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McLaren Vale Wine – Ducks in a Row


Ducks in a Row Cellar Door

There is a relatively new cellar door in town near Port Willunga just off South Road.  If you are in the area on a weekend between 12 and 4 then I would suggest this is one to check out.  Ducks in a Row comes from the stylings of Glen and Amanda Pritchard and their enthusiastic dog Roger.  Glen is a very experienced winemaker who has worked in senior roles for the big guys in the industry and he has taken the opportunity to make his own wine from little known or alternate varieties and to let the wines speak for themselves instead of using massive amounts of oak character.  Amanda markets the wines and is involved with a number of wine and food initiatives.

The Ducks in a Row branding comes from a painting by Mirka Mora with parts of this painting being used on each of the wine labels (other than the Pandora).

Their cellar door is rustic and has a charm that makes me want to sit down and just talk about stuff for hours (which, if my memory is correct, I probably did on my visit).

Now the wines……..

2012 Vermentino ($25)

Mainly from Heathcote (Victoria) grapes and made in McLaren Vale.  The wine screams stone fruit from the glass even before it gets anywhere near ones nose.  The flavours are soft and subtle with a really interesting textural feel.  The texture probably comes from the natural ferment being kept on solids for an extended period of time.  This textual feel gives a weight to the wines finish – more than the “flavours”.  The structure of the wine screams out for food and can think of nothing better than scallops or oysters,

2011 Fiano ($25)

The Heathcote connection continues with the Fiano.  The grapes were naturally fermented and the wine spend 12 months sitting on the less.  No oak was used in the making so the wine spent the 12 months in stainless steel vats.  Another interesting point was the wine had no sulphur compounds added until bottling.  I find this wine so different again to main stream.  The wine is almost oily to start with and has a really impressive acid backbone.  Not a fruit driven wine I get basil and pine nut notes.  Again the food wine and the oiliness leads me towards char grilled sardines – my mouth is watering just thinking about this combination.

Ducks in a Row Pandora’s Amphora

2011 Pandora’s Amphora ($80)

Heathcote fruit again – a mixture of Vermentino, Fiano, Moscato Giallo all co-fermented naturally in a single amphora.  The Amphora is a clay vessel that has been traditionally used in some Italian wineries and seems to be making a surge in interest here.  I do not know if the Amphora makes a difference in the wine product, but at the very least is sounds good.  This wine was not tasted and the was just over 500 bottles produced.

Ducks in a Row red wines

2011 Nero D’Avola ($25)

Described by Glen (winemaker) as this wine is like “Pinot on steroids”.  The wine has only seen large old oak and spent considerable time on skins and lees – all in the name of complexity.  The theme here is to let the grapes do the talking as the wood plays such a minor part.  Interestingly the wine was served, on a mild day, slightly chilled.  The dark cherry fruits abound but there is a dried herb background to provide a savory wine with good clean acid but the textural feel to the wine makes the interest.  Only the second wine of this variety I have tried but I look forward to more.  Again a food wine – maybe with char grilled octopus.

2011 Temranillo Graciano Mataro ($25)

All McLaren Vale fruit with the Tempranillo (40%) from Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards, the Graciano (40%) from Battle of Bosworth and the Mataro (10%) from a grower in Willunga.  This wine has seen no new oak so again it is all about the grapes.  Redness comes from all over the place here – initially red currents and then into cherries.  I also get the distinct hint of cloves.  There is plenty of structure here which I suspect comes from the addition of the Mataro.  I would like to drink this with a food that has flavour as well as texture to match – maybe some chorizo sausages.

2010 Straight Up Mataro ($25)

From a vineyard near Willunga (in the McLaren Vale region) and was matured in 7 year old oak.  Again the wine making direction to show off the fruit and not just load it up with obvious oak tannins.  I get vanilla plums (maybe a plum stored in a jar with a vanilla bean) but there is also a hint of blue character that is most intriguing.  The grape tannins work to provide a well structured wine that has length on it’s side.  I am going to keep a few bottles to see how this wine will age.

McLaren Vale Wine – Vale Cru Winetasting

There is one tasting I look forward to each year.  Due to circumstances beyond my control I have not been able to attend the last 2 years so I was looking forward to the November 2012 Vale Cru wine tasting held on the grounds of he Victory Hotel.

This year things were different.  I had tickets and transport organised (I was not going to taste and drive) plus I was attending with 2 friends from Melbourne who were visiting McLaren Vale for the first time.  As both were wine drinkers I could not think of a better way of showing them what McLaren Vale could do than showing the wines of the Vale Cur members.  As a bonus there was a chocolate and cheese tasting added just for good measure.

Vale Cru winemakers and tasters in their natural habitat

The sun was shining and the wind was blowing straight off the ocean – the combination was good for the punters but the wind was a little troublesome for the winery staff who were trying to keep tasting notes etc on the tables.  All in all the stage was set for an excellent afternoon.  On arrival we received a wine glass (which we were able to keep) a plank of wood (which was a modified oak barrel stave) that was notched so to hold the wine glass, a pencil and a wine list.  There was also an opportunity to go into a competition to match chocolate and the wines available for tasting.  I was also impressed with the cheese and cut french stick breads that were available.  There were impressive but I was there for the wine.  The list of small wineries that make up the Vale Cru is impressive with:-

Brash Higgins


Waywood Wines

Battle of Bosworth

Lazy Ballerina


Five Geese

Geddes Wines

Noon Wines

La Curio

Old Faithful

Vigna Bottin

Samuels Gorge

J&J Wines



 Before I talk about some of the wines, I should discuss what the Vale Cru is all about.  It is my opinion that the heart and sole of any wine producing region is the small producer.  The people that strive for above all else quality.  It is with these producers that the gems are produced.  These wines are not the usual liquor store fodder – the liquor stores seem to have shelves full of the same old stuff that has been generated from the big factory wineries that dominate the Australian wine scene.  These small producers invariability have the one thing that sets them apart – the love that goes into making these wines.

Each winery had 3 wines available for tasting and as many of these wineries are very familiar to me then I knew many of the wines.  There was too many wines for me to taste them all however there were many highlights from the wines we tasted – some notes below.

2011 Battle of Bosworth Chardonnay ($25)

I applaud the use of oak here.  Oak plays a support role and s not overpowering, but this support is important for quality Chardonnay.  The melon and peach fruits are here as well and I was also impressed with the cad levers in this wine.  The crispness found here is not always found in white wines that have gone through Malolactic acid fermentation thus I suspect this wine has little or no secondary fermentation.  There are a number of very poor Chardonnay wines available today but this wine is certainly not one of them.  I would prefer this over a Sauvignon Blanc any day.

2007 Rudderless Wines Malbec ($35)

Not a usual varietal wine but the blackness of the fruit comes through really well.  If you get a chance then check it out.

2010 Tim Geddes Experimental Grenache ($33)

Readers of this blog know I enjoy a good Grenache and this is one of them.  The redness and fruit power is enticing.  Let it drag you in!

2010 Five Geese Grenache Shiraz ($24)

Vibrant fruit with a side order of cedar oak.  The black and red fruit shine through at different times when you taste this wine which provides the wine drinker some intrigue.

2008 Ulithorne Frux Frugis Shiraz ($45)

This wine is all about the liquorice.  Classy McLaren Vale Shiraz that will last for a long time – if you let it.

2009 Brash Higgins “SHZ” Shiraz ($37)

This wine just surprises with the mouth finish of blood orange.  One may expect this from a Nebbiolo but not a Shiraz.  Another wine that is classy and different – the essence of what the Vale Cru is all about.

Brash Higgins Wines

Purchasing McLaren Vale Wines – Backyard Shed Cru #7 Tasting Videos

Well I finally got all the Backyard Shed Cru #7 tasting videos and I thought I had better share them with you.

Remember you can join the Backyard Shed Cru via the Taste McLaren Vale Membership page (click here).











Purchasing McLaren Vale Wines – Backyard Shed Cru Red Pack #7

Every 6 months Taste McLaren Vale puts together a six pack of wines to provide the members or The Backyard Shed Cru. Check out the membership site here.  Anybody can sign up for the half yearly delivery of a Backyard Shed Cru six pack for only $140 delivered to your door.

Now for the release of our Red Pack #7.

Backyard Shed Cru Red Pack #7


2010 La Curio “The Original Zin” Primotivo

The Zin tag comes from the grape variety – Zinfandel.  This is a variety that has significant plantings in America and Europe.  The vineyard where the grapes for this wine came from is on California Road and is owned and tendered by an American born.

This wine initially shows cherry characters but after a while is shows a darker side with plums and layered tannins.  The tannins are multi dimensional and I suspect they originate from the ripe grape seeds, stalks as well as the usual oak treatments.  The oak was there but not dominant.  All in all a great package and aimed at a good price point.   The juicy nature of this wine would be a great match to a feed of Chinese food – you know with sizzling Mongolian beef and black bean chicken.

2010 La Curio “New World Order” Sangiovese

Sangiovese has a reputation for being very tannic – this wine has drying tannins but it is not over done.  There is definitely good cherry but the most endearing things in this wine was the savoury nature and the lovely teeth drying tannins.  This is a wine that screams out food and for me I am thinking a good Aussie BBQ.

2010 J&J Vineyards Shiraz

I was looking forward to this wine – from a great vintage and an organic producer.  J&J have recently been given full organic status.  I was not disappointed as this is a classical McLaren Vale Shiraz.  The aromas show plum fruit mixed in an envelope of spices (star anise, cinnamon and cardamom) and is dominated by licorice.  The flavours continue with the same theme except there is no dominance here.  The fresh plums, licorice, chocolate, spices (this time with pepper included), tannins that are not over the top and a good acid finish that refreshes the mouth making it ready for the next mouthful.

2006 Sellicks Hill Wines Valletta (Grenache Shiraz)

I have been doing this wine sales thing for a couple of years and this is one of my favorites.  It appeared in an earlier pack but I just wanted to share this one with you again.  Initially worried about Grenache being in oak for 3 years but I should not have been – only older oak was used and really well looked after.  The 3 years in bottle have also been good to it.  I get lots of spice here – cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon.  The wine has been 6 years in making it to you so do it a favor and let it breath for a while before consuming – it will be worth the wait.  There is a fusion of fruits almost as secondary flavours and such depth where the flavours just linger in your mouth.  There is strength and complexity here so bring on a slab of Beef Wellington.

2010 Kay Brothers Basket Press Mataro

There is a sense of history here with the naming of this variety.  McLaren Vale seems to name this variety Mourvedre.  Kay Brothers has a long history of growing this variety – mainly as a fortified wine base.  I was speaking to Colin Kay about a year ago and we were discussing that there was a workshop on emerging varieties and they did a blind tasting that had, amongst others, a Mourvedre.  The discussion was about everything old, was new again.  There is a changing use of Mourvedre.  It was not long ago that it was only seen as a blending variety, but since 2009 there has been a steady increase in Mourvedre used as a varietal variety.

In this case the aromas were dominated by cherries and juicy plums and just a hint of dry oregano as the point of difference.  The flavours are dominated firstly by the same cherry and plums – they seemed to be darker in nature as the wine opened up.  There is a hit of grainy tannins that works well in this context.  There is some meatiness and sense of violets with that hint of that dried oregano these are the points of difference that Mataro can make.  I enjoy these differences and I think you will too.

2010 Bellevue Estate Shiraz

The plum and blackberry characters are well balanced with the oak and the natural acids – they all produce a wine with a mouthful of a textural wine. This wine is one to check out when the bottling shock has settled as at this time it looks like they have hit the right notes. I would enjoy this with slightly chared BBQ’d meats.

McLaren Vale Wine – Bellevue Estate

In some ways Corey Vandeleur was destined to make wine.  His parents owned the McLaren Vale local pub until he was a teenager.  He worked at Magleri’s, Hardys Tintara winery and had a stint overseas in California.  His dream started with using some cuttings from Maglieri’s vineyards to plant a 10 acre vineyard just off the Main Road across from the McLaren Vale Visitors Centre.

Only fruit from his vineyard goes into Bellevue Estate wines.  The winery is in front of the vineyard and Corey seems to approach his wines in a minimal handling way.  Each time the wine is handled (eg pumped) some flavor can be striped from the wine – thus not not making the best wine he can.

There is no cellar door at the winery, however one can try the wine at The Bahn (a restaurant also on McLaren Vale’s main street and owned by Cory’s brother, Ben).  I have now tried the last 3 vintages of the resultant wine and I can attend that each vintage has been an improvement  from the previous one.  This wine was awarded 5 stars at a Winestate Magazine new release tasting.

2010 Bellevue Estate Shiraz ($20)

Straight away the aromas showed a depth one does not normally find on a $20 wine.  As you expect there is plum fruit but the aromas of white pepper, mixed spice and a little vanilla (from the proportion of American oak).  The bottle I was tasting from had been open about 2 hours and a slight hint of musk was showing – I suggest that with increased breathing this musk could become more prevalent.

As with the aromas, the flavors shown depth – in this case some of the black fruits such as black cherry and blackberry with just a hint of blue fruit thrown in.  lots and lots of mocha chocolate dominates the mid and back palate.   The American and French oak influences are obvious and the tannins are drying, neither are over powering but it makes me think this wine will will be at it’s best in around 3 to 5 years.

The wine begs for food – big flavor food such as a beef rago and with a little patience one will have an absolutely enjoyable experience drinking a bottle or two.  At this price and quality the wine is absolutely a “should buy” from one of McLaren Vale’s smallest wineries.

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