Friday, June 24, 2011

2008 Luke Lambert Nebbiolo

Big bottle. Wax seal. Diam cork. As you progress through the ritual of opening this wine, the moment arrives when you pour the wine from the heavy glass vessel, and there’s an expectation you’ll see an inky black liquid oozing from the neck into your wine glass. But it’s not inky black. It’s light and transparent, with brick red hues like a pinot; unexpected really, but that’s the colour of this nebbiolo.

Opening notes of mint and raspberry lead to a wide spectrum of aromas ranging from the floral: violets and lavender, to the herbal: wild heath, sage and anise: to the savoury and dry: black tea, char, white pepper and tomato pizza sauce base (yes, I love balsamic!). There’s strong pencilly notes too – perhaps an oak derivative – but the general tone is in the red-fruited spectrum.

The palate runs with a similar reddish theme of raspberry and cherry flavours; a touch of marshmallow sweetness. There’s great drive and depth of flavour, but without the weight – that’s OK, it doesn’t need weight. It’s supple, textured and layered; seductive and savoury; with surprisingly citrussy acid and firm, yet fine, tannin. There’s some smoky char and tar too. It works a treat with food – on this occasion: pork sausage, roast potato, sundried tomato and olives.

It has the X factor, of which I am particularly fond yet inadequately equipped to elucidate with any precision. I think the best is yet to come. Hell, it’s still evolving in my glass.

I like it, as is obvious by now. I think I’ll start scoring wines in this blog with a simple X factor – yes, or no. OK, that may be a little simplistic. But this is another wine that speaks clearly of variety and place when supped alone, yet evolves and sings loudly when coupled with food.
Value: It ain’t cheap at $38 a bottle, but it’s one of those ‘gotta try one’ wines.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Diam (appears clean)
Source: Purchased

Producer: Luke Lambert Wines – – cultish producer, but don’t let that put you off. Based in the Yarra but this wine from Heathcote.
Region: Heathcote, Victoria.
Vintage: Good winter rains followed by a warm spring and summer, ending hot in some parts. Generally a good Heathcote year.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2010 Printhie Mountain Range Pinot Gris

I’ve been under the weather this weekend and had to postpone a big tasting I had planned with a few buddies yesterday. But before I succumbed to the horrendous man-flu that cut me down so savagely in my tracks, I snuck this wine in. Here’s a brief note on it.

I don’t usually read anything on the wines I’m tasting so I’m not distracted or influenced by others. Nor do I read the back labels, so I don’t even know the wine handling usually. I went in blind on this one. Pinot gris is a tough ask on wine-tasters – my partner likes them, and when quizzed she says ‘because they don’t have much taste’. Hardly a recommendation I know, but sometimes you just want a simple white wine and not have to think too hard about it. That’s pinot gris. So, although I was expecting the usual non-descript pinot gris style, I was pleasantly surprised to find much more.

Lovely aromatics of rose petal and sherbet, some green apple and nashi pear. There were some herbal qualities too, in a nice way – imagine rubbing a fresh bay leaf between your fingers before smelling them. Also liked the orange rind-iness. And the honeyed lime.

Taste-wise I picked out some limey citrus flavours and some marzipan, but the remainder fitted into the floral/spice spectrum: sandalwood, musk, rosewater – and ending with ripe stone fruits: peach, nectarine. There’s a creaminess and layering on the palate too which led me to suspect some barrel work. It’s very well-handled – there, but not there – if you know what I mean.

This is probably the most enjoyable pinot gris I’ve had in many a moon. Quite pleased with my tasting efforts too, as my notes uncannily reflect what the Printhie dudes wrote on their back-label – an unusual occurrence. But it's the booze that matters, and this is good booze.
Value: Very good value at $17.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Printhie Wines – – owned by The Swift family.
Region: Orange, NSW – the NSW central tablelands east of Sydney – a wine region of high-ish elevation.
Vintage: A difficult vintage with yields down across the board for many – although some excellent quality prevailed.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

2009 Willow Bridge ‘Wild Ferment’ Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc

This wine appeared in a sample pack I received a few months ago and I’ve only just got to it. Yes, I know it says 2009 and I bet you’re all groaning right now. But I have to tell you, I didn’t check the vintage before opening and tasting this wine and assumed from the outset it was current vintage, being 2010, until I looked at the label. It actually looked pretty fresh for it's age.

Willow Bridge Estate are a sleeper out here in WA – we’ve all heard of them, but not many wine nerds probably get around to giving them a crack (this nerd included). They’re roughly 10 years old, and based in the Ferguson Valley (where?). They’ll hate me for saying this, but to set the scene for you, the Ferguson Valley is located approx 100km north of Margaret River in the hills immediately to the east of the regional city of Bunbury. It’s quite a little tourist hub now, can be very pretty, and is worth a visit on your WA trip.

The winemaker is Simon Burnell, formerly of Cape Mentelle in Margaret River, so he knows his stuff. Fruit for this particular wine is sourced from the Pemberton wine region, located south-west of the Ferguson Valley. I love Pemby Savvy. Alright, I know, I’ve probably confused you all now. It doesn't really matter. Read on..

Colour is pale to golden straw. All pineapple and marshmallow, flinty minerality and nettles. Some herbals/florals – nice – and some attractive spice characters in the form of anise and vanilla. Lively pungency still, soft in the acid department, and finishing with sweetish banana passionfruit aromas.

The first thing that I note on the palate is the creamy texture, which I’m guessing is aided by the partial natural fermentation. Flavours are in the greener tropicals – kiwifruit, rockmelon – and some citrussy lemon. On the fringes there’s herbal flavours of lemon myrtle, and lemongrass. Too much lemon you say? Oh, and a bit of lime and a touch of lovely wheatgrass.

This does look pretty fresh for 2009 and is drinking well right now. Pemby is quite a bit cooler than Margaret River and therefore the wines exude a bit more lean, yet punchy, minerality, and a bit less of the tropical stuff. When they get the balance right, it’s very nice indeed. I enjoyed this and will probably seek out the 2011 version when it’s ready later this year. I think this wine forms part of the ‘Winemakers’ range, which, thankfully, has undergone a label change in recent times.
Value: The current release is $25 – I’m assuming this wine was in line with that. Up there, but a decent drop.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Willow Bridge Estate – – Established in 1996 by the Dewar family.
Region: Ferguson Valley, Western Australia, although this wine is from the Pemberton region, south-west of Ferguson.
Site: Well-drained Marri soils, ironstone gravelly loam over clay.
Vintage: A top vintage in Pemberton – good winter rains preceded a mild and warm growing season without weather extremes or disease.

Monday, June 6, 2011

2007 Windows Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine picked up the Trophy for Wine Of The Show at the WA Boutique Wine Awards – a show I’d never heard of before now. (Turns out to be the Blackwood Valley region’s local event, and I guess any producer of a certain small size can enter). I’m not gonna say the judges messed up, but this wine must've looked a whole lot better in 2008 when it won the Trophy.

The green stalkiness on display is just too much and I found my notes peppered with the word 'green' throughout. The dominant aroma was freshly cut capsicum. OK, major negative dealt with swiftly.

On the plus side there’s a pulsing, driving blackcurrant thread on the nose and throughout the palate, some lovely BBQ char and tar aromas, savoury black olive. Herbal notes include bay leaf and sage, and there’s tobacco leaf and eucalypt wrapped in vanillan oak.

The palate has some decent flavour weight and length, but the greenness and herbal spectrum of flavours dominate, in my view. The dense, chewy blackcurrant is attractive. I feel the structure also lets this wine down a bit – the acid is still too crunchy and seems out of kilter with the rest of the elements.

I hate to say it but this was a bit of a disappointment. Further on-line research shows it never soared to the heights of the Trophy in WA, winning Bronze medals elsewhere and 89 points from Halliday. Look, it’s not a bad, bad wine. It’s just not a Trophy-winner in my book.
Value: The current release is $32 so I’m assuming the 2007 vintage was around the same, or slightly less. I think that price is a little too high for this wine (2007).
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Windows Estate – – Established in 1996 and now owned by the Davies family, the winery/vineyard is located at the northern end of Margaret River (near Yallingup).
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly and sandy soils over a clay base. The website declares the property as dry-grown.
Vintage: A mild winter leading into a warm and early vintage, finishing hot. A much-heralded vintage in Margs with many wines achieving great show success around the world, especially for cabernet.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Delcado Zuleta ‘La Goya’ Manzanilla

A little background: Bodegas Delcado Zuleta is the oldest family-owned sherry producer in the Jerez region, and is located around the town of Sanluca de Barrameda. Manzanilla is the appellation name for fino sherry made from the Sanluca area. The La Goya is a manzanilla pasada, which means the ageing is for eight years in contrast to the usual 4 or 5. The (white) grape variety used in producing La Goya is palamino.

It was a Friday night and we were feeling all wintery so we lobbed a pot of fennel & potato soup on the stove. In true wintery fashion I pulled out a bottle of La Goya to match, and this is what we saw...

A lovely pale golden straw of pristine clarity. As expected, rancio and nutty characters expressed themselves strongly. There was a slight medicinal quality hovering in the background, perhaps more kindly described as a greenish spearmint. I get a hint of my old favourite descriptor – maritime. And then there’s florals (rose petal, camomile and frangipani), and fruits (apple, pear, poached quince), some toast and marmalade, green peppercorns and capers, varnishy oak, and a dollop of overripe orange rind.

Creamy on the palate with some tarty citrus flavours, nutty and raisiny, some lanolin. Prior to the food, the palate fell away at about the 2/3 mark, but when matched with the fennel soup it bounced back, and the back-end came alive with citrus freshness and sweetness.

This particular La Goya was bottled December 2009 so perhaps needed to be topped a bit earlier than we managed.

Yeah, it’s a good drink for the price, and a worthy pour with a soup starter at your dinner parties.
Alcohol: 15%
Value: $18 for 375ml bottle. A fair price for an import of this pedigree.
Tasted: June 2011
Closure: Screwcap

Producer: Bodegas Delcado Zuleta – – Established in 1744.
Region: Sanluca de Barrameda, Spain.
Site: No specific site info but Sanluca is a cool and humid seaside village.