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Category: Wine

It is in May each year for the last few years that Graham Stevens Wines have their birthday and this year has some extra significance as it is Graham’s 75th birthday early June.

Roadside View of Graham Stevens Wines

Before I review their wines I have to admit that Graham Stevens Wines is a favourite of mine and when I get asked for wineries to visit I always suggest a visit to see Graham.  There are 2 main reasons for liking this winery.  Firstly, I think Graham is an excellent winemaker and has been making wine since at least 1973.  Graham really understands what is happening in the vineyard and what will happen to the grapes and the wine.  This was really evident in 2011 when the cool vintage conditions caused many issues with ripening and disease pressure – many winemakers had not seen such conditions but Graham had seen it before in the 70’s and knew what to do.  Secondly, Graham is a truly a wonderful person.  Shown when anybody visits his cellar door he greets you with an outstretched hand ready for a friendly handshake.

Graham Stevens and Friend

2014 Fleurieu Chardonnay ($16)

It is so good to see a lightly wooded Chardy that is just nice to drink.  Peach and melons with a slight oak influence and a tang finish.  Show me this wine next to a Sauvignon Blanc and I would pick this every time.  Relatively low in alcohol (12.9%) and the wine would be at home with food or on it’s own.  Well done Graham.

2013 Clare Valley Riesling ($16)

Made in a soft easy drinking style – nothing in this wine is over the top.  The flavours are light and the acid level is relatively low for a Clare Riesling.  Just drink it up.

2013 “The Cousins” Grenache Rose ($15)

Fresh and aromatic (strawberries) – this is why Grenache is suited to making this style.

2013 Fleurieu Tempranillo ($18)

A new variety for Graham – it is good to see he playing with new varieties.  The outcome is a bit different – showing the usual earthy and mushroom character and even though a bit lighter than the other reds there is an interesting dry finish, but much more up front fruit character than I usually find with this variety.  I would never presume to second guess Graham but for my palate this wine needs another year in the bottle to see how the wine really stands up.

2011 Graham’s Vat 52 ($18)

One of my favourite wine styles from Graham – a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Cabernet.  As far as my research can tell this is the only winery that makes this blend – and I am so glad he does.  Yes I am a big fan of McLaren Vale Grenache and this blend shows why Grenache dominate blends are worth checking out.  I found this wine changed in the glass over about 20 minutes.  I first got the black characters expected from the Cabernet and Shiraz but over time the redness of the Grenache came through.  The good thing about the blend is the structure the Shiraz and Cabernet provides – and  makes a better wine for it.

2010 Stevens Family Shiraz ($30)

Good quality McLaren Vale Shiraz mixed with good American oak – what is not to like.  Plums, all spice and liquorice – Yum.

2010 Fleurieu Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)

I am not a big Cabernet drinker – I mean that I do not normally drink Cabernet given a choice.  This wine is one Cabernet that could change my view.  Obviously good clean fruit with the expected blackcurrent and a hint of mint.  This wine is all about elegance and is highlighted by the soft but long finish of the wine on the palate.

2014 Vintage Fortified Shiraz ($25)

After successful releases in 2010 and 2014, I was interested in this new release.  I can tell you I was not disappointed plus like the previous 2 releases the wine was so different to those that came before it.  As usual lots a clean fruit and clean spirit.  The fruit is all about Shiraz – this time I got lots of cherries instead of plums.  This is definitely a wine to keep you warm over winter.

The Old Mans Liqueur Grenache ($25)

I have had this wine before and it will not be the last.  The original home for Grenache – fortified wines from McLaren Vale.  Good clean spirit and lovely sweet red fruits.

NV Liqueur Muscat ($20)

Luscious sweet fruit with a thick viscosity effect with coating the mouth.  The alcohol is not obvious which just adds to the enjoyment.

2014 Aurora ($20)

A medium sweet sherry style made from the pressings of the Chardonnay.  Clean spirit that is hot on the palate mixed with a ginger finish.

Check out my summary of the McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Project and a number of the wines from the 2012 intake – click here

Five Views Vineyard Creepers Cut Out Shiraz

Haselgrove “The Ambassador” Single Vineyard Shiraz ($85)

The ambassador is Les Burdett (of Adelaide Oval curator fame) and all profits from the sales of this wine goes to charity.  The wine lacks aroma – as I found with many of this years Scarce Earth offerings.  As it should the soft fruit plays the main role here but drops away quite quickly.

Hugh Hamilton Black Blood III Shiraz ($70)

Aromas of fresh plums with an almost perfume lift.  Lovely clean shiraz fruit with a pepper lingering finish.  Crying out for food and another glass.

Hugh Hamilton Black Blood II Shiraz ($70)

Across the aroma and flavour profiles this wine is all about the fruit.  Wonderful balance with some blue character and a tobacco and spice finish.

Hugh Hamilton Black Blood I Shiraz ($70)

From the Bay of Biscay clays next to the cellar door that produced a wine with black tar and fruit strength but an elegant balance.

Battle of Bosworth Bradens Shiraz ($45)

Another wine from Bay of Biscay clay but so different to the one above.  There is a real fruit character with the aroma and this fruit comes through on the palate as well.  I liked the tannin structure and the spice finish.

Vinrock Shiraz ($55)

The aromas are all about earthy chocolate – don’t worry this works.  I thought this wine had the most tannins compared to the wines tasted so far.  Balanced and dark – just needs food!

Five Views Creepers Cut Out Shiraz ($39)

This is my favourite wine of the group so far.  Aromas of choc mint layer wrapped around a fresh plum.  Not a lot of oak but a real sage hit with the clean plum fruit expected from Shiraz.

Penny’s Hill Footprint Shiraz ($65)

Again minimal aroma here.  Interesting fruit character here – chalky or slatey with a hint of smoke that works well with the bold fruits.

Coriole Willunga Shiraz ($55)

There is a blackness here that indicates a fruit strength.  Rosemary makes an appearance here as well.

Coriole Galaxidia Shiraz ($55)

There is a combination of good fruit, earthy mushrooms and dried herbs – lots to like here.

 

Scarce Earth Project Tasting

Well it is that time of the year again – around Easter each year the Scarce Earth wines are getting ready for their 1st May release.  So what I hear you say is the Scarce Earth Project all about?  Well it is all about Shiraz and Shiraz in it’s purest form.  McLaren Vale is know for producing excellent Shiraz but there is no such thing as a typical McLaren Vale Shiraz because of the varied geology/soil types as well as the different climates.  Previously there has been attempts to classify sub regions of McLaren Vale – with various levels of success.  Now with the release of the Geology Map of McLaren Vale vineyards can be classified by their various soil and rock types.  The Scarce Earth Project is all about showing single vineyard Shiraz and being able to link the vineyard back to the geology type.  Then the brief is for minimalistic winemaking practices (particularly minimal oak influences) this way the Shiraz fruit can shine through and then the differences should reflect the differences in the geology and climate.

Not everybody is convinced but I find it interesting to taste wines from various vineyards almost next to each other and marvel on how different they can be.  Also I can see this concept being a way to showcase McLaren Vale Shiraz and that has got to be a good thing.

Anyway here are some of the wines with  ore to follow next time.

Cradle of Hills Row 23 Shiraz ($45)

Aromas of cold tea and lavender make this an unusual offering from this group.  The lavender continues onto the palate with some really good fruit definition along with a hint of fruit sweetness and an envelope of tannins that brings all the flavours together.

Fork in the Road Shiraz ($39)

After missing out in 2011 it is good to see Joan’s vineyard back again.  I enjoyed the fruit definition with lots of dried sage with lingering effect.

d’Arenberg Tyche’s Mustard Single Vineyard Shiraz ($99)

Quite aromatic with lots of pepper.  I thought the fruit was a little short on the back palate and a green stalky flavour that I do not enjoy.

d’Arenberg The Eight Iron Single Vineyard Shiraz ($99)

This wine is all about the bold strong palate structure with the plum and chocolate one expects from McLaren Vale Shiraz with just a hint of green stalkyness.

d’Arenberg The Amaranthine Single Vineyard Shiraz ($99)

My favourite of the 3 dArry wines with a purple hue with a balance of tannins and ripe fruit and chocolate.

Shingleback Unedited Shiraz ($70)

A wine with strength and elegance with both red and black fruits showing through.  Each taste of this wine left me wanting more – certainly a good recommendation.

Maxwell Wines Eocene Ancient Earth Shiraz ($45)

Aromas of limestone or slate with loads of red fruits.  The flavours keep on with the red fruits – it is almost juicy on the front and balanced but drying tannins on the finish.  This wine screams out to be consumed with food – bring on some pork spare ribs.

Vintage is a magical time of year with the hopes and dreams of the 12 month cycle there for all to reap.  This growing year has been challenging to say the least.  During flowering the vines we buffeted with high winds – causing many flowers to break and thus not forming grapes.  So from early days the general view was for a low tonnage harvest.  Then mid summer, 2 heat waves with periods of 40+ degrees caused concerns with vines shutting down and if without water causing concerns for the vines survival.  Then when a disaster seemed unavoidable a period of mild weather rolled in.  This mild period has really been the saviour.  Many wineries were concerned about having to pick everything at once – in most cases winery capacity is dependent on the usual variation of picking times for the various grape varieties an example is Shiraz is normally picked, fermented and pressed before Grenache is ready to be picked.  Then to add to the issues this vintage seems to have been some sort of boom for birds.  Discussing the effect of bird strike generally has indicated there is more loss of production by birds than most people have seen for many years.  My theory is that the food normally available for the birds was diminished during the heat waves during the summer.

With all this who would grow grapes!

Anyway the general view is low volume of wine but very happy with the quality.

Last vintage I got heavily involved but this year I was less active.  Still I managed to assist with crushing some Shiraz at Genders McLaren Park Wines plus picking Shiraz at Marius.

Machine Harvested Genders Shiraz

 

Genders “Crushing” system

Then hand picking at that wonderful Marius Vineyard.

Marius Picking

Note the bird strike – the birds plunge their beaks into a grape and suck a significant amount of the sweet juice.

Bird Strike

 

September 2oth 2013 – one of my favourite days of the year.  The International Grenache Day and McLaren Vale makes some excellent Grenache and Grenache based blends.  The concept behind International Grenache Day is to raise the profile of Grenache to the wine drinking punters.  Here in McLaren Vale, Grenache has a long history.  Grenache was found to be drought tolerant and could produce high cropping and flavoursome fortified wines.  As the transition from fortifies to table wines occurred Grenache still played it’s role, though not all would have known.  Many McLaren Vale wines were labelled as  Burgundy or Claret had significant amounts of the unknown blender called Grenache.  Even into the varietal phase Grenache was widely used – I hear stories that a Shiraz / Grenache blend would hit the bottlers and when the labels ran out for one wine (say a blend) they just changed the next label (say Shiraz).  Then the label integrity program was introduced and made such practices difficult.  However, even today one can label their wine Shiraz and have up to 15% of something else in it.  Over this time of change Grenache has changed into a difficult sell to the average wine punter and out of favour.

For me the best Grenache shows red fruit character and has minimal oak influence – thus producing a velvety smooth but complex red wine that is not as heavy as the standard Shiraz or Cabernet.  Interestingly today there is a group of the wine drinking public that do not know much about Grenache – mainly as the “G” in a SGM blend.  I have shown a number of friends a good McLaren Vale Grenache (without telling them what the wine was).  Invariably the comments are around such things as what is that – it is not so heavy, but so nice.

This year I was lucky enough to be invited to a vertical tasting from Kay Brothers.  A vertical tasting is tasting the same wine from the same winery over a number of vintages.  Kay Brothers have been a bit of a favourite of mine over a long time – and part of that is their commitment to, what has become, my favourite grape variety.

Kay Bothers Vertical Grenache Tasting

All the Kay Brothers wines at this tasting have been basket pressed and the grapes have come from the vineyard block (planted in 1998) so the wines show the variations of the vintage and winemaking practices.

2006 Basket Pressed Grenache

The aromas were showing some oxidised almost the same rancio expected of a good fortified style.  Interestingly as the wine spent time in the glass there was a faint whiff of strawberries and spice.  The flavours were dominated by spiced and slightly burnt caramel – not flabby at all as it had good acid.

This wine intrigued me and I kept coming back to it many times over the tasting.  This wine challenged me and I really liked it.  I would have loved to try this with food.

2009 Basket Pressed Grenache

The wine exudes deepness in colour and in character.  In the mouth the wine really sung a different tune.  I got red liquorice, black liquorice and lots of “All Spice” with a black finish.  What really stuck me was the buttery aroma that developed in the glass.  A good offering from a really hot vintage.

2010 Basket Pressed Grenache

Red and spice and all things nice that is what this little red wine is made of.  Low tannins, redness all over the place (even liquorice) subtle spice and a floral intrusion.  A good example of what I call “Good McLaren Vale Grenache”.

2012 Basket Pressed Grenache

The most complex aromas of the group so far – all spice, red liquorice, fresh herbs (coriander and parsley), florals all mixed with the fresh red fruit compote.  The palate showed finesse but with good fruit intensity (particularly on the mid palate) and a drying finish (showing good but soft tannins).

It was a toss up for me between this and the 2006 as my preferred wines of the tasting.  Unfortunately the wine is sold out at the winery.

2013 Basket Pressed Grenache

The winemaker tried a few different things with this fruit.  Cool ferments and extended skin contact (4 weeks) produced a wine that had fennel and cold tea characteristics.  The flavours were more cherry based than the previous wines and some slightly grainy tannins – possibly from the extended skin contact.

I look forward to seeing this wine settle down a little before release some time later this year……


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