me to his new “joint” in a “poorer” part of town called Armidale. I say “poorer” as its only next door to Toorak, not actually in it, and guess what Mr Bill drives, a bloody Toorak Tractor (Ford Explorer 4WD.) Anyway, the point of this is that round the corner from Mr Bill’s place is “Nicks Plonk Palace” aka Nicks Fine Wine. Within in 10 minutes of arriving at Mr Bill’s place we were off to visit Nick.
This guy has a seriously good range of wines; even if his prices (specials excepted) are not exactly inexpensive, they are generally not over the top. Spent lots of time talking to him and he demonstrated his new “Wine Spider” which is a terrific way to judge wines using a graphical representation that makes heaps of sense to me. It will be a very valuable tool when it’s released, which is imminent. Keep an eye out for it and check it out when you see it.
Nick had a few drops to try, so we tasted them all, but only because we had to get our palates and noses in condition and practice for the days ahead.
99 Shiraz– not me, a bit to much oak and not enough fruit weight for my liking. Acceptable - ***
98 CSM – a wine with good balance, better than many previous years, should hit its peak in about 2 years and hold for another 3. Good honest wine with good balance and weight for the price. Recommended - ****
98 Cabernet Sauvignon – many reports already so I will keep it short. Classical cigar box, cassias and some minty notes. Very good structure, can’t fault it and should be long lived. Try in 2005. Highly Recommended - ****
BendigoWater Wheel Shiraz 99 – dark red bordering on purple. Hue not as dense as previous years. Mid weight to big and dominated by tannins at present, the fruit is there but lurking, nowhere near as luscious as the 97 or 98. Agreeable - ****
Then it was back to Mr Bill’s for a diner of first class sushi. (I had to buy the wine as Mr Bill is a c-through and PiNot lover, but we have been friends for a long time and I was staying at his place, so I couldn’t be to rude about his revolting taste in wine.) Kicked off with a bottle of Verve Clic NV. No notes, was to busy enjoying it and I don’t make notes of whites (Sauv Blanc and stickies excepted.) we then moved onto a recommendation of Nick’s, a 2000 Lawson Sauv Blanc. Didn’t make notes, so will give TV. The nose was good, fruit definition was there but the wine lacked a clean finish. Not impressed with at all. Agreeable -***
Then Mrs Bill said, “enough of these wimpy wines Mr Bill, lets get into the stuff Mr Ric likes. Ah ha, after all these years Mrs Bill is a closet RB, what a truly wonderful world we live in!
I had taken down a bottle of Rosemount Balmoral 96 so we got stuck into that one. Unfortunately Mr and Mrs Bill are not wine geeks and have great looking glasses, but they preclude being able to get a good nose job, so I can only give TV. Even though this wine had no time to breath it was terrific. Silky smooth, seductive, coming together beautifully and will turn out to be a classic. Great big fruit, everything is in balance and harmonious. Outstanding - **** (considering I paid less than $50)
Then Mr Bill decided he was still thirsty and we should see how his 96 Penfolds Bin 389 was developing. (He tried to corner the market on this one.) TV – this wine still needs lots of time. The nose is complex (could even tell that from the “good looking glasses”) showing cassis sweet other dark fruits and vanilla. Good tannic backbone and will be very long lived. Nice long finish. Try again in 2004. Highly Recommended - ****
On Thursday 24th November Murray picked me in town, we drove to the airport and picked up Robin Garr, (Board Furer of WLDG) who had been invited to be a guest judge for the Sydney Top 100.
Murray inflicted a jar of Vegemite on Robin as soon as he got off the plane, and we then headed out to taste some of Victorias finest, or so we thought, but sadly that was not the case. The good wines sampled this day were few and far between, but the few that we uncovered were worth the search. Now here is the interesting bit, you are about to read something you though you would never see in print or hear. We found a Pinot that I actually though was worth buying, but I am not going to tell you what it is until it’s in my sticky little fingers.
First stop was Goonawarra, that’s right Goonawarra, not Coonawarra.
Goonawarra 98 Cab Franc Merlot – spice pepper, cassis and some floral notes. Mid weight, fruit ok but a bin thin, good acid and tannins. Acceptable - **
Goonawarra 97 Cab Blend, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Cab Merlot, Cab taxi? – Floral aniseed, cedar and black pepper on the snoz. Good tannic backbone, agreeable fruit sweetness, just a tad above mid weight. Interesting, but nothing to get excited about. Agreeable - ***
Then a short drive to Romsey.
Romsey Cab Merlot 97 – light to mid weight, perfumed nose, aniseed, green notes and lots of them. A sweet wine that lacked body. Barely Drinkable - *
Romsey 93 Cab Merlot – more of the same only older!
Romsey 98 Shiraz – didn’t make any notes, but it a sweet finish an could best be described as a quaffer. Acceptable -**
Next stop was to Cleveland and this little winery was a find. Great old buildings and good views to accompany and compliment Keith Ryan, winemaker and all round nice fellow.
The first red we tried was a Cab Franc Merlot. Fine drying tannins, earthy flavours but fruit was a bit thin for my taste.
The 99 Cleveland Shiraz on the other hand was my sort of wine. Good purple hue, the aroma showed violets, spicy pepper, aniseed and my notes say “sweet oak” what ever that means. In the mouth there were huge drying tannins, good fruit weight, and great qpr at $24 a bottle. Highly recommended - *** and I bought a six pack.
The 99 Cleveland Pinot was something else. Great intensity of colour, violets, cherries and unlike any other Pinot I have ever tasted. This one was classified as almost drinkable. Recommended – that’s right your eyes are not deceiving you, do not change channels, do not adjust your screen, I rated it as Recommended - *** at $24.
They also have a Sparkling wine that’s more a French Blanc d Blanc style. Steely dry, lean, green apples, minerally, should improve well over a few years. Highly recommended - *** $28 CD and I bought six.
Then on to Knight Granite Hills and I was completely underwhelemed by this winery and its wines. We whole time we were tasting wines the person behind the counter was standing with his arms crossed in a very defensive position. His body language and attitude said “I know you guys are serious about wine and know a bit and I am sure you will not find our wines unsatisfactory.” I haven’t rated values for these wines as I would buy any of them and didn’t make a note of the costs.
Granite Hills 98 Cabernet Sauvignon – Dark red, earthy notes, mid weight, good sweet fruit, light tannins, OK, not bad but nothing to excite either. Agreeable –
Granite Hills 98 Shiraz - Dark red bordering purple hue. Very floral, aniseed, and pepper on the nose, but the aromas seemed a bit simple. On the palate, drying tannins, eucalyptus after taste. There was also some green to the wine which suggested the grapes were not as ripe as they could have been. Acceptable (being generous?)
Then onto Hanging Rock via every bump in every back road Murray could find. The winery is very picturesque and really looks the part. The cellar door attendant, whilst trying hard to be helpful would try and sell ice to Eskimos; and they may well buy some, just to get her to reduce her considerable verbal rhetoric. Basically when I am tasting a bottle of 98 Chateau Hangyourself, I don’t really want to know how the 62 Vintage of a similar blend from the same winery was awarded a Bronze Star at the Battle of San Chow Bow in Wollongong in 1966.
Murray insisted I try a couple of wines I didn’t really want to and considering our hosts dogged determination, I couldn’t say no to both of them.
The 2000 Sauvignon Blanc I found to be overly sweet, cloying and slightly lacking in acid. Agreeable - **
As usual with most Oz Merlot, I found the offering from here to be one dimensional and simple. Acceptable - **
Hanging Rock 99 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot – Bright red, with a bright dark hue. Fine tannins, good structure, pleasant sweet fruit with a mid weight finish. Agreeable - **
Hanging Rock 99 Shiraz – Bright red with an almost purple hue. Medicinal nose with iodine and eucalyptus. Good sweet fruit on the uptake, peppery finish, OK quaffer that should improve over the next two years. Recommended -***
“Hanging Rock S” - which is a late picked Sauvignon Blanc. Herbaceous nose, sweet finish, good decent wine and only 10%. Recommended - *** ($16 CD)
Overall the wines sampled on this first day were pretty ordinary and disappointing. A few highlights, but mostly ordinary simple wines. However Murray promised the next day would be better. But first we had an off line to go to, no details here as Murray has already covered the wines in detail.
An early start and Murray picked me up at 7.00 a.m. and Robin shortly after that and we drove for 2 hours to the Pyrenees.
First stop was Redbank Winery. They have an impressive range of wines, but I restricted myself to three wines only.
Hundred Tree Cabernet Sauvignon - Bright dark red. Aniseed and eucalyptus on the nose with smoot drying tannins, mid weight, good structure. An OK quaffer. Agreeable - ***
Hundred Tree Shiraz – Dark red almost purple. Floral notes leading to aniseed, cedar and saw dust. Very good structure with drying tannins but is the fruit lurking under the oak, possibly yes, possibly no. Acceptable - **
98 Redbank Sally’s Paddock – Excellent complex nose with a lot happening. Mint, cassis, cedar and a heap of other notes. Very good sweet full flavoured fruit with slightly drying fine grained tannins. This is a quality wine, in balance that has power in its elegance and refinement. Excellent - *** ( I also had a bottle at Walters Wine Bar a few days later with dinner and purchased a six pack today from my local.) This wine is going to just keep on improving and improving.
Then onto Summerfield Winery. Now I know this winery has a devoted following, but for the life of me, based on what I tasted I cant see why.
99 Summerfield Cabernet – couldn’t get excited enough to write more than “simple.” Acceptable **
99 Summerfield Shiraz – Light purple, showing iodine and liquorice and chocolate. Sweet fruit, mid weight, seemed unbalanced to me. Barely Drinkable - *
99 Summerfield Shiraz/ Cabernet – Dark red bordering on purple. Dark berries, aniseed, barnyard and some earth notes on the nose. The palate showed forward fruit, tannins OK, but not very noticeable, ordinary wine. Acceptable - **
99 Summerfield Reserve Shiraz – minty, dark fruit, cedar (but American Oak) grippy tannins but fruit to lean for my liking. Agreeable - *
99 Summerfield Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – initially a quick whiff of something nasty I could not identify, then dominant cedar and blue/black berries. On the palate the oak was dominant and once again the fruit seemed to me to be lean. Agreeable - *
Could not wait to get out of this winery and move on to the next one and the next one really looked the part. Warrenmang is set on a hill with a spectacular view of the vines and surrounding countryside. They have a large range of wines including Bazzani. The winery has a very highly regarded restaurant and accommodation facilities attached and guests of the hotel get 20% off any wines they take away with them. The quoted prices of all the wines to the general public who walk in off the street mean the wines represent very bad qpr.
Warrenmang Sauvignon Blanc- Truly lovelly wine, very unusual passion fruit taste, good weight, excellent crisp finish and lightly oaked. Recommended – but at $25 only *
Warrenmang Estate 99 Shiraz – mid weight hue, VA, menthol, eucalyptus. Good oak tannins and structure. Agreeable - **
Warrenmang Estate 98 Grand Pyrenees. – A blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc and Shiraz. Colour was dark red bordering on purple with a clean hue. The nose was dominated by American oak, chocolate, aniseed, and eucalyptus. Fine drying tanniins, To me there didn’t seem enough fruit weight to carry the oak and tannins. Acceptable -*
Warrenmang Estate 99 Cabernet Sauvignon. – dark red with mid weight hue. Cassis, chocolate, aniseed and some earthy notes. Very drying in tannins. To me there didn’t seem quite enough fruit weight. Agreeable -**
Warrenmang Estate 99 Black Puma. – Now we are cooking! Licorice, vanilla, eucalyptus. On the palate shows drying tannins, good fruit weight, terrific structure but not worth $50. Excellent - *
Then up the road to one of my favorite Victorian wineries, Dalwhinnie. There might be a lesson here. This winery makes exactly 4 wines, a Chardonnay, a Pinot, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz. Every one of them is an excellent quality well made wine. Much better to taste 4 good wines then 8 ordinary ones.
Dalwhinne 99 Shiraz – Dark red/purple. Nose shows pepper, spice, a number of dark fruits and is complex. On the palate this wine has super smooth seamless tannins, a perfect balance and good tannic backbone. The sweet fruit is absolutely there but is slightly hidden by the oak and tannins and the wine has a long lingering finish. This wine shows what is possible in a difficult year. Outstanding - ***
Dalwhinne 99 Cabernet Sauvignon – Dark red/purple. Nose shows classic cigar box, cassis, some minty notes. Seamless, great balance, not quite as good as the Shiraz but has very nice sweet fruit. Excellent - ***
Blue Pyreenes Estate has a good range of wines, but only two interested me. The Midnight Blue Sparkling which was very enjoyable (no notes) and the Reserve.
Blue Pyreenes Estate 98 Reserve – blend of multiple grape varieties. Dark red to purple, complex but subtle nose with spice chocolate and vanilla. Mid weight wine with sweet cherry fruit, well balanced and with a clean finish. Good wine, good value. Highly Recommended - ***
Next to Mount Avoca. I found this winery to be “average” and the wines to be a bit unexciting.
Mount Avoca 96 Reserve Cab Franc – Aniseed, crushed ants, earthy notes. mid weight, sweet fruit, bitter finish. Acceptable *
Mount Avoca 96 Reserve Shiraz – Pepper, eucalyptus and coconut. Very drying tannins, mid weight, OK wine but not my style. Agreeable **
We then moved on to Bests Great Western. This winery allows people to wander through the building, its underground cellar and it’s a great experience to see the old vats, casks, bottles etc.
Bests 97 Cabernet Sauvignon – dark red, complex nose with eucalyptus, chocolate and cassis. Tannins need to smooth out on this one and I found it to be a bit green. Agreeable - **
Bests 98 Shiraz – dark red wine, with pepper, aniseed and oaky notes. Good sweet fruit lurking under oak and tannins and will need years to come together but all the components are there in the right proportions. Highly Recommended now, but with time should go up to Excellent. - ***
Then a short drive down the road to the famous Seppelts. The outside of this winery is like a high tec factory. Huge vats etc, but they also make all the cheap and nasty bubbles here too. Robin and Murray tasted loads of wines, Sherry and stickies here, but I restricted myself to just a few.
Seppelts 96 Great Western Shiraz – They opened a new bottle and poured it into our glasses. I took one whiff and ----- big sneeze. Took another wiff and the same thing happened. HUGE amount of VA! Opened another bottle – same thing happened. Third one was OK. The aroma showed pepper and spice, but the nose was closed and difficult to judge. The wine is mid weight, well balanced, its good quality wine with sensible use of oak, but not my style. Recommended ***
Last stop of the day was Mt Langi. This winery has a great view and is a must for anyone visiting the area.
Mt Langi 98 Billi Billi Creek – Slight VA, menthol, complex berry flavours contained in a mid weight wine. Reasonably well balanced and soft finish. Agreeable - ***
Mt Langi 97 Johanna Cabernet Sauvignon – Very dark red, minty cassis and licorice. Mid weight with balanced tannins and good fruit. Needs time. Highly Recommended - ***
Mt Langi 97 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot – Bordering on purple. Cassis, minty notes, and some minimal cigar box lurking. Huge oak tannins, grippy and drying. Fruit is there but overshadowed by the tannins. Needs lots of time and should go from Highly Recommended to Excellent given the benefit of age. - ***
Mt Langi 98 Langi Shiraz – Aniseed, plums, earthy notes. Luscious ripe fruit, fine tannins, long finish and very good balance. With time should be Outstanding. - ***
End of section one. Next section will be Plonk 2000.
Copyright © Ric Einstein 2003