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Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009
Follow the antics of TORB and his mates as he
travels through the wine regions of Oz.
The 2008 South Aust Tour Diary
Late in May, the Pie King, Red Bigot and I spent a week touring McLaren Vale, the Barossa and Coonawarra doing research for the 2008 Tour Diary. It was an outstanding success, despite some of the tucker not being up to its usual standards. Given the quality of the wines we tried, the few disappointing meals were insignificant in the scheme of things. I can promise you, without any fear of contradiction, this will be the best Tour Diary ever. It will be framed by Two Bookends; the first winery we visited and the last. These Bookend stories are unique. Each one presents the winemakers story in a way that have never been published previously. They provide personal insights into what makes these guys tick and why they do what they do. And both of them are revered winemakers. In some ways there are similarities between the two, but in some ways they are almost complete opposites, which is as it should be with bookends. The feedback feature has be enabled in every Chapter, so please submit your feedback, thoughts and questions.
Chapter One (19 June) starts with the First Bookend. This wineries wines are highly sought after. Their mailing list has been closed for years. The winemaker shies away from publicity and rarely speaks to the wine press, yet he was happy to have a noholds barred interview with me so I could present his personal story. And its a fascinating one. He is a unique individual that marches to the beat of his own drum and chooses not to listen to the music from other bands that surround him. We then had a flying visits to Gemtree and Pirramimma where we tried their latest releases. After lunch we met with three boutique winemakers. Two of of these guys are very new on the scene and the third is quickly gaining a reputation for good wine at an incredible price. The visit to the final winery of the day is titled, "Big Tony Round Three Ė Mr Irrepressible Rises from the Classic McLaren Ashes."
Chapter Two (26 June) of the 2008 South Australian Tour Diary turned out to be bigger than expected. It's in excess of 30 pages. It starts off with our drive from McLaren Vale to the Barossa, were we spent three days. We didn't visit many wineries on this day, but we did taste lots of terrific wine. Our first port of call was Kaesler. After this visit, I now have a new favourite winery in the Barossa. Next stop was Langmeil and the tasting was better than expected. After lunch it was off to Teusner to get their story and try their line-up. The final appointment to the date was a beauty. Back to Seppeltsfield to see what they were up to under the new ownership. All in all, it was a top day.
Chapter Three (10 July) continues our journey through the Barossa. For a small operation, Laughing Jack is impressive and I am not surprised their wines sell out quickly. Hentley Farm was another first visit. They now also have a second label, Fools Bay, that represents real value and is exported all over the world We had a quick visit to Murdock's new place. Lovely building. Pity about the wine. We had an impressive line up of wines at Rolf Binder/Magpie Estate and some of these get a big thumbs up. There are also two "Claytons" visits in this Chapter. I couldn't get to either Turkey Flat or Kalleske, which was a shame as they both release their new wines in May. The good news is both of them were kind enough to send samples and the reviews have been included in this Chapter.
Chapter Four (17 July) continues with our last day in the Barossa and Eden Valley. It's an average size Chapter, twenty six pages. We kicked off with an incredible breakfast. It takes real talent to be able to mess up bacon and eggs so badly. Swearing Gordon Ramsey would have had apoplexies and would have been rendered speechless if my breakfast was put in front of him. The first appointment was at Dutschke and Wayne continues to kick goals. The revered Rockford was next. Surprisingly, it was not as good as expected. We then found a real gem in Angaston that specialised in boutique wines from the Eden Valley. Its a very special place. The final appointment was at Yalumba where we had a private tasting of all their mid range and top wines. Some exciting stuff coming out of here now too. There are also a number of tasting notes covering Charles Cimicky wines. Chapter Four is here.
Chapter Five (24 July) is the shortest Chapter in this series. It covers our first 24 hours in Coonawarra. First stop was one of the 'Bissell' wineries, Parker. We then had an appointment at Wynns. As well as tasting some terrific wines, we had a tour of their new "winery within a winery." The dinner that night was something I am unlikely to forget! Ever; ever if I try hard. Hollick has a swish new cellar door and restaurant, as well as a new range of wines. The second 'Bissell' winery on this trip is one of my favourites. Its the 'mother' Bissell' winery. Balnaves, opened the upcoming new releases and they continue to do good things. We also had a long chat with Peter Bissell. The last winery in this Chapter, Penley Estate opened their upcoming releases. They are not only good, they are sensational value.
Chapter Six (31 July) continues our romp through Coonawarra. Visits include brief stops at Fosters cellar door, Leconfield and DiGiorgo. The Prof was in good form at Majella and we tasted all the 05 and about to be released 06's. Brands turned out to be much better than expected; they are moving in the right direction. Punters Corner was a disappointment and Koonara was worse. At lest dinner provided a positive end to the day. First up next day we got the complete story on Reschke Wines. That was followed by a long vineyard tour and tasting at Katnook Estate. Good news all round here. The wines are getting better and the vineyard tour made me realise that great wines don't start with great grapes, it starts with the right soils. This part of the Chapter gets down and dirty and will give you all the good oil, as well as all the dirt on Coonawarra soils. Much to my surprise, its not all about the famed terra rossa soil; the story is far deeper.
Chapter Seven (14 Aug) sees us back in McLaren Vale. Although its a normal length chapter, about ninety percent of it covers just one winery. Mention their name and it will ignite passions and opinions like no other winery. Everyone has an opinion about their wines. Some love them and think they are great value; with Robert Parker being one of their greatest fans. On the other side of the divide, there are those that think their wines are the greatest abominations ever to be called wine. Such is the passion this wine generates. They have been interview before and bits of their story have been told, but this is the most complete and in-depth account of their enchanted path through the wine business, although s the story shows, it has not always been an easy journey. I asked the hard questions, the personal ones, and got frank and honest answers. The questions that had never been asked before. The story also includes the reasons behind the way they make their wine, and those methods are both unique and controversial. Will history show these winemakers to be revolutionary visionaries or heretics? I don't know, but getting their story was fascinating.
The 2008 Victorian Tour Diary
In February, Red Bigot and I spent a gruelling, but most enjoyable, eight days touring though the Westerns and North Eastern wine regions of Victoria. The trip was an eye opener. Anyone who thinks all Australian red wine taste the same and are high alcohol, over-ripe, intense blackberry flavoured vanilla or coffee oak-shakes and can not be enjoyed with tucker, needs to have this story poked into their myopic eyes and a few bottles of these delightful wines forcibly poured down their throats. At the time of writing this, I already have RSI from typing the words "elegant, restrained, classy, refined, and food friendly. Many labels are lower in alcohol than a few years ago. That is not as a result of the reactionary, politically correct, mummy-state elements inflicting their do good opinions; its a by-product of the strive for more elegant, food friendly wines. In total, there will be well over 200 tasting notes, as well as all the gory details on the meals consumed.
Chapter Two (13 March) Its huge. The Pyrenees Chapter is the biggest Chapter ever. A quick visit to Sally's Paddock was followed by a fascinating tour of Dalwhinnie. David Jones kept our undivided attention for hours, and that resulted in a lengthy feature story. Taltarni has undergone a complete turnaround and was a pleasant surprise. We also visited a number of smaller wineries. Multiple vintages were tasted from both Summerfield and Polleters. Warrenmang put on a dinner (and tasting) that was stunningly good. This Chapter has tasting notes on more unreleased wines than any other, so read all about them here first.
Chapter Three (26 March) covers our time in Bendigo. Wineries visited include Turners Crossing, Blanche Barkly, Pondalowie, Connor Park, Sandhurst Ridge, Balgownie and Chateau Leamon. We also had one of the best dinners on any trip. Ever!
Chapter Five (1 May) covers a lot of distance. First stop was Tahbilk Winery at Nagambie . We got lucky! They were having a museum tasting. Mitchelton was next and then we moved onto Plunkett Fowles. These last two seemed a bit patchy. Baileys of Glenrowan made up for them. At Beechworth, Tinkers Hill was interesting! Dinner was with Keppell Smith of Savaterre, who actually brought a Shar-Donay and a PiNot. Wait till you see the report on that escapade. Russell and Meeghan Bourne of battely wines were also at the dinner. What a night.
Chapter Six (8 May) It starts with our final winery in Beechworth, Golden Ball, who make very consistent, quality wines. We then moved to Brown Brothers which was better than expected. Rutherglen was the nest stop. Our appointment at Jones Winey went really well; here is a small winery to watch over coming years. We did the full tour at Campbells, as well as tasting their whole fortified range. We also dropped in on Andrew Buller at Buller's Winery, and as usual, Andrew provided a unique insight into a hot topic of debate.
The 2007 South Aust Tour Diary
In September Red Bigot, The Pie King and I spent nine terrific days touring McLaren Vale and the Barossa. The quality of the wines we tried have never been better thanks to three great vintages, 2004, 2005 and 2006, as well as improvements to winemaking processes and styles. The glut may be over, but there is still an abundance of terrific wines at great value prices. If you are after exceptional value, everyday wines at under $15, or special occasion Excellent quality wines that cost less than $50, they will be listed in the Tour Diary, as will everything in between, plus loads more. As usual the concentration was on smaller wineries rather than the large corporates, but we still managed to fit a couple of those in too. At lunchtime, I did my best to avoid The Pie Kings (and his Apprentice's) insistence on frequenting establishments that specialised in meat pies, and luckily at night we managed to have good meals. All this, as well as my travelling companions antics are provided for your reading pleasure. The feedback feature will be enabled in every Chapter, so please submit your feedback, thoughts and questions.
Tour Diary Summary (26 September)
Chapter One (3 October) covers the introduction, getting there, and our first full day. Wineries visited include Sylvan Springs, Pirramimma, Longwood, Cascabel, Red Heads Studio, and Oliver's Taranga. We tasted loads of small production, artisan wines that are bound to interest wine lovers looking for something a bit different.
Chapter Two (10 October) starts at Wirra Wirra where we did the complete tour. Then it was a large line-up of just released wines at d'Arenberg, a secession with Justin at Samuel's Gorge, a quick tasting of the new releases at Kay Bros, and on to Gemtree.
Chapter Three (17 October) continues our McLaren Vale journey. We started at Thomas Vineyard Estate. Fox Creek and the new cellar door at Primo Estate were also good. Shingleback was next and then it got patchy. Coriole, Lloyd Bros, some good new fighting brands at Maxwell; an enjoyable visit to Foggo and finally to Woodstock.
Chapter Four (24 October) starts with out trip to the Barossa. On the way we stopped at Chain of Ponds and then we had a "Claytons visit" to Wayne Dutschke. After lunch it was to a new one, Jamabro, then Tim Smith and there are tasting notes from another couple of very good wineries too.
Chapter Five (31October) continues in the Barossa and although we only visited three wineries this Chapter is the normal size. There is a feature visit to Haan Wines, a big tasting at Kaesler including a number of new labels, and finally a big line-up of wines were tasted at Rolf Binder Wines.
Chapter Six (7Nov) Orlando/Jacobs Creek provided a large line-up of their top wines; many of which have not been released yet. Winter Creek showed how the Barossa can produce wonderful, seriously structured, fruit dominant wine without overt oak. A tour and tasting of the new Massena/Standish winery was next and finally, we had a meet the new winemaker and tour of St Hallett. Chapter Six can be found here.
Chapter Seven (14Nov) Peter Lehmann is right back on track and better than ever. We visited the Willows and followed that up by a thumbs up visit to Gibson. Saltram was next and we tasted a large range. Murray Street Vineyards showed us some terrific wines, as well as a few that had reductive issues. Then an unforgettable experience at Deisen, which was one of the highlights of the whole trip All in all, it was probably our most memorable day.
(21 Nov) We visited Kurtz Family Winemakers
and Steve is offering TORBWine readers the best value, everyday drinking wines
possible. Elderton took last years comments about peeling paint
seriously; the Cellar Door had a refit and now looks as good as some of their
wines. A tasting at Rockford was followed by a long Rockford lunch.
Friday saw some stunning wines at Hobbs, and then it was off to
Henschke and Kabminye followed by Charles Melton.
The 2006 South Aust Tour Diary - In September Red Bigot, The Pie King and I spent just over a week touring McLaren Vale, Clare and the Barossa. I don't know whether it was good luck, careful planning or the stars aligning, but the range of wines we tried was generally of a higher standard than any other previous trip. There were a number of small and boutique wineries that I have been trying to get to for years, and for some reason have never been able to connect. On this trip I was able to get to a some of them, and they were good. Very Good! The dinners on these trips are normally most enjoyable, but some of the meals on this trip were the best to date; real highlights. As usual, I engaged in a losing battle of avoiding bakeries and pie shops, and whilst it is a high price to pay for having the Pie King's company, his occasional words of wisdom, and very dry sense of humour makes it almost seem worthwhile. Naturally all of these experiences will be shared with readers. Hopefully it will be seen as the best Tour Diary to date.
Tour Diary Summary (11October)
Chapter One (15 November) covers the introduction, getting there, and our first full day. Wineries visited include Red Heads Studio (an incredible artisan project,)Longwood, Mitolo and the Battle of Bosworth.
Chapter Two (29 November) covers the rest of our time in McLaren Vale. There were some real gems tasted, and visits to a few new finds that are work checking out. Wineries include Oliverhill, Marius, Oliver's Taranga, Kays, Maxwell, Foggo and a whole lot more.
Chapter Four (13 December) Highlights of our second day were O'Leary Walker, Reilly's and Tim Adams followed a very different sort of visit to the Schubert Estate, and then Greenock Creek, Turkey Flat and St Hallett. There was also a full report on the report on the associated food and the Pie King's antics.
Chapter FIve (28 December) Our first full day in the Barossa with loads of great wine and food. Highlights include Maggie Beer, Kaesler, Charles Melton, Grant Burge, Massena, Saltram and more.
Chapter Six (13 February) Our time in the Barossa continues. We only visited four wineries, but all were top notch; Hobbs, Rolf Binder, Burge Family Winemakers and Dutschke were we sampled many excellent wines. Dinner at Vintners is also highlighted.
Chapter Seven (13 June) The best has been saved till last! Visits to Kurtz and Elderton were followed by a Rockford tasting, which was followed by an all afternoon lunch at the Rockford Stonewall Restaurant. That is not all; the next day we spent all morning and got the good oil, as well as a behinds the scenes perve at some amazing things at Yalumba. This Chapter is a big one and should not be missed.
The 2006 West Australian Tour Diary - In February, Brian (red Bigot) and I spent eight days in WA, the vast majority of the time was spent in the Margaret River region. We tasted our way through, and I made notes on about to 200 wines; ate far too much good food (and some very ordinary stuff too) and generally had a very good time exploring the best, and some of the worst the region had to offer. Instead of the Pie King, on this trip we were joined by Dr Davo who is almost as much a wag as the king himself. So please join us as we wend our way through the wineries of WA.
Chapter One - Getting There, Off Line Dinner and the First Few Wineries.
Chapter Two - Margaret River including Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, Moss Wood and Gralyn
Chapter Three - Margaret River continued including Xanadu, Leeuwin, Howard Park, Sandalford and Pierro
Chapter Four - Margaret River continued including Brookland Valley, Woodlands, Woody Nook and a wholelot more.
Chapter Five - Our last day in Margaret River and probably the best! Juniper was punching way above its weight; Cullen proves to be an ongoing classic and we investigate what makes Voyager tick; plus lots more!
Chapter Six - This chapter is so big, to enable faster loading, it has been split into two. It covers our last two days in WA; most of the time was spent in the Pemberton region. Brief periods of incredible highs interspersed with rock bottom lows and everything thing else in between. The chapter also contains a number of closing comments on the trip too.
The 2005 Mini Victorian Tour Diary - In November I spent a week in Victoria with two objectives. The first was to attend The 2002 Great Shiraz Taste Off where four of us waded our way through a blind tasting of 50 bottles of wine from this well regarded vintage, many of which Brian and I had bought as we considered them to be the best in their price brackets. The second was to spend time with good friends in the Yarra bloody Valley and tour a few vineyards whilst I was there. Chapter One covers the Rutherglen part of the trip including the results of The 2002 Great Shiraz Taste Off . There were some pleasant surprises and a few shocks when the covers came off the bottles. This was a fantastic experience that I am happy to share with you and naturally, it contains all the gory details, including tasting notes and dare I say it - scores!
After leaving Rutherglen, I headed off to the Yarra Valley to spend a few days with friends. Although this part of the trip was more holiday than wine tour, I did manage to visit quite a few wineries, have some good food, and naturally make tasting notes aplenty. Instead of having to put up with the usual antics of either The Pie King or Red Bigot, in this story you will have to put up with the antics of my, almost sane, and halfway sensible, good friends, William and Karen Pond, (aka Mr and Mrs Bill.) Chapter Two can be found here.
The 2005 May Tour Diaries - part two of this years South Australian Tour - This segment will cover more of McLaren Vale, the Barossa as well as a segment on Coonawarra. Vintage Perspective SA 2005 Chapter One - McLaren Vale Chapter Two - Coonawarra Chapter Three - McLaren Vale Chapter Four - The Barossa Chapter Five - The Barossa continued
"TORB Tortoises Through SA" The February 2005 South Australian Tour Diary Part One- The past tours grew to be so large a task that in 2005 the tour will be broken up into two segments over two trips. The first weeks journey took place in February, just prior to vintage, and inline with the relaxed pace of this journey, TORB only managed to amass a little over 200 tasting notes but that number does not include impression of wines with dinners, or a massive Durif tasting of in Rutherglen. Since when is Rutherglen in South Aust you ask; you will have to read the story to find out! As usual, my side kick and co-star, The Meat Pie King features in his traditional role but not as much as normal, however he will make up for his underperformance during the second trip in May. Chapter One - Langhorne Creek Chapter Two - The Adelaide Hills and a day in McLaren Vale Chapter Three - McLaren Vale - Discoveries Chapter Four - The Barossa and top end Penfold tasting Chapter Five - Rutherglen and the Great Durif Taste Off
"TORB Terroir-ises SA" The 2004 South Australian Tour Diaries - In May 2004, TORB terrorised over 50 wineries, tasting about 240 wines and that does not include notes on older wines made at dinners. Add to that, some extremely funny things that were said and there should be a few good laughs in this story too. This tour diary will be long, the whole thing will be probably run to in excess of 100 pages so it will be presented in weekly chapters. This trip was an incredible experience and it is my pleasure to try and share some of those experiences with you. So grab a bottle of good red and settle back and relax as you read, Vintage Perspective South Australia 2004 Chapter One - McLaren Vale . Chapter Two - The Barossa Chapter Three - The Barossa Chapter Four - The Barossa Chapter Five - The Barossa Chapter Six - McLaren Vale Chapter Seven - McLaren Vale Chapter Eight - Clare Chapter Nine - Clare
TORB's 2004 Victorian Trek - In February 2004, TORB trekked his way through central Victoria and tasted about 200 of the states finest (and a few not so fine) red wines, all of which have been reviewed for your reading pleasure. As usual, there are great new finds and some that represent phenomenal value. On this trip there were a few very special tasting experiences; some can only be described as once in a life time experience. There will also be stories on some featured wineries, photos, interesting anecdotes and hopefully a few laughs. Chapter One - The Grampians Chapter Two - The Pyrenees Chapter Three - Heathcote Chapter Four - Heathcote to Rutherglen Chapter Five - Rutherglen Part One Chapter Six - Rutherglen Part Two
TORB's 2003 South Australian Tour Diary - Between Friday 9th and Saturday 18th of May, TORB tasted this way through about 230 of South Australia's finest red wines, most from small to medium producers and many representing real value. There were many new exciting discoveries too. As well as the tasting notes, there are stories on some of the featured wineries, photos, some interesting anecdotes and hopefully a few laughs along the way. So join me in reliving my escapades in the 2003 South Australian Tour Diary which has been presented in eight chapters. Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight
TORB spends a week in Western Australia Ė during February 2003 I spent a week touring through the areas around Perth, Great Southern and Margaret River Those that enjoy my ranting and ramblings will be in their elements as I hares my experiences not only on 160 wines, as well as anecdotes on restaurants and accommodation houses. Fill up a glass (of red of course), sit back and follow this link for 40 odd pages of TORBís WA Tour Diary.
The Red Bigots Invade South Australia Ė was written in May 2002 when my mate Red Bigot (Brian Handreck) and The Pie King of McLaren Vale (John Davis) and I spent a week terrorising the cellar door staff of the Barossa, Clare and McLaren Vale. We were fortunate enough to visit many winemakers and taste wines that are almost impossible to find so sit back and relax as you get through another mammoth epic.
TORB returns to the centre of red bigot heaven Ė in May 2001 I made another trip back to the wine regions of South Australia and this time completed what I thought at the time was a lengthy report. Itís a baby by comparison to todayís efforts.