A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 546: Australia’s First Families

Winemaker Chester Osborn and his daughter Alicia

Sunday, May 24: The wine samples have been mounting up in my 11-day absence in Portugal and Spain so I thought I’d get down to some tasting.

  • Le Cirque Classique Sauvignon Blanc Muscat 2012: light straw colour with a greenish tint; aromatic nose of stone fruits, unctuous, tongue-coating flavours of peach and melon; medium-bodied, off-dry, easy drinking. (86)
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 ($14.95): pale straw colour; smoky, minerally nose, peach and citrus flavours broadened by oak with enough acidity to make it interesting. Good value. (87)
  • Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Chardonnay 2013 ($18.95): straw colour with a lime tint: spicy, citrus and apple with oak notes on the nose; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with peach and clove flavours; lingers well in the mouth. (89)
  • Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 (Chile): pale salmon colour; minerally, wild strawberry bouquet; touch of sweetness in the strawberry-raspberry flavour, good acidity. (86)
  • G. Marquis Hand-Harvested Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara-on-the-Lake): ruby colour; candied raspberry nose with an earthy note; soft on the palate, medium-bodied, sour cherry flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (85)
  • Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Pinot Noir 2012 ($19.95): ruby colour; black raspberry nose with evident oak; dry, medium to full-bodied. Firmly structured with a touch of sweetness. (87+)
  • Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2013 ($12.95): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, black cherry with a peppery note on the nose; sweet black fruit flavours with supple tannins and a good spine of acidity. Good value. (87)
  • Torres Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 (Chile – $12.95): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant nose; light and fruity, dry and firmly structured. (86)

Monday, May 25: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent off a slew of thank-you emails to wineries that had hosted us on our tour. Then got down to more tasting:

  • McWilliam’s Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013 ($26.95): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, pear nose; crisply dry, lean and lemony; very Chablis-like in style. Medium-bodied, pear and crab apple flavours. (89)
  • G. Marquis Single Vineyard Niagara Stone Road Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a green tint; minerally-smoky, green melon nose; dry, pear flavour with an odd chemical note; tart finish. (85)
  • Cape Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape – $10.70): ruby with a violet rim; smoky, tarry, cedar and redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, rubbery note. (85)
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale – $16.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar and blackcurrant nose; dry, savoury, currant flavours with a firm finish. Not a lot of depth but good varietal character. (86)

For dinner, with grilled lamb chops, Canoe Ridge The Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA ($24.90): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant and black cherry nose with a cedary note; full-bodied, with a sweet and savoury flavour given a lift by a floral note; nicely integrated oak and a firm finish. (90)

Tuesday, May 26: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then down to the AGO for an unusual tasting of wines from Australia’s first Families of Wines. There are 12 members but only 11 showed up in Toronto, as one of the Campbell brothers of Campbell’s of Rutherglen broke his leg in Montreal! The concept was a speed tasting. Each winery showed two wines and the winemaker/owner could talk about them for six minutes, at which time a bell rang and you had to move on to the next table. We were all given a number and this was the table we had to start at. I was given the number six (Jim Barry table). The wines, in numerical order (which happened to be the alphabetical order) were:

  1. Brown Brothers Chardonnay 2010; Brown Brothers Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  2. d’Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2013; d’Arenberg The Iron Pressings 2006 (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre)
  3. De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2014; De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2011
  4. Henschke Mount Edelstone 60th Anniversary Vintage 2012 (Shiraz); Henschke Hill of Grace 2005
  5. Howard Park Porongurup Riesling 2014; Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  6. Jim Barry “The Florita” Riesling 2013; Jim Barry “The Armagh” Shiraz 2006
  7. McWilliam’s Appellation Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013; McWilliam’s Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  8. Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2008; Tahbilk “1860” Vines Shiraz 2009
  9. Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Semillon 2010; Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2011
  10. Wakefield St. Andrews Shiraz 2012; Wakefield The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  11. Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2013; Yalumba FDR1A Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2005

Stephen Henschke

Henschke Hill of Grace 2005

They were all wines of very high quality but the stand-outs for me were the two Henschke Shiraz – Hill of Grace (96) and Mount Edelstone (94) – and De Bortoli Noble One (93), Jim Barry “The Armagh” (91), Yalumba FDR1A Cab/Shiraz (92), Tyrrell’s Chardonnay (91), Wakefield St. Andrews Shiraz (91), and d’Arenberg Roussanne (90). A fascinating tasting, rather like speed dating.

Wednesday, May 27: Wrote my Wines of the Week and dealt with wines that had not been collected from the Grapes for Humanity auction. For dinner, pork loin with McWilliams Canberra Syrah 2013 (solid ruby colour with a savoury nose of blackberries and herbs; dry, sour cherry and baker’s chocolate flavours with lively acidity and a fresh finish (89)).

Thursday, May 28: Wrote my Post City column about Cabernet Sauvignon and the need, in cool climates, to blend with Merlot or Cabernet Franc. In the evening I drove to Caledon to conduct a tasting for a school fund-raiser at the house of my nephew-by-marriage a few times removed, Gary W.

Friday, May 29: A Vintages release tasting today. Came across a wine with a label that definitely doesn’t say “Grab me.” It’s called Blindfold White 2013, an oaky blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc “and a few other grapes.” The winery is called The Prisoner Wine Company in Rutherford, California. What you might call a protest label.

Blindfold White 2013

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