Week One Wining

Week One Wining

My second day in Barossa started out a bit slow, and very hot. After breakfast I headed out for some wine tasting with Brianne, a fellow Californian who works at Quintessa in Napa. Bri studied enology in Adelaide for 6 months, and she's familiar with some of the Valley's better producers.
*Note I didn't keep notes last Saturday because it was so freakin' hot. I promise this is the last you'll hear about the heat, it cooled down significantly the following day.

We started out at Murray St Vineyards. This was the highlight of the day. Murray St offers some outstanding, well balanced rhone varietal wines, with the exception to quality being their 100% new oak viognier (sadly viognier with heaps of new oak seems to be the style down here). The "benno" (shiraz/mataro) and the "Sophia" (shiraz) are the two flagship wines. Sophia is feminine, delicate and elegant, immensely complex, definitely my wine of the day. The benno is more aggressive, masculine, brooding, real powerful, very nice wine. I look forward to re-tasting these wines with more detailed notes.

We headed to the southern Barossa and visited "Charles Melton Wines" next. Charles Melton is a highly regarded producer, however upon pulling up to the winery my jaw dropped as we parked next to stacks of full barrels outside, cooking in the 110 degree heat. Wine was oozing out the bung hole (yes, that's a technical term), dripping on barrels below. The winemaker in me repulsed at the thought of storing wine outside on a dirt lot in this heat. So, needless to say, I had some strong preconceptions as we went in to taste. Their cab was the highlight. No notes included.

Rockford is right down the road, and we headed their next. Rockford makes one of the iconic Australian wines, the "Basket Press" Shiraz. This wine sells out quickly each year, and unfortunately wasn't available for tasting. The new vintage gets released in March, and I'm looking forward to picking some up. As I mentioned in a previous posting, only cold or sweet juice tasted good in this heat, and the Rockford Alicante Bouchet hit the spot. Alicante's one of the few grapes with red flesh (even red grapes have clear/white flesh, and it's the skin contact that gives them color). It has the rich color of an intense rose, and a touch of residual sugar.

Rockford old-school basket press and unlined concrete fermenter tanks

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the Two Hands Cellar Door. Two Hands has an impressive, slick looking tasting room (voted nicest "cellar door" in the valley according to Shannon at the CD). Two Hands offers a wide range of their wines for tasting. We shared the tasting experience with a friendly Canadian couple (who are actually en route to SB in a couple weeks, small world:). The entry level "picture series" wines offer a lot of bang for the buck. The "Brilliant Disguise" Moscato (made from White Frontignac) hit the spot. 7% alcohol, a little sweet and spritzy: just what the doctor ordered. This wine could be dangerous under the right 'summertime at the beach' circumstances. The "gnarly dudes" and "bad impersonator" shiraz were both showing well. Lots of primary fruit (but not in an uber-ripe Aussie style), balanced and approachable. These are the easy to love kind of wines I'll send my folks, or enjoy on a Tuesday night. The wine gets a bit more serious with the "garden series." Garden series bottlings focus on the different shiraz growing regions of Australia, and are named after children/wives of Two Hands owners Michael and Richard. The "Bella's" (Barossa), "Lily's" (McLaren Vale), "Max's (Heathcote), and "Sophie's" (Padthaway) were on the chopping block, and while stylistically similar each was distinctly different. Bella's was heady and rich, dominated by a dark fruit profile:Lily's more in the blue fruit spectrum (as the label color suggests):Sophie's more spice driven with that classic Aussie mint quality (which I personally don't enjoy, but most do:):.and Max's notably different than the rest, with earthy aromatics and more restrained fruit (this would easily be my favorite of the garden series if there was a touch less earth on the nose, it's a favorite of some of the cellar staff). The "Ares" and "Branson Coach House" are two of the top level flagship wines. Powerful, extracted, intense, with impressive structure, these wines are made from the best barrels in the Two Hands cellar. I look forward to bringing some of the flagship wines home and revisiting them after a few years of cellaring. In the coming weeks I'll post detailed notes of the whole Two Hands lineup.

The following day I continued exploring with Ben (top TH cellar guy), and his lady Megan who is also in the industry. Ben has a great palate, and knows the Valley inside and out (as well as the rest of the wine world). "Hentley Farm Wines" just recently opened a cellar door in a beautiful 1860's stone cottage, and we kicked off the day with their fantastic wines. I'm continually impressed with the high quality of wine at the A$20-A$30 price point ($14-$20 US).

Fools Bay Chard: good acid, elegant, good oak balance
Rose: Not over the top fruit (which seems to be the typical OZ style), dry, racy
Fools Bay Grenache/Shiraz 06: sexy red fruit profile, fine tannins, good finish
FB Shiraz/Cab: grainy tannin structure, nice medium bodied mouthfeel, layered flavors
Barossa Zin 07: I just don't get Zin. Especially Barossa Zin. Reminds me of strawberry compote jam. The good texture is this wine's only redeeming quality.
Barossa Valley Shiraz 06: Now we're talkin'. Dark fruit, spice, hints of menthol, mocha, cherries on finish, great texture (a common theme in the HF wines), impressive balance/structure.
The Beauty Barossa Shiraz: My wine of the day. Lighter in style than the other HF shiraz. 3% vio. Lush, but elegant. Complex aromatics, amazing mouthfeel/texture, grainy fine tannin, long lingering finish.
The Beast Barossa Shiraz: Appropriate name, more full bodied than the beauty. More oak tannin, darker/riper fruit profile. Very complex, outstanding wine.

The awesome 1860's cottage turned cellar door. There are lots of these cool, old stone buildings throughout the valley.

We continued on to "Turkey Flat":
As you drive towards the Cellar Door you cruise through the original old vine shiraz plantings that date back to 1847:these are gnarly, head-trained vines.
04 Sparkling (Chard): 4 years in barrel, 1 on the lees. Nice, refreshing.
08 White: 58% marsanne, 28% viognier, 15% roussanne. Balanced, elegant, touch of honey, good finish, no oak. One of the best rhone whites I've had thus far.
08 Chard: classic aromatic varietal character, a little richness, great acidity, not over oaked.
Rose: reminds me of classic provencal style aromatically, but just a tad too much fruit on the palate.
Grenache: spice, cola, mint, dives off a bit on finish. Soft/glycerine on palate.
07 Butcher's Block Shiraz/Grenache/Mataro: Great texture, spice, cherries, blackberries, firm tannin.
06 Mourvedre: *worth noting this is the first and only time I've seen a Mourvedre (vs Mataro). Juicy. Balanced. Good.
Sparkling Shiraz: little stinky, stewed fruit, dark fruit on finish.
Last Straw Dessert Marsanne (vin de pais): real enjoyable, interesting savory finish. Smells like buttered toast.
Overall the TF wines were consistently good, but not mind-blowing. They did have a cool truck though...

That's it for week one.
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