TORB’s Tenth SA Tour Diary (The May 2008 South Australian Tour Diary)

 

Click here for Chapter Two

Click Here for a printable copy

 

Chapter Three – Saturday – to the Barossa

 

I woke up this morning feeling far better than yesterday, but that wouldn't be difficult. However, Brian was not impressed. He was starting to sneeze. If you believe his story, it's all my fault as I gave him my cold. I don't think that's the case. What he has not taken into account was that we were at Seppeltsfield yesterday. He hasn't got my cold, he has got Seppeltsfield disease. I copped it the last time we were there and my recorder also died, and this time it was his turn to be affected by it. (Brian: Nice try at shifting the blame, but it doesn’t fly.)

 

I didn't record any notes about breakfast because I couldn't. My recorder was dead. It had been killed by the Seppeltsfield disease too. However I do remember where we went to breakfast and what we had, as it was one of the best breakfasts of the trip. The Tanunda bakery. We were there when it opened at 8 a.m. We each ordered toasted ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches, but naturally John had two. He is bigger than we are (well he’s taller than I am). No worries about the espresso coffee here, it's good. Brian and I both had two. My toasted sandwich was a great start to the day, but I was still little peckish. Just as well those poppy seed streusel buns had just come out of the oven. Yummy.

 

After breakfast we headed up to the local office supply store. According to their website, they had a perfect replacement for my recorder. Unfortunately they were out of stock but they suggested I try Bing Lee. Yep, the guy there said, we stock them and headed to the locked cabinet. I think “good stuff”. We get to the cabinet and there is a load of “stuff” there but no digital recorders. It’s as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Four letter words. That will mean a trip out of the Barossa to get one. Trying to interview people whilst taking hand written quotes is a royal pain in the butt and you miss far too much, so a recorder is as important as a sense of taste.

 

On our last trip to the Barossa, we had a theoretical appointment with Laughing Jack Wines. I say theoretical, because we were there, but our host wasn't. There was a mix-up in his diary. This time Shawn Kalleske was there to greet us. The name Kalleske is a pretty common one in the Barossa. Every Troy, Shawn and David is called Kalleske. The chances are, way back they are all related, and some of them even have similar stories. For example, Troy Kalleske of Kalleske wines and Shawn from Laughing Jack both have families that have been farming this area for many generations.

 

In the case of Laughing Jack, because that's who the story is about, they have been farmers in this area since 1855. They have approximately four hundred acres. Three hundred acres are devoted to sheep and cereals. The other hundred are under vine. They started planting vines in the late 1800s and new vineyards were added in the 1960s and 70s. During the 1980s, about seventy five percent of the old vines were pulled, and if that wasn't bad enough, they replanted the reds with white varieties. I think people have been shot for less. The fruit from the remaining twenty five percent was mainly sold to Penfolds, but now the excess fruit goes to the likes of St Hallett's and Rockford.

 

When Shawn was eight years old he tried to make his first vintage all by himself. He went out and picked a small quantity of grapes. Not having access to a crusher, press, or filter didn't stop him. He used a flour sifter and pushed the grape juice through it. As he was eight and not eighteen, he didn't bother to ferment it, but nevertheless, he had made his first wine. The seed had been planted.

 

The Laughing Jack vineyard is a small section of their vine plantings. It is surrounded by large, old, eucalypt trees. Kookaburras have the most amazing call and because of it, they are affectionately known as Laughing Jacks. There is a family of them living in the trees overlooking the vineyard, hence the derivation of the name of the wine.

 

When Shawn had finished his studies, he didn't go into the wine industry; he went to work for a gourmet food importer. In 1999 he started Laughing Jack. It has steadily grown since that time. He has had no formal wine training, but he has lots of informal training. He received on-the-job assistance from his father as well as other members of the family. He has also completed a vintage in the US. According to Shawn, "Winemaking is a combination of art, science, and gut feel, however you must know the science behind it.”

 

Shawn jointly manages the family vineyards with his two brothers and his parents. He also manages several other vineyards scattered thorough the Barossa and Eden Valleys, but when it comes to making the wine, Shawn is a one-man band. His premium wines are cropped between .5 and 2.5 tonnes to the acre depending on the vintage, but the second label averages out at between 2 and 3 tonnes. It's a small operation; the maximum capacity is a hundred tons. Of that, 50 tonnes is contract winemaking. They keep 25 % for their own production. The balance is sold predominately to St Hallett's and Rockford's with smaller parcels going to Trevor Jones, First Drop and John Duval. The advertising is virtually nonexistent. At present, they only send samples to Halliday as the wines pretty much sell out through word-of-mouth. It's not that Shawn doesn't send smaples to wine writers because he doesn’t agree with this form of promotion, it's just he normally doesn’t have either the time or need to do it.

 

It was pretty cold in the winery that morning, so the wines reflected the temperature.

 

Laughing Jack 2006 “Second Label” Shiraz will sell for $19.95 when it is released in July. The wine is sealed under screwcap. At the time we tried the wine, it didn't have a formal name. The bouquet showed pleasant floral aromatics with blackberry, mint and aniseed. It may not be hugely long, or hugely complex, but it is hugely enjoyable. It's certainly not subtle, and is driven by pure, persistent fruit that delivers blueberry, blackberry, mint and lots of eucalyptus on the finish. An ample-weight wine with a soft consistency and almost seamless structure, it's very bloody drinkable. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, drink over the next five years.

 

Laughing Jack 2004 Shiraz ($36) is a past vintage but was opened to give us a better perspective of what they are doing. The wine was matured in French and American oak, thirty percent of it was new. At the moment, this wine is showing little other than its structure. Abundant, powdery tannins combine with fresh acid and deep, pure fruit to form a very firm, rock-solid, ultra-tight, muscular-weight wine that has a well-developed complexity. Flavours of blueberry, plum, mint, and milk chocolate finish with good power and persistence. It just needs time and it is seriously good for the dollars. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020+.

 

Laughing Jack 2005 Shiraz sells for $38 and is available under both cork and screwcap. The bouquet was basically closed but showed signs of floral aromatics and subtle perfumed notes. A well-balanced and structured wine, the fine, powdery tannins frame the pure fruit superbly. Plum, rich chocolate and blueberry flavours finish crisp and clean, and with excellent persistence. It is ample-weight with a supple consistency and has very solid structure. It's a good wine, very modern in style with loads of fresh fruit flavour and is rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, but that rating should improve if you can keep your grubby little paws off it for a few years. Drink over the next 10 years.

 

Laughing Jack 2004 Limited Two - Shiraz sold for $85 but is now gone. There was only two barrels of this wine made and it was sealed under cork. The slight bottle stink blew off quickly to reveal a delightful, fruit driven bouquet with spicy American oak and a menthol lift on the tail. A quality, full-bodied, firm and solid wine with loads of oak, but there is enough strong, deeply-seated, pure, persistent fruit to gobble it up. There are also lots of powdery tannins which need time to resolve. Dark plums, rich chocolate, coffee, mint, cigar box and spicy oak flavours mean this wine has got it all. It's worth tracking some down at retail. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2013 to 2025.

 

Laughing Jack 2005 Limited Three - Old Vine Grenache is sold out at the winery (it was $45,) but you might be lucky enough to find some at specialist wine retailers. This wine is only released in the very best of years and the next one will possibly be the 2008. The bouquet showed lifted aromatics with delightful, sensational red fruits together with Kirsch, milk chocolate, raspberry and truffles. These are replicated on the palate and finish clean, long and with wonderful intensity. The fine, chewy tannins are well matched to the pure, deeply-seated, strong fruit which combines to form a wine that is muscular in weight, has a supple consistency, and a well developed level of complexity.  With some class and elegance, it's sensational value. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, but the rating will probably increase as the wine enters its peak drinking window. In seven years time one of you bastards that have bought it can share a bottle with me.

 

Shawn is a talented winemaker. It's not surprising Laughing Jack hardly need to advertise. The wines are either terrific, terrific value for money, or a combination of both. You can't ask for much more than that!

 

Luckily we had a flexible appointment next and were at a good spot to gain quick access to Gawler, about thirty minutes down the road (road works permitting). I hoped I would be able to pick up a recorder there. The local computer store doesn’t have any “in stock.” I am stating to think that there has either been an incredible run on digital recorders, or “not in stock” is a euphemism for “we get them to order, and we hope you don’t die of old age before they arrive”. The computer shop suggests we check out Tandy. They don’t stock them but could get one in for me. Phooey! That’s not what I want to hear. Not at all! They suggest the local stationary supplier. That was my last possible chance to find one without having to go all the way to Adelaide. We eventually found the store. We had driven past it but hadn’t seen the signs. It was on the side of the street that John was supposed to be watching, but missing it was not surprising given the telescopes his Pieship wears as glasses.

 

Bloody hell! This joint actually has one in stock. Right brand, wrong model and lacking a heap of the features I would like, but it will do as a stop gap measure. Now we can get back to the important stuff. Wineries!

 

Next port of call was a winery whose products I first tried at Plonk Oz in 2006. It was a fairly new player at that time, but their wines showed promise and were worthy of a more in-depth look. Hentley Farm Wines is owned by Keith and Alison Hentschke who bought the 90 acre bought the property in 1996. The name comes from a combination of both the owner’s surnames. The plan was to grow quality grapes and concentrate mainly on what the Barossa does best; Shiraz and Grenache, and the wild card of Zinfandel. And it is wild! The property is now almost all under vine.

 

The property is located near the north-west end of Seppeltsfield, not far from the Greenock Creek Winery.

 

Kevin North, our host today, joined the operation in 2002 as Vineyard Manager. The first winemaker was Neil Pike but Reid Bosward of Kaesler soon took over. Reid had a big influence on the wines and their style, however, over the last three years his main job has been to assist with the blending of the wines. Kevin now does almost everything from looking after the vineyard to making the wine and running the place on a day to day basis. Kevin told us his theory in the vineyard is, “Keep it simple stupid. Let the vines do the walking and make the wines. The wines are made on the vine. Eighty five percent of it happens out there, ten percent is in the winemaking and five percent is good luck. It’s very simple; don't over water and keep yields down.”

 

2002 was their first vintage and they produced a whopping 256 cases! At that time they were selling the balance of their grapes to nine different wineries. Now they use most of the grapes themselves but a small quantity goes to Kaesler and St Hallett. In 2008 they produced approximately 4,000 cases under their white label from their estate grown fruit. In a co-owned, joint project, they also made almost 24,000 cases of wine from bought-in fruit too. These went out under their second label (Fools Bay). As well as selling domestically, they export to 21 countries; quite an impressive growth record for such a young brand.

 

The Fools Bay label came about almost by accident. In 2005 when there was an abundance of cheap fruit on offer, they bought some from one of their neighbours and produced the Box Head Shiraz. Now, a scant three years later, the Box Head Shiraz will account for almost 20,000 cases and the vast majority of it is exported, mainly to the US. The second reason for establishing the Fools Bay range was to have a label that would enable them to maintain the integrity of the Hentley Farm range. If the fruit is not good enough for the Hentley Farm range, it can be downgraded to the second label. The name Fools Bay comes from a 13,000 acre property in Lameroo owned by the Hentschke’s. The property is predominantly sand and has almost no water. Decades ago Keith’s uncle planted Chardonnay on the property but the grapes kept on being killed by frost, hence the name Fools Bay.

 

The key to their growth was twofold. Firstly, Keith and Kevin marketed the hell out of the wines. They took the Hentley Farm Range to every wine show they could and people liked what they tasted. The fact that Kevin can out-talk a used car salesman also helps. If he had a mouth full of grapes and was gagged, you still wouldn’t be able to keep him quiet. Some people say that he could even out-talk the average mother-in-law. The second success factor was the US market. In 2003 they hooked up with a good US importer who put the wine in front of some US wine scribes. The wines received solid points and they were on their way. They have been reasonably smart about their growth, as well under 50% of exports are now go to the US.

 

In Australia, the wines are only sold to specialist wine shops and restaurants, not the big two chains.

 

We started off tasting the Fools Bay range.

 

Fools Bay 2006 Beached sells for $12, is sealed under screwcap and is a blend of 72% Shiraz and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is designed to be a barbecue wine for domestic consumption. The nose is intensely plummy and leads to a palate that is dominated by Cabernet. Tomato leaf, blackcurrant, plum, chocolate and mint flavours are as clean as a whistle. It's ample-weight with a silky consistency and has a good complexity for the price. A great value barbecue wine, it slips down easily. Rated as Agreeable with **** for value.

 

Fools Bay 2006 Box Head is their export, value BBQ red that sells for about $9 to $11 in the US. This is also a blend of Shiraz 72% and Cabernet Sauvignon 28%. It's fruit driven with minimal tannins and unobtrusive acid. The mouth feel is attractive and as it kicks in, it’s sweet on the palate and then goes savoury. Red and blue fruit flavours finish clean and fresh. Medium-weight with a velvety consistency and a seamless structure this is an easy-going, food-friendly wine. There is nothing wrong with it and it will be hugely popular, but it's not for me. Rated as Agreeable with **** for value.

 

Whilst we tasted the wines, Kevin told us about the latest Victa lawnmower called the Schapelle (named after Corby, the convicted Australian drug smuggler.) It comes with 4 kg of grass in the catcher and a lifetime warranty. We were the second people to hear that joke from Kevin today. Kevin told it earlier in the day to a couple who were there for a tasting. The husband laughed and then said, "I was thinking of calling my son Victor.”

 

Kevin asked him why. The husband responded, "We were trying to have our first child. Between mowing the front lawn and mowing the back lawn I did the job.” Kevin responded, "Well you obviously didn't have the catcher on.”

 

Fools Bay 2007 Dirty Bliss is a blend of Grenache 70%, and Shiraz 30%; it sells for around $17-$18 and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is bright and lifted with red fruits and freshly mown grass. The uptake is sweet red fruits with milk chocolate and it finishes clean and dry. Just medium in weight, it has a soft consistency, a seamless structure and a harmonious complexity. Perfectly suited as a ladies luncheon wine, it will also be appreciated by those who do not usually like red wine. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

 

Fools Bay 2006 Dusty Desire Shiraz sells for between $17 and $18 and is sealed under screwcap. It is named after a dog. This wine is a combination of fruit purchased from their neighbour and declassified Hentley Farm Shiraz. A solid, well-made wine for the price; it is just ample in weight with a soft consistency, and whilst it is not subtle, it is easy to knock back. Plum, spice, and chocolate flavours finish to coffee and have good flavour intensity. A very drinkable wine with a good, fresh, clean and dry finish, it’s rated as Recommended with ***** for value, drink over the next five years.

 

Hentley Farm 2006 The Stray Mongrel sells for $28 and is sealed under screwcap. This wine is a unique blend. It's a blend of Grenache and Shiraz with 5% Zinfandel thrown in for good measure. What an unusual bouquet. It's interesting and attractive with fresh fruity notes and pleasant perfumed aromatics; however there are also fresh cow pat characteristics. On the palate, it's unusual; weird even. A love it or hate it style. The palate is completely filled both horizontally and vertically with cherry, milk chocolate, blackcurrant, aniseed, black chocolate, sour cherry, and cinnamon/cloves on the finish. A muscular-weight, firm and solid wine, it certainly is wacky but worth trying for something totally different. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.

 

Hentley Farm 2007 Zinfandel sells the $28 and is sealed under screwcap. There was no 2006 produced. The bouquet shows liqueur cherry, strawberry, and milk chocolate. The bouquet is a love it, or hate it style. I like it. It's rich. On the palate, the wine is very sweet on the uptake with liqueur cherry leading to a black chocolate finish, and it's not over the top. The fruit is deeply-seated, the acid fresh and the tannins are unobtrusive but certainly there. It has a silky consistency and an agreeable level of complexity. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, it's not my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean much as I'd never had a Zinfandel that I would be happy to drink.

 

The Zinfandel is bunch thinned two or three times each season to control vigour. It is also handpicked. It’s the only grape variety that receives this treatment. However, before harvest they go through the vineyard and remove any grapes that are not ripe, or up to scratch.

 

Hentley Farm 2006 MP5 Shiraz sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The wine was matured for seven months in 30% new French oak, and the fruit comes from seven-year-old vines that were cropped at 2.2 tons to the acre. The bouquet was completely petulant. It showed some spice from the oak and absolutely nothing else. The dominant factor of this wine at the moment is its structure. It starts off soft and cuddly and then the sneaky tannins slide into play. Flavours of red cherry and milk chocolate ride the long, dusty tannins. It's ample-weight with a supple consistency, a solid, tight structure and shows some elegance. It's a good wine and impressive for the price. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as it enters its peak drinking window drink between 2012 the 2018.

 

Hentley Farm 2006 The Beauty Shiraz sells for $45 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. It contains a small percentage of Viognier. The wine is made at Elderton in their old concrete fermenters. Whole bunches of Viognier grapes are added and the wine is pumped over the floating bunches of fruit for a few days. Then they are removed. The wine had been decanted for twenty four hours so it was looking good. The nose was sexy with hints of black pepper and spicy notes. Sweet and savoury characters waft in an out through the flavour profile of milk chocolate, cherry, dried herbs and sour cherry flavours, which finish clean and fresh. It's just ample in weight with a supple consistency, and has a tight, solid structure that shows some elegance. The fruit seems almost lean and the tight tannins are unobtrusive but back the wine well. It’s attempting elegance, but from my perspective, and I might add that Brian and John disagreed with me, they missed the mark. I can't put my finger on why, but it just doesn't come together for me the way I feel it should. Still, it's a good wine and is rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, drink from 2012 to 2018.

 

Hentley Farm 2006 The Beast sells for $70 and is sealed under cork. The wine was matured in 100% new French oak for eighteen months. It has not been filtered or fined. The intensely black bouquet is interesting and captivating with floral spices and loads of vanillin oak. The juicy, ripe fruit delivers an excellent flavour profile with plum, chocolate, and aniseed as well as all sorts of other good things including dark chocolate. It finishes with incredible intensity and has a huge amount of fruit flavour. It's perfectly balanced with loads of fine, dusty tannins that fill every nook and cranny of the mouth. A muscular-weight, firm and solid wine with an excellent level of complexity it just needs time and demands another sip. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2014 to 2022.

 

Clos Otto 2006 Shiraz will sell for $90 when it is released at the end of July and is sealed under cork. This is a fairly young vineyard. It was purchased by Hentley in 2004 and they made their first Clos Otto in 2005. In 2006 it cropped at 1.2 tonnes to the acre. It spent 12 months in brand-new oak and at its first racking it was put back into more brand new oak, where it spent almost another 12 months. This wine is bizarre and defies logic, and I say that in the nicest possible way. It's impenetrably black. The bouquet has a huge amount of complexity and sensational fruit aromatics with loads of vanilla bean, cinnamon and spice. The strong, deeply-seated fruit has a colossal intensity and delivers plum, chocolate, vanilla, mocha, blueberry, morello cherry, and coffee. There is a mighty amount of complexity here; how much of it comes from the oak I can't tell. The wine is 16.8% alcohol and shows no sign of heat. The acid, surprisingly, is also crisp and fresh and even more surprisingly, it's natural and has not been added. This is a sledgehammer wine that needs a char grilled, Brontosaurus steak. Rated as Rated as Excellent with *** for value, it's completely approachable now.

 

This wine will be controversial; people will either love it or hate it. When the Pie King took his first sip, his mouth slowly came away from the glass, he lifted his head, contemplated his navel for a second or three; we can’t rush his deep thoughts process. His eyes lit up, his lips smiled and he said, "****ing beautiful!”

 

It won't be long before they have a cellar door. All wines are well-made and the Fools Bay range certainly represents great value from money, especially in the US market. This brand is where the growth opportunity lies. The Hentley range will remain a small production brand as it is limited by the amount of fruit they have available on their home block. This winery is a perfect example of what can be produced from young vines. Kevin is right about one thing, 85% of the wine is made in the vineyard, and these wines reflect smart viticultural practices.

 

‘Twas pie o’clock, normally not a time that holds a lot of promise when I am with his Pieship and his Apprentice. We just wanted a quick bite to eat and so we headed to the local “Ice Creamery” in the main street of Tanunda. This place is always good; I have been eating here for years and it’s a great compromise as the boys can have a Mrs Vilis special or two, and I can get a very pleasant, healthy sandwich. It’s a husband and wife operation, but as it was a very quiet day, the “boss” had given herself the day off and left hubby in charge. It was so quiet we actually had a long chat with Mr Owner. The first time after all these years. He gave us a tip on a place in Angaston that he thought was worth visiting, but given his choice in wine, I was not sure what to make of his recommendation. He doesn’t exactly seem like a “con-a-sewer” if you know what I mean. However, the last time his missus gave us a trip it was a beauty, so it was worth keeping in mind.

 

I had a terrific toasted turkey special and the guys helped the Vilis fortune expand. As we had plenty of time, we relaxed over lunch and even read part of the Saturday papers.

 

The Coonawarra Region is not exactly renowned for its drop in ‘because I was driving past’ tourist business, so when Murdock Wines wanted to expand, they decided to open a cellar door in the Barossa. They purchased a vineyard on the corner of Magnolia and Light Pass Roads in Vine Vale and built a swish looking establishment. They have spent the odd dollar or two building it and fitting it out. The panoramic vista from the cellar door is expansive; however the sunshine through the wall of glass next to the tasting area is distracting and hot even in late May.

 

The first bottle of wine we tried was oxidised. A fresh bottle was opened.

 

Murdock 2005 The Merger sells for $18.50 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. It is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra) and 40% Shiraz (Barossa). The bouquet shows dusty, varietal Cabernet notes over sweet fruit. The tannins are unobtrusive and the wine has a pleasant mouth feel. It’s medium-weight and has a seamless structure and an agreeable level of complexity however there is a green, unripe streak through the mid-palate which doesn't help its cause. Rated as Agreeable with ** for value.

  

   

 

Murdock 2004 Barossa Shiraz sells for $38.50 cents at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The fruit is sourced from five different sub regions in the Barossa. The bouquet showed slightly varnished notes and was a little oxidised, but we didn't ask for another replacement. The fine tannins are unobtrusive but provide solid backing for this ample-weight wine that has a silky consistency. The deep, strong, pure fruit delivers black cherry, milk chocolate, plum, hints of aniseed and spice. It's a slinky wine and would suit the food on the menu. Rated as Recommended with ** for value, the rating has potential for improvement in the short term; drink over the next five plus years.

 

Murdock 2003 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $41 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. Cedar and sawdust dominates the bouquet with hints of spicy, vanillin oak. Loads of powdery tannins combine with slightly sharp acid to form a medium-weight wine with a supple consistency and a solid structure. There is a noticeable green tinge through the front on the mid-palate which is probably a result of the poor vintage. It's food friendly but I'm not sure there is enough fruit for it to be long-lived, and it is likely the fruit will die before the tannins fully resolve. Rated as Recommended with ** for value.

 

Given Murdock's reputation and the amount of money they spent on this place, I must admit I found the wines to be disappointing. Most of the wines were oxidised to a lesser or greater extent. Considering they are serving the same wines by the glass to people having meals, there is no excuse for not rotating bottles from cellar door to the restaurant and ensuring the wines are kept fresh at all times. Brian said, "A nice cellar door, a pity about the wine." And John completely agreed with him, and he is a Murdock fan.

 

One winery I rarely fail to visit is Rolf Binder/Veritas. For the last few years, when I have been in town, Rolf has been out of the country. Bad planning on his part meant that on this occasion he was here for our visit. Even when he is not around, he normally leaves a great line up of wines for us to try, many of them unreleased. Today was no exception.

 

When we arrived, he wasn't there, but that's not unusual. He normally leaves us to wade our way through the wines in peace so that we can make up our own minds without any outside influence. However, halfway through the tasting he did arrive and we stopped tasting while we had a discussion.

 

Rolf had some very interesting ideas about the new boutique wineries and their likely future. He said, "Take Melbourne for example, you have a small collection of eclectic bottle shops. They might take twenty cases a year of your wine each, so that's about a hundred cases in total. Where are they going to sell the rest? Restaurants and bistros in Melbourne want wines that are going to move off the list quickly. The exceptions are the fine dining restaurant where staff can get behind the wine. In the rest of the cases, you have Uni students coming in to do their Tuesday and Thursday shifts, and they are going to sell what they know, and what's easiest. It's tough out there.

 

Another factor is the power of the portfolio you are in. I was with one place, and I had a look at their brochure. They had another Barossa winery; three Western Australians, and a couple from New South Wales. I had heard of one of the labels and knew that one winemaker was responsible for making many of the other wines. Think about the representative walking into a bottle shop. The person has no brands that represent power, so what is their entree?”

 

I asked Rolf how we thought those new, small wineries were going to survive.

 

He responded, "There are the Get Wines Direct of this world that can help those who have the vultures circling. It's getting tougher out there. You can also sell a bit on personal relationships too.

 

We also found with our new distributors that unless you have a certain volume of cases, they are not interested in promoting the wine. Why should they put marketing effort and marketing money into a couple of hundred cases? It's getting tougher, and tougher, and tougher out there.

 

Sometimes you can get lucky. There is a small label in Victoria that won a Syrah of the world competition. (Witchmount Shiraz 2004, Syrah du Monde) There was a large advertisement in The Age newspaper, and everyone was walking into the bottle shops in Victoria wanting the wine. That's great for the winery, but it is only a one-off.

 

What's fascinating for me, is that in America, where ever you go out, no matter who the distributor, I get introduced as Ralf Binder (pronounced like bookbinder) from the Barr-ossa, my name gets lost in the translation; and the first thing they do is plonk down the brochure on the table and quote the Parker points, or the Spectator’s points. When you go out in Australia, the scores are never mentioned, which I find refreshing. The retailers and sommeliers make up their own minds.

 

Getting back to the distribution for small wineries, once you get to a certain size you have to be in places like Dan Murphy's. You can't make excuses; you simply have to be there. The classic example is one of our 06 Shiraz’s. The guys in one store decided to get behind it and in a month sold over a pallet. The small bottle shops will struggle to do that.

 

There are going to be some interesting days ahead for small producers. I know of a couple of small labels that deliberately did not make any wine this year. Maybe all those grapes that were pinched from Grange over the last 20 years by these new small producers will wind up back in Grange.”  (Brian: Hopefully they will go to other small producers who are doing OK.)

 

For many years I have been a fan of Rolf Binder Heysen Shiraz which has not been available domestically (due to legal issues over the name). From 2007 that has changed. Good stuff.

 

In case you didn’t get the message, Rolf thinks it’s tough out there! He is a smart winemaker and businessman who has an established, well respected brand, so can you imagine how difficult it is for many of the small, unknown players? That’s exactly why Rolf thinks that many of them will not survive in the next few years.

 

Rolf always has a big line-up of wines for us to try, but on this occasion as we were here only eight months ago, the line-up seemed almost tame by comparison to many I have faced here.

 

      Not Rolf Binder - Its Lazy Ballerina in McLaren Vale....................................

 

Rolf Binder 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot sells for $20 and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was ripe and sweet and showed liqueur cherry; this was replicated on the palate together with blackcurrant, chocolate, and coffee. There was loads of intensity, and the wine lingers very nicely thank you very much. The very ripe fruit is well backed by silky, dusty tannins making this ample-weight, soft and harmonious wine, very easy to drink and one that will be hugely popular with the party set. Rated as Recommended with *** for value.

 

Rolf Binder 2007 Shiraz sells for $20 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was leafy with a hint of VA and showed subtle spice. Abundant tannins combine with distinct fruit and crisp acid to form a medium-weight wine. The blackberry and coffee on the uptake leads to a noticeable herbaceous streak through the mid-palate; it finishes to sour cherry. It may improve in the short term. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

 

Rolf Binder 2006 Christa Rolf Shiraz Grenache sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is leafy and earthy and more like a Cabernet in some ways. Abundant tannins combine with lively acid and distinct fruit to form a wine that is a little hard and needs time to soften. It's sweet on the uptake with raspberry, milk chocolate, dried herbs, dark chocolate and blackberry. Rated as Agreeable with *** for value.

 

Rolf Binder 2006 Heinrich sells for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap and is a SMG blend. The nose was slightly sulphury/leesy and that overshadowed black fruit and vanillin characters. An ample-weight wine backed by silky tannins, but surprisingly, the consistency is extremely firm. Spice, chocolate, plum and blackberry flavours finish crisp and clean. This bottle had just been opened and Rolf thought this wine needs to be decanted for it least five hours to show its best. We then tried a bottle that had been opened in early that morning, and whilst the abundant tannins were noticeable, and the wine had a big, solid-structure and was very firm, it didn't seem like it had undergone much of a change. It needs time to soften and integrate. Rated as Agreeable with ** for value, if it improves as well as previous vintages, this rating should not be a concern. Come back for another look in 2010 and beyond.

 

J.J. Hahn 2005 Shiraz 1914 Vines sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. I must admit I have been disappointed with the last few vintages from this producer. This was much better. The bouquet was dusty with Kirsch liqueur and hints of eucalyptus. Silky tannins combine with deep and strong fruit which delivers liqueur cherry, milk chocolate, dried herbs, blackberry, and coffee flavours that finish with a good punch of persistence. Just muscular in weight, the consistency is supple, the structure solid and the complexity well developed. There’s a lot going on here. Rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value.

 

J.J. Hahn 2005 Shiraz 1928 Vines sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. Once again, Kirsch dominates the bouquet but it is less in your face and dominant than the previous wine, and it also shows perfumed characters. Almost silky, fine tannins perfectly back the juicy-fruit in this delightful wine. Liqueur cherry, chocolate, black cherry, and coffee flavours finish long, dry, and crisp. Both sweet and off-sweet characters intermingle through the palate. It's muscular-weight, tight, firm, solid and has a well developed level of complexity. A step up over the previous wine (and vintages,) it's rated as Excellent with *** for value.

 

The Magpie range of wines is a partnership between Rolf and a UK wine merchant in Cambridge, Noel Young. The brand started off very small in the 90’s and quickly built a solid reputation for its quality. The original Magpie “The Malcolm” came from a very old vineyard that produced an extremely limited quantity of incredibly good grapes. Unfortunately the vineyard production was unsustainable so the label was retired, but that did not mean the death of the brand. In fact the reverse occurred. The brand has grown from strength to strength and this range is in many represents some of Rolf’s best winemaking work, and some of the best value wines in his portfolio. Quirky names are a feature of this range.

 

Magpie Estate 06 The Schnell Shiraz/Grenache sells for $20 cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The nose was reticent but showed some hints of spice and earthy characters. Loads of dusty tannins combine with fresh acid and pure fruit to form a muscular-weight wine that is nicely balanced. All the components are there but they need time to come together, and for the tannins to integrate and soften. The flavour profile is attractive and the juicy-fruit delivers both sweet and off-sweet nuances, as well spice and coffee oak. The complexity is very well developed. This wine is a baby and the current rating of Recommended with **** for value is bound to increase, and does not do it justice.

 

Magpie Estate 2006 The Call Bag Mourvèdre Grenache blend sells the $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet is black and meaty. A lovely wine that is brilliantly backed by a mighty amount of silky tannins; the pure, strong fruit has a massive amount of flavour but needs time to fill out and gain additional length. It's black through and through, but not overripe, and shows both mint and meaty aspects. A muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency and an agreeable complexity, it's rated as Recommended with **** for value, and the rating should increase as the wine enters its peak drinking window. Give it a couple of years to show its best.

 

Magpie Estate 2006 Wit and Shanker Cabernet Sauvignon is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was varietal and showed a slight amount of reductive characters and it also had a touch of VA. A solid wine backed by loads of dusty tannins, it has a supple consistency and an agreeable level of complexity. Blueberry, milk chocolate, and cigar leaf and meaty characters finish on long tannins. The wine has all the necessary bits and bobs but needs time to gain further complexity. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the rating should increase as the wine enters its peak drinking window.

 

Magpie Estate 2006 The Fakir Grenache sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows red cherry, menthol/mint and earthy truffles. A medium-weight wine with a soft consistency and a harmonious complexity, this is a damn good wine for the price and is food friendly. It's inoffensive and easy to thrown down the hatch. Cherry, chocolate, and mushroom flavours are sweet on the uptake, well supported by the noticeable amount of velvety tannins, and cleaned up by the crisp acid on the finish. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, drink over the next five plus years.

 

Magpie Estate 2006 The Black Sock Mourvèdre sells for $25 and is sealed under screwcap. The nose is shy! The sexy mouth-feel belighs its excellent structure. Pure fruit is brilliantly supported by velvety tannins and provides a very solid frame for this ample-weight, supple wine. Lightly liqueured black cherry flavours dominate the palate in this extremely drinkable, young wine. It's absolutely worth buying for something different and will improve in the short term. Rated as Recommended with **** for value , the rating should improve in the short term. Drink over the next seven years.

 

Magpie Estate 2005 The Sack Shiraz sells for $30 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet shows charry coffee oak and spice. Loads of oak characters bury the fruit but there is enough pure fruit in the cherry, plum, and chocolate spectrum to eventually absorb it. The silky tannins provide a supple mouth-feel and solid structure, and this muscular-weight wine has an agreeable complexity. A credible drop that needs time, it's rated as Recommended with *** for value and should be in its peak drinking window between 2011 and 2015. Very enjoyable!

 

Magpie Estate 2006, Gomersal Grenache sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The wine was matured in 100% new oak. The bouquet was broody and didn't want to show anything, so it was no surprise that when I tasted the wine it seemed like it was all structure at present. Copious quantities of powdery tannins combine with lively acid and deeply buried fruit to form a muscular-weight, firm, solid and unbelievably tight wine that will eventually show some real elegance. Chocolate and sweet cherry on the uptake leads to a savoury mid-palate with milk chocolate, and it finishes with mouth-coating, very long tannins. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating will improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2018. This is a very serious Grenache.

 

Magpie Estate 2006 The Election Shiraz sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. A seriously well structured wine, it’s muscular-weight with a supple consistency, an incredibly tight and solid structure, and has a well-developed complexity. The pure, deeply-seated fruit delivers plum, black cherry, chocolate, and together with the coffee oak flavours, they finish with excellent persistence, thanks in part to the support of the abundant, long tannins and crisp acid. A lovely wine that is worth buying and burying in the cellar, it's rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value but that rating has a mile potential for improvement as it enters its peak drinking window between 2011 and 2018.

 

Veritas 2006 Bulls Blood sells for $45 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. An ample-weight, supple wine with a solid consistency and a well developed complexity; the abundant dusty tannins beautifully frame the intense fruit and resulting in a harmoniously constructed wine. The milk chocolate, coffee and star anise flavours finish with more than respectable persistence. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating will improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020.

 

There is always art on the wall here. Last time it was pregnant ladies.....

This time the theme was bums..............................

 

Rolf Binder 2006 Heysen Shiraz sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is charged with juicy fruit and spicy, coffee oak. The fine, ripe, silky tannins produce a plush mouth-feel and brilliantly back the pristine, deeply-seated, strong fruit which delivers cherry, milk chocolate and coffee characters. Needless to say, it finishes with excellent persistence. The wine is tight, is muscular in weight, and has a soft consistency and a well developed complexity. A bloody nice wine, it's rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink over the next 10+ years.

 

Rolf Binder 2005 Heysen Shiraz is the current release and sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. This wine is more approachable and open than the next vintage and is also very consistent in its flavour profile, however it seems riper. It's a muscular-weight with a soft consistency and solid structure and whilst it is a very good wine, the 06 is better. Rated as Excellent with *** for value.

 

Rolf Binder 2006 Hanisch Shiraz sells for $95 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is blacker and riper than the Heysen. The structure is splendid. The pure, strong fruit is perfectly framed by abundant, velvety tannins of a dusty nature, and the fresh acid cleans the finish. The liqueur blackberry, coffee, chocolate and dried herb flavours finish incredibly long. It's a full-bodied wine with a supple consistency and a tight, solid-structure and although the complexity is already well developed, it needs more time to show its best. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, the rating may well improve as it enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020. A quality wine that’s worthy of consideration.

 

Rolf's quote of the day. "There are three things you should know about great wine. You like it, you don't like it, or you like it because someone else is paying for it.”

 

The Rolf Binder range is also improving, but it still seems a bit hit and miss. There are some fantastically good wines as well some very good value offerings.

 

The Magpie Estate wines are getting better with every vintage. They are also becoming more consistent across the range. The tannin management is improving and they are becoming softer but they are still dusty or powdery. The wines are not going into the super-modern, seamless style. From my perspective, that is a good thing because they maintain more character in their current form. They are cleverly constructed resulting in a harmonious nature whilst retaining their serious structural aspects. Rolf has managed to strike the golden halfway point between old fashioned tannin management and the new seamless, and in many cases soulless modern style. The tannins are ripe, soft and approachable but still maintain some dusty integrity. The tannins are also not quite as fine as many other wines, but this actually results in an improved depth of flavour across the palate.

 

On our last visit to the Barossa, things did not go well when we visited Turkey Flat. That was a shame as they are one of the better wineries in the Barossa and make some of the more elegant (by Barossan standards,) wines. On that occasion, they made up for it by sending me a box of their current samples, so I was still able to review their wines. On this trip, unfortunately we did not have sufficient time to visit Turkey Flat, which is a pity, but by chance, their new releases hit the bottle shops at this time of the year, and they were once again kind enough to send me samples. As a result, I am reviewing them and including them in the Tour Diary here. In many ways, reviewing them at home is always an advantage, as I have more time to devote to each wine, and can look at each one over a much longer period.

 

                             The Pie Family's newest toys. Paid for courtesy of their grape cheque.

 

Turkey Flat 2006 Grenache has a recommended retail price of $28 and is sealed under screwcap. It has a floral bouquet with red fruits, milk chocolate and spice. A completely inoffensive wine, yet it manages to have some style. The deep fruit delivers spice, earthy characters, red cherry, milk chocolate, pepper, and hints of bitter/roast herbs and aniseed on the tail. A medium-weight, tight wine that is seamless, elegant and harmonious; it's very credible, well-made and food friendly. Surprisingly, for a lighter style of Grenache it's Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value (based on the mailing lists price,) drink over the next seven plus years.

 

Turkey Flat 2006 Butchers Block Shiraz has a recommended retail price of $30 and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet has excellent complexity and shows spice, charcuterie, cherry, and forest floor aromas. Fine, unobtrusive, powdery tannins combine with fresh acid and fruit that has a huge punch of power for its medium-weight. It has a supple consistency, a solid structure and an intricate complexity. It's mainly off-sweet but there is some sweetness too; loads of dried herbs on the uptake lead to cherry, roast meats, chocolate and a hint of bitterness, as well as some coffee oak below. The finish is long and intense. A lovely wine with excellent construction, it has some class and is rated as Recommended with **** for value (based on the mailing list price,) but the rating will improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2010 and 2016. It's a criminal wasted drink it now, hence the Recommended rating.

 

Turkey Flat 2006 Mourvèdre sells for $32 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. This is an attractive wine. The bouquet is meaty, black, sweet and spicy with chocolate, and menthol. A big wine in every respect. The strong, deep, persistent fruit delivers plum, intensely rich chocolate, and black coffee flavours. It’s savoury, sweet and also has a slight amount of sourness from the crisp acid. The persistent finish is very long with noticeable eucalypt flavour. It is tight, firm and solid and a sensational wine for the price. You would be crazy to miss it; it's bound to sell quickly so don't wait. There is nothing subtle about it, but it should age well. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2011 and 2016.

 

Turkey Flat 2006 Shiraz has a recommended retail price of $47 and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows blueberry, vanilla, mushroom oak, blackberry, liquorice, milk chocolate and cinnamon. Good stuff. On the palate, the loads of fruit flavour rules with plum, milk chocolate infused sweet cinnamon, savoury blackberry, tobacco leaf, and a hint of supple pepper. The long finish lingers beautifully. A terrific balance has been achieved between the pure fruit, fresh acid and fine, tight, chalky, smooth tannins. It's just ample in weight with a supple consistency and a harmonious level of complexity. A refined, almost elegant and classy wine, it’s rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value (based on the mailing list price,) but the rating will improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2018.

 

Turkey Flat 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon has a recommended retail price of $40 and is sealed under cork. Bright, sweet fruit is driving the nose and shows red currant, menthol, tobacco and eucalyptus. The wine is beautifully poised. Deep, pure fruit is well supported by crisp acid and fine tannins. The palate shows sweet and off-sweet nuances with red currant, mint, tobacco and dried green herbs that finish with respectable length. It's tight, shows some elegance and is a lovely, refined wine with a supple consistency, and given time, it should turn into something special. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters ‘ peak drinking window between 2014 and 2020.

 

Turkey Flat Sparkling Shiraz (the fourth disgorgement) has a recommended retail price of $47 and is sealed under crown seal. An interesting bouquet with cedar/sawdust together with intense mushroom dominating proceedings, there was another aroma which was very familiar but initially I couldn't quite peg it. It's attractively poised and has a pleasant mouth feel. The palate shows mushroom, loads of blueberry, dark chocolate, and mocha flavours that finish with good persistence, and the majority of the sweetness seems to come from the fruit rather than the dosage. The wine is well backed by fine, mouth coating tannins which provide a dry finish. It shows some elegance, is most enjoyable and right up there with other wines in this price bracket. However, as the wine warmed up, I realised what that familiar aroma was, a hint of Brett. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the wine may improve, but with Brett, who knows.

 

The 2006 vintage was a good one at Turkey Flat. The entire line up from this vintage is good; in fact, more than good. There is not a poor wine amongst them, or even anything that I could remotely criticise. In 2004 and 2005, overall the wines were good, but for consistency across the range, 2006 wins hands down. It is very gratifying to have a line-up of wines like this were the only things you can possibly say are positive. I also tried the Cabernet, the Shiraz and the Mourvèdre with food. All past the food test with flying colours.

 

Tokay and Port helping to prepare the Tour Diary - Their favourite spot when I am working.

 

We started the day with a Kalleske at Laughing Jack, so it's fitting that I finish the wine reviews in this Chapter with another Kalleske; this time, Troy. The stuff the young gun winemakers are producing is exciting. The most successful of this new breed of winemakers is undoubtedly Troy Kalleske, and with good reason. The quality is a seriously good and the prices are reasonable. He also has access to fantastic fruit, and that always is an excellent start.

 

I tried to make an appointment with Troy as I hadn't seen him for some years and I was looking forward to catching up with him. Also, his reds are released in May, so the timing would have been perfect. Unfortunately the weekend we were in the Barossa he was away, however he did send me samples, and those wines have been included here.

 

Kalleske 2007 Clarrys Grenache Shiraz sells for around $18 and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet initially showed sweet red fruits with milk chocolate and contrasting spicy oak, as well as cherry. As it opened, mocha characters dominated. It's driven by pure, deep, very-ripe fruit that is delightfully soft on the uptake with mocha, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, red fruits, (cherry/currant) and a hint of herbs. The finish is crisp, clean and lingers very nicely. A medium-weight, almost silky wine that has a harmonious construction, it's still not quite together yet, but it won't be long before it is in its peak drinking window. A well constructed, perfect bistro wine, it's very easy drinking and will remain so for the next six plus years. Rated as Recommended with **** for value.

 

Kalleske 2006 Greenock Shiraz sells for $40 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is attractive and has a liberal level of complexity with floral notes, mocha, and blackberry, and iodine characters. This is a warm and cuddly wine, perfect for a cold winter's night. It's beautifully proportioned with deep, strong fruit, crisp acid and powdery tannins that come together to form a muscular-weight, tight, firm and solid wine. The flavour profile is attractive, indeed beautiful with blackberry, malty characters, liquorice, dark chocolate, cocoa, and mocha flavours which all finish long and persistent. It's a big wine with loads of everything and has lots of room for improvement. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020. A tip for you; have it with a roast a rack of lamb, it's a great match.

 

Kalleske 2006 Old Vine Grenache sells for $45 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet was brooding, earthy, and showed chocolate, mint and mushroom. As it opened some red spectrum characters emerged. The wine is impeccably balanced and sits beautifully on the palate. Blackcurrant, red currant, raspberry, star anise, and mocha flavours finish very fresh and clean thanks to the lively acid, and with good length too. It’s ample-weight, locked tight, firm, solid and refined. A very serious Grenache, this is one I am happy to drink. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating may improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020. (I won’t admit it in public, but I prefer the Grenache to the Shiraz.)

 

Kalleske 2006 Johann Georg Shiraz sells for $100 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is a serious as it is mysterious, with subtle cedar, black fruits, coffee and mint/eucalypt. The fruit is sensational; it's strong, deep, and pure and is perfectly backed by fine, chalky tannins and fresh acid. Rich chocolate and blackberry flavours on the uptake combine with black coffee, tar, mint, eucalyptus, and mocha flavours to finish with incredible length. A full-body, firm, solid, very tight wine, it is approachable now but will improve. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, this will quite easily keep kicking goals until 2030, and when it enters its peak drinking window, the rating will improve. Another kick ass wine from Troy!

 

Kalleske 2006 J.M.K. Shiraz VP is bottled in a 375 ml bottle and sells for around $24; it is sealed under cork. The brandy spirit has loads of character and combines with the coffee aroma and rose petals to form an interesting bouquet. The uptake is sweet leading to a spicy mid-palate with loads of coffee characters and charred oak. It's not my favourite style but it should be better if the char is eventually absorbed. The tannins are silky and the structure is seamless. It's a veritable baby, but frankly not Troy's best effort; there are also very noticeable green herbs on the finish which detracted from the profile. Rated as Recommended with ** for value. This is the first wine with Troy it is made that just didn't grab me.

 

It's not surprising that Troy Kalleske is so highly regarded. With wines like these, there is something to satisfy everybody. The winemaking style is consistent, and the quality always unquestionable. Although his wines were pretty good to start with, they look like they are slowly getting better year upon year. Add to that the fact that there hasn't been a price rise since he started, and no wonder his wines are so popular.

 

Although we had a bit of time up our sleeve, and probably could have fitted in one more winery, we decided to have an early mark. I hope the boys realise the sacrifice I was making by going easy on them on a Saturday, and not making them do another winery. I bet they don't even appreciate my magnanimous generosity and consideration for their welfare.

 

We had booked for dinner at 1918 Restaurant. It's consistently good and that's just as well, as both Vintners and The Branch were full.

 

The first bottle of wine opened was a Barossa Valley Estate 1998 Black Pepper Sparkling Shiraz. In a word, sensational! It was in perfect condition, rich, creamy and intense. The fruit was still incredibly youthful. It straddles the sweetness divide perfectly and it seems like most of the sweetness comes from the very ripe fruit. Flavours of blackberry, rich chocolate and coffee oak, linger beautifully. It's bordering on Outstanding, and given a few more years in the bottle, that's exactly the rating it will achieve.

 

Whilst I was waiting for the boys to arrive, and trying to scoff their share of Sparkling Shiraz as fast as I could, I looked at the wine list. They have an interesting selection. Most of it is from the Barossa, although they do have other areas covered including a reasonable selection of Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra. If you know your wines, there are some reasonable bargains to be found. Mark-ups range from about 50% to 100%. One of the good deals is the Grant Burge 1996 Meshach for $145. They also have the Jacobs Creek Johann Shiraz for $90, which is about a one third mark up. From a personal perspective, I would rather pay $145 for a good, aged bottle of wine, than purchase a current release that sells for around $35 in the bottle shops, for $70 in a restaurant. The more expensive wine, although it's twice the price, represents far better value, and will probably be a damn sight more enjoyable.

 

When John arrived, it quickly became apparent that he had spent his extra time industriously propping up the bar in the Tanunda hotel, and exercising his right elbow with a glass (or six) of amber fluid. His opening statement was, “I hope they have dugong on the menu, you don't see it all that often.” As it is an endangered species, and wasn't available, the boys decided that instead we should have some wedges with green chilli mayonnaise as an appetiser. Good idea; anything to help is Pieship sober up.

 

Heavenly! The wedges were so soft, floury and they were almost falling apart. Hot: express delivery from hell. And then some. Potatoes don't get better than this, not even chippies.

 

I am a sucker for a good Caesar salad. Unfortunately in Australia, they are few and far between, but having had one here before, I know they are good. The serving was huge. It was almost a meal in itself. Especially after the wedges. It was perfect. Naturally, I ordered extra hairy fish. Often they are overly salted, but not here. The local Shultz’s bacon in the salad took it to a completely new level. It added a stunning level of intensity. There was nothing subtle about it. The average American would probably think it was coarse. It was big, in your face, and would have been perfectly suited to an Oz Ooze monster, unfortunately we didn't have any. Or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint.

   

The next bottle of wine opened was a Sally's Paddock 2000 blend. This is about as far as you can get from an ooze monster in Australia. It was seamless and had a huge punch of flavour for its medium-weight. The flavour raspberry, strawberry, liqueur cherry and milk chocolate flavours finish with fantastic length and persistence. As the wine opened up it took on some earthy notes and mocha characters. Although it's ready to drink now, given additional age it will take on tremendous tertiary characteristics. Rated as Excellent. It's also a perfect food wine.

 

John ordered prawns; he got the giant economy size ones. They were huge. It was almost enough to sober him up. He said, "They are massive and beautifully spiced up. The salad is stunning, it has just the right level of chilli and it's a flavour explosion in the mouth.”

 

As I said, ‘almost enough’ because John’s next utterance was a classic, "The thing that I like about the 1918 is that it is a revolving restaurant. You don't see many of those in the Barossa these days.” Tomorrow morning is going to be very messy.

 

The next bottle of wine opened was mine. It was a bottle of Charles Cimicky 1998 Shiraz. Unfortunately it was badly corked so we opened a Primo Estate 2000 Joseph Moda instead. On our last trip, this was selling at the winery for $90 a bottle as an aged released, but Brian managed to pick some up at an ex-Heritage Fine Wines clearance outlet for the bargain basement price of $12. It was a very pleasant wine, but paled into insignificance next to the Sally's Paddock. The bouquet was floral and attractive. It was silky-smooth. It also had excellent intensity for its weight, unfortunately it just doesn't have the complexity of the Sally's.

 

For a main course, I had a Scotch fillet. It was incredibly tender. It was served with a kipfler potato salad that had a very intense, peppery flavour. I ordered it rare, it was a little more than rare, but most enjoyable. The fillet was adorned with some air-dried, smoky pancetta that almost defies description. Once again, and you will be getting sick and tired of reading this, intensity of flavour was terrific. Besides making wonderful wine in the Barossa, the bacon and pork products are sumptuous.

 

Given that we've had two courses and also pigged out on the wedges, we decided to give dessert or cheese a miss.

 

As I hadn't drunk terribly much, I decided it would be safe to drive back to our motel. It was going to be interesting to see what John looked like in the morning. He was certainly "very happy" with himself tonight. If he decided to have a cleansing ale before bed, it would not just be messy in the morning, it would be downright bloody ugly.

 

Tomorrow will be our last day in the Barossa with lots more good wines to look forward to trying. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

 

 

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From: Tony Bowen: 31 July

This is Tony Bowen, Mr Owner from the Tanunda Icecreamery . I have just read your comments (with interest & pride) about our Icecreamery.


Yes I agree I'm not a "wine conner-sewer", but my wife Chris knows what she is talking about as she spent 4 years working for Doug Bowen in Cellar Door & the vineyards, also worked at Peter Lehman's and finally at Yalumba in Cellar Door ( our son used to be at Yalumba as as a supervisor during Vintage in the Red section, but has since received a shift to Nautilus in the Marlborough region of NZ as assistant to the wine-maker over there, for 2 years)

 

Just a little digression, did you realise I make all our own icecream. from all natural ingredients with lots of local produce such as milk, eggs and produce like , apricots, peaches, quandongs and even various local "UNFERMENTED GRAPE JUICES" such as Rochford's Alicante Bouchet, Langmeil Shiraz, Grant Burge Shiraz, Yalumba Shiraz, Shiraz Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc. The juices I just freeze until needed, with some juice going back to 1997 and the Alicante going back to 2000 and each vintage since.
 

So next time you and the "Pie-team" are in, ask for some "tastings" of some of our many flavours of home made ice cream

Bye for now regards Tony Bowen (Mr Owner) & Chris ( the "boss") Tanunda's Nice Ice ( The Icecreamery)

ps : glad you like the healthey fresh sandwiches
 

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