Sunday, September 4, 2011

2009 Streicker ‘Bridgeland Block’ Syrah

A Margaret River name unfamiliar to most, although John Streicker has been turning out small volumes of wine from his Bridgeland, Ironstone and Yallingup vineyards for several years now.

Lively, purpling, blood red colour. The nose opens to bright redcurrants, violets, dried herbs and flowers; savoury meats and some smoky char. On the spicy side there’s cinnamon and white pepper – the bestest of peppers to be found in shiraz in my view. The oak starts to kick in more as the wine opens – it’s on the varnishy, yet toasty side. There’s also some intense coffee and crushed ant aromas (better than it probably sounds), and after a glass or two the nose pours out more complex, sweet and lovely perfumed aromas. Sexy.

The tannins are evident on the palate – a little powdery, but turning silky with time in glass. It’s a nice mid-weight style with beautifully balanced structure - acid/oak/fruit all in harmony. On the flavour side there’s a good balance of sweet/savoury, and a creamy brew of blueberry and redcurrant, some vanillan, pencilly oak, and a gorgeous smattering of white pepper. The finish is long and smooth.

Yep, this is very nice booze. It’s an easy drink for a 2009 at this point, but there’s an element of seriousness to it. Then when it kicks into higher gear it really starts to assert itself and become more expressive. The structure should see it cellar mid-term but she’s looking the goods right now too.
Value: $38.50 by mail order – sure is a big price. Maybe too high for some, but at least you know you are getting something quite smart, if not quite in the brilliant category.
Tasted: September 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Sample

Producer: Streicker Wines – The label was established in 2002 around the time John Streicker purchased his vineyards – Ironstone (Wilyabrup), Yallingup Protea Farm (Yallingup), and subsequently the Bridgeland vineyard (Rosa Glen).
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Bridgeland Vineyard, south-east of the township Margaret River – a cooler subregion with longer growing season.
Winemaking: Open ferment. Matured for 18 months in French oak.
Vintage: A mild and gentle growing season with no rain, hail, or bird issues, however a Looper bug infestation did knock some vineyards about and yields were low. Generally however, this is an excellent year.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

2010 Printhie Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Frankland Estate 'Isolation Ridge' Riesling, 2011 Marq Vermentino

2010 Printhie 'Mountain Range' Sauvignon Blanc
Nettley, showing a little age. Lemon and orange rind, grassy, some wild sage-bush. Lemon-scented honey aromas blend with lime, passionfruit and guava, with a little green tea thrown in. The palate is developed, as expected by now, and shows lemon curd, gooseberry, green bean and roasted green capsicum. Nice weight, texture and acid.

Following on from the outstanding 2009 vintage Savvy and maybe falling short of those heights, but still a good wine – although I would be drinking it soonish. A stylish feel, but probably lacks the oomph factor of the previous vintage. As chance would have it, I learned via Twitter that Gary Walsh (Winefront) was tackling the 2010 MCC Sauvignon Blanc on the same night and giving it big raps. I must have a crack at this wine. Stay tuned.
Value: $18 – there's good value in the entire Mountain Range.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Purchased

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

2010 Frankland Estate ‘Isolation Ridge’ Riesling
Minerally, slatey, flinty... There I said it. Floral aromas with citrussy lime and pear – there’s more going on here than in the average riesling flavour spectrum. There’s freshness and zing, lifted flavours and aromas. Refreshing. There’s broad flavours in the citrus and tropical sphere, and some spice and fruit blossom, but there’s also drive and length and focus. And there’s more of that flinty goodness.

I don’t care what Philip White says, if I want to call a wine minerally I damn well will, and you all know what I’m talking about. Pure and fresh. Naturally exciting. This is a very good, benchmark WA Riesling. I’ll have some more please.
Value: At $32 it aint cheap, but this is the sort of wine you can pull out at a dinner party and impress the guests. A bit wanky, I know, but that’s wine for you sometimes.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Sample

Producer: Frankland Estate – 
 family-owned, established in 1988 by Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam.
Region: Frankland River, West Australia. Adjacent to Great Southern in the cooler south of WA.
An ideal vintage for the Great Southern and Frankland River regions. Warm summer days and cool nights. Hard to make a bad wine from this year.

2011 Marq Vermentino
All I can tell you about this new player in the Margaret River region is that it's the private label of Happs winemaker, Mark Warren, and a variety you don’t usually see around Margaret River. It’s light and slightly oily-textured – the flavours are in the spectrum I quite like: lime and pear, peach and apple blossom, grapefruity, floral and perfumed – neat, tidy, gently flavoursome in a restrained sort-of way.

Maybe too gentle? It doesn’t have the grunt of other vermentinos I’ve seen, nor the viscosity, but it is freshly bottled so perhaps showing some shyness at the moment. Ne'erless, it's a delightful little romp in the fields, and a perfect pre-dinner drink over spring and summer. With food? You’d be mad not to pair it with seafood – sardines, of course!
Value: Price unknown.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Gift

Producer: Marq Wines –  Happs winemaker Mark Warren's own label.
Region: Margaret River, West Australia.
Vintage: A cracker vintage in the west – perfectly warm temps during the day and cool nights – fruit was ripe with good acids. A winemakers delight.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2010 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

Alert readers will know this wine was tasted a while back as part of a broader look at 2010 SBS blends. The wine performed pretty well in that line-up. But ranking wines in tasting line-ups or shows is a dangerous thing, providing only one side of the equation quite unrelated to the others – including the real experience of real people drinking wine for pleasure. That's what we were doing.

The Cape Mentelle SBS sits at the upper echelon of the price range for these styles of wine and wears the burden of the label’s reputation, meaning it has to be good every year to command the price they’re asking. Sure, there’ll be the usual robots who buy this wine every year so they can have a piece of Cape Mentelle on the table at dinner parties, but there’s no doubt you would find equally excellent examples of SSB/SBS from Margaret River at much lower prices. That said, this is a very good wine.

A colour of clean, fresh straw. Grassy and minerally chalk hits the nose up front, some grapefruit tang and pithy lemon. There’s a cool crispness, like un-ripe peach, and a line of gooseberry. Subtle, stylish background oak, and there’s smokiness, spice and some green sweet-pea aromas too.

The palate is creamy yet bursts with flavour mid-palate. Tangy grapefruit again, lime, juicy citrus 
 quite frankly mouthwatering and begging for some spicy Asian fare to tease out it's restrained power. The grassy, herbal characters continue here, plus the chalky minerality, but it all adds to the complexity – a simple complexity if that’s the right wording, because after all, these wine styles need punch and delicacy in equal measure, and this wine nails it. Crisp, without appearing to be, and great length. There's oak again which helps draw out the palate and add creamy texture.

Good wine. It’s on the serious side – the lean and keen and mean side – but that makes it sensational with food. We did Thai green curry and Thai fish salad. Getting the food/wine matching right is key to allowing the wine to express it’s best, and vice versa. The underlying sweetness of the SBS burst forth when paired with the chilli and rich creamy coconut curry.
Value: $28 at cellar door – it’s right up there and you’re paying for ‘label’ here, but it’s a very stylish drop.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Cellar Door

Producer: Cape Mentelle – Established in 1970 by David Hohnen and friends, the winery is considered one of the elite producers of Margaret River. Hohnen later went on to develop Cloudy Bay in New Zealand and then sold his winery interests to the massive LVMH Group. He now runs pigs and sheep while keeping his toe in the wine industry by way of McHenry Hohnen Vintners.
Region: Margaret River, Western Australia.
Site: Gravelly loam and some sandy soils over a clay base (the majority of the fruit comes from Cape Mentelle's southern vineyards, specifically Chapman Brook).
Winemaking: 54% Sauvignon, 46% Semillon. Approx 15% fermented in French and American oak. Four months on lees.
Vintage: Another superb year in the blessed west. Brilliant for whites with warm, dry conditions throughout summer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2008 Xanadu Shiraz

Another Margaret River red found it’s way onto the bench this week – a shiraz this time – the discreet mistress variety in this cabernet-centric, cool-climate region Western Australia. Xanadu have been around since 1977, and wine devotees will remember well the public listing, the rapid increase in production, the awkward management that led to the temporary demise of the beloved label. And the resurrection under the reins of the Rathbone family. But... to the wine.

Dark red, muddy sort-of colour. A not-very-traditional meaty aroma greeted, with smoky char, burnt cherry, or sweet tar? A light prickle for the senses. More recognisable characters of blackberry and red-fruits, carob, black olive and cinnamon quill. There’s a purple-ness about this wine. Purple for me describes a freshness and richness, a youth of sorts, a vibrancy. The oak looks silky, but it’s definitely on show. Actually, it ebbs and flows, but is always precise. There’s a little green/white pepper. The muddiness = less varietal character, but no less interesting.

The palate strikes me as creamy, yet still murky, and the finish is drying a little. Medium weight, it is bassy and the forest floor flavours dominate. But I also see redcurrants, plum and raspberry – quite a sweet palate really, but dense. Smoky BBQ char again, tannins firmish – will need some food (duly supplied in the form of osso bucco). On the warm side maybe, but this wine opens beautifully in the glass and shows some seductive shapes and flavours, while at the same time feels secretive and restrained. Yes, the finish is drying but the food sorted that out.

Really enjoyed this over two nights. It’s got some mystery, and in many ways lacks varietal definition, but who gives a toss really. It’s a bloody nice drink. It charms even when you lift the glass, and your eyes absorb the muddy colour before it reaches your nose and lips. X-Factor? Yeah, there’s that. As is often the case, the food really allowed this wine to show it’s best. Good stuff.
Value: A $29 retail price is most comfortable.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Gift

Producer: Xanadu Wines – Established in 1977 by the Lagan family, doctors who migrated from Ireland in 1968. Rapid growth and a public listing in the mid-90’s saw the spectacular collapse of the company. The current owners, the Rathbones, bought the assets of the business in 2005 and seem to be doing a sterling job of rebuilding the brand. Winemaker – Glenn Goodall.
Region: Margaret River, central.
Site: Roughly half the fruit is estate grown from the Stevens Road vineyard in central Margaret River, and the rest from growers. No specific site info available.
Winemaking: Partial whole berry fermentation, combination of tank and French oak maturation. A dash of Viognier is in here too.
Vintage: A classic vintage. 2008 was an excellent year in the region, following on from the superb 2007. The 08’s tended to have a little more structure in both whites and reds – a little firmer and robust, without losing that general elegance of Margs. Probably the 08's will outlive the 07's.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2002 Sandalford Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon

A cool year, a big-name company, a benchmark variety in a classic region. A Monday night tipple that went something like this:

A vibrant brick red colour, mingling purple and brown at the rim – deceptive really. Opens with dusty oak and a delicious, driving core of rich dark fruits filling my nostrils, some redcurrants, leather and spice. Good ol’ Margaret River. There’s some savoury meaty/gamey elements, pencilly and cedary oak, mocha, and a denseness that smells chewy, if that is an acceptable depiction. As it opens up a bit you get a real choc-cherry character – more hallmark Margaret River.

The palate still has some grip (imagining what it was like when it was youthful), although starting to show some softer, velvety licks. Blackberry and smoky/tarry oak dominate the palate, though seamlessly wedded. For a medium-bodied style it has some power, and grace, and shows its cool climate chops. The cool 2002 vintage adds extra aromatics – even the palate tastes of sweet perfumed goodness – and a mighty fine structure.

Enjoyed over two nights, this wine showed hints of brilliance, but something was holding it back – couldn’t quite put my finger on it – almost nothing in it really, but I suspect the cork was having an impact on this particular bottle. Again, I’m going to downplay it, because the wine was still an excellent Margaret River cab. Loved it.
Value: A web search reveals this wine was released at $35, which is higher than I’d guessed, but not unreasonable. I taste wines as ‘blind’ as possible so I had no idea of pricing, or other factors for that matter.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Cork – a clean example, although may have been faintly influential on the wine
Source: Cellar

Producer: Sandalford Wines – The Swan Valley vineyards were established in 1840, while plantings at the Margaret River site began in 1970. Owned by the Prendiville family since 1991. Winemaker – Paul Boulden.
Region: Margaret River.
Site: Some of the oldest Margaret River vines – 30 years in 2002 – nestled in the famed Wilyabrup valley.
Vintage: Cool and dry and late. A beauty if you’re chasing age and structure. Some very fines wine were made, although many were sleepers.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2004 Chatto Shiraz

I found this at the back of the ‘drinking cupboard’ – the cupboard reserved for wine slated for drinking at the next available opportunity. I can’t remember when the hell it got in there but it was obviously some time ago because I have no idea where it came from and it was all dusty.

A ruby, brick red colour, it attacks nervously with varnishy, charry oak, before settling down to flaunt fruit aromas of black plum, dark cherry and redcurrant. There’s typical pepper – black and white – licorice, chocolate, mocha, and some lovely aromatics of lavender and lanolin. On the savoury side there’s dark meats, mushroom and scorched earth. Medium bodied, the oak is strong (and French I think) but doesn’t tip too far.

On the palate it is equal parts murky dark and clean vibrancy, still exhibiting primary fruit flavours. Black plum and cherry again, pepper, and add blackberry and christmas cake to the list. Still a grippy wine, and taut, until an hour or two of air when it begins to fully open and express itself.

Enjoying it still as it continues to evolve in the glass. It still feels like a baby and makes me wonder how many of these styles of wines are actually cellared appropriately, given their release dates of some years earlier.
Value: A web search reveals this wine was released at $35, which is higher than I’d guessed, but not unreasonable. I taste wines as ‘blind’ as possible so I had no idea of pricing, or other factors for that matter.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Unknown!

Producer: Chatto Wines – Jim Chatto’s own label established in 2000. He now works for Peppertree as far as I can tell. Not sure if he’s still making wines under Chatto label. Anyone?
Region: Hunter Valley, Pokolbin.
Site: 40 – 50 year-old vines.
Vintage: A mild lead-in to vintage until a heat spike in Jan/Feb. Late Feb rain stuffed a few producers but those who picked before the deluge were rewarded.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2010 Patrick Of Coonawarra ‘Wrattonbully’ Riesling

A little break from the blog due to work demands, but here I am back on my feet with a left-field Coonawarra Riesling. A quickie follows..

Colour of light straw. A punchy, lemony fresh nose hits you from the outset, some steely-ness and chalky limestone minerality. Phenolics showing a little but in good check. Sweet aromatics of rosewater, some lime rind, musk and then the fruit spectrum opens up to peach and quince/pear. There’s some bassy notes yet the wine still dances lightly across the nose.

The palate is juicy lemon – a real fruit salad opens up – tropical even. It’s creamy, not crunchy – no piercing acidity here. Flavours of lychee, dragon-fruit, peach, green apple, pear and quince again. It straddles the wire between the high delicate and the low bass notes triumphantly. Is there some sweetness on the palate? Dunno. But if there’s some residual, it’s well handled. The palate lingers nicely, and despite a low 11% alcohol it has good carry.

It’s a goodie. I’m not overly familiar with Wrattonbully Riesling but from this example it looks like the variety handles itself well in the region, if not overshadowed by the reds.
Value: $26 – not outrageous, but up there. This wine is a double trophy winner at the Limestone Coast Wine Show, so it has some notches in it’s belt.
Tasted: August 2011
Closure: Screwcap
Source: Gift

Producer: Patrick Of Coonawarra – – Owner/Winemaker Patrick Tocaciu.
Region: Wrattonbully, a relatively new wine region situated between Padthaway and Coonawarra.
Site: Rich limestone, terra rossa.