A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 412: The Pride of Penfolds

Monday, September 17: To Canoe for a tasting of Penfolds wines with Peter Gago. He says a single-vineyard Chardonnay is coming – a special Bin wine.

  • Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2009 (50% Tasmanian fruit – 40% new oak): light straw with a green note; undergrowth, apple, new oak, citrus and apple nose; racy acidity, lemony, green apple flavours. Medium-bodied, still tight but will age beautifully. (91)
  • Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2009 (100% Coonawarra, 22% new oak):dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, fruit blackberry nose; jammy blackberry flavour, chocolate note; firm structure with a pencil lead note and a tannic lift on the finish. (89+)
  • Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2009 (American oak, none new): dense ruby colour; savoury, spicy, black cherry nose; dry, elegant, good mouth feel, firm, chunky, earthy, black cherry, dark chocolate and raspberry flavours. (90)
  • Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (100% Cab, French and American): dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, blackcurrant with a thread of cedar; text book Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon; dry, ripe tannins, fine acidic spine. Tannins are evident, cellar 2 years. (91+)
  • Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2009 (“Baby Grange”): dense purple-ruby; damson, dark chocolate nose, cedar; richly extracted; firm structure, dry and elegant. (92)
  • Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2009 (French and American oak): dense purple-ruby; vanilla, caramel, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant nose with a smoky, floral note; rich, intense, beautifully balanced with a firm finish. (93)
  • Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2009 (Barossa, French oak, 60% new): dense purple; vanilla, floral, pencil lead nose; bold, broad, full on the palate, voluptuous, fleshy but firm. (92)
  • Penfolds St. Henri 2006 (Shiraz): youthful, dense ruby-purple colour; vanilla, cedar, blackberry with a sweet note; firm structure, well balanced, dry, elegant. (92)
  • Penfolds Grange 2007 (100% American oak; Shiraz + 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; 75% Barossa, McLaren Vale and Magill): dense purple-ruby, stains the glass; intense, blackberry, cedar and vanilla nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, lovely mouth feel, quite forward, beautifully balanced, rich and hedonistic with blackberry and chocolate notes. (95)
  • Penfolds Grange 1996 (6% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby colour: this is serious wine, cedar, floral, blackberry nose; elegant, firmly structured, dry, juicy blackberry; lovely mouth feel, still youthful with firm tannins. (96)

Tuesday, September 18: Wrote up my 680News reviews and spent the rest of the day preparing for a dinner party for our friends Gordon and Shirley Pape. With Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut (a bargain sparkler at $17.95, crisp, apple and citrus flavours – 89), we served hummus and baba ghanoush. For the shrimps in cream sauce on a bed of rice, Joie Farm Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (lovely green pineapple and citrus flavours, beautifully balanced – 91), followed by pork medallions, corn and fingerling potatoes with Nicolas Potel Volnay 1999 (showing its age but a lovely drop of wine – 91). With the cheese, Mas de Boislauzon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001 (dry and savoury and ready for drinking – 90). Dessert – Deborah baked a fig flan.

Wednesday, September 19: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and worked on the introduction to the Maritime provinces for the new wine book. Tasted a couple of sample sparkling wines made by a COOVI graduate, Rakesh Mehra. Rakesh graduated with honours in oenology and viticulture and furthered his studies at the University of Bordeaux. He has a vision: to democratize the sale of sparkling wine by selling it on tap, like beer, in bars, clubs and lounges. He has made a sparkling Riesling at 4 atmospheres for distribution in 20-litre beer kegs. In order to maintain the pressure, he has invented and patented a dispensing device that will keep the carbon dioxide gas in the keg. The base wine was produced at Featherstone and he converted it to a sparkling wine by the Charmat method. He has an agent, Hobbes & Co., who is currently offering it to licensees.

Rakesh phoned me last week full of enthusiasm and followed up with an email in e.e. cummings style:

sorry, i know i spoke a lot.. when i called you…but no choice i had to convince you tony…that it is a great product…i dropped 2 x 375ml bottles in featherstone bag and an envelope…pls disregard few things on the packaging…in process of updating but tony.the following was the idea behind the name…The Name?? why Contraband?? Good question! When this bizarre idea was born of serving such a celebrated drink from Tap, it was written..lol…. that this company will be disliked and hated by the people who have managed to maintain the stature of Sparkling wines on such a high pedestal that this mere idea is FORBIDDEN…and voila!! The name “Contraband” with its logo. will wait for comments on the wine…hope you enjoy it…Thanks, Rakesh Mehra.

After tasting the samples I replied:

Rakesh, I’ve tasted the two samples and here are my notes:

Sample 1: light straw colour with an active mousse and tiny bubbles; minerally, apple nose, white honey and light floral fragrance; medium-bodied, dry, apple and lemon flavours with some bitterness on the finish (over-pressed grapes?) 87/100

Sample 6: light straw colour, mousse not as active but again tiny bubbles; creamy, earthy nose suggesting a sweeter dosage; Prosecco-like in style, some sweetness in mid palate but finishes dry. Again a bitter, tannic finish. 86/100.

Rakesh says he will make a Rosé and expects his sparkling wine will sell in bars for $7 to $8 a glass.

Thursday, September 20: Spent much of the day inputting wine notes for the Vintages release. This is a tiresome business. Some wine writers bring laptops into the tasting room and type their notes directly into their data bases. For me this would take too much time in the lab and I like the Wordsworthian concept of “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Purchased wines for this evening’s reunion dinner of participants in the Pauwels Travel tour of Piemonte, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna in May. The theme – Provence and southern Rhône (anticipating next May’s wine tour). Twenty people dined at Rossini on Avenue Road.

Friday, September 21: A Vintages tasting day. Then in the evening I conducted a tasting at a private home in aid of Access Education Guatemala. The wines:

  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Grigio 2011
  • Malivoire Forgotten Row Chardonnay 2010
  • Konzelmann Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2008
  • Tawse Laidlaw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
  • Stoney Ridge Merlot 2006
  • Kacaba Meritage 2007
  • Lakeview Cellars Gewurztraminer Icewine 2007

Saturday, September 22: A dinner party for a friend of Deborah’s whom she used to work with at Restoration Hardware, Connie and her husband Larry. Started with Paul Delaine Crémant de Bourgogne with dips and sushi. First course: mushroom risottowith Rosehall Run Chardonnay 2007. Main course: flank steak, fingerling potatoes and summer squash with blue cheese and pecans, with Antinori Solaia 2000 (Piero Antinori had signed the bottle to Deborah at a Grapes for Humanity event at the Columbus Centre nine years ago). With the cheese course, Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. 

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