The 2007 South Australian Tour Diaries
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Chapter Seven – Thursday – The Barossa
The first appointment this morning was in the north of the valley so we decided to have breakfast at Nuriootpa. This town doesn't have a great selection of breakfast places and our experiences to date here have been bloody awful. Last year we went to Linke’s Bakery and it was by far the worst breakfast of the trip. When I saw it was closed, I thought “You beauty!” We then started looking for somewhere else that was open, and a bad dose of reality set in.
The only place open was the Fishermen's Feast, a “greasy spoon” café. We could smell the cloud of grease hanging in the air, just what we needed first thing in the morning,. Pig slices and cackle berries looked like it was the safest thing on the menu, so that is what I ordered. Whilst we were waiting for our breakfast to be cooked, John noticed a position vacant in the paper for a grower liaison officer. When he saw the requirement of having a relevant university degree, he said "I wonder if my degree in philosophy, which will enable me to make the growers feel good about themselves, would qualify me for the position?"
When the food arrived, the bacon was ice-cold although the eggs were cooked reasonably. Both my coffee and Brian's had grounds all the way through and mine tasted so bad, I couldn't get past the first sip. Not a good way to start the day; a less than ordinary breakfast and no coffee.
Brian has a degree in wine doodleology
Our first appointment was scheduled for 9 a.m. with Shawn Kalleske at Laughing Jack Wines in Greenock. The winery is only open by appointment. When we got to the theoretically correct address, we drove into the property and it was definitely a winery, so it looked like the right place. We were warmly greeted by a Jack Russell and a Golden Retriever, but they were the only people home. We rang Shawn but there was no response. We drove out and headed back the way we came, and noticed a bunch of guys pruning a vineyard. Some people leave things till the last minute!
It was just after nine o'clock so there were no wineries open as none of these lazy bastards open until at least 9.30, so we had time to kill. It didn't take a genius to work out what to do, just a small dose of brain flatulence; real coffee. We headed to the Tanunda Bakery and this time when I walked in, as it was not even play lunchtime, let alone pie o'clock, I actually felt warm and fuzzy about the joint. The two shots of espresso certainly put me into a better frame of mind and I mentally stopped calling Shawn Kalleske's parentage into question.
As we were driving towards Peter Lehmann, we passed a jogger who had a fantastic figure but without a face to match. In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black John said, "You see, that's what jogging does to you. Her face looks like her neck has thrown up.”
It is an ill wind that blows no good, but in this case a lot of good came out of our missed appointment. Firstly coffee, (and in the interests of complete disclosure, if the truth be known, a poppy-seed streusel bun as well), and secondly a visit to Peter Lehmann wines.
The last few visits made to Peter Lehmann have yielded patchy results. There were some good wines, but unfortunately there didn't seem to be much consistency, especially in relation to the house style. For a number of years I've stated that it looks as though they were trying to determine their stylistic direction and were getting waylaid on the journey. Some of the wines tended to be fat and blousy with overripe blackberry, through to being over-oaked and all sorts of other things that weren't a particularly good look.
The staff at Peter Lehmann is amongst the most professional in the Barossa. The cellar door itself is spacious with plenty of room, even when it gets busy. At 9:30 a.m. we were the only ones there. The lady who served us was very quietly spoken, but very engaging in her conversation and most helpful. It's always a pleasure to taste the wines here.
Peter Lehmann 1999 The Black Queen sells for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet showed ripe plum and liqueured blackberry. The palate is perfectly balanced and judged. It's ripe and sweet on the uptake, but it finishes dry with flavours of blackcurrant, plum and milk chocolate. It's an ample-weight, supple wine with an almost seamless structure, and whilst it is more elegant than past vintages, it is a bloody lovely wine. The best since 1994! Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, buy it, I did! (It’s $31 for Weighbridge Club Members with free freight.)
Some wine tragics need to find this shop, and "get a life"............................
Peter Lehmann 2005 Barossa Cabernet sells for $18 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows EA/varnish oak characters, with dark and brooding fruit including blackcurrant and leafy notes. A medium-weight wine with a supple consistency that is uncomplicated, it’s an easy-drinking and completely inoffensive. Driven by distinct, deep fruit and whilst the fruit is a little lean, minimal tannins provide the balance. There is a hint of sweetness on the uptake but off-sweet, varietally correct flavours of blackcurrant, leafy notes, mint and milk chocolate dominate. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value, drink now.
Peter Lehmann 2005 Barossa Shiraz sells for $18 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows plums and hints of liquorice with char. Driven by clean fruit and well-backed by smooth, powdery tannins, this medium-weight wine has a supple consistency, and solid structure, and is uncomplicated. Black cherry and liquorice flavours are dominated by plum; it's reasonably sweet but not offensively so. An easy-drinking, clean, good bistro/food wine, it is rated as Agreeable with *** for value; drink now.
Peter Lehmann 2004 Peppers Marananga Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is bright and varietal with perfumed fruits. A well-built wine with an attractive structure; it is backed by fine, chalky tannins and pure fruit. Blackcurrant, milk chocolate leafy characters and mint linger very nicely. A medium-weight wine with a supple consistency and a solid, tight, elegant structure and harmonious complexity, its rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
Peter Lehmann 2005 Burdon Greenock Creek Shiraz is available at cellar door only, is sealed under screwcap and sells for $30. The bouquet shows sweet, perfumed, plummy fruit and mocha notes. A well-structured wine, it is backed by fine, chalky tannins; its medium-weight, with a supple consistency, and has a harmonious and agreeable complexity. Flavours of plum, cherry and tar finish clean and with good persistence, and reasonable length. It fades to a slight bitterness but is food friendly. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
Peter Lehmann 2005 1885 Vine Shiraz is available at cellar door only, is sealed under screwcap and sells for $55. Spicy, quality, coffee oak dominates the bouquet. A classic structure is provided by pure fruit that is perfectly matched to the silky, chalky tannins. It's a medium-weight, supple wine with some elegance and has a harmonious nature. Red cherry spectrum fruit, spice, milk chocolate, plum, mocha and tar flavours finish clean and long and shows refinement. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window in 2010 and beyond.
..............................Notice the family resemblance
Peter Lehmann 2004 The Futures Shiraz sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows plummy fruit with mushroom oak. The pure, deeply-seated fruit is currently buried by the massive, fine, chalky, drying tannins. The palate shows black cherry, milk chocolate, plum and mint flavours. An ample-weight wine with a firm consistency, solid structure and agreeable complexity, it's rated as Recommended with *** for value, but the rating should improve as the wine matures.
Peter Lehmann 2002 Mentor (contains 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 10% Shiraz,
8% Malbec,) sells for $40 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. Cabernet characters dominate the nose together with dusty oak, but the pure, clean fruit is lurking below. The wine is all about structure and as welcoming as a closed strong room door. Backed by a huge amount of drying, smooth, dusty tannins, the pure, deeply-seated fruit demands time to surface. It's a muscular-weight, firm, solid and tight wine. Milk chocolate, mocha, tomato leaf, blackberry, and blackcurrant flavours finish clean as the tannins slam the entire length and breadth of the palate. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating will improve as the wine becomes approachable in 2014 and beyond. This gets a big thumbs-up.
Peter Lehmann 2002 Eight Songs Shiraz sells for $40 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. When first opened, the wine was a little reductive but it blew off to reveal smoky oak, chocolate and plum characters. Silky tannins combine with pure fruit to provide an attractive mouth-feel and solid balance. Plum, chocolate, smoky bacon and eucalyptus flavours finish long. It's medium-weight with a supple consistency and shows some elegance. It's the best wine under this label for many years. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, drink over the next eight years.
Peter Lehmann 2002 Stonewell Shiraz sells for $80 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is a perfect expression of pure fruit with plum and vanilla. Ultra-fine tannins back the pure, deeply-seated fruit to provide a perfectly structured wine that is squeaky clean. Plum, milk coffee, mint and chocolate flavours are attractive but this classy wine needs time to build further complexity. It has ample-weight, has a supple consistency, and a solid, tight and elegant structure. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine is in its peak drinking window between 2013 and 2020. Most wine lovers would find this wine charming, but to me, unfortunately it is so perfect it lacks soul. I said much the same thing about the 98 and was proved wrong with time; I it will probably happen again with this vintage.
The good news is Andrew Wigan is back on track and has finally defined the house style. It is now reasonably consistent across the entire range. Even better, many of the wines show improved structure and are more elegant than their predecessors; and many show excellent restraint. They are all the better for it. It’s great to see them achieve an excellent report card again. There was no doubt they were trying, but it just took a bit longer than expected to achieve the desired result. Now hopefully further improvements and experimentation will be slowly, slowly, softly, softly.
Seen outside a pie shop - driven by the baker? ...................................
The Willows Vineyard is a small, family-owned winery where we have had some enchanting experiences in the past, so when Brian suggested we go there, I was happy with his choice. I don't know why, but the reception we got this time was a little cold and did not engender a positive atmosphere. Even whilst we were tasting the wines and making very positive comments about them, although the person serving us was professional, it was fairly cool, aloof attitude.
The Willows 2005 G7 is a Grenache Shiraz blend that sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. A hundred cases have been produced. The bouquet was volatile. Blackberry, milk chocolate and juicy-fruit produces a very easy-drinking wine with a pleasant mouth feel. It's medium-weight with a soft consistency, almost seamless structure, and is rated as Recommended with *** for value.
The Willows 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $23 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows loads of mint, tomato leaf, and blackcurrant, and whilst it is varietal, it reminds of a Wendouree. Driven by pure fruit and backed by silky tannins, the mouth feel is attractive. It's an ample-weight wine with a supple consistency and a solid, tight structure. The blackcurrant, black cherry, mint, chocolate, mocha and leafy flavours linger well. A good wine for the price, it just needs time to fill out, and whilst it's approachable now, it will improve. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, drink from 2010 and beyond.
The Willows 2004 Shiraz is sealed under cork. There was less than a quarter of a bottle of wine left in the bottle, which had been open for three days. When Brian (who is much more tactful than I am) politely pointed out that the wine was oxidised, the response was, "Yes". There was no offer to open up another bottle, and when we expressed interest in the Bonesetter, we were informed that is not opened during the week.
From my perspective, when a winery has an attitude where they think it is perfectly acceptable to serve badly oxidised wine, there is no point in visiting the winery again.
Shawn Kalleske and I played a number of rounds of telephone message tag and we finally got hold of each other. It turns out that he was one of the guys we saw pruning the vineyard, and that he had written the appointment in his diary for the following week. He was profuse with his apologies, and although that would normally be more than enough, in this case it wasn't. He owes me big time for having to endure such a revolting breakfast for nothing. When I do catch up with him eventually, the wine had better be served in Riedel Magnums by buxom, bikini clad wenches and accompanied by Beluga caviar on paper-thin toast, together with boiled egg and a squeeze of lemon. But none for the Pie King, he wouldn't appreciate it, he can have a Vili’s pie instead.
We received a very welcome reception at Gibson Wines. We were ably and warmly looked after here. Although I have purchased their wines in the past, last year was the first time I visited the winery. That experience was a little patchy but there were some very sound wines tasted, so I thought the ones that didn't show that well may have been because of vintage variation. I wanted to get a better perspective so another visit was in order.
Gibson 2003 Barossa Merlot sells for $20.90 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. Some damage label stock was available at $12. Blackberry, plum, and dark black notes are found on the bouquet. A solid backbone is provided by the silky, chalky, chewy tannins that support this ample-weight, supple wine with an agreeable complexity. More of a "big red" than a varietal Merlot, the flavours are blackberry and plum. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Gibson 2005 Reserve Merlot sells for $31.90 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows dusty notes, plum, milk chocolate, spices and holds one's interest. An excellent structure is provided by the very-fine, silky tannins, unobtrusive acid, and pure, deeply-seated fruit that delivers plum, musk and dark chocolate flavours. It's ample-weight with a supple consistency, a solid structure that shows some elegance, and it has a harmonious complexity. This is a damn fine Merlot, one that I could happily drink. It also lounges well in the mouth. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, drink over the next seven years.
Gibson 2004 Isabel Blend sells for $24.50 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. It's a blend of 57% Merlot, 38% Cabernet and 5% Petit Verdot. A good, solid wine that needs time for the abundant, smooth tannins to resolve and for the deep fruit to surface. It's an ample-weight, firm wine with a solid structure and agreeable complexity. Chocolate, mulberry, tomato leaf and coffee are perfectly supported by the tannins that fill the palate completely and finish dry. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine matures around 2010.
Gibson 2005 Wilfreda Blend sells for $24.50 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. It's a blend of 50% Shiraz, 30% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. The bouquet was completely closed but clean. Fine, silky, chewy tannins provide a supple consistency and solidly support this muscular-weight wine, which has a diverse but harmonious complexity, and is yummy. Blackberry, dark chocolate, meaty flavours, and mint finishes clean, dry, and with good length and persistence. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, it should peak in 2010 and beyond; it is a must buy for something different.
Gibson 2005 The Dirt Man Shiraz sells for $24.50 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The wine is made up of some Eden Valley fruit together with some of the Wilfreda Shiraz component. The bouquet is a pure expression of lovely, ripe, plummy fruit. Driven by deep, pure fruit and backed by velvety tannins, this ample-weight wine has a supple consistency and a diverse complexity. The palate is seductive, but given a couple of years, when the fruit surfaces it will be even more so. Coffee, blackberry, chocolate, plum and loads of spice finish with excellent persistence. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window in about two years.
Gibson 2004 Barossa Shiraz sells for $36 and is sealed under cork. The wine opened a bit stinky but quickly blew off to reveal a touch of VA together with prune and smoky vanillin oak. It seems to lack fruit generosity, but what was there was very ripe, all on the front of the palate, and in the prune flavour spectrum. It has ample-weight, has a supple consistency, a solid tight structure and agreeable complexity. Rated as Recommended with ** for value, the other wines were far better value.
Gibson 2005 Old Vine Barossa Shiraz sells for $96 and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows a hint of VA but is full of class, tight, and whilst it doesn't want to show its glamorous side, the quality is evident. Once sip and you know this is as good as it gets. Pure, deep, strong fruit is perfectly matched to the velvety tannins in this muscular-weight, supple wine that has a solid, seamless, ultra-tight structure, and a sophisticated and harmonious complexity. Flavours of plum, violets, liquorice, chocolate and heaps more linger beautifully and finish to very dark chocolate. A top-quality wine, the only thing it needs is time; it's rated as Excellent with *** for value, and the rating may improve as the wine matures around 2014 and beyond.
Gibson 2005 Old Vine Eden Valley Shiraz sells for $96 and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is dominated by sweet, blueberry fruit. A restrained, well-made wine with excellent construction, the silky tannins are perfectly matched to the pure, deeply-seated fruit. It's an ample-weight, supple wine with a seamless, tight structure and is harmonious. The fruit is very sweet but perfectly ripe. Sweet and off-sweet flavours are inextricably linked together and deliver cassis, hints of blackberry, loads of spice, white pepper, some herbaceous characters and dark chocolate. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, it should enter its peak drinking window in around 2012.
I don't know why, but they missed the mark on the 2004 Shiraz but other than that, the wines ranged from very drinkable to damn fine. This visit confirmed that Gibson is pretty consistent and certainly worthy of consideration at any time. Good stuff!
During the tasting, Mrs Gibson was busy with her head down and “proverbial up” - in this case literally as she was preparing wine for shipment. At one stage in the conversation we were talking about what was going on in the vineyard and she said, "We get our effluent for the vineyard from Wolf Blass.” Gees, I have heard that some of their wine is not good, but I didn't think it was that bad!
Brian's parking hasn't improved!
Since we arrived in the Barossa I have been waging a strategic war to ensure that if at all possible, we are nowhere near the Lyndoch bakery at lunchtime. So far I have been able to avoid the place, and today made sure that come pie o'clock, we would be at the other end of the valley. The plan worked brilliantly. When the magic hour arrived, I made sure we were at Saltram Wines; it just happened to have an excellent restaurant called Salters that does not have any pies on the menu, unless you count pizza as a pie.
We knew we were eating out that night and didn't want to have a huge lunch, so pizzas were the go. We each had one with ham, bacon and chorizo, and they were seriously good. They were loaded with pepper, herbs and spices, and were very tasty. Being allergic to anything green that could be remotely healthy, John scraped the fresh marjoram off his pizza. Whilst he was eating, his head dropped and you could just about hear the cogs meshing whilst he was coming up with another one of his wonderful, philosophical gems. This one was quite a surprise, "Sun-dried tomatoes were the greatest scam of the 20th century.” (Even worse than the Nigerian e-mails?)
I like tasting the wine at Saltram. The winery has a good range and although it seems that every time I visit there is a new person managing the cellar door, the staff is always knowledgeable, helpful, and above all professional. Deb who was looking after us today was no exception.
Metala 2005 Shiraz Cabernet sells for $15 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows spicy fruit with a hint of VA/lifted aromatics. The wine is fruit driven with minimal oak but has enough silky, dusty, drying tannins to hold itself together. Just ample in weight, the consistency is soft, the structure is seamless and the complexity harmonious. Blueberry, loads of dark chocolate and spices provide plenty of fruit for the dollar. Rated as Agreeable with **** for value, drink over the next five years.
Metala 2004 Black Label Shiraz sells for $50 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet exudes very-sweet, confected fruit with spicy undertones. Silky, powdery tannins provide a solid backing and attractive mouth feel. It's a medium-weight, firm wine with an agreeable complexity, and the palate follows the bouquet, but the fruit lacks generosity. The long finish is slightly sour. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.
Pepper Jack 2005 Shiraz sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The aroma is NutraSweet. Unobtrusive, velvety tannins provide a soft consistency and the distinct fruit combines to form a seamless, medium-weight wine with a harmonious complexity. The palate is super sweet on the uptake with bits of spice kicking in. An easy-drinking drop that would suit those that don't particularly like wine, I'm willing to bet it will be hugely popular. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Pepper Jack 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows spice, herbaceous notes and mint. Driven by pure fruit with enough unobtrusive tannins to hold the wine together, its ample-weight with a soft consistency, and an almost seamless structure. Sweet blackcurrant, spice, and mint flavours finished clean, but there is some residual sugar evident. Very smooth and easy drinking, it's rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Saltram 2005 Mamre Brook Shiraz sells for $24 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is both sweet and spicy. An uncomplicated, fruit-driven wine with sweet plum on the uptake, violets, caramel/mocha and spicy overtones; its medium-weight with a soft consistency, seamless structure and backed by unobtrusive, silky tannins. The masses will love this wine. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Saltram 2004 Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $24 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows coconut oak, plum and subtle mint. The fruit is pure and delivers very-ripe sweet flavours including milk chocolate and plums; there is not a huge amount of fruit generosity, and the fruit that is there, is currently covered by an abundant load of silky, but chalky tannins. It's ample-weight with a supple consistency and an agreeable complexity; rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Saltram 2003 No 1 Shiraz sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet showed sweet berry fruit with vanillin and mock oak characters; it was very seductive. What a great result for the vintage. An excellent balance and formation has been achieved with the use of pure, deeply-seated fruit, unobtrusive acid and silky, powdery, but chewy tannins. A muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency, the structure is both elegant and solid and the wine has improved tremendously since I tried it last year, but still needs more time to show its best. The sweet, juicy-fruit on the uptake is complemented with mocha and milk chocolate flavours that finishes dry, long and crisp. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2011 and beyond.
Saltram 2002 Eight Maker Shiraz sells for $200 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet screams quality with spice and sweet undertones. The silky tannins are deceptively soft and contribute to the wines clean and seamless construction. It's sweet on the uptake with off-sweet and savoury nuances that cruise through the palate, in first gear, at a crawl. Ample-weight with a supple consistency, it’s solid, tight, elegant and seamless. The complexity is diverse and includes flavours of blackcurrant, spice, chocolate, mint, cherry etc. A top-quality wine that is all class, and whilst it's approachable now, it will improve and last. Rated as Excellent with * for value it should start hitting its straps around 2012 and easily last for at least 10 years after that.
We were looked after by Deb at cellar door and she is a consummate professional. She opened up everything for us, and nothing was too much trouble. The fact that I don't particularly like a number of these wines is immaterial; each has been carefully targeted to a market segment and they will sell in each of those categories. The wines without exception are clean, well-made and fault free.
Whilst I tasted the wine, Deb unintentionally came up with a classic line. "I have a cold so I am not smelling terribly good today.”
They very sensibly saved their marketing dollars when they came up with the name for the next winery we visited and spent the money where it could be more effectively utilised instead. Either that or their marketing people were completely devoid of creativity when they come up with the name Murray Street Vineyards, but let's face it, who cares, you can't drink glitz, glamour or a name. The name is simple, practical and it works.
I first tried the wines from this winery during Wine Australia in July 2006. There were some damn good wines, but there were a few that put the winery into the “patchy category,” however they showed potential and were worth a closer look, which is exactly what we did on this trip.
Even before you get to the cellar door, it's easy to get an impression about the priorities and direction of this establishment. As we drove up Murray Street towards the township of Greenock, on your right-hand side, well back from the street, is a very new processing facility. It looks modern, but it certainly doesn't look like they have wasted money on unnecessary architectural enhancements. What is impressive is the vineyard at the front of the winery. It has a layer of straw mulch that would make any greenie proud. As you walk from the car park towards the cellar door, you pass a couple of brick barrel rooms. They are attractive, fit into the theme of the place, but look practical rather than extravagant, but they are undoubtedly significantly more expensive than a shed. The let's not waste money on unnecessary frills is carried right through to the cellar door, but it has been achieved in a stylish and almost unique manner. In one corner of the room is a small bar with working space behind it for the staff. Tasting at the bar is not encouraged and you don't have to stand up to taste. There is a big wooden table which enables visitors to sit down and taste in comfort.
It's quite an impressive place and although it looks pretty schmick, they haven't wasted money in decking out the cellar door. It's tastefully done and a lot of thought has gone into it; it's bright, airy and open, with pleasant music playing in the background. John commented, "It isn't just any music, it is Nina Simone." They have managed to achieve a wonderful atmosphere and ambience for a hell of a lot less money than some of the other new cellar doors in the area.
Murray Street 2005 The Barossa (a blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsaut and Mataro) sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows liquored cherry, raspberry, meats, and milk chocolate; it's a very impressive nose. Smooth tannins combine with fresh acid and pure, persistent fruit to form a medium-weight, firm, and elegant, solid and seamless wine. The palate follows the nose with sweet and savoury nuances and finishes with a pristine, fresh and clean, long finish. A smashingly good wine, I didn't want to use the spittoon as this is one of the best GSM’s around. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value; it's ready to drink now.
Murray Street 2005 Barossa Shiraz sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The nose was a bit reductive and stinky. Pure fruit combines with silky tannins to form an ample-weight supple wine with a solid structure. The excellent plummy fruit is marred by the reductive characters on the finish. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.
Murray Street 2004 Cinsaut Shiraz sells for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. This is an unusual blend but it works brilliantly. The bouquet shows cherry and milk chocolate spectrum fruits. The savoury palate is attractive with flavours of dark chocolate, orange peel, earthy characters, and meaty notes that all finish long and dry. An ample-weight wine that is backed by silky, dusty tannins; it has a supple consistency and is tight. I really liked this drop, it was interesting and unusual. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, drink from 2012.
Murray Street 2004 Mataro sold for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap; unfortunately for you it is sold out. The bouquet shows perfumed, meaty notes. The wine is all about both structure and flavour. Pure, deep fruit is perfectly matched to the tight, fine, silky tannins. It's a muscular-weight wine with a silky consistency, a solid, tight structure and a harmonious complexity. Violets, chocolate, Dutch cocoa, blackberry and charcuterie flavours are sensational. Rated as Excellent with **** for value, drink from 2011.
Murray Street 2004 Shiraz Cabernet sells for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is slightly reductive but has pleasant, perfumed aromatics below. An ample-weight wine with a supple consistency, a tight structure and diverse complexity; it is backed by silky tannins and fresh acid. Flavours of plum, blackberry, blackcurrant and dark chocolate finish dry and fir, but it is marred by a hint of reductive character. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.
Murray Street 2005 Greenock Shiraz sells for $50 and is sealed under screwcap. It is a single vineyard wine. An ample-weight wine with a soft consistency, a tight, solid and elegant structure it's built well but if it had more fruit showing it would have been even better. The bouquet shows fresh, bright plummy fruit with milk chocolate and mocha. It needs time to show its best. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, the rating may improve as the wine matures around 2011.
Murray Street 2005 MSV Gomersal Shiraz sells for $50 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was very slightly reductive with black notes below. The wine shows better fruit generosity than the Greenock Shiraz and is backed by silky tannins. It's muscular-weight with a supple consistency, tight structure and an agreeable complexity. Thankfully the reductive character does not come through on the palate which shows black cherry, plum, and chocolate flavours that finish dry but a little short. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value; drink from 2010.
Murray Street 2004 MSV Benno is a Shiraz Mataro blend that sells for $75 and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows quality, ripe fruit with lifted aromatics and loads of complexity. The construction is excellent; silky tannins combine with fresh acid and pure, deep persistent fruit to form a muscular-weight, supple wine that is tight and harmonious. Cherry, milk chocolate, roast meats, plum, mocha, and aniseed flavours show an excellent level of complexity and finish long, clean, persistent and dry. A superior wine, you could drink it all day. A class act; it's rated as Excellent with *** for value and should best be consumed between 2012 and 2018.
Murray Street Vineyards is a praiseworthy act. It was a terrific experience, and in no small part due to the bright and friendly personality of our server, as well as her passion for her work.
The winery is doing good things; the experience during this visit was certainly an improvement over what we tried at Wine Australia 14 months previously. Some of that may have been vintage related, or it might mean that they are getting better at what they are doing. The house style is 100% consistent. The tannin management is excellent. A major concern is that the wines are unfiltered and unfined, and have been sealed under screwcap which has resulted in a number of them being reductive. This is something that the winery is going to have to come to terms with, because reductive wines are not a good look.
Although their wines are not inexpensive, they are good quality, worthy of purchase, and will sell well.
We had a tiny amount of time on our hands and Brian decided that he wanted to go to Vinecrest to taste their Sparkling Shiraz and their Merlot. That's right, Merlot. Brian fell for the oldest trick in the book. He believed a sign out front of the winery that said “Best Merlot in Australia” or some such wording, which was referring to the WineState 2005 best Merlot category winner. (Brian: I actually wanted to just taste the Sparkling Shiraz.)
I decided to give my palate a break here and basically did not bother to try the wines. I did try the Sparkling Shiraz, but I wasn't impressed enough with it to bother with a tasting note. Much to my surprise, about a week ago three sample bottles from Vinecrest arrived, so I decided to include them in the diary at this point.
Vinecrest 2004 Shiraz sells for $22 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet showed hints of EA/varnished oak with black fruits including plum vanillin oak and sawdust. Silky tannins combine with fresh acid and obvious fruit to produce a medium-weight wine with a supple consistency, solid structure and uncomplicated level of complexity. Flavours of plum, black fruit and chocolate finish with a slightly sour edge, but on the plus side, it has good persistence. Rated as Acceptable with ** for value.
Vinecrest 2005 Shiraz is not listed on their website yet so I presume it has yet to be released. It is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is heavily dominated by roast coffee beans together with plum and sweet vanillin oak. A medium-weight, firm and solid wine it lacks fruit generosity and is thin on the mid-palate, and the majority of the flavour seems to come from the oak. Coffee, plum, milk chocolate and sour cherry flavours have good power for its weight and it would probably be better with food, particularly pasta with an oily sauce. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Vinecrest 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $21 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows sweet fruit with hints of spicy oak. Smooth, unobtrusive tannins produce a nice mouth feel for this medium-weight wine with a supple consistency and uncomplicated complexity. The palate is dominated by green spectrum flavours including mint and dried herbs that intertwin with blackberry, plum and chocolate; it finishes with sour acid. It's just another wine that will get lost in the crowd but would probably be improved by food. Rated as Acceptable with ** for value.
The tasting notes speak for themselves, so no further comment will be necessary.
One of the greatest joys of doing wine tours is going to a place for the first time, not knowing what to expect, and discovering terrific wines. There is only one thing better than that, and that's when the wine is made by interesting people.
I want you to picture this scenario. You drive into the winery to be greeted by a gorgeous dog, obviously still a puppy, a cross between a Golden Retriever and Samoyed. Looks the part and has the personality to match. Not wishing to be outdone, the pussycat saunters over and flops down in front of you for a cuddle too, trying to edge the puppy out of the action.
As you walk towards the winery, wending through the wine barrels under the trees and elsewhere in the garden, you notice a Hills Hoist in front of it with flannel shirts on the washing line. You walk into the shed and see this is a real-life, working winery. But it's more than that. There is "stuff" everywhere. After the introductions are made, you head out the back to the office. The host makes a specific request to wipe your feet carefully, as what looks like tiles on the floor is actually concrete that has been hand-painted.
You walk into the office, which is also a small lab, as well as a bit of a junk room. The floor looks fantastic. What an array of colours and what detail. Two budgies are flying free. There is a cage there but they only go in to eat, drink and occasionally sleep. The owner originally bought them to cheer up an old lady in a home, but when she got the budgies to the winery, they were not happy being in a small cage, so she opened up the door to let them fly free in the office, and they have been there ever since.
Later on, when you go out to another section of the winery, sitting right in the middle is what every good winery needs; indeed a most necessary set of winemaking equipment. Golf clubs! And near the golf clubs, hanging from the roof is a cage of Canaries. In front of the open-sided shed, the free range chooks are having a field day. They have no objection to the dog weaving in and out between them, almost playing with them.
Mr Goose and Mrs Gander came over to introduce themselves, but they were not as friendly as the rest of the family. However their six little goslings were adorable. Incredibly, the dog plays very gently with them. There is a level of harmony and peace amongst the chaos that would be difficult to find anywhere else, and is equally hard to define.
This was the scene that greeted us when we arrived at Deisen.
When they defined the words “boutique winery” they must have had Deisen in mind. They rarely make more than 160 cases of any wine. The winery is owned by Sabine Deisen and Les Fensom. Sabine was born in Germany but moved into the Barossa as a young child. Her family own the property.
They started growing grapes and selling them to Rockford. According to Sabine, "It was the 1990s and everyone was trying their hand at making wine. We love drinking wine, and are ’pissos’ so that was the reason for us doing it too.”
That broke us all up, and immediately John said, "Now you are talking.” Everyone knew we were amongst friends.
Sabine went on to say, “We didn't drop out of the sky expecting to be winemakers. Living in the Barossa is really a privilege if you want to make wine. Advice is everywhere when you need it.
When we first decided to make wine, I approached Rolf Binder, Chris Ringland and Wayne Dutschke. They were all too busy doing other things and didn't want to make our wine. Wayne suggested I buy a book and learn how to do it myself. I thought he was pulling my leg! But that is what we wound up doing.
All the wines are made in small fermenters and are hand plunged. While we were trying the Mourvedre, Brian asked Sabine if she did anything special to get such unobtrusive and silky tannins. She said, "Not that I know of.” Sabine then waffled on about the temperatures of the ferment and then without knowing it, said one of the most important things during our entire conversation. "We make wine by feel.”
That might sound very strange, but Sabine is very creative and an artist. Years ago I remember reading a sculptor describing how he produced fine works of art. The sculptor explained that the average artist looks at a block of rock and thinks, now how can I make this rock look like the subject. I look at the block of rock and see what’s inside it, and work out how to chip away what is not needed. In many ways, I think that is how Sabine makes wine. She is an artist producing wine, and one with very strict German standards.
Everything is done by hand, from the pruning of the vines, to the picking of the grapes and even all the bottles are labeled by hand.
In 1997 they planted the vines and started making wines in 2001, seven barrels of the stuff. It was all for their own consumption, so they were either “highly motivated” or bloody thirsty. Their first commercial production was in 2001. Although their property is 80 acres, they have 25 acres under vines. Occasionally they “procure” a small parcel of fruit. For example in one year they made a miniscule quantity of Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes they had not grown themselves. They make about a thousand cases; the rest of the fruit (Shiraz) is sold to Rockford and John Duval.
Deisen 2005 Late Grenache sells for $37 to mail order customers and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is restrained but does show plenty of perfumed notes. Quality, pure fruit combines with silky tannins and fresh acid to form a medium-weight wine with an almost soft consistency, a close to seamless structure, and an agreeable complexity. It's very sweet on the uptake with milk chocolate on the mid-palate and finishes with good length. Whilst it is best described as easy-drinking, it can equally be described as "ethereal." Rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Deisen 2005 Grenache sells for $37 to mail order customers and is sealed under cork. The wine is actually made from 85% bush vine Grenache, with the addition of 15% Shiraz. It spent 18 months in aged oak and only hundred and sixty cases have been produced. The wine exudes amazing floral aromatics. A prima ballerina like balance has been achieved between the pure, deeply-seated fruit, the fresh acid and the silky-smooth, dusty tannins. The construction is as solid as the Sydney Opera house, and looks about as good. It's an ample-weight, sophisticated wine with a harmonious complexity. The palate is bursting full of flavour with a sweet red fruit uptake, milk chocolate on the mid-palate and finishes to aniseed and tar. It finishes clean, crisp, dry and very long. One of the best Australian Grenaches I have had, and a top quality wine; it's rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value and the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window around 2009 and beyond.
Deisen 2005 Mourvedre sells for $37 to mail order customers and is sealed under cork. The savoury, meaty, earthy bouquet is deep and brooding. Another ethereal wine! The seamless construction has been bonded by the pure fruit, fresh acid and unobtrusive, fine, supporting, silky tannins, which results in a stylish wine. It's ample-weight with a supple consistency, and as tight as a clenched fist. The complexity is refined, harmonious and well-developed, and that gets the tastebuds singing. The palate is primarily black but it is perfectly ripe with cherry, plum, meaty flavours and mint. The flavours linger for ever. It's approachable now, and rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, but the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window around 2010 and beyond.
Deisen 2005 Early Harvest Shiraz is available to mail order customers only, and sells for $30; it is sealed under cork in a 500ml bottle. This is an experimental wine that will be released in one month. Only one barrel has been produced. Each bunch of grapes was hand selected and picked early. The objective of making the wine was to have a low alcohol, "real" wine available for people who, for medical or other reasons, may want a glass or two, but have to watch their alcohol intake extremely carefully. It is only 11.5% alcohol. It's a muscular-weight, firm and solid wine with an agreeable complexity. The fruit weight is good, the acid crisp, and the smooth tannins blocky. Plum, milk chocolate, and mocha flavours linger reasonably, but there is a slight sappiness to the finish. An interesting concept, the wine is rated as Recommended with ** for value and needs until about 2011 for the tannins to soften.
Deisen 2005 Tim's Block sells for $19.50 to mail order customers and is sealed under screwcaps in 375 ml bottles. Only 60 dozen have been produced. The wine shows very-fresh, ripe plummy fruit, milk chocolate, and coffee essence on the finish. It finishes clean but the slight amount of residual sugar turns prune flavoured. Muscular-weight with a solid, super tight structure, it's backed by pure, deeply-seated fruit, fresh acid and ultra-fine, smooth tannins. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
According to Sabine, the wine has been designed to be drunk young, and is the perfect wine to put in the glove box.
The Pie King's response was, "I like the way you are talking."
Les’s comment was, "As long as you are not driving."
The Pie King's retorted, "We were not looking for the voice of reason."
Sabine then responded, "He's only saying that because this conversation is being recorded.”
I was wondering why Les sounded like something out of a Responsible Service of Alcohol Course.
Deisen 2004 Shiraz sells for $56 to mail order customers and is sealed under cork. 160 cases have been produced. The wine was matured in 20% new oak for 2 ½ years. The bouquet shows pristine, lightly-perfumed fruit that seductively seduces the nasal membranes. It is black on the uptake with blackberry, char, and loads of dark chocolate and plum flavours which finish very long, clean, and persistent. The pure, deeply-seated fruit, fresh acid and silky, dusty, drying tannins need time to soften and come together. A muscular-weight wine with a silky consistency and layered, tight structure, and well developed complexity, the tannins coat the mouth and are more persistent than an Indian call centre phone salesman! Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2015 and beyond.
Whilst we tasted the 2004 Shiraz, Sue rang John on his shoe phone. John was really excited about the environment and the tasting, even going to the extent of putting his phone into the box of goslings so Sue could hear them chirping. Les looked at Brian and in a very concerned tone said, “He is obviously not driving?”
Brian replied, “No, I am, but he has been spitting all day; he is always like that.” I really don't think Les believed Brian.
We then had a quick tour around the rest of the winery. The crusher has to be seen to be believed. You certainly don't have a truck arriving at the winery, tilting the tray backwards, and dumping the grapes into a mechanical conveyor that moves all the grapes automatically to the crusher. It reminded me of an old-fashioned mangle on a washing machine. According to Sabine, it has been set up to allow lots of whole berries to pass through. With a crusher this size, you have to be careful that you don't shovel too quickly.
They make between six and eight different wines every vintage. The grapes are cropped at less than two and a half tonnes to the acre.
It was after five o'clock and this was our last appointment for the day, so when Sabine asked if we would like to go for a walk, Brian made an executive decision and said yes. Considering exercise is against my religion, I was not impressed. Les suggested we grab our glasses and a few of the open bottles of wine. I wondered what was going on; I know I am a mere male and I am capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, but it's hard to walk and drink wine simultaneously. Sabine disappeared and us guys ambled up the dirt track. When we came to the first row of vines, as the Pie King was with us, the subject changed to things viticultural.
Les and The Pie King banged on about vines for what seemed like hours, intent on solving the problems of the viticultural world. One thing I did notice, the spacing between the vine rows seen to be at about 20% larger than most other vineyards. Just as I was about to fall asleep on my feet from sheer, unadulterated boredom, we continue to amble on up the track.
Whilst we were walking, Les told as about a fortuitous, disused quarry that forms part of the property. In a drought, having a quarry that is full of water is certainly an asset. We eventually came to what could best be described as a small rock amphitheatre. The walk was the first part of the plan; the real objective was to watch the sun going down. On John's property when you sit out enjoying the view you need eyes in the back of the head to watch the sun go down. This little set up had been cunningly positioned so that it faced due west.
When we arrived, Sabine was still missing in action. As we were in the middle of nowhere, I took myself off for a little walk behind where the boys were sitting, and was shielded from them by a substantial amount of trees and greenery. I had no sooner “pointed Percy at the proverbial porcelain” when out of nowhere, a ute came bouncing over the hill straight towards me, with Sabine driving. I don't know who got the bigger shock. Talk about being caught with your pants down. I know it's her property, but she was 30 m off the bloody road.
I needed a drink after that exposure. We had a very pleasant time sitting there talking about the wine business, sipping on a couple of good glasses of red, and having a wonderful snack from the mountain of food that Sabine had prepared for us. There was mettwurst, cheeses, dates, biscuits, and all sorts of other good things.
At one stage, Brian gave Sabine his card, and Les said he thought that they should have business cards too. Sabine said, "Yes Les, we should have them, and we will get around to it one day.” There have only been in business for eight years! But in many ways, this is indicative of their philosophy. They concentrate on the important things, like making terrific wine, and don't place importance on the inconsequential and unnecessary things in life.
What a sensational tasting. It was one of the highlights of the trip. It would be impossible to find two more spontaneous, warm, and unaffected people in the wine business. All the wines are handcrafted, lovingly made, and very credible. Considering their hand-crafted quality, they are priced reasonably. Their wines have X factor. The basis of that X factor is, real, altruistic people making real wine. The wine is made holistically, and you can't separate the people from the product.
As we were discussing the wines on the way back to our motel, John's said, "They make the sort of wines that you want to share with friends. If you pull a bottle of their wine out of the cellar, you want to share everything that they have put into the wine, with your friends.”
For once, the Pie King is spot on. Often people talk about the romance of wine and the ritual that is involved in drinking it. When people take a special bottle of wine from the cellar, one that they have been lovingly keeping for a special occasion, or a bottle that has been given to them by somebody special, they share those memories with friends. In the future, when I take some of the Deisen wines out of my cellar and share them with my friends, I will be certainly telling them about the wonderful visit we had to their property.
A hint, buy some wine and get on their mailing list now!
As a courtesy, when I have made an appointment at a winery, I always send them an advance copy of the text and ask them to please let me know if there are any factual inaccuracies that need correcting.
Artists are creative people and can easily see the beauty and artistic side of life, but sometimes cannot grasp cold logic easily. That was the case when it came to changes to this story requested by Sabine. After reworking a couple of sentences (which showed Sabine in a positive and caring light,) multiple times, there was still no way we were going to reach an amicable agreement. In order to resolve a nonexistent micro-tempest in a thimble, I cut the two disputed sentences from the story, but added that I would not review Deisen wines again as it was too difficult to maintain a working relationship. So go ahead and enjoy their wines, they are terrific, but now I understand why this winery, by their own admission, doesn't often have requests by journalists to visit.
We decided to return to Vintners for dinner. My main motivation for this choice was because the list of desserts we saw last time tickled my fancy. The desserts may have looked great, but the list of starters did not particularly blow me away. When we had dinner there a few nights ago, the boys were particularly impressed with their bug tails. I had avoided this on the prior occasion a couple of nights earlier as it is served with a cauliflower soup with truffle oil. The sound of the bugs got the taste buds singing, but I hate white trees. Colley-Flour – Yuk! It's a dog of a vegetable and should be declared a noxious weed.
The boys told me the soup wasn’t strongly cauliflower and that the truffle oil would overcome the flavour of soup made from white trees. One taste and I knew they were both lying, illegitimate male offspring’s of a female canine. They only told me that because they knew I would hate it and one of them would get to guzzle it.
The bugs were terrific; they were full of flavour and very fresh, and John enjoyed scoffing what was a waste of good truffle oil.
The first bottle of wine opened was a Peter Lehmann 1994 Stonewell Shiraz. As John didn't bring it, there was a good chance it wasn't going to be corked. The fine-grained tannins have resolved beautifully to reveal plum, prolific Belgium chocolate/mocha, and coconut oak, with lovely aged characters starting to emerge. It lingers beautifully and finished clean and dry. Sure, this was a big oaky monster in its formative years, but it shows how well these wines can last and improve. Rated as Excellent, the colour was still youthful and bright, and it still has a long future.
When they saw this wine, our waitress brought out Riedel glasses without even being asked, which was a nice touch.
Between our entrée and our main course, we were quietly sitting their minding our own business when suddenly the entire restaurant started to fill with smoke. There is a huge open fireplace and something went wrong, and it was not drawing. The staff handled it quietly and professionally by grabbing a large pair of tongs and removing all the wood from the fireplace to the outside. Once the wood had been removed, His Pieship’s chin dropped to his chest and the cogs started slowly ticking over; I could see another one of his philosophical statements about to be proclaimed, but I was wrong. It was a suggestion on how they should get rid of the smoke. In his Imperial Pieship’s tone of voice he said, “She has done a good job of getting rid of the wood, but now I think she needs to go up on to the roof and suck the smoke out of the chimney.”
They didn’t listen to the Pie King’s suggestion; they opened the door, which created a cold draught and turned on the air-conditioning which created a hot draught from the opposite direction. It worked because within about 15 minutes the air was clean again, but it is amazing how quickly the smoke penetrated our clothing. The next morning my jeans absolutely reeked of smoke, so it was just as well I still had a clean pair.
Now dear readers, you are probably going to find this extremely difficult if not impossible to believe, but I actually ordered a meat pie for dinner. It was a Wagyu beef-tail pie and it was sensational, now that is my idea of a meat pie. It was accompanied with a piece of Wagyu steak, but unfortunately mine was tough.
When our waitress came over and asked how everything was, it wasn't a perfunctory question, she sounded like she genuinely wanted to know. When I told her my steak was tough she said, "Allow me to get you another one sir." A very professional response but a few minutes later she was back. They would be happy to cook me another one, but they had looked at the rest of the meat and didn't think they could find one that was more tender. The suggestion was made that I ordered something else instead. In a very polite, frank, and honest discussion, it was her opinion that the meat was not tough and that was the way it was supposed to be, but the customer was always right. This was done so professionally there was no way I could take exception to it, especially when I asked if she thought it was tough.
Whilst that was a kind offer, if that is the quality of the Wagyu beef, frankly it is not up to standard. John and I both ordered the same thing and there was no doubt his was tenderer than the one served to me.
As I had eaten half of the main course, I certainly didn't want another main course, so I ordered an additional entree instead. It was quail with beetroot and farfel. It was brilliantly presented and had a remarkable combination of flavours. The farfel was 100% authentic; the beetroot was fresh and it provided a wonderful contrast of flavours and textures.
We also opened another bottle of Kay Bros 1996 Blocks 6 Shiraz and it was just as good as the bottle we had a few nights before. Continuing on the theme of excellent service both bottles of wine were decanted perfectly.
For dessert, I had chocolate cake that was filled with chocolate fondant, with a raspberry coulis and served with disgustingly thick cream. I don't know if this dessert was to die for or to die from, but the smile is still on my face.
When the bill arrived, I had only been charged for the second starter, not the beef main course. Whilst this is great customer service, it is not fair on the restaurant as I ate half the main course as well as the second starter, so I insisted on paying the full price of the main course instead. (Brian’s Comment: It was my turn to pay anyway, so he could afford to be magnanimous.)
Overall it was a top night and it's just a pity that more restaurants cannot manage to achieve this level of service.
Just before we left the restaurant we discussed Sue’s likely reaction to some of the Pie King’s antics. His head snapped up from his coffee cup and faster than you can say “Vili’s Chicken Pie”, he said, “You can put anything you like in the Tour Diary about me, I will just deny it and Sue will believe me.”
And once again, with John’s philosophical words, its time to close this chapter; the final chapter will be published next week.
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