Author Archives: shane

McLaren Vale Wine – 2010 Scarce Earth Shiraz Project

The Scarce Earth Project was born from the passionate and creative minds of Dudley Brown (Inkwell) and Adrian Kenny (contract winemaker) to show off what they understood very well.  McLaren Vale produces great Shiraz wines plus the varied geology and micro climates of the region produces such different expressions of the same grape variety.  The vision moved into action ready for last year where 2009 wines were released.  How does a wine get to be part of this project.  Well McLaren Vale wineries can submit barrel samples of wine for a first pass review by a tasting panel of McLaren Vale regional experts.  If these wines are deemed acceptable then they get tasted twice more – before and after bottling.  Oh and by the way the wines are to be from single geology (typically single vineyards) and show off the fruit definition and not the use of oak.

Last year the 2009 wines were released in somewhat of a hurry where not all wineries had the labeling ready plus I thought the marketing was also hurried.  I also considered the wines to generally be over oaked and this did not seem to marry with the intent of the Project.  Well what a difference a year make the 2010 Scarce Earth Project Shiraz wines were released to the public in a tasting held at the old Tatachilla Winery to some considerable fanfare and the wines were just so different.  Yes the 2010 vintage was a significantly better vintage that 2009 but the treatment of the wines seemed so, so different as well.  With the 28 wines that made it through to the Project list I did not consider any to be over Oakes.  Sure some had more oak than others but I did not once feel like I was drinking a glass of “splinters”.

As a passionate McLaren Vale-ite the offerings from the Scarce Earth Shiraz Project made me feel all warm inside – not just from the alcohol but I can now see this scale of work can only increase the standing of McLaren Vale to the whole of the wine world.  Now if we can just do something similar with Grenache……….

I will be reviewing all of the 2010 Scarce Earth Shiraz Project wines in the coming weeks.  With each review I will be mainly discussing the differences between the wines and not that all of them have plum character.  I hope you enjoy the comments and I welcome any of your comments as well.

Scarce Earth Shiraz Project Tasing Event

Cradle of Hills Row 23 Shiraz ($55)

From a new player in the world of McLaren Vale wine with their patch of dirt in the Sellicks area.  When I initially tried this wine the aromas were quite closed, but I was so surprised so I went back and found a totally different experience.  The second time I got the expected plum but there was the spiciness that is Paprika and a finish on the nose that was almost meaty.  There were tannins here but I thought they were more skins and seed tannins than wood based tannins.  There is the floral-ness that is violets and oh what length.  What a start both for the vineyard and the tasting.

Waywood Wines Reserve Shiraz ($45)

Made from grapes fom the same vineyard as the Cradle of Hills wine and so different.  The aromas were based around a lifted cherry with perfume and hints of cedar.  The flavors surprised me – not for the plums, not for the acid inspired length, but for the citrus zest oil character that left the taster right on the back palate.

Vigna Bottin Wines Shiraz

From a vineyard next to the Aldinga Airport, the grapes have imparted the lifted aromas of dark fresh plums with hints of violets.  The wine is all about the fruit – stewed plums all the way.

Shirvington The Redwind McLaren Shiraz ($85)

From their Willinga vineyard and oh bring on the spice.  I get aromas that. Can only be considered to be depth of floral, peppered plums.  The spice continues on the palate with white pepper and plums plus just the right amount of oak that gives a finish of drying tannins.

Halifax Per Se Block Shiraz ($50)

I am going to have to say that this was my favorite wine from this tasting.  Aromas of black and concentrated fruits.  In terms of flavors I got fresh fruit compote – you know all the fruits of fresh plums, blackberries and cherries that transformed into a silky concentration on the mid palate and a subtle spice finish.  In a word – Yum!

Fork in the Road ($15)

The first surprise from this label (that I had not heard of before) was the price.  Made from Sand Road fruit the wine showed the first hints of American oak for the afternoon.  The American oak sweetness came shining through on the nose with with an interesting perfume.  Then came the treat – a really good fruit and oak balance with black plum sweetness.

McLaren Vale Wine Functions – Unearthing Grandfathers (DeadReds) Wine Dinner

Charlie-Helen Robinson had the vision – lets have a wine dinner with a group of people from Adelaide coming to a venue in McLaren Vale to celebrate the knowledge and experience that our grandparents have and what this role means to on-coming generations.  In particular in the McLaren Vale wine scene and what role this older generation means to today’s wine industry.

Within what seemed like a short period of time the big day was upon us and the Cellar at The Victory Hotel was descended upon by a 30 strong group of keen and enthusiastic people from diverse backgrounds all brought together by Charlie.  Great job Charlie!

The Victory Hotel Cellar

The venue was well set up and when the bus arrived it was all go.  The first course soon arrived.  The chicken and seafood was matched well with a 2008 Karra Yerta Eden Valley Riesling, that was full of limes – particularly lime zesty.  The second course of rabbit pie came with a 2010 Kay Brothers Mataro.  2010 was an excellent vintage and this wine was no exception with flavours of cherry and plum with hints of violets and a meatiness that I tend to find with this variety.  The tannins were a little grainy but this is part of what Mataro is usually about.  Without letting Colin Kay, the current head of Kay Brothers, finish his rabbit pie he was standing up and sharing with us some of the rich history of the Mataro grape in Australia plus the even richer history of the Kay family in McLaren Vale.  We were all delighted with his stories and also delighted that Colin was willing to share with us copies of his family daily records from the late 1890’s.  These documents had me convinced on how well their fortified sales were back then – only to be told that Tawny was the name of one of the family cows and the volume mentioned was not the volume of Tawny “Port” sold but how much milk Tawny (the cow) produced daily.

Colin Kay at Unearthing Grandfathers

The third course was for me a steak and I enjoyed the Rudderless 2006 Grenache which is made from the vines surrounding the hotel.  As a fan of McLaren Vale Grenache I was looking forward to and was not disappointed.   The perfumed red fruits combined with fruit strength and mid weight tannins was just what we were looking for.

A wine options game with 2 wines was an interesting venture during the night.  Each person was given their own stash a fake Deadred Dollars and were able to bet on 1 of 3 options for the category of what vintage did the wine come from, what grape variety the wine was made from and lastly what winery the wine came from.  There were 2 wines that were covered to ensure nobody could cheat.  The wines ended up being a Zinfandel from the Inkwell stable from 2009 and 2010.  These wines are so different and so it was interesting to see the reaction when people were told the 2 wines came from the same winery, same vineyard and same winemaker.

The Vintage Cheddar with dried muscatels, quince paste and crackers went down a treat mixed with the Graham Stevens Wines 2010 Vintage Shiraz.  This wine is just essence of Shiraz mixed with clean spirit.  It is interesting that the Vintage fortified style is not a big seller however almost all in the room were delighted with the finishing wine of the night.

A big thanks to all that attended that made the night something to remember but special mention must be made for Colin Kay for the generous giving of his time and experiences, for Ron who was the bus driver and had to sit and watch most of us indulge in good wines and to Charlie for bringing the night together.

I already look forward to the next Unearthing Dinner……

McLaren Vale Wine – Vale Cru Twilight Tasting

On the evening of April 14th I had the pleasure of attending the Vale Cru tasting at the McLaren Vale Piazza.
For a measly $10 fee I was able to attend a function where there we number of small McLaren Vale wineries (some not having a cellar door) were each showcasing 2 wines.  A local band, The Yearlings, were playing in the background and locally made Italian sausages were a cooking.  It was hard to ask for more.
I know most of the wineries and more importantly the people from these wineries and for me the evening was just like a social event where I could catch up with friends and talk about their wine.  What was not to enjoy?
I must admit that when the idea for the Piazza in the main street of McLaren Vale was first mentioned I was skeptical on how was the facility going to be used.  I had no issue with how the area looks but I was not sure it was money well spent.  Well after this evening I have been won over.  The facility was great with excellent use of space and levels – even the acoustics of the band worked well.  Speaking of the band, I would recommend The Yearlings for any such function.  For me the big winner was the volume.  We all heard the band and was able to enjoy their music while still being able to have a conversation and not having to shout or strain to be heard – a big tick from me on this one guys.
In no particular order we were able to enjoy wines from the following wineries:-

Lazy Ballerina

Waywood Wines

Maximus Wines

Samuels Gorge

Alpha Box and Dice

J&J Vineyards

Brash Higgins

Settlement Wines

Five Geese

Geddes Wines

Old Faithful Project

Rudderless Wines


Vigna Bottin


The memorable wines for me from the night (again in no particular order) was:-
Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola

I have been watching this wine from early days.  I spoke to Brad Hickey (aka Brash Higgins) about this variety a number of years ago.  I was even offered to help in picking the grapes for this wine (unfortunately I was not able to make it) and I even saw the wines sitting in their clay Amphora Pots in the winery – so I was very keen to see what the wine was like.  I would firstly have to say different, for me a good different.  The wine showed lavender and citrus peel notes (probably mandarin) with clean cherry fruit character and a very interesting textural mouthfeel.  This texture really dragged me in as it was so different.  I suspect the texture comes from the wine being left on skins for many months and provides an almost chewy feel.  This wine provides the drinker with a quandary as the wine is of a lighter style but there is a lot of complexity- bring on the lamb shanks.
J&J Vineyards Reserve Shiraz

Plums and spice and all things nice that is what McLaren Vale Shiraz is made of.  This wine shows depth of character but is not a heavy tannic wine – not too heavy but just right to drink now.
2010 Waywood Wines Nebbiolo

The citrus notes one expects from Nebbiolo Thant I find so interesting in a red wine.  There was chewie tannins that probably more time to settle down.  I will be interested to see how it goes.
A big thanks must go out to Gill from Fall From Grace who organized the night.

McLaren Vale Grape Condiment – Zimmermann Wines Verjuice

A quick quizz – what is the oldest known condiment?

The answer is – crushed mustard seeds mixed with crushed unfermented grape juice.

It is speculated that the unfermented grape juice would have had to be high in acid to mix with the mustard.

Zimmermann Verjuice

Verjuice is the juice from unripened grapes that has not been fermented and thus this early condiment base was Verjuice.  This juice can be used for many culinary devices.  I use it as part of a salad dressing (mixed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar), sauce or gravy base (use it to deglase the pan after cooking meat and then reduce for a jus or gravy) or a baste when roasting meats.  I have also used it as a drink base mixed with soda water to produce a very refreshing summer drink.

How does it taste, I hear you ask.  Well this one is made from Chardonnay grapes.  It has the aroma of apples – both Granny Smiths and Jonathon’s but more like an apple pie as opposed to the fresh fruit.  As expected the high level of acid dominates the palate with a slight sour taste (like unripe apples) and just a hint of sugar.  The palate is left clean and refreshed after tasting it.

Maggie Beer has raised the profile of Verjuice and this offering will work well over a number of uses.  At the going price around $15 for a 500mL bottle I think everybody should have a bottle of this in their fridge.

Purchase McLaren Vale Wines – Backyard Shed Cru Pack

The web site has a membership offered where a pack of 6 wines from six different small artisan winemakers from McLaren Vale.  These wines are selected to be a show case of these small winemakers as well as McLaren Vale.  The members who can sign up easily on the site (check out the link here) and will automatically receive a six pack every six months – freight free.  Check out this offer plus other membership benefits here.

These packs have been dubbed – Backyard Shed Cru packs.  The name comes from the backyard nature of a number of the winemakers.

Alternatively these six packs can be purchased (without the membership discount) from the web site here.

The current Backyard Shed Cru Pack has the following wines:-

2009 Grancari Estate Dry Grown Organic Grenache

2010 Waywood Wines Quattro Vini

2008 Danshi Rise Shiraz

2006 Braydun Hill Single Vineyard Premium Shiraz

2009 Pikkara “McMurtrie” Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Graham Stevens Wines Liqueur Muscat

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