Tuesday, September 29, 2009


- Clare Valley, SA
- $29-$36
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

With the help of Spaniard Isaac Muga, Tim Adams produced his first Reserve Tempranillo in 2005 from fruit grown at his Ladera vineyard in Clare (planted in 2004). Early results were encouraging to say the least, prompting Tim to follow up that 2005 wine with another sumptuously flavoured, perfumed effort from 2006.

Appearing a sinisterly dark crimson/magenta, it unravels to a floral perfume of black cherries, clove and cola with an underlying thread of herbal quality. Sumptuous and jammy, the syrupy palate announces almost cloying, essencse-like flavours of dark cherry partnered by suggestions of strawberry, which really do sink in deep. There's abundant character and genuine depth, but its layered finish of clove, herb and menthol notes just lacks the tannin structure and penetrating length to of been truly exceptional.

ü+ A marvellous, generously flavoured and deep Aussie tempranillo which completely belies its young vine material. I'll be looking forward to future releases of this wine with great anticipation (from 2014 onwards especially). Drink to 2013.
92 points

Sunday, September 27, 2009


 - Hunter Valley, NSW
 - $7-$15
 - Screwcap
 - 12.5%alc

The historically significant Tyrrell's winery (est. 1858) was awarded one of Australia's greatest wine honours when they were recently named James Halliday's 'Winery of the Year' for 2010. Even their $10 Old Winery Verdelho must've impressed the popular critic, who included the 2008 in his previous Top 100 list.

Retaining plenty of translucent, youthful colour, its simple dry straw and lemon zest aromas precede a cleanly balanced, viscous palate of agreeable freshness. Pure and zippy nuances of nettle, limes and lemon zest are framed by a lightly effervescent, spritzy acidity, finishing with just a trace of green edged flavour.

ü A very spritzy, cleanly flavoured quaffing white with a genuine point of difference to its unique varietal expression, but I would loved to have seen it a touch drier. Great wine at this price though. Drink now.
89 points

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Here's the first in a series of posts which I promised a while back but have yet to deliver. It's semi-inspired by an old wine lecturer I had, who used to drill home to my class how well educated on wine the general Australian drinking public is. Australian drinkers may seem well educated on wine if you've worked in the wine industry for 40 years and all your friends are wine experts, but from where I sit it's a different story.

The Worst Wine Lines posts are not about misinformation on part of your standard drinker, which are just too rife for me to even bother about, but about misinformation on part of people working within the industry. Which is of greater concern in my opinion. And so the story goes...

About two and a half years ago I was dining at the Goodwood Hotel in Adelaide. Having just ordered the mixed grill for main course, it was time to find a suitable red as an accompaniment.

I glanced over the wine list, which wasn't exceptional, but it did have a very basic back vintage list. The wine which stood out to me was a 1999 of Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz, priced quite fairly at $35. At the bottom of the wine list I noticed the Goodwood allows patrons to purchase any wine of their choice from the adjoining bottle shop, with a mere $7 corkage fee. So before I knew it, I was walking next door to the adjoining bottle shop.

The thought of the '99 Kalimna had me in the mood for something more mature, so I browsed through the Goodwood bottle shop's back vintage section. I found a '99 Kalimna with a $22 price tag - did some quick maths - and realised at the very least my walk had saved me $6. Out of sheer desperation, or perhaps unadulterated optimism, I delved deep through their Penfolds collection looking for a '98 or '96 Kalima, my favourite vintages of this particular wine. No luck with the '98 or '96 of course, so, with time running short (and company waiting) I grabbed a '99. Then, I was approached by the bottle shop attendant.

He was a reasonably young chap, who appeared to be in his early-mid 20's, much like myself. "May I help you with something there?" he quipped. I'd pretty much made my selection but I thought I'd try my luck with the preferable vintages. So, with bottle of 1999 Kalimna in hand I asked; "You don't happen to have a 1998 of this wine sitting around somewhere do you?" To this he replied;

"Nah sorry mate. At that age it's pretty much the same wine anyway. The difference between a 9 year old red and an 8 year old red is essentially nothing. It'll taste the same really. One year makes very little difference in red wine."

It certainly wasn't the best wine information I've ever been told.

Lack of understanding about vintage variation as well as the aging process are two of the biggest misconceptions about wine I encounter within the Australian drinking public. The amount of times I've heard theories such as 'the older the better for reds' or 'white wines can't age' is incredible. As well as this, most people I know drink the same quaffing wine year in, year out, without even realising they're actually buying a different product almost every 12 months. Still, if they don't know the difference, who cares? Right?

Basic education of the drinking public is paramount in furthering Australia's wine industry, but even more important is teaching some basics to people within the industry. Especially if they're going to try to educate the public themselves.


 - Adelaide Hills, SA
 - $18-$27
 - Screwcap
 - 13.0%alc

Almost three years ago I reviewed the 2004 Bridgewater Mill Chardonnay, finding it assertive but stylish and one of the best value chardonnays around. Three years on and a lot's changed for Petaluma's second label; new ownership (hello Kirin), new winemaker (bye bye Croser) and new labels which I don't quite comprehend (supposedly lining up their entire range gives you a landscape sketch of the Adelaide Hills). To be blunt, I think they've been on a downhill slide since peaking with this wine.

Mid yellow/straw, it's scented with a nutty, oily, layered fragrance of wheatmeal, melon, quince and grapefruit aromas, displaying good lift, clarity and integration of fruit and oak. Evenly developed and luscious yet fresh and inviting, there's suggestions of pungency along its melted butter texture, which unloads a savoury edged expression of bright, quirky chardonnay character with hints of toast and flint, all wrapped in soft, creamy, refreshing acids.

üGenerously worked and deeply flavoured, this superb little wine states the benefits of short term aging for some of our better, more affordable chardonnays. It's still easily the best wine I've had under this label. Drink to 2010.
93 points

Friday, September 25, 2009


 - Adelaide Hills, SA
 - $37-$48
 - Cork (ProCork)
 - 14.0%alc

Barratt is an Adelaide Hills pinot noir specialist whose premier vineyard lies adjacent Ashton Hills' site in the Piccadilly Valley. It's regarded as one of the coldest sites in the Adelaide Hills.

Barratt's best wine, The Reserve Pinot Noir, opens to a cherry and game nose, with spicy cedar oak overlying a hint of herbal undergrowth. It's quite light-medium in body, with sharp, sour edged, citric structure woven throughout its soft cherry flavours. There are fractionally dirty, savoury undertones to its clean fruit base, with a tight, firm rod of prickly tannin pushing into the side palate.

There's some attractive elements here, but Barratt's 2006 Reserve seems a bit overpriced for a shorter term South Australian pinot noir, which is somewhat deficient in textural complexity or outstanding depth. Drink to 2011.
89 points


- Coonawarra, SA
- $10-$20
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

The Foster's group produce loads of cheap, cross-regional shiraz under brands such as Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Rosemount, but for roughly the same money, none of these come close to the consistency or character of their single region Wynns Shiraz.

Beautifully ripe, plummy and vibrant, the 2008 Wynns displays a generously fruited fragrance of dark plums, cherry and cedar/mocha oak with a classically regional whiff of white pepper. Its medium-full bodied palate delivers a similarly dark fruited, cherry-like expression of its radiant, well composed character, before finishing long and firm with a drying extract of grainy tannins overlying persistent, savoury spice notes and emerging cedar/vanilla oak.

ü+ An inexpensive shiraz which reflects some serious winemaking polish, the 2008 is a real hit for Wynns and must be an early contender for bargain red of the season. Drink to 2018.
92 points

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


 - Clare Valley, SA
 - $31-$50
 - Screwcap
 - 12.5%alc

In honour of its vineyard source and to further distinguish it from the growing number of Watervale rieslings available, Jeffrey Grosset renamed his iconic Watervale Riesling the Springvale from 2007. Grosset tries to avoid apple characters in his Springvale, opting to seek out the more floral, lemon/lime citrus notes which so define the Watervale style. No one would question the great man's success.

The 2009 revels in its stylishly presented, floral lemon/lime citrus perfume, which seems a touch youthful, shy and closed, but its ripeness is perfectly pitched for such a challenging season. Its bell-clear palate reveals yet more definitive citrus flavours, this time pushing closer to the steely lemon side of things in classic Watervale style. With drying undertones of mineral and slate, it extends with great length, strength and tightness, into a sculpted finish scored by a bracing influence of steely acids.

üPicking a preference between Grosset's two 2009 rieslings is nigh on impossible, it's simply a matter of personal taste. Both wines perfectly reflect their sub-regional qualities to a tee. I think you get more bang for your buck from the 2009 Springvale though, whose impressive structural elements should see it age slowly but surely, across a slightly longer time frame than the Polish Hill. Drink to 2021.
95 points

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


 - Clare Valley, SA
 - $39-$55
 - Screwcap
 - 13.0%alc

Consistently brilliant across all seasons, Grosset's Polish Hill is deservedly recognised as Australia's quintessential riesling. At $40 a bottle it's ludicrously underpriced, causing some to believe Jeffrey Grosset holds considerable influence on the remarkable value of Australian riesling as a whole.

Brightly scented, the 2009 Polish Hill presents a clean and pure fragrance of lemon, pear, apple blossom and lime juice; whose well defined varietal characteristics reveal traces of paw paw and white nectarine, yet fall well within the parameters of ideal ripeness. Astoundingly clear, its spotlessly clean white pear and citrus flavours develop flawlessly into more savoury, mineral and talc notes, which intensify the sensation of dryness. A surprisingly sensuous cut of zesty acids assert themselves with the polish expected of the label, moving with great effect along the side palate towards a sparkling climax, leaving a lasting impression of high quality Bickford's lime cordial lingering into the aftertaste.

üPristinely made, Grosset's latest Polish Hill is a riesling of outstanding purity and typically deceptive structure which will doubtlessly outperform most 09's, but it just lacks the textural complexity, intensity and penetrating length of the top vintages. Superb nonetheless. Drink to 2019.
95 points

Monday, September 21, 2009


Even though it's only open for a couple of weeks a year, Grosset offers the best cellar door experience I know. This is largely because Jeffrey Grosset hosts the tastings himself, but the consistently exceptional, seductive and sexual to the point of almost being feminine, wine quality helps. Quite frankly Grosset guarantees my visit to the Clare Valley every September.

As always, Jeffrey paid undivided attention to everyone in his winery, listening meticulously carefully to all the thoughtful feedback he could, regardless of the visitor's age, sex, race or whatever. Grosset is a whiz at speaking to visitors like he's known them for years, even if they've only just met. The man is a LEGEND!

Mr Grosset didn't arrange his fantastic, free tutored tastings this year (which can last up to 90 minutes across 6 wines - superb value!). The reason being he ascertained that his tutorials were being attended by essentially the same people every year, despite the fact they were originally intended to expose the finer details of his wine to a greater audience. The lack of a tutored tasting didn't bother us one bit, as Grosset attending the cellar door in his own unique, casual, friendly yet infinitely experienced manner , in a more casual tasting/discussion is every bit as good anyway.

We talked with Jeffrey on a wide variety of subjects for about 45 minutes across all his wines. He covered a number of issues with us (most interesting to me were his views on the value of riesling), but I'm trying to limit space here so I might have to return to some of Grosset's opinions in a future post.

Unsurprisingly, Grosset's rieslings were excellent, easily the best I've had from 2009. But at this early stage I'd say they aren't exceptional by his lofty standards. What did surprise me was that I had no immediate preference of the two, which usually I do. In 2008 it was the Watervale, but every other recent year I've preferred the Polish Hill. Jeffrey told me early reviews were swinging towards the 2009 Polish Hill, which in his opinion is a more accessible, open style, but he believes the 2009 Watervale will flower into the long term, lasting just as long as the best vintages and being all the better for it. I picked up a few bottles of each so I'll promise to try to review both in the next week or so. Another arduous task I've set myself! (my 'to drink' wine rack has completely gone beyond its limit at the moment - more time, or perhaps even help would be greatly appreciated!)

For fiano fans out there it might interest you to know Grosset now has that variety under vine too. Grosset admitted to me he wasn't terribly encouraged by Coriole's early attempts with the variety (something I steadfastly agree with him), but he's considering not making his first wine until vine age has reached around 7 years old, whereas Coriole released their first fiano when their vines were 2 (from memory).

Like fellow regional legend Tim Adams, Grosset's wines are sold beneath discount retail price at cellar door.

Grosset Springvale Watervale Riesling 2009 ($31) Floral, lemon lime aromas show good intensity and lift in classic Watervale style. Fuller, almost juicy palate has wonderful texture and mid-palate definition to its bell clear fruit profile, with a complementary extract of bright, brittle acidity and fine length. (full review soon) 95

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2009 ($39) Classic pear/apple/lemon/lime nose. More juicy fruits to the clean palate, with deceptive power which grows in a growing wave of intensity. Its acidity is surprisingly gentle and sensuous, but is hallmarked by Polish Hill's typically magnificent length. (full review soon) 95

Grosset Watervale Riesling 2007 ($36) A Jeffrey back vintage special. After 2005, 2007 was my pick of Grosset's recent riesling vintages, and this tasting reminded me why. It's revealing surprising development at this relatively young stage, with a faultless marriage of lime/toast characters. It's extremely clean and fresh, racy and textured, looking extremely good now but with years ahead yet. 96

Grosset Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($29) Interestingly the Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc component has been cranked up to 45% this year. It's quite a pungent, juicy fruit wine with a crystal clear flavour/aroma profile underscored by some strangley toasty/dry straw notes from the semillon. Like the 2008 I feel this lacks a bit of definition and acidic drive. 89

Grosset Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($32) Another Jeffrey back vintage special, and like the Watervale Riesling, I remember 2007 being a brilliant year for this. Its semillon has taken over here, with clean toasty/straw characters and mineral tones. Sauvignon blanc now provides an undercariage of light, white tropical fruits. It's still wonderfully fresh and racy, and will probably be even better and more savoury in another 2-3 years. Remains one of the best examples of this style I've ever had from SA. 93

Grosset Piccadilly Chardonnay 2007 ($46) My tasting companions adored this wine, but I wasn't quite as enthusiastic. It has a wonderful aroma of buttered popcorn-like oak and clean, restrained white stonefruit, melon and grapefruit with a trace of funky quince. The palate shows some of Grosset's customary elegance, but I felt it ended a little raw and green edged, which I also found with his 2006. (full review soon) 90

Grosset Pinot Noir 2007 ($57) Very clear, light red in colour. Reveals a stalky, minty nose with small red berry fruits in a fruit first fashion. Its youthful palate contradicts its fragrance with a more savoury, earthy profile, in a light, elegant fashion with gentle spice tones. It contains the necessary tannin structure and balance to suggest it should develop desired richness within a couple of years. Just looking a bit thin now. 91

Grosset Gaia 2006 ($52) Cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc/merlot. In true Gaia fashion it shamelessly flaunts its cabernet franc influence through dusty, herbaceous aromas, small bery fruits and pronounced fresh cedar oak. I found the palate more medium-full than usual, with plush, ripe dark fruit flavours and even a hint of meat. It has good, powdery tannin and pleasing shape and focus, even if it is a bit of a different, less 'feminine' Gaia. 93


Tim Adams is a producer in peak form who continues to go from strength to strength. Along with makers like Grosset and Wendouree, they truly fly the flag at the quality end of what Clare can achieve.

Where Tim Adams comes into his own though, is with a couple of varieties which aren't typically associated with the Clare Valley.

Tim Adams regularly defies the critics with his pinot gris, which from 2009 has produced another full flavoured, character filled gris with mouthfilling flavour, and ample structure. It's about as far away from the flat and lifeless water-like gris as you'll get for $18 in Australia right now. The lightly oaked Tim Adams semillon continues to fight for the title of Clare's best with another solid release from 2008.Tempranillo is the latest addition to Tim Adams's arsenal and early results are very promising. The second release of his Reserve Tempranillo from 2006 contains the depth of colour, flavour and aroma which is missing from so many, whilst sticking well within varietal boundaries. It completely belies the fact its vineyard was planted in 2004.

The Fergus blend of grenache with Bordeaux varieties and shiraz reached a very high standard in 2006, ideally marrying the more subtle, savoury nuances of grenache with cabernet sauvignon's structure to produce a totally impressive, surprisingly complex and supple, rustic wine.

Tim Adams' 2008 Rieslings are the real highlight here though. The standard release is again impeccable, with well defined lemon/lime varietal fruits, great length and sharp acidity. If it isn't the best sub $20 riesling in Clare I don't know what is. While in just its third incarnation, Tim Adams' Reserve Riesling blew me away for the third straight year. The 2008 is searingly intense, with exquisite purity to its juicy, mineral lemon fruit base. If you ask me, this wine is the biggest threat to Grosset's Clare riesling crown.

On another note it was good to meet Tim Adams' neighbour Fergus' daughter, who was working at the cellar door. She has great people skills and is very well suited to cellar door operations. Tim Adams will hopefully make a much better home then her previous place of employment; the now defunct Leasingham winery which shut its doors not long ago.

All Tim Adams wines are ridiculously undervalued, especially at the cellar door where they sell at or below discount retail price.

Tim Adams Riesling 2008 ($18) Wonderful, full flavoured apple/lime/pear palate with great intensity to its fruit base. It's framed by very shapely, chiselled acidity, before leaving a very persistent note of lime lingering in the mouth. 95

Tim Adams Reserve Riesling 2008 ($29) Wow! Fantastic purity and clarity to pronounced lemon and mineral characters. Palate has a slightly juicy feel to it with good mid palate depth, it's almost sumptuous, but it's all driven away by a searingly intense, racy cut of powerful, uplifting, crystalline-like acids which push the wine into a finish of exceptional length and impact. Hint of grapefruit evident in finish. Magnificent riesling for acid freaks. 96

Tim Adams Semillon 2008 ($18) Another woefully underpriced wine. Lightly oaked (5 months?) sumptuous and juicy semillon with toasty oak, grilled nuts and pungent melon/citrus fruits. Finishes dry and savoury with good length and acidity. Should be another perfect medium term semillon from this maker. (full review soon) 92

Tim Adams Pinot Gris 2009 ($18) I thought the 2008 (92pts) was the best Tim Adams' Pinot Gris I've had, but it might've met its match with the 2009. Slight blush pink colour, with plenty of nutty, pear and waxy lemon citrus characters evident. The palate has a rare intensity of flavour, body and structure for such a cheap Australian gris, making it too intriguing a prospect to pass up for even a gris doubter such as myself. (full review soon) 91

Tim Adams The Fergus 2006 ($19) Floral, grenache influenced perfume of ripe blueberry and violet aromas with deeper notes of spicy chocolate oak, meat and cloves. It's medium bodied and silky smooth, with cabernet providing the structure to a supple, complex and rustic balance of savoury, earthy red fruit flavours. Fine, long, focused finish with lingering spice. Outstanding value again. 92

Tim Adams Reserve Tempranillo 2006 ($29) Looks good in the glass with a deep tone to its dark purple/black colour. This transfers over to both aroma and palate, with dark berry fruits, cherry cola and chocolate licorice notes evident. Very smooth and concentrated, medium-bodied wine framed by finely powdered, gentle tannins. It's almost impossible to believe this wine was made from 2 year old vines. (full review soon) 92

Tim Adams Cabernet 2005 ($19) The only let down here but it wasn't exactly a great year in Clare. It's very ripe, meaty and treacle like, with stewed fruit characters. Still, I've seen much worse at $19.... 86

Tim Adams Shiraz 2006 ($19) A bit of a closed, introverted nose with savoury red and dark fruits joined by chocoalte/vanilla oak and spice. The rich palate is medium-full and pleasing, providing an even ripeness of flavour which should make for good drinking over the shorter term. 90

Tim Adams The Aberfeldy Shiraz 2006 ($44) Compellingly vibrant nose. Jujube-like fruit profile complemented by assertive chocolate/coconut-like oak. Medium-bodied Clare style with juicy fruit palate, lightly spicy finish and good, but not aggressive tannins. Extremely drinkable and approachable, but I'm knocking one point of my previous score for this (June-2009) because its American oak is looking a bit more prominent now. 93

Tim Adams 20 Yr Old Fine Tawny Port ($35) Quite a pleasing, rich, full style of Australian port with lots of good savoury, nutty characters and a welcomed dryness. Rather thick, heavy and impactful too. Great length. 92


Jim Barry seems to be a producer going through transition at the moment. A proactive transition that is. One moving with confident strides to take on the world market in a big way.

Aside from being a pioneering member of the 'Family of 12' supergroup, their present range of wine reflects good quality and diversity, with plenty to offer for both entry level drinkers and those with more discerning tastes.

In addition to their popular Silly Mid-On Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (which the cellar door attendant kept drilling to everyone how their savvy fruit comes from Shaw and Smith) and slightly sweet 'Lavender' Riesling, they've added some new BBQ friendly reds and a light pink, transparent bottled, vintage dated sparkling pinot, which was created by Peter Barry because his mother was too slow at making tea. I didn't care much for the pink bubbles but I'm sure it'll have great appeal to cellar door visitors. Cleanskins are also available in abundance through the winery.

However, for the more serious drinkers it's the moves Jim Barry is making with cabernet sauvignon and Coonawarra which provide the most interest. The old Penola cricket ground site (with pitch still in tact) in Coonawarra's south has provided fruit for Jim Barry's cross regional Cover Drive Cabernet for some years now, but it's their reserve level First 11 from the handy 2005 season which really shows what this site is capable of. The result is exactly as it should be; it's easily the best wine I've had from this site. The even dearer Benbournie from 2002 is an even better cabernet. Reflecting excellent development and potential for a Clare Valley cabernet, it obviously harnessed the superb 2002 vintage to full effect. Both these wines show the benefit of a little extra bottle age.

The premium reds here really were a surprise highlight throughout the day.

Oh yeah, the Jim Barry rieslings are looking good too.

I normally approach wineries who are moving towards new regions, away from their traditional homes, or expanding their lower end, with a fair swag of hesitation, but in the case of Jim Barry, if the wine quality remains good, they can do as they please.

Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2008 ($15) A shame to see this really because I've read several positive reviews of the 2009 already. The 2008 is a nice and dry, lavender and lime, floral style with good acids and traces of austerity. Top value. 93

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2008 ($18) Intended to be the driest of the Jim Barry rieslings, of which it succeeds. Its fairly mineral palate is complemented by great length and structure. 92

Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2007 ($40) More expensive than Grosset's Polish Hill, which is never a good move in my opinion. All the same it's an excellent riesling, with development starting to show through its toasty/limey/kerosene characters in a savoury manner. Has excellent, languid texture in a mouthfilling style. Great overall balance. 94

Jim Barry Silly Mid-On Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 ($18) Adelaide Hills savvy with Clare semillon, in a back to front Grosset style. I've never quite got this wine and the 2008 stays true to this. It's just rather uninspiring and lacking in character for me, but it is clean and fairly inoffensive. 87

Jim Barry 3 Little Pigs 2004 ($18) Shiraz/cabernet/malbec. Made for the BBQ, but more specifically pig/pork/prosciutto. Intriguingly, the press release says Peter Barry 'grows' his own pigs and makes his own prosciutto. The wine has a cabernet nose, with some herbal elements to plum fruits. The palate is earthy, savoury and rustic in a medium bodied style, allowing an idiosyncratic influence of malbec to do all the talking in the finish. 89

Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($18) Clare/Coonawarra. Minty cassis fruits with cedar/mocha oak nose. Its palate is vibrant and smoothly fruited with a firm hold of prickly tannins, but it just finishes slightly raw. I still like the pricing here. 90

Jim Barry First Eleven Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($55) Coonawarra. Nice, elegant, plushly fruited and deep nose. Shows eucalypt with red and black fruit characters, accompanied by polished cedar oak and spice, perhaps clove. It's a harmoniously concentrated, unusually supple Coonawarra cabernet with sweet balance and fine length. 94

Jim Barry Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($90) Coffee bean, cigar box and dusted earth nose with a hint of vanilla and perhaps even mint still emanating from the cool vintage. Has real fullness of flavour with sensual, velvet-like texture. Outstanding length and plenty of structure remaining, even at 7 years old. A magnificent Clare Valley cabernet. 95

Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz 2005 ($50) Slight barnyard tones to its dark fruit, plum and savoury spice nose. Palate is full in body with a juicy, jujube-like feel. It's very ripe but not over ripe, finishing with licorice tones and a tickle of drying tannin. Good result from a rough year for Clare reds. 92


Situated in the restored Auburn train station, Mount Horrocks sits about 200 metres south of Grosset's cellar door, which I'm sure helps business. It also houses a popular little eatery named Station Cafe which is famous for quaint, light lunches; also good for business. Owner Stephanie Toole is a very talented winemaker, which is excellent for business.

Unfortunately, the last few, very difficult seasons have made things difficult for most Clare wineries, including Mount Horrocks. This is most apparent in their 2007 Shiraz and 2009 Riesling.

Usually my favourite Mount Horrocks wine, the Cordon Cut Riesling, disappointed me with the 2008. Its developed, golden yellow colour foretold a rather ripe, peachy wine which lacked its customary drive, length and freshness.

On the plus side, Mount Horrocks delivered yet another delicious, deeply flavoured, handsomely oaked and shapely semillon from 2008. I easily rate them alongside Mitchell and Tim Adams as a group of Clare wineries producing very under rated, high quality, oaked semillon.

After going over my tasting notes I've noticed Mount Horrock's Chardonnay wasn't in attendance. I'm not sure if this wine is being continued or not, but personally I think the less Clare wines made from Burgundian varieties the better.

For interest we ate at the Station Cafe. Everyone ordered the same thing; Osso Bucco. The food was as I've come to expect from the venue; a nice light lunch made in a home cooked country style, which made a fantastic precursor for an afternoon of wine tasting. It wasn't an exceptional meal like the coconut fritters with smoked salmon and lime aioli I had there a few years back, but the veal was 'fall off the bone' tender, the garden vegies provided a freshly flavoured side, and the garlic/parsley/lemon zest garnish was right on the mark.

Mount Horrocks Riesling 2009 ($25) Rather ripe, round and peachy wine with more stonefruit than citrus evident. Lacks necessary drive and sharpness. 85

Mount Horrocks Semillon 2008 ($23) 8 months French oak. A wine with good acidity and length. Its melon fruit flavours are overcome by toasty cedar oak at this young stage, which powers the wine into a finish with brisk, grapefruit like acids partnered by oak characters. 90

Mount Horrocks Shiraz 2007 ($28) Over ripe. Cooked dark fruits smoothed over by sweet oak in a fashion that seems to of become the hallmark for many South Australian 2007's. Had one of my friends making an unimpressed 'squinty' face. 84

Mount Horrocks Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($28) Has 10% merlot added which gives itself away immediately on the nose with leafy, eucalypt notes across its blackcurrant fruit. Not a bad wine really, which is keenly balanced in a dark fruited, medium to full style, but I'm not sure where Halliday got 95 points from (whose review is displayed prominently on the tasting bench). 89

Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling 2008 ($30) Developed yellow-golden colour. Toasty, vanilla oak and peach/nectarine nose. Palate is peachy and sweet, moderately luscious for this wine, but lacks length of fruit and refreshing acidity. 88

Sunday, September 20, 2009


To be completely honest our late deviation to the Wilson Vineyard was as much about showing my guests the beauty of the Polish Hill River sub-region as it was Wilson's wine.

Any trip to Clare isn't complete without a stop at Wilson, Pikes or Pauletts (most beautiful view in Clare by some distance). Even if you don't like their wines, these three wineries (once again I must reinforce Pauletts) are surrounded by some of the most picturesque countryside in Australia. It simply must be seen to be appreciated.

The Wilson Vineyard is a small, father and son run Clare winery whose unsurprising house specialty is its pair of Polish Hill sourced rieslings. Their wines tend to reflect the fuller, more sumptuous and juicy end of Clare riesling, of which, the 2008 wines remain completely faithful.

Wilson senior, Dr John, hosted the cellar door on this particular sunday. It always pleases me to see an owner/winemaker behind the tasting bench. Dr John informed me the 2009 rieslings had just been bottled and were unavailable for tasting.

Although made in smaller quantities, the Wilson Vineyard rieslings are suitably priced and well worth seeking out for riesling enthusiasts. These wines effortlessly reflect both variety and region.

As a side note, The Wilson Vineyard has the most elaborate vineyard chemical storage facility/watch tower I've seen.

The Wilson Vineyard Traminer Riesling 2008 ($18?) Strong lychee/musk nose. Its oily palate shows true traminer flavour, before finishing fine and very dry with a cut of sharp riesling influenced acids. Good blend. 89

The Wilson Vineyard Polish Hill Riesling 2008 ($19.50) Apple, pear and lemon peel type nose with perhaps even a hint of brioche, or something bready. The palate contains good texture, concentration and depth to its juicy varietal fruits of classic Polish Hill style. 91

The Wilson Vineyard DJW Riesling 2008 ($22) Single vineyard (unlike the Polish Hill), Polish Hill riesling. Very similar to the previous wine, but a bit more shape and body. Good clarity to its rather sumptuous, juicy fruits in the white pear/apple/lime spectrum. 92

Saturday, September 19, 2009


 - Adelaide Hills, SA
 - $20-$31
 - Screwcap
 - 13.0%alc

Shaw and Smith is one of the names responsible for the astronomical popularity of sauvignon blanc in Australia. 2009 marks the 20th vintage for this wine, which has practically reached icon status amongst Australia's white wine drinkers.

The 2009 Shaw and Smith opens to a pungent, grassy fragrance with mineral overtones laced throughout tinned pineapple and lemon zest aromas. Smooth and viscous with an oily undercarriage, its somewhat dirty, tropical fruit, lime and melon flavours show suggestions of juicy, mineral and savoury complexities, followed by lasting notes of kiwi fruit and herb. It's rather round and generous, finishing with good persistence of flavour, bitter tones and soft, almost creamy acids, but it lacks the regal balance for a higher score.

O This is a softer rendition of Shaw and Smith's style, with its restrained varietal fruit giving way to more savoury, textural, herbal complexity, but it hasn't quite won the match. Drink to 2010.
89 points

Friday, September 18, 2009


 - Eden Valley, SA
 - $12-$21
 - Screwcap
 - 12.5%alc

Yalumba's riesling specialist (although they also release a gewurztraminer and pinot gris) Pewsey Vale, now produce three distinctly different renditions of Eden Valley riesling in the form of a standard release, an off-dry wine (Prima) and a bottle aged riesling (Contours). The standard Pewsey Vale Riesling is a classic Australian cafe wine.

Scented with nashi pear, musk and apricot blossom, the 2009 Pewsey Vale's limey aromas precede a generously full, slightly broad palate which extends deeply with agreeable, chiseled acidity and persistent fruit. Its very austere, limey, chalky flavours finish in a dry and savoury manner, imposing genuine length and good shape throughout a fairly intense palate.

üDry, shapely, austere, limey and long; a fine 2009 from Pewsey Vale and one of the rare vintages where I prefer this over the Heggies. Drink to 2018.
92 points

Thursday, September 17, 2009


One of the most eye opening wine conversations I've had this year was with Ashton Hills head man Stephen George during a recent vertical tasting.

When sipping samples of his Reserve Pinot Noir, Stephen informed me that in a perfect world the price of his flagship wine should be $30, which is what he believed to be its worth, value and production cost (it's $60 at cellar door but $75 at retail outlets). The other $30 he charges just to cover employee wages.

While on the subject of wine prices I asked Stephen how he manages to keep the price of his own wines at cellar door always below retail (a practice I believe more wineries should implement). Simple, he said. The rest of his response ran something like this (this isn't a direct quotation); "I don't cut deals. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, or whether you're buying 1 bottle, 2 bottles, 12 or 212, the price I charge for my wine remains the same. The $60 you pay for my Reserve Pinot Noir is the same $60 the shops pay me. No deals. No bulk discounts."

Such a straight forward, no nonsense outlook on matters makes all of Ashton Hills loyal customers feel like V.I.P.'s. It also allows Stephen George to concentrate on what's most important to him and his customers; winemaking.

Monday, September 14, 2009


 - South Gippsland, VIC
 - $30-$50
 - Cork
 - 12.8% alc

Made using minimalist winemaker intervention and released in judiciously small quantities, Bass Phillip's exquisite portfolio of pinot noir is unquestionably Australia's benchmark. As I dug through the bin ends at a local liquor store on the weekend I spotted a bottle of Bass Phillip's entry level Village Pinot Noir for $21.90, making now the perfect time for re-evaluation. I previously reviewed the 2005 Village in October 2008, awarding it 93 points. 

Red/brown in colour with a murky, hazy look which is perfectly natural for an unfiltered wine; this 4 year old pinot's heady bouquet presents a wild, funky expression of ripe strawberries, cherry and earthy soils with delightful notes of spearmint and spice. Its full and brambly, edgy flavours of plum and cherry are bound by a sharp extract of sour edged acidity and prickly pinot tannins. Typical of the label its mouthfeel is beautifully supple, as it unravels to a character filled finish of light leathery tones, earthy soils and intensifying spice, with a thread of herbal quality and fresh cedar making the final declaration.

ü Although Phillip Jones' Village Pinot Noir usually polarises the critics (like most of his wines really), I love this maker's style. The 2005 certainly isn't for everyone, but its genuine varietal quality, complexity and wild nature at this price point have won me over. A fraction less sour acidity would've really set things flying. Drink to 2011.
92 points

Saturday, September 12, 2009


 - Margaret River, WA
 - $16-$22
 - Screwcap
 - 12.0%alc

Cullen don't usually make a straight semillon, but they felt the exceptional fruit offered by their Mangan vineyard in 2008 justified a release. After undergoing natural fermentation, 22% of the wine spent 4 months in French oak.

Pale straw, Cullen's Semillon is scented with grilled nuts and toasty oak overlying its restrained primary fruit aromas of lemon and melon. Light hints of tobacco and herb also make a statement. Well worked and complex yet cleanly flavoured, its savoury palate reveals a seamless expression of pure, lemony varietal fruits wrapped in smoky butter oak. A slightly luscious, juicy mouthfeel is complemented by excellent depth of fruit, as the wine finishes with more than adequate length, soft acids and a lasting note of tobacco.

üPerhaps not built for the long term, Cullen's 2008 Mangan Semillon remains a leading example of a complex and savoury, oak kissed semillon. Great stuff Cullen! Drink to 2013.
92 points


 - Margaret River, WA
 - $21-$28
 - Screwcap
 - 12.5%alc

Taking advantage of the favourable vintage conditions, Cullen released a limited edition merlot from their Mangan vineyard in 2007. Biodynamic, dry grown and handpicked merlot grapes underwent natural fermentation and 22 months in older French oak to produce this wine.

Moderately deep in aroma, it's beset with toasty overtones laid across dry earth, dark plum and cherry fruits with generous lashings of dark chocolate oak. The palate enters with good concentration before showing a slightly plump, juicy middle section, as its ripe dark plum and baked earth flavours develop into a long finish entwined with dry, dusty tannins, marked acidity and emerging choc-mint/eucalypt undertones.

ü A naturally balanced and approachable, single vineyard merlot from a great vintage which is destined to appease the critics. I personally appreciate Cullen's reasonable pricing and superb winemaking practices. Drink to 2013.
90 points


To say I was looking forward to visiting Cullen would be an understatement. Along with makers like Clonakilla, Grosset, Joseph, Oliver's Taranga and Shaw and Smith, they're among a handful of Australian wineries where I expect total brilliance with every single bottle. On this occasion, I wasn't let down.

I just wish the service at Cullen was up to the standard of the wine.

Our host didn't really have her heart in it, on what was a very grey, dark and rainy day. Initially she seemed rather displeased to have two such young drinkers walk into her workspace. I immediately told what her a huge fan of Cullen I am, but this didn't seem to interest her. In fact, I got the idea she thought I was making it up, and that it was a line I told all the cellar door hands in a premeditated fashion, much like her lines with wine. At first she tried to speed up our tasting, to keep us moving, but I like to evaluate my wine slowly, so I tried to slow it down through conversation. Without doubt she wasn't listening to a thing I said. She certainly didn't intend on talking to us for more than she had to, so when we were up to the reds, every time a wine was poured, she'd leave, then return a minute or so later.

I've heard time and time again, usually from drinkers more mature than I am, that talking shouldn't be allowed at serious wine tastings. I perfectly understand this theory at wine shows, but in the context of a relaxing cellar door visit I think this is rubbish. If wine can't stimulate conversation what can it do?

It's a shame about the service at Cullen. My ideal Margaret River cellar door would be at Leeuwin Estate, with Cullen's wine, Voyager Estate's food and toilet, and Jamie from Howard Park hosting the tasting. Now I could live at a place like that.

The wines at Cullen do live up to their lofty reputations. I very nearly walked away with one of every single bottle. If the service had been better I probably would've, despite being pricier than discount retail.

It was good to see the 2007 Diana Madeline bounce back to form after an underperforming 2006, but I think everyone knew that was going to happen. Strangely the 2007 Kevin John Chardonnay didn't quite seem up to its usual high standard, much like the 2007 Chardonnay of Pierro from down the road. The 2007 Mangan red looked to of improved leaps and bounds from when I last consumed a bottle in early March. It's settled a lot and I now see what all the fuss is about. It was much smoother, evenly balanced and more languid than my first impressions. The two limited release Mangan Vineyard wines (from semillon and merlot) were very impressive, especially considering how affordable they were by Cullen standards. The semillon in particular was a treat.

Anyone looking to visit Cullen's cellar door should realise that the Diana Madeline and Kevin John Chardonnay are only available for tasting on weekends.

Cullen Mangan Vineyard Semillon 2008 ($19)
Lightly oaked semillon. Aromas of grilled nuts and toasty oak sit over its restrained primary fruits, with light notes of herb and tobacco. The palate is slightly luscious and juicy, complex and funky, with a savoury expression of its varietal make up complemented by good length and soft acids. (reviewed separate post) 92

Cullen Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 ($35)
Tighter, lighter and more restrained than previous Mangans, but still retaining plenty of smoky, mineral complexity. Fresh, vibrant and sculpted citric acids provide wonderful backbone and penetration for the wine. It should age well up to the medium term. 94

Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2007 ($70)
I expected this to leap out the glass at me but it just didn't. It had nice, vibrant melon, grapefruit and nectarine characters but it seemed a bit forward and simple for this price. Pleasingly juicy undercarriage and texture though. Could come together in another year or so, hence my score. 92

Cullen Mangan Vineyard Merlot 2007 ($24)
Contains toasty notes of dry earth, dark plum and cherry fruits with dark chocolate oak. Shows good concentration on entry to the palate, before revealing a slightly plump, juicy middle section. Its ripe fruit flavours are framed by dry, dusty tannins and a long finish. Good merlot at a good price. (reviewed separate post) 90

Cullen Cabernet Merlot 2007 ($39)
Violet florals, with a lightly jammy, smooth and concentrated palate complemented by great length, structure and fine, drying tannins. A fine little brother to the Diana Madeline for those of us with shallow pockets. (full review soon) 92

Cullen Mangan 2007 ($45)
Malbec/Petit Verdot/Merlot. Has improved a long way from when I first encountered it. Leathery, dark fruit and aniseed nose with an extremely long, complex, medium-bodied palate wrapped in powdery tannins. Very smoky, herbal and interesting wine by Australian standards. Reveals layers of flavour in its finish. 94

Cullen Diana Madeline 2007 ($105)
Classic savoury red fruit nose with finely tuned, fresh cedar/vanilla oak playing a counterpoint role. Perhaps a fraction more dark fruit than usual. Tons of depth and character. As always Diana Madeline's palate is magnificently defined by its tannin structure and length. Its tannin in particular is exceptional, building in waves of intensity in a very firm, grippy fashion, suggesting this will be as long lived as the best vintages of this Australian icon. 96


 - Margaret River, WA
 - $52-$70
 - Screwcap
 - 14.2%alc

Voyager Estate's flagship cabernet merlot has grown in stature to the point where it is now considered one of the Margaret River's best and most under valued wines. Why then Voyager needs to degrade this potential icon by continuing to release a (better?) reserve level cabernet under the Tom Price label for around $100 eludes me.

Heavily ripened and heady, the 2004 opens to a sumptuous bouquet of deeply fruited dark plums, currants and mulberry with hints of leather, tar, crushed herbs and smoky cedar/chocolate oak. Its palate is also powerfully ripened and bruising, allowing intense silky/powdery tannins to coat its concentrated, full-bodied flavours of blackberry, mulberry, leather and meats. Dark and brooding, it finishes with real impact and great length, revealing a fine marriage of ripe fruit and savoury earth in its aftertaste.

ü Not for the faint hearted, this is a very ripe, plush Margaret River cabernet blend which just steps the wrong side of ripeness and elegance to be truly exceptional. Big Barossa shiraz anyone? Drink to 2020.
94 points


 - Margaret River, WA
 - $15-$24
 - Screwcap
 - 12.9%alc

Without doubt, Voyager Estate's is one of the leading models of an unoaked Australian sauvignon blanc/semillon blend. At their best these wines will develop for up to 5 years, or sometimes even more.

The harmonious aroma of the 2008 shows a synergistic blend of both varieties, as sauvignon blanc influenced gooseberry and lychee notes mesh effortlessly with semillon derived lemon/lime citrus, with traces of mineral and dry straw beginning to emerge. Its palate begins with fullness and roundness, announcing genuine full mouth intensity to its carefully poised and balanced, sweaty, herbal, gooseberry and lime flavours. A great thrust of racy acids carries the wine into a refreshingly brisk finish.

üA very shapely sauvignon blanc/semillon blend with plenty of character and interest for all drinkers. Drink to 2011.
92 points


The entrance to Voyager Estate is extremely grand. You have to drive along a long driveway, past a number of vineyards and then come across one of the largest Australian flags (on a flagpole of course) you'll ever see. To give you an idea of the enormity of Voyager's grounds; Voyager own 300 hectares of land, of which, only 100 is under vine.

Once you leave the car you're confronted by a beautifully manicured garden. It interested me to see 5 people working in Voyager's garden but none in the vineyards. I spoke to one of these gardeners who told me they used to work in the vineyards, but opted for a transfer. Supposedly this is common at Voyager.

The tasting room is as grand as the entrance. It's housed in a building with a slight French chateau-like feel to it. Once inside, I was completely blown away by the large number of wine related items for sale, but this was the Margaret River and I'd become used to this by now. Just as I'd seen at other cellar doors in the region, the tasting bench seemed to lay in the shadows of a souvenir shop.

The tasting was hosted by a young woman on this particular day. Voyager was relatively busy, but she didn't seem terribly enthused or in the mood for conversing. The host gave us the exact same, premeditated background information on all the wines she gave the group before us (who was standing next to us) and then proceeded to recycle those same lines on the next group who arrived.

I thought I'd test her to see if she knew anything else about wine (other than what she was saying to everyone).

When she poured Voyager's Chenin Blanc she gave us a big (premeditated) spiel like she knew an awful lot about the variety, so I asked her what she felt about Coriole's Chenin Blanc, as Coriole make arguably Australia's best known chenin blanc. Not only did she admit to not being familiar with the wine, but she told me she'd never heard of Coriole. Nuff said.

On top of this she really wasn't interested in being too talkative. I was contemplating buying some bottles from Voyager after lunch, despite the fact they were a little more expensive than discount retail prices. I don't mind paying a little more for bottles from cellar doors, as I find when they're opened in the future it can bring back memories of the purchasing/tasting experience, taking me back to distant, memorable holidays. Almost like drinkable mementos. Unfortunately Voyager's customer service made me think; 'bugger it'. This runs in contrary to someone like Jamie at Howard Park, whose service got me in a good mood and made me purchase a bottle when I hadn't necessarily intended to.

Funnily enough we'd been warned about Voyager Estate by another Margaret River cellar door hand who told us; "that place makes me sick". Stated person said the same thing about Leeuwin. Regardless of this I was in search of fine wine, not fine service.

The Tom Price wines aren't available for tasting at cellar door, but that didn't bother me as they're not my favourite Voyager wines by any stretch. The entire range is looking pretty good really, especially considering they're a bit overpriced at the cellar door. I so wanted the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot to be something exceptional (like the 2002), but its extravagant ripeness saw it fall a fraction short in my eyes. The chardonnay was the only real let down, as it normally tickles my fancy.

Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 ($24)
Its fragrance shows a synergistic blend of both varieties, with savvy influenced gooseberry and lychee merging with semillon derived lemon/lime citrus, with hints of mineral and dry straw starting to emerge. Full and round, the palate is marked by wonderfully racy, zesty acids and great shape. (reviewed separate post) 92

Voyager Estate VOC Semillon 2006 ($40)
Light, woody, matchstick like nose with hints of melon and some development beginning to emerge. Palate is quite forward and juicy with refreshing acids, but needs more drive. Could be going through an adolescent stage. Very expensive Margaret River semillon really, but certainly not the best. 90

Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2006 ($42)
Usually one of my favourite Voyager Wines but this didn't quite pack its typical punch. Grapefruit, melon and butter vanilla oak nose. It's an elegant wine with fair shape, but its acidity does all the talking in the finish as it fruit dives away. 89

Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc 2008 ($20)
Off-dry style which still clocks in at 13% alcohol. Lightly floral, musk and guava nose. Light and soft, its palate finishes slightly sweet, yet clean and gentle enough. 87

Voyager Estate Shiraz 2006 ($32)
Unquestionably, Voyager's is usually one of my favourite shiraz from the region. From a poor year the 2006 is slightly floral, with ruby red plum and cinnamon aromas. Its elegant palate is surprisingly soft yet plushly fruited (small viognier component?) Its much gentler than previous Voyagers, without that searing intensity which normally hallmarks their style. Great wine for the vintage though. 92

Voyager Estate VOC Merlot 2007 ($40)
Lifted cherry and plum aromas with touches of cedar, vanilla, spice and floral accents. Its palate is smooth and polished, with medium-bodied juicy fruits. It's a very clean, even merlot from a great vintage for the variety. 90

Voyager Estate Girt by Sea Cabernet Merlot 2004 ($24)
Light and fresh, fruit forward, clean red berry fruits with hints of herb apparent. The palate is more light-medium bodied yet vibrantly flavoured with fine tannins providing good structure. Good value. 90

Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2004 ($60)
Heavily ripened, sumptuous wine almost at the Barossa shiraz end of Margaret River cabernet. Its powerful, dark and brooding, with great depth, structure and length. Perhaps a touch ripe and meaty for a higher rating, but very good nonetheless. (reviewed separate post) 94