Category Archives: Wine

McLaren Vale Wines – Grancari Estate

The first thing you notice is this interesting vineyard as part of suburbia. This fully organic certified vineyard and winery is settled amongst the housing estates of Onkaparinga Hills and Hackham. One certainly does not expect a vineyard in this location.

Grancari Estate Vineyard

To my knowledge they are one of only two fully certified organic growers and wineries in McLaren Vale. Many others are in the certification regime but have not been fully certified as yet.

The owners Rino and Gretta bought the property after the 2008 Ash Wednesday bush fires and have set about enjoying one of their hobbies being growing and making wine. They have progressed this hobby to have their own processing facility and now a small scale bottling unit so they can be the masters of their own work. So much for a hobby with a reasonable vineyard holding of both Shiraz and Grenache vines, a storage shed and a winery that acts as a barrel store and an overflow for their bottled wine storage.

Grancari Estate Winery Equipment

The property had 6 acres of neglected Grenache vines and since they have had the property they have built their home and added 2 lots of Shiraz vines for a total of 6 acres of Shiraz. A 12 acre lot would be considered a full time allotment for many people. There is even a row of pine trees around the outside of their property partly to ensure there is no over spray of chemicals from the surrounding properties.

Grancari Estate Barrel Store

From this lot they produce between 50 and 60 tonnes of quality fruit, of which some is sold and the remainder is made into wine. At this stage their philosophy will be to make enough in the coming vintage to match what they have sold from the previous vintage.

And now their wines……..

2011Cheeky Wombat Rose

Not a lot of aromas here, even as the wine started to warm in the glass.  Lots of the red fruits one would expect from Grenache.  Lots of raspberries and an interesting mouthfeel that seems to be like a creamy texture.  I was expecting the wine to be reasonably sweet, and I was wrong (not for the first time) as the wine was off dry.  A pleasant drop that should be drunk young and cold on a summers day.
2010 Sparkling Grenache

Now I was excited – a Sparkling Red made from my favorite grape, Grenache.  I will admit I have never had a sparkling Grenache before.  I will admit my mouth was salivating directly before trying this wine.  I was not sure about it directly as the wine was a little dumb.  The carbon dioxide of the bubbles as the wine was opened masked any character of the wine.  My faith was quickly restored as the glass started to show the typical red fruits from Grenache plus the earthiness that is typical of sparkling red.  The palate not only showed the red fruits, but also some clean tannins (indicating good use of oak in the base wine).  I think I have found another sparkling red for this Christmas.
2009 Old Vine Grenache

What interesting aromas – I got a little fairy floss and pork fat to start with and then over time the Grenache redness came through in spades.  The wine also needed time to get the best from the flavors – please give the wine this time or use an aerator to move it along.  in this case time provided one with a fruit profile that has red and black fruit and has hints of spices and I am so glad that the wood takes a back room view to allow this fruit to do it’s thing.  At 16% alcohol the wine is not shy but there is lots of fruit here so the relatively high alcohol does not cause bitterness.  I had this with a variety of Thai dishes and I thoroughly enjoyed both.

Grancari Estate Vineyard

2008 Shiraz

Very aromatic that needs time to open up for it’s best.  Powerful dark fruit aromas with some interesting sweetness, which probably comes from American oak.  There is oak and spice mix here but the aromas are dominated by fruit.  Power continues in the flavor profiles and mainly fruit power.  The acid and tannins are soft and interestingly only a little spice.  The ripe fruit from the heat of the 2008 vintage takes over.  this wine showed it’s best when it was opened and left to breathe for over an hour – do yourself a favor and give this wine time.
2009 Shiraz

From the same vineyard as the above wine and so different – showing what variation different vintages can have on the final product.  This wine has class and is more restrained and elegant than the 2008 version.  The aromas show essence of Shiraz with some licorice oak hints.  The flavors are plums seeped in chocolate, licorice, cardamon, cinnamon with a restrained oak presence.  Needless to say that I like this wine!
2009 Low Preservative Shiraz

I have had a few low preservative wines before and I have not always enjoyed them.  I was not sure what I was going to find with this one.  I was so surprised!  This wine has lots of character – more than I was expecting.  Lots of dark fresh fruit aromas and quite a dark mixture of flavors.  Depth of the Shiraz plum with some oak – that was the difference.  Normally low or no preservative wines have no oak maturation (as wine may have problems with spoilage without this preservative).  I also got some Mocha and a spice mixture.  If you have issues with the preservative in red wine, but you like a full bodied red then this is one wine you should check out.

McLaren Vale Wines – Noon Winery

Noon Winery has been one of my favorite wineries since I first tasted their wines around 1985.  In those days it was owned by :the old man” and had Clive – one of the worlds gentlemen and one who had a photographic memory.  I have very fond memories of visiting the cellar door and spending time with a man small in stature who wore thick lensed glasses and a terry toweling hat.  Clive could also remember what you purchased last year and would ask how you enjoyed that specific wine.  I used to love to visit Noon’s as the last point of call for a McLaren vale winery visit and just give them all the money I had left and just asked “how many bottles could I get for this?”  Invariably we would walk away with more bottles than we had money for, but we always went back.  When I returned to McLaren Vale in September 2007 I found the Noon cellar door not open, the old man had sold the winery to his son (Drew) and that Clive had passed on to that great cellar door in the sky.

Today, the Noon Wines cellar door is only open for 3 weekends a year and their wine is sold under allocation to their mailing list members and to those brave soles who line up to see what limited allocation they could get.

Lineup to purchase Noon wines

The wines can be tasted at a wooden bench just outside the cellar, so there is something you can do while waiting to get into the winery.  Drew gets help from his friends to make what must be a hectic few days work as smoothly as possible.  Many of those who line up keep coming back each year and their request is constant – how can I get onto the mailing list?  Yes folks, there is a waiting list for the mailing list.  The Noon family go to great lengths to be fair to as many as possible.  If you do not purchase wines and are on their list, then you are politely asked to move on so others can benefit.  They request that the allocation available is per family and not per person – I have seen a few people smile as they exit the cellar with more than they really should have.

The wines are made from a couple of vineyards around the Noon Wines complex plus from long term growers based in Langhorne Creek.  The wines are consistently made with flavor in mind and Dew needs to be comfortable that the required flavor profile is available.  To do this the wines usually have relatively high alcohol – it is not unusual for a 15% alcohol Rose as an example.

For the scarcity of the wines (the wines usually are sold out after the members receive theirs and the first weekend at the cellar) and the reputation these wines are value for money.  I have seen many times a Noon wine up for sale at inflated prices compared to that at time of purchase.  Well for me these wines are mine, I may share some with you but I will never give them away or sell them for profit!

Noon Wines with the wonderful Winery Block Grenache

And after picking up my allocation and tasting the wines, here are my comments…..

2011 High Noon Rose

Back to the Grenache based wine and it it better for it.  At 14.2% alcohol this wine packs a smaller punch than most High Noon Rose wines of the last few years.  Fresh and lively aromas and flavors that are based on the red fruits of raspberry in particular.  Lovely and I will be looking to this as a food Rose style compared to many other Rose wines that are really veranda wine.

2010 Twelve Bells

Due to a lower crop of Grenache in the 2010 year (after a heatwave damaging the Grenache flowers in November 2009) means this wine has changed from a Grenache based wine to a Shiraz based wine.  At first I got the aromas of the red Grenache based fruits but as this wine spent time in my glass the black fruits from Shiraz started to come through more and more.  There are cedar hints and loads of subtle spices here.  The flavor profile was medium bodied wine that is easy drinking now.  The darker fruits dominate and there is wonderful soft tannins that will strengthen the drink now-ability of this wine.

2010 Reserve Shiraz

Good to see this is a blend with 7% Grenache and 3% Cabernet to provide what I suspect to be a much better balanced wine that it would have been as a straight Shiraz.  Well, what can I say – this is Shiraz as it should be!  Black concentrated fruits with subtle spices of cardamon and white pepper with just a hint of anise hanging around.  The mid palate is as it should be to give a great mouthfeel with such a wonderfully full, but not intrusive, tannin structure

2010 Eclipse

I was so looking forward to this Grenache based blend (45% Grenache, 35% Shiraz, 15% Grenaciano and 5% Cabernet) and I was not disappointed.  The glass exploded with red fruit aromas and I even got some blue fruit hints as the glass got close to my nose.  Lots of depth apparent here even from these aromas.  The flavors showed both balance and power – fruit character, smooth tannins, good acid length.  Everything seemed to be in balance with everything else – and even so I suspect this wine will get better over the next few years.  Sorry guys, I have 5 bottles and they will be mine and mine alone!

McLaren Vale – Itallian Herritage and Wines

Yesterday (6th November 2011) was a McLaren Vale celebration of it’s Italian heritage.  The grand opening of the McLaren Vale Pizza della Valle.  The project has been evolving over the last few years and a couple of Million Dollars culminated in this exciting day celebrating the link between McLaren Vale and the Italian’s who settled here all that time ago.

The Piazza will serve as a centre piece for the street front of McLaren Vale – and lets face it the street front needs some work.  It will also be a meeting place, a resting place and even a central entertainment area.

Piazza Entrance

There is a story of the immigration depicted on four glass panels that are placed along one side of the Piazza.

Piazza della Valle Opening

The photos show the large crowd that was on hand for the official opening, the Italian foods plus some good wines including some Italian Prosecco.

Piazza Opening Continued

In line with the celebration I tasted a couple of red wines in the Fall From Grace store (across from the Piazza) and a recently released unusual offering from Oxenberry Wines (owned by the Scarpontoni family).  Check out my reviews below.

Waywood Wines

I have been watching the progress of this small wine label for the last couple of years and I have been consistently impressed.  Firstly the wines have always been first rate.  Secondly, Andrew Wood (winemaker and owner) has been looking at how to maximise his exposure.  This brought him to using initiatives such as QR codes (see the below photo), that will take you to the Waywood website – a great idea so you can use a QR code reader on your smart phone and hey presto there is the web site on your phone telling you about the wine and the winery.  He also provided the National Wine Centre a dozen of his wines were supplied, one each to 12 local wine bloggers.  These bloggers were given the chance to write about the wine and their review were rated by followers of the National Wine Centre to determine their favorite blogger.  This person has now been given free entry to a number of National Wine Centre functions and hopefully blog about their experiences.  I was hoping to be one of those 12 bloggers however I got my application in to late.

Waywood Bottle Shot

2010 Quattro Vini ($A28)

A blend of 35% Nebbiolo, 25% Sangiovese (both from Blewitt Springs), 30% Cabernet (from Willunga) and 10% Sellicks Hill Shiraz.  What an interesting blend this new release is.  The aromas are firstly dominated by the plum of Shiraz and blue fruits, with a little vanilla sweetness.  The the wine opens up more and more with spice – I certainly got hints of fennel and anise.  As I drank the wine there was blue and black fruits with lots of spice – these things coming mainly from the Shiraz, Cabernet and the oak.  What you finished with was a wonderful savory acid and tannin structure that is probably from the Italian varieties of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.  This wine is highly enjoyable not, however I can see this wine becoming something else entirely in a couple of years time when the Nebbiolo and Sangiovese may come to the fore and take the wine to the next level.  At this price I will be putting some of this away in the bottom of the wine fridge to be unearthed in a few years time.

2009 Cabernet Franc ($A28)

Unusual to find this variety as a varietal wine, as it gets blended into so many other wines where a small amount can make a big difference.  On it’s own the wine is a hard sell and that is unfortunate when you drink wines of this caliber.  As soon as the wine was poured I got this wonderful uplifted aroma out of the glass.  Lots of berries, licorice with floral and herbs – particularly dried Italian herbs like oregano and rosemary.  In the mouth I got fresh berry compote with just so many layers of structure from the good acid level, fruit plus wood tannins and the quality of the fruit just shines out.  As Andrew said himself – “If I cannot sell it at least I have 10 years of drinking 10 dozen excellent wines every year”.  Andrew, you could do a lot worse by by drinking this wine over those 10 years – I may just have to help you.

Oxenberry Farm

Grapple Cider  ($A7.90 for 500mL bottle)

The team from Oxenberry Farm have just released a part grape, part apple sparkling cider (70% grapes and 30% apples).  This is just in time for Summer and I think they are onto a winner.  Firstly, in a sea of alcohol products that have a sameness about them here is something different, plus the result is light and refreshing.  The Grapple Cider is about 8% alcohol and comes in 2 forms – a Red or White.  The white is made from Chardonnay grapes plus the apples of course and is slightly sweet and very, very refreshing and moreish!  The Red version is made from Gamay grapes (they use this grape variety to make their Rose style wines), is a little sweeter and I can see “refreshing” written all over it.  This wine had strawberries and cream in a bubbly that would be oh so good on a hot summers day.

Well done Oxenberry Farm and the team!

McLaren Vale Wine Show

I was so excited when I found out the McLaren Vale Wine Show was on last Tuesday. The excitement was based on being able to attend plus there was over 600 wines submitted to the show and they were all available for tasting. Yes, you read right – there was over 600 wines for tasting. Then there was another bonus – the tasting was free with the results book costing $10. I was like a kid in a candy store. So much so I needed an able assistant in Charlie – Helen Robinson to be the official photographer. Thanks Helen for photos that appear in this blog.

Acres and Acres of wine and it was all ours!

The first hurdle was where to start first. I am not a Sauvignon Blanc sort of guy so Chardonnay there I was. As I used to work for Fox Creek Wine (as a Laboratory Assistant) their 2010 Chardy was my first wine. This was as I remember the Fox Creek style. Some wood here, probably some barrel fermentation gives the complexity that Chardonnay deserves. I checked the results book to find the wine did not wine an award. Well I had better move on. As we passed the Sauvignon Blanc section I checked the book again to see who won awards, only to see no awards. The comments on this class were “Can see why this is a tempting variety to grow……However, not really suited to the region and international competition is intense….There are other varieties that should be considered…..”. Maybe my views about Sauvignon Blanc have some basis. Sorry Charlie.

Then we got the best tip of the day. The table at the side of the building had the top wine from each McLaren Vale class. So off we went before these wines ran out. After some jostling for position we tasted some excellent wines and more interestingly there was not the normal wine varieties here. The top wines were:-
Best white wine – other 2010 Coriole Fiano
Best Shiraz under $25 2008 Kay Brothers Basket Press Shiraz
Best Shiraz between $25 $ $50 2010 Wirra Wirra Woodhenge Shiraz
Best Shiraz more than $50 2009 III Associates Squid Ink Shiraz
Best Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Battle of Bosworth Cabernet Sauvignon
Best Grenache 2010 SC Parnell Grenache
Best Single Red Variety Other 2009 Pertaringa Wines Tannant
Best Shiraz Predominant Blend 2010 Fox Creek Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre
Best Red Blend Other 2010 SC Parnell Touriga Tempranillo

Did not try them all but the Fiano was a beauty, the Fox Creek SGM was oh so drinkable and the Tannant was a lot softer than I expected.

The next offering was the sparkling Reds – a personal favorite.  There was some disappointing wines here, I heard one comment of “foul” when drinking one of them.  Of the ones tried I thought the Sparkling Squid Ink Shiraz showed what can be good about this style.  While an old favorite of mine – Fox Creek Wines Vixen was a good standard for the mid price range wines – the Cabernet Franc used in this blend seems to make a difference.

What is next?

So what was next?  Shiraz was calling, but my favorite variety at the moment, Grenache, was just calling too loudly.  Plus, Grenache is lighter than most Shiraz wines.  I had tried the SC Parnell wine and seeing that the La Curio winemaker (Adam Hooper) was standing next to me I thought that was a good place to start.  The 2010 wine was a little tight and not showing it’s best, so I look forward to trying the wine again when it is released.  I was drawn away from Grenache as I saw some Mourvedre out of the corner of my eye, so I just had to go there.  The top rated wine from the 2010 class was from Chappel Hill and it was every bit as good as the 2009 wine from the same stable.

I can easily say I have not seen so many different bottles of Shiraz wines that was at this tasting.  It was literally like acres of wine here for me to try.  I saw many favourites that I had tried before, so I wanted to check out others.  Of the ones I tried the Angoves 2008 Medhych Shiraz was something I have put into the memory to try again later.

Soon I found my palate was shot from all the wines and all the tannin.  No matter how many glasses of water I drank, my taste buds were laying down on me.  So there was nothing for it but to skip the remainder of the wines and head for the fortified wines.  Here I differed from the judges.  The top ranked fortified (any style, any vintage) was Olivers Taranga Vineyards The Banished Fortified Grenache – but I liked the Woodstock Very Old Fortified much better.  it was also great to see some Vintage Ports there.  it is a style that has struggled for recognition but with patience will reward you with truly interesting wines of character.  I enjoyed all 3 offerings from the Commercially Available class, with the Graham Stevens Wines 2010 Vintage Shiraz a favorite.

That was the end of the tasting for me – off to Lunch it was.  The Tin Shed Cafe was a great place to finish the McLaren Vale Show Unearthing!

Mclaren Vale Wine – Zimmermann Wine

Zimmermann Wines are found in the Willunga area on the foothills of the Willunga escarpment between Willunga and Sellicks Beach.  If you check the Geological Map of the region this vineyard is the only one in this rock/soil type.

Zimmermann Entry Sign

Hans & Ulrike moved to Australia over 20 years ago with the aim to make quality wine they were drawn to the McLaren Vale.  They were even more drawn to the Willunga area of the McLaren Vale region and finally settled on 23 acres of sloping land that has a creek running through it during the winter months.  The valley has allowed different sections of vineyard to be planted that has different aspects and thus differing micro climates.  This allows differences in grapes and small batches of grapes are generally picked at optimal times thus providing the best possible wine from this vineyard.  It is attention to detail and an un-waivering belief in their vineyard and wine products that make the Zimmermann wines something that one should check out.

Zimmermann Cellar Door and B&B Complex

The cellar door complex also holds a 4.5 star bed and breakfast accommodation where you can be spoilt, not just with the wine but with the service and the substantial breakfast provided.  The Blue Grape B&B has a excellent reputation and holds 6 people in a house style lodgings (not just a couple of rooms).

Ulrike is an artist, with some of her paintings on the walls in the cellar door area, and has an eye for detail.  This flows over to food and the wine – which makes sense as food and wine production is an art form as well.

Zimmermann Vineyard

Anyway, I should talk about the wine……..

2010 Arneis ($A18)

Available from the Zimmermann Wine Cellar Door only and is made from Adelaide Hills fruit.  This is the first Arneis wine I have tried and I was not sure what to expect.  I got grape and apple aromas, which made me think of a wine with a good acid level.  I was not disappointed with the flavors where the same grape and red apple flavors were there.  The acid levels were good but not as high as I thought when I smelt the wine.  Overall I thought the wine was quite light and refreshing.  I was able to try a taste of the same wine from a bottle that had been opened for a week.  On comparison the wine had lost it’s freshness but was not bad – maybe a hit of the aging potential for this wine.  It was described as halfway between Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc – I am not sure about the description but I understand it.  The wine was crisp but not as acidic as Riesling plus the wine was flavorsome and light so an easy drinking wine like Sauvignon Blanc can be.  For me, it does not knock off Riesling as my favorite white variety however, there is interest here – enough to keep an eye on this variety.

2008 Shiraz ($A18)

A difficult vintage but the location and wine making style may have been enough to pull it off – I was interested to see the outcome.  I was not disappointed.  The aromas were plum pudding but made with fresh plums not stewed.  Combined with a hint of American oak coconut and a slight perfume action which builds as the wine sits in the glass. on the palate the wine has lots of ripe flavors (but not stewed fruit) that was clearly plum based.  This wine was lighter than expected – one would call this medium bodied.  This was not expected – from this vintage I was thinking of a high alcohol, stewed fruit with lots of big flavors.  This was more refined, even through to the tannin structure.  Lots of new oak was NOT used here – instead the tannins were well matched with the medium bodied flavors.

Zimmermann WInes Vineyard

2007 Shiraz ($A28)

The wine has a few medals on the label including a Gold Medal at the AWC (Vienna) International Wine Challenge where it was up against a huge number of other Shiraz wines from all over the world.  Sounds impressive so I was looking forward to trying this wine.  And impressive it was – straight away there was an extra depth of aromas and flavors.  It was also obvious that there was no American oak influence here – just the cedar of French oak.  To add to the plum fruit character depth there are also layers of tannins and a clean acid finish.  All the part make to to one beauty of a whole wine.  The wine has been cellared for us to ensure it will be at it’s best and I recon it will last for a quite a few years yet.

N/V Sparkling Moscato Pink ($A14)

Moscato seems to be the flavor of the month – sweet and low alcohol that one can chug down and still not be alcohol effected.  In a word refreshing and anything to knock Sauvignon Blanc off it’s pedestal.

It was first served up as a cocktail with raspberries and lemon and was a very refreshing drink with all the grapiness one expects from Moscato with an intersting textural mouthfeel I suspect comes from some skin contact.  I have also tried it on it’s own and all the elements of a good Moscato are there.  I particularly like that the wine is not too sweet and so it is more than just sugar water.  At this price this is a real steal.

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