Tag Archives: South Australia

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.

McLaren Vale Wine – Maximus Wines

Maximus Cellar Door

Visit Maximus Cellar Door and you are likely to be greeted by the ever smiling Rowland.  Here you can try quite vast line up from such a small producer.  Over the last year or so they have gone from opening once per month to opening every weekend – just to keep up with demand.  Interestingly, they have targeted high class restaurants – initially in Adelaide and now in Sydney.  There are a few retailers that also stock their wine.

The name Maximus comes from Rowland’s liking of the Gladiator film from a few years ago.  The grapes for the wines come from the vines near the cellar door on Foggo Road (half way between McLaren Vale and McLaren Flat) as well as a number of growers.  The wine have to date been made by an off site wine making contractor and now a small winery has been installed under the cellar door which I am sure will be a delight for the newly appointed winemaker.

Roland has commissioned a chocolatier to produce chocolates to consume with some of their red wines – some of the wine is inside the chocolate.  You can taste these delights at the cellar door.  They also have cheese tasting plates that can be consumed at your leisure in the cellar door on their balcony.  The views from the balcony are stunning, as you can see below.  A gas BBQ is also available for use on the balcony and they even supply chicken skewers to cook.  A little birdy tells me there will be some special sausages that has some of their wine in them that will also be available at the cellar door.  I will check this out when they are released.

Maximus Cellar Door View

Well that is enough from me, so here are some of the wines…….

2010 Grenache/Tempranillo Rose (A$20)

A 80% Grenache blend with 20% Tempranillo is all about aromas of cherries and rose petals with the rose character providing a real point of difference. This is not a real sweet style with strawberries and cherries cleansed with a clear acid finish. Refreshing with a hint of rose difference.

2010 GSM Cadensia (A$25)

Unashamedly a fan here – McLaren Vale does these 3 varieties so well. All the red mulberry fruits erupt from the wine glass. In the mouth you get spicy red fruits with a sense of earthiness. The finish here is all about the drying tannins – not overpowering but adds an interesting dimension. This also shows the wine will last a few years but I suspect the wine will not last.  This wine has been chose to be served at our Prime Minister’s functions – not a bad recommendation!

2010 Old Vine Grenache (A$25)

Oh how I do enjoy good McLaren Vale Grenache and I did enjoy this one.  Red fruits, particularly mulberry and cherry with a lovely spice envelope of subtle Moroccan spices.  Grenache does not always respond well to “big” oak and there is none of that here.  The tannins are short and tasty.  One commented that this wine could be mistaken for Pinot Noir – for me though it was all Grenache.  Bring it on!

2010 Premium Shiraz (A$25)

Straight away I got a big wiff of pepper spice as I lifted my glass towards my face.  Over time this did fade.  All the plums you would expect from McLaren Vale Shiraz with a lovely covering of chocolate that shows cleaver use of oak.  I can see this being quite popular at a BBQ or a good serving of Pepper Steak.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (A$25)

I have been finding lately that a number of McLaren Vale Cabernets are good wines but do not always show the typical character expected from this variety.  This being the cassis or blackcurrent aromas and flavors.  Well in this case the classics are back!  I also got a smattering of blue fruits and a drying tannic finish.

Other wines not tasted
2010 Sauvingon Blanc (Adelaide Hills)
2009 Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills)
2010 Pinot Gris (Adelaide Hills)
2009 Premium Viognier
2010 Premium Tempranillo

I also hear there will be a Petit Verdot available soon.

McLaren Vale Wine – Backyard Shed Cru Red Pack #5

These wines can be purchased from Taste McLaren Vale – check it out here.

2009 Minnow Creek Black Minnow
Black Minnow is an interesting name for an interesting blend of Sangiovese (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and 5% Malbec.  Aromas are basically cherry based – just like having a bowl of freshly macerated cherries.  There is some difference to the cherries so I suggest there is aromas of both black and red cherries – smells like Christmas time.  There is a bit of dust on the nose as well from the smattering of oak that has gone into the maturation of this wine.

Cherries dominate the fruit flavour but there is secondary red and black fruits in abundance.  As one may expect from Sangiovese there is a feeling of earthiness while the wine sits in the mouth and as you swallow it the tannins dry the mouth which makes you wanting more.  Not a wine to cellar but a wine to enjoy now.

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
This was the surprise for me – I am not normally a Cabernet drinker but I could and probably will drink a heap of this. The aromas of blackcurrent and mint just fly out of the glass so much so, you don’t even have to do the “wanky thing” to get the aromas. I get cassis and chocolate with a slight minty finish. As I am finding with McLaren Vale Cabernet, the usual donut effect where the flavors disappear in the mid palate, does not happen here. Good old McLaren Vale is having it’s effect and so the mid palate is there is spades.

2010 Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre

One of my favorite blends and this wine does not disappoint.  There was something immediately interesting here  – the Shiraz portion of the wine was co-fermented with the Roussanne pressings (from the above wine).  The result is a real lift added to the aromas from the red fruits that comes through the from the Grenache.  The wine had a portion unoaked and the remainder oaked with various aged barrels – in other words they have been smart by producing the best wine they can from small volume by keeping small parcels separate and treating them differently.  Blending of these small batches allows the winemaker to produce the style they are looking for without compromise.  This outcome is worth the efforts.  There is balance here the red fruits from the Grenache, with the structure of Shiraz and the strength of Mourvedre mixed with a layered tannin structure that is not over bearing. I can see a big pan full of chilli mussels in this wines future.

2005 McLaren Park Shiraz
This is a classical Genders wine with all the developed characters but more importantly for me the wines change so much over a period of time. The aromas started with developed dark briary fruits but after a while changed to that typically shown from Dianna’s wines – floral notes. Then some cinnamon sticks kick in as well. The flavors also change dramatically. Firstly starts with the black fruits with oak tannins not over done and lots of good acid i.e. Really good structure. Over time the flavors change to include lots of spices and not your normal spices. I got more of cardamon and sage as the wine opened up. After being open for nearly 2 hours there were more changes – the fruits of blackberries and blueberries came through, so please let this wine breath for a considerable time so you can get the maximum enjoyment.

2006 Grenache

A lighter that expected offering from the Blewitt Springs vineyard.  The peat that one expects from this msub region of McLaren Vale comes through again on the nose with red spicy fruits – Yum.  The flavors are a medium bodied mixture of raspberries, cherries & spice with just a hint of oak.  This is a drink now wine but I am sorry, as if I open a bottle it is unlikely I will be sharing this.

2010 Graham Stevens Wines Vintage Shiraz
I will admit this wine was a surprise as it was closed with a screw cap!  I thought this unusual and I asked Graham about it.  His response was the Vintage style requires clean conditions and minimal oxygen contact so why not a screw cap.  Upon thinking about it more, I remembered that some old vintage port styles I have opened from the 70’s had cork disintegration issues.  So anyway I should talk about the wine.

Straight away the wine is all about the plum character that is McLaren Vale Shiraz as well as the clean spirit.  The aromas and flavors are like Shiraz grapes have been hand squeezed into your glass.  The plum is so clean and intense that the spirit does not interfere at all.  Once in the mouth the plum explosion is just complemented and cleaned up by the spirit and acid.  Wines such as this are a joy to consume and it can only make one wonder why this style has almost disappeared from the Australian and McLaren Vale wine making scene.  Do yourself a favour and try this wine – I cannot see you will do anything but enjoy it.

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