Category Archives: Wine

McLaren Vale Wine – Sellicks Hill Wines

Something old is new again.  I have been a big fan of Paul Petagna and his wine for a number of years. Both under his “old” label Petagna Wines and the Sellicks Hill Wines label that Paul was making for his in laws.  Now Paul has bought the rights to Sellicks Hill Wines and has opened a cellar door on the Main South Road property (the cellar door sign can be seen just north of the Victory Hotel).

Sellicks Hill Wines Sign

Paul’s wines are part of him – both are full of character and the wines are just so flavoursome.  Interestingly the wines are also kept in barrel and bottle until they meet the standard before sale.  As such the current releases are from between 2006 and 2009.  By opening just one bottle you can share Paul’s passion for his wines and we should be glad for this passion.

The Sellicks Hill vineyard was planted by Paul’s Father in Law and Paul himself – so he knows each and every vine.  During winter I have seen him pruning the vines and even though he expresses his wish that somebody else would conduct the pruning, one can sense that deep down he fusses over each and every vine.  The vineyard has Grenache and Shiraz with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre used in the wines come from neighbouring vineyards so the wines are truly from Sellicks Hill.

2006 Valletta (Grenache Shiraz) (on special for $25 normally $30)

When I first saw this wine I was concerned as the wine had 3 years in oak and Grenache and oak do not always do well together.  I should not have been concerned as this wine has turned out to be one of my favourite McLaren Vale red wines.  It is drinking so well as Paul has done the cellaring for you.  The wine shows black and red fruits with some fennel notes and minimal oak tannins.

2009 Dio (Mourvedre) ($35)

I saw this wine in barrel a number of times over the last couple of years and have been consistently impressed so it was not a surprise that Paul decided to bottle this as a straight Mourvedre (noting that the previous Dio was a GSM blend).  Earthy, spicy and mid weight make this wine not only approachable but appealing to a number of different personal preferences.

2008 Diovolo (Shiraz Cabernet) ($35)

The classical Aussie blend that seemed to loose it’s way about 10 year ago as Australia went through the varietal phase.  The blending of these 2 varieties allows the mid palate shortfall of Cabernet (this is a generalisation).  I am glad this blend has begun to win back favour and this example is a beauty.  There is the usual fair of plums and black current and I enjoy the mint character (which comes from a particular barrel of wine from a particular grower that is quite minty).

2006 Piombo (Shiraz) ($40)

Right up front I must say I do not like this label – I understand the significance of the playing card popular with the Italian community, but the label is terrible.  The good thing here is the wine is a cracker – just wonderful McLaren Vale Shiraz.  Plums, spice complexity, liquorice and some chocolate as well.  For me this is one of the better Shiraz wines around and it has been cellared for you.  At the $40 mark I also think this is a steel – many wines of this ilk are well over $50.


McLaren Vale Wine – October 2013 Vale Cru Tasting

A collection of McLaren Vale small scale winemakers have bandied together to form a collective called the “Vale Cru”.  For the last 4 years this group has gathered for an afternoon tasting, during October, at the Victory Hotel.  I must admit I am biased towards this group, even to the point that resistance is useless.  A lot of my original contacts and wines sold from my Taste McLaren Vale venture have come from the Vale Cru’s first annual Victory Hotel tasting.

Mr Brash Higgins himself

In an industry where the small producer spends so much time and effort to make the best wines possible the marketing effort can be at best difficult.  Combining their efforts into this collective makes so much sense.  However making sense and making such a venture work is not always easy or effective.  Over the years there has been a number of winemakers come and go but there seems to be core and stable group.

The wineries at this tasting were:-

  • Brash Higgins
  • Five Geese
  • Inkwell
  • La Curio
  • Lazy Ballerina
  • Samuel’s Gorge
  • Ulithorne
  • Vigna Bottin
  • Waywood
  • Rudderless
  • Wistmosa
  • Rusty Mutt
  • Ministry of Clouds
  • Bekkers

It should be noted that Bekkers are not a part of the Vale Cru but attended under invitation.

There was also a speaker in attendance and in this case it was Nick Stock.  Nick was very approachable in discussions about the wines.  I discussed McLaren Vale Grenache with him before I realised who this guy was.  On a personal note it was also good for me to find out that not only is Nick an Adelaide boy but he also follows the same SANFL team I do (Norwood Football Club).

Nick Stock addressing the crowd

The afternoon is in itself a highlight but the wines of note (for me) were:-

2012 Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola ($42)

After spending 6 months on skins in clay pots (or amphora) this wine style is unlike anything else I have tasted.  With anise character wrapped around what I can only describe as cold tea.  Amazingly every time I taste this wine I think about the special tea blend my grandmother used to drink.  This wine is interestingly good all the way and I recommend this as a must try wine.

2012 Five Geese Grenache Shiraz ($26)

This was my bargain wine pick of the group.  So much depth and character for the price.  The redness and peat character of the Blewitt Springs Grenache mixed with the strength of McLaren Vale Shiraz.  I know Grenache is a hard sell but if you try this wine you will wonder the same.

2011 La Curio Reserve Grenache ($28)

Adam has access to old dry grown bush vine Grenache and makes this special fruit sing with all the love that he can muster.  This wine is consistently one of the best expressions of McLaren Vale Grenache and another must try.

2013 Vigna Bottin Vermentino

Just bottled and a sneak peak.  Straight away it stood out.  A white wine showing such character in McLaren Vale!!!!!  This wine won a number of trophies in the McLaren Vale show (held the week after this tasting).  The wine showed so much with floral rose water notes with minerality mixed with a lemon acid length.  Again I find this variety interesting with an almost salty flavour – just so different.  This was by far the best wine of this variety I have tasted.

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz ($25.50)

Rusty Mutt and the Vale Cru

I have previously reviewed this wine and it is again a highlight.  With many wines showing masculine depth this expression of the Shiraz is more feminine depth.  The wine has a softness but complexity that belies this softness.  James Halliday has rated this a 94/100 and I can see why.  Well done Scott.

McLaren Vale Wines – Lonely Grape Series Part 2

Last time I wrote for you I discussed the preliminaries and blending of the first Lonely Grape wines – check it out here.

This time I will be discussing the bottling process.  I had heard about bottling but I had not previously seen what happens.  I will not bore you with the details of finding the correct bottling line but in this case it was crucial the bottling line could handle small runs – in my case I was looking to bottle 600 L of Shiraz and 300 L of Cabernet.  Even thought it seemed like a lot of wine for me, in the world of wine bottling these volumes are minuscule.  One of the issues I had was that when bottling there are wine losses – you nearly had to pick me up off the floor when I was told to expect at least 50 L of wine from each bottling.  With such small bottling runs this type of loss was unacceptable.  Anyway after finding the preferred bottling line (who were confident of less than 5 litres of wine losses) and organising the wine delivery the day finally arrived.  I will admit I was more than a little excited and nervous over how it would all go.

When I got there I saw machinery that was fascinating – well for me anyway.

First step (after placing the bottles on the line) was the bottles got cleaned.  I was expecting water cleaning but in this case it was compressed air.  I was told the idea for the use of compressed air was so there were no issues with water mixing with the wine and thus any resulting dilution.

Air Washing Bottles

Then the bottles get filled.

Bottle Filling

In this case a screw cap (Stelvin Closure) is added and fixed.

Securing the Screw Cap

Off to the packaging section.


The cartons are placed onto a palate and plastic wrapped to ensure the cases do not fall in transit.

Palate Packing

One very happy customer.  By the way the bottling line was at Wine Bottling Solutions in Lonsdale.

Happy Customer

McLaren Vale Wines – Lonely Grape Series Part 1

The first 2 wines of the Lonely Grape series have been a journey of exploration for me.  I have worked with a local winemaker (more on that later) to produce small volumes of wine that have been blended just for me.  The organisation to get the wine bottled was also done by me – I will talk about the bottling process next time.

The local McLaren Vale winery involved was Genders McLaren Park Wines with Diana Genders as the winemaker.  I have been a fan of Diana’s work for a number of years and always saw her little winery as an example of wineries at the cross roads.  Diana is insistent that her wines are not released until they are to her liking.  So to give you an example the current wine selections from Diana at the moment are a 2008 Chardonnay, a 2005 Cabernet and a 2006 Shiraz.  Not many wineries do all the work – including the cellaring for you.  Diana looks after the 26 acres of vines plus does the wine making on her own.  She does not prune the vines or pick the fruit but most everything else (apart from some maintenance).  As the wines are matured before release they are relatively expensive but in my opinion they are worth every cent ($20/bottle for the Chardonnay and $45 – $50 for the reds).  At these prices and with Diana being very busy in the vineyard and the winery then the marketing falls behind.

Diana Genders

A few months ago I was talking to Diana about various ways to assist both our efforts to keep costs down and sell more wine when I noticed there was some wines from 2008 and 2009 still in barrel.  One thing led to another and when I tried some of the various barrels I was hooked on the idea of working with Diana to produce an exclusive wine that I could market and at the same time assist Diana with selling some more wine (all be it as bulk wine).  After discussing the idea with Diana the concept of a Genders Vineyard Lonely Grape Shiraz was born.

Lonely Grape 2008 Shiraz

Firstly we tasted all of the 2008 Shiraz barrels and I stumbled upon a 2011 Cabernet barrel that I just had to sample.  From that moment on I was hooked on producing a Cabernet as well.  When I found there was some 2009 Cabernet the concept just went from strength to strength.  After tasting each of the possible barrels and looking at the various oak types and ages we went into deep discussion over what possibilities there were.

The thinking continued as this process was only going to work for me if the wines were not quite the same style as Diana’s current releases as I wanted to be able to sell the wines right away and thus the wines had to have a more drink now quality even though I knew wines from the Genders Vineyard were long lived.  Before I would agree with Diana on how much of the wine I would purchase I needed to understand 2 things.  Firstly, my ability to pay for the wines and bottling.  Secondly, how much did I think I could sell in a reasonable time frame.  The first question was sorted out quickly however the second option took more time.

I have been watching the happening in this industry for a while and my wine sales business is into it’s 4th year and I have seen a number of people grow grapes or want to make wine and then just go off and do that.  This concept is great but without a sales and marketing plan these ventures have been doomed to failure.  My work over the last 3 and a bit years has been based on doing things the other way around.  I have a plan to make wine and become a producer but I was determined to work out about sales before I ran off and starting doing the romantic wine making thing.  My science based brain would not let me go off and have fun – it needed to determine the fun was worthwhile first.

Anyway with a sales plan for the break even point, including price points ($19/bottle for the Shiraz and $25/bottle for the Cabernet) was all sorted.  Now for the commitment.


Once I committed financially to the project the real fun started.  There were time constraints as one potential customer wanted some wine before a certain date (which was not far away).  So we had to get a move on.  Working with Diana on this project was a joy.  As you would expect she knew her wines and had a basic direction on what needed to be blended.  Half of the barrels available were new french oak and it was obvious (even to me) that the oak in these wines needed to be toned down – this was done by adding wines from old oak barrels.  The wine also needed freshening up so small amounts of other wine was added to the blend.

Small additions of various wine from different barrels began.  For me the trick was knowing what elements were needed to be added and then just what a difference these different additions made with such a small addition.  As a scientist I understand the differences different elements can make but as a wine drinker I expected that a 1% addition was so small it would not change the wine.  Oh how wrong I was!  Through this process it was great to get the insight and direction from Diana (even a “trust me” occurred during the process).

My next post will outline the logistical and bottling processes plus the origins of the wine labels (shown above).





Buy McLaren Vale Wines – Backyard Shed Cru #9

Backyard Shed Cru Red Pack #9

It does not seem like 6 months have passed since the previous release of the Taste McLaren Vale membership wine pack – called Backyard Shed Cru, but is has been.  The concept of calling tha pack the “Backyard Shed Cru” comes from the fact that most of these wines come from producers that are so small they make their wine in a small shed – either in their back yard or somebody elses backyard.  If you like what you see then check out the Taste McLaren Vale Backyard Shed Cru Membership here.  Every 6 months we send out a wine six pack.  The wines come from little know wineries and are really a tasting pack you you to try new wines from the small artisan McLaren Vale wine producers.

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz

Straight away the wonderful Shiraz fruit comes shining through.  The aromas of plums and cherries with hints of red licorice and an almost perfume character.  the drinking is where the fruit treatment hits you.  This wine is elegant and silky smooth –  one could almost call it a feminine wine.  There is nose of the in your face gutsy McLaren Vale Shiraz.  Instead there is a complex fruit compote with black and blue fruits with hints of red and black licorice and even a little chocolate action.  Little oak influence – particularly when the wine has been given time to breathe.  The complexity lends itself to food but more subtle styles like a roast duck curry – in itself different as I do not believe I have previously recommended a McLaren vale Shiraz to be consumed with duck.

2009 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Cabernet Merlot

More complex than I was expecting – herbs of mint, lavender, Rosemary and thyme combined with blackcurrent fruit wrapped with an envelope of unobtrusive oak tannin.  There is a slight hint of greenness and a small donut effect.  The donut effect of Cabernet is where the mid palate flavours diminish in the middle of the wine.  It is here but only just.  When left to breathe the secondary flavours and aromas of chocolate and licorice come through.  The chocolate here defines the mid palate and thus no donut!  Definitely a food wine maybe a rabbit and root vegetable casserole.  One to watch out for and to keep – if you can.

2011 Wistmosa Shiraz

This wine was part of the 2011 release of the McLaren Vale Scarce Earth Project.  I like a lot about the Scarce Earth Project – particularly the concept of having wines that are single vineyard, minimal winemaker or oak influences.  Aromas of chocolate, deep fruits and almost a sense of mushrooms right at the end.  In the mouth this wine is all about what good McLaren Vale Shiraz should be – chocolate, licorice, plums, pepper and some dried herbs.  A wine that was just a joy to savor and never to guzzle!

2010 GMH “Founders Choice” Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre

Just a good old fashioned drinkable version of the McLaren Vale blend staple.  There are the usual red and black fruits here and hints of violets that seems to be associated with Mourvedre.  Oak influences are minimal  – this wine just screams drink me now!  Who am I to argue.

2009 Handcrafted by Geoff Hardy Shiraz

Smart drinking McLaren Vale Shiraz – this just about sums this wine up.  Plums, chocolate, licorice and hints of french cedar oak (not too much though).  If you were not convinced that McLaren Vale was so suited to producing quality Shiraz then you should try this.  Sure this wine will last a while but why wait.  It is BBQ weather now so why not put this wine to the test.

2011 Oneotria Vintners “Land of the Vines” Cabernet Sauvignon

The winemaker (Kurt) has been coming down to McLaren Vale to be involved with vintage.  He has been making with with Adam Hooper from La Curio fame.  Kurt is so dedicated to the cause he even sleeps in the winery so he can look after his “wine flock” at any time of the day or night.  I must say I was impressed with this wine as it shows wonderful Cabernet (black current) character that does not always show with McLaren Vale Cabernet.  As well as the black current I get a hints of chocolate, licorice and dried herbs.  The oak is only noticeable on the back palate.  I have tried this wine now over the last 6 months and it is consistently better each time.  I suggest leave the wine for about another year and it will be even better.

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