I Left My Heart in South Australia!

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In an earlier post I wrote that the recession “appears” to be over – or at least waning. Well, if the lineup of luxury cars in front of The Pacific Club in Newport Beach is a testimony – it’s officially over in my book!! Sheesh, I felt so inferior in my Toyota Hybrid Hylander. The premium cars were an obvious precursor to what was waiting for us inside.

I was one of a few lucky guests invited to taste Australia’s ‘Best of the Best’ wines. Leading the seminar and hosting the tasting was John Larchet, proprietor of The Australian Premium Wine Collection. Traveling with John was three of Australia’s finest wine makers/representatives that presented their wines.

First up was Patrick Gehrig (Yes, he is related to Lou Gehrig – very cool) of Rutherglen Estates which is located in Rutherglen, Victoria, located in the south eastern area of Australia. Patrick poured the following wines:

Rutherglen Estates “The Allicane” – A blend of 70% Marsanne and 30%Viognier. Lemony, creamy which bode well for a great food wine. The Viognier adds a nice touch of honeysuckle. ‘Red’ – This wine is an extremely good value for the money; it has great color, peppery Shiraz characters, berries and brambles, intense spice and is a mouthful of rich flavor and juicy tannins. Great food wine that would be great with a pizza. The Reunion – A blend of 60% Mourvedre, 20% Shiraz, 20% Grenache, this wine is dominated by the Mourvedre, showing off savory notes and a hint of spice. Pair this one with lamb chops. Durif, AKA Petit Sirah – This is the main variety of Rutherglen – obviously their flagship wine. The color was ink black, like you’d expect from Petit Sirah. Savory, earthy, black current flavors, chocolate spice and a huge tannin finish on the back end. Delicious! Muscat – Very difficult decision to spit this out! Fortified with 7% alcohol and made in a sherry solera type system. Flavors of caramel and toffee that reminded me of liquid brown sugar. This would be great over vanilla ice cream. Or if you’re adventurous, make a Muscat slushy!

Next up was Dean Hewiston, owner and founder of Hewitson located in South Australia (Adelaide). Dean poured the following wines:

‘Lulu’ Sauvignon Blanc. Named after his wife Lulu who adores Sauvignon Blanc, this region is considered the premier area to produce Sauvignon Blancs. Like drinking fermented grapefruit juice! ‘Miss Harry’ (The daughter’s nickname). A blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes that come from bush (head pruned) vines dating back the 1800’s with roots that go 30′ into the ground searching for water. This wine was carried in 100% French old barriques that gave a lovely complexity to this wine. Because of the old barrigues, no one varietal dominates and the treatment gave this wine such a nice strawberry cream flavor and smoothness. Delicious. ‘Ned and Henry’s’ Shiraz (Miss Harry’s older brothers). Beautiful Barossa Valley fruit gives off a wonderful bouquet and great minerality flavor – mostly limestone. This was a graceful, not in your face fruit bomb, shiraz. I’d put this up against any French wine. Clearly my favorite of this winery. ‘Old Garden’ Mourvedre – These vines are living in 6 feet of sand over limestone. The sand is important as it helps drain away the rain so that the grapes can ripen. Without it, no grapes! Vines are head pruned about 2′ off the ground. Contained an interesting hint of orange peel which you wouldn’t expect to encounter. ‘The Mad Hatter’ Shiraz – Single vineyard grapes from Blewitt Springs in McLaren Valley that spend almost 2 years on new French oak. More what I’m used to with Australian Shiraz. The third winery and presenter was Allister Ashmead with Elderton Estate. He along with his useless brother (his description, not mine!) are the current owners of Elderton Estate in the Barossa Valley. Allister presented the following wines:

E Series Unoaked Chardonnay – Tasted more like a Sauvignon Blanc than a Chardonnay. Grassy and flinty – according to the distributor, lots of people are buying and loving this wine. Not my cup of tea. E Series 70% Shiraz and 30% Cabernet – Probably a good value wine, but structure, richness and boldness would not be my description. Estate Shiraz – Much better!! Now things are starting to look up. Very much a stinky, fruity, leathery Shiraz that was soft and easy to drink with a hint of chocolate. Classic Barossa Shiraz. ‘Ode to Lorraine’. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot – Dedicated to Allisters mother as a last great tribute before they kick her out of the house and stick her in a nursing home (again, his words, not mine!) Supposedly from the three best vineyards on the property, it was interesting but not great. This was the #16 wine of the year last year and this year is supposed to be better? We’ll see. Command Shiraz – Wow, wow, wow – I kept this in my mouth while I wrote so that it didn’t end! Clearly their best wine and one we will probably have in the store. This Shiraz spent almost 3 years in oak and 1 year in bottle. Beautiful power, structure and balance.

The next wines are all from John Larchet, our host.
‘The Wishing Tree’ Unoaked Chardonnay. Western Australia fruit from 11 different growers. Each batch is fermented separately. Done this way for complexity and to withhold batches they don’t want/like. Didn’t care for this either. I just don’t think Aussie Chards, especially stainless, can compare with the French. Again, tasted like Sauvignon Blanc. John told us that others have questioned this as well, so I’m not nuts! ‘The Wishing Tree’ Shiraz – 16 different growers. Medium body because of the use of neutral barrels. ‘Hill of Content’ Cabernet – Pretty true expression of cabernet sauvignon. Sweet, lush dry – bone dry – wine. Again with the neutral barrels, held for 28 months. ‘Tir na N’og’ Old Vines Grenache – Land of the Young is the English translation of this Irish saying. High toned, sweet fruit, very aromatic, not to be drunk alone but with a piece of pork smothered in a reduced cherry sauce. ‘The Old Faithful’ Top of the Hill Shiraz – Old reliable is the meaning behind the name as the grapes for this wine come from very old vines. Probably the best of the five presented by John, but that’s like saying it was the tallest midget. Hits you with a smack of fruit up front but it disappears quickly. As soon as we determine which of these wines will be in our store, I’ll update the post. In the mean time, Australia has my heart!