Sunday, April 26, 2009

Red Diagonal Stripe

D'Arenberg is a prolific Australian winery that produces many different styles of wine, but they all seem to have that diagonal red stripe on the label and an "inside joke" of a name, often whimsical. We culled 8 of their mid-level wines for a tasting; by mid level I refer to price, which ranges from $Cdn 20-35 for this lot. The favourite wine was the one that got drained the fastest (always the best way to gauge the best wines of a tasting!) - the Bonsai Vine, GSM, 2001 is made from old vines that look like bonsai trees. It's showing it's bottle age with a bricky colour. Smooth, silky, vanillery, full bodied, it has lost a lot of it's fruit but has gained complexity. Wow wine. Would buy this again.
Next was the Galvo Garage, Cab S/ Merlot/Cab Franc/Petit Verdot, 2004. This is a tribute to the "garagiste" movement - new winemakers fermenting new style premium juice in their "garages", forging a name for themselves and then jacking up the price of the wine as it gets "wow" reviews in the press. This one doesn't quite make it...full bodied, tannic, dense fruit, the most complex in this flight but ends up being "just" good juice.
Next bottle to be drained was theTwentyeight Road, Mourvedre, 2004. Full bodied, this one leans towards the earthy, more vegetal side of the flavour spectrum. Good wine.
I thought the Laughing Magpie, Shiraz-Viognier, 2005 was just as good as the twentyeight road. I was surprised by it's dirtiness as I was expecting a perfume lift from the viognier - but it had a definite mushroomy-moss thing going on and was a little hot. Good wine also.
The Footbolt, Shiraz, 2001 is holding up well. This is better than I remember it from the last bottle I had. Medium-full bodied, smooth, peppery and bright with a little earthy undertone - this is not drinking like an 8 year old mid level shiraz. Good wine.
The D'Arrys Original, Shiraz/Grenache, 2005 is one of their workhorse wines. I would have put this one as #7 on the list, but the bottle did get finished #4, so it's a crowd pleaser. Generic, yes, but good.
The High Trellis, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 is young and bright with juicey blackberries and a dusty finish. Nothing special, but good nonetheless.
Bringing up the rear was the Custodian, Grenache, 2005. Light to medium bodied, flowery with violets and cherries. Not my cup of tea, this is "OK" wine.

So, we were impressed overall with the good quality of the wine across many blends/varietals and vintages. Lets start putting away some of their top labels (such as the "Dead Arm" or "Ironstone Pressings") for a future tasting...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gin or Wine?

Easter wines included three from Argentina. Paul Hobbs of California has a Mendoza outfit called Vina Cobos. Their top wines are outstanding. We started the night with one of their mid-level wines, the Felino, Malbec, 2007. This is young and spicy with pomegranates and blueberries. Medium bodied, it makes a good aperetif sipper. The next day it had held up well and went well with lunch. Good wine, classic malbec, a little overpriced at $20.
The Eral Bravo, YBS, 2005 is 60% malbec, 30% Cab. S. and 10% syrah. Nice smelling wine. Mouth puckering and full bodied, the big tannins need time. The fruit is dense Caribbean fruit cake in quality. Good wine, but sit on it for a while. Worth the $25.
And now for something completely different - the Michel Rolland Yacochuya, 2003. Ya gotta love the simplicity on the label - very spartan. This is from the northern Argentine appelation of Salta, where the vineyards are high, close to the Andes. This is a monster of a wine - a cornucopia of flavours whacks your palate. 16.2% alcohol! Hold it in your mouth and it turns....gin-like with juniper berries and high alcohol coming through. I have to say this wine is hard to enjoy right now. Wait. Many Years. The next day it tasted Port-like. $65 - I can't tell you if I think it's worth until I try it in the future.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Yalumba Night

Yalumba is reputably the oldest family owned vineyard in Australia. It was founded by a British brewer who emigrated to Oz in the 19th century. We had a few bottles kicking around so decided to give 'em a whirl and see what came out. First up was the Bush Vine Grenache, 2006. "Bush vine" usually means old vines - they grow like bushes (and look like small trees) as they have thick trunks and can "stand" up by themselves - no trellises, wires, poles, etc. needed. This wine is surprisingly light coloured and relatively light bodied - I was expecting a more concentrated wine. It's all about strawberries - both the nose and the palate. A straighforward, fruit driven wine, I rate it as an "OK" effort but it ain't worth the $19. No way.
This was followed by the 2004 Bush Vine Grenache. A little darker in colour, and a little more pungent on the nose. The fruit here leans more towards blueberries and blackberries but the wine is a little astringent - the tannins are out of balance with the fruit. Another "OK" wine.
I think I'll stay away from this bush wine in future vintages.
Next up were some of Yalumba's bigger guns. Mr. Robert Parker rated them both over 90 points. The Signature 2003 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Medium coloured, again not as dense as I expected. Vanilla and blackberry nose, a classy wine with more blackberries on the palate backed up by firm tannins. A little chalky. Not a blockbuster, I was a little disappointed and rated it as "Good". Over-priced at $43.
The Menzies, 2003 is pure Coonawarra Cabernet. The darkest wine of the four, I found it the most tasty. Full bodied with cassis, cedar and spice. But, again, this doesn't hit me and say "wow". So, also not worth the price of admission at $49.
Overall a disappointing wine evening.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Eggs? At least I think that it says "Ova" - must do because it stands for Organic Vignerons Australia. Organic wine. What does that mean? that it's better? Actually, no. It just means somebody put the word "organic" on the label. So look for some sort of certification if you are a stickler for these kinds of things - this one for instance states on the label "Australian certified organic", so there must be some kind of agency that goes around checking the vineyards out and making sure they grow their grapes using only "natural" fertilizers with no synthetic pesticides or herbicides as well as making sure they don't add extra sulphites into the wine as they are making it. This extra care may make the cost of making such wine more expensive of course, and this will be ultimately passed onto you as the consumer (at the very least the certifying agency will charge something!). I've even read about wineries that use birds of prey to naturally keep pesky grape eating birds from eating their fruit!
The wine itself must be judged on its own - I don't care if it says organic on the label if it's swill.
This one is pretty good. And turns out it's terrific value as well as it only costs $19. The Ova, Shiraz Cabernet, 2005 is generically from South Australia. Nice dark colour, deep plummy nose. Spicy, crisp, good black plum fruit with hints of oak - not as rich as I like my Aussie wines but nevertheless very good. Maybe they should make more wine "organically"....


Thursday, April 02, 2009


Some wines have it all - they taste good, have a good price and look pretty good too - the label, that is. The Bonny Doon, Domaine des Blaguers, Syrah, 2003 is bottled by a California-owned winery in the south of France. This is dark, brooding stuff. All meat and leather nose. Full bodied but soft and smooth with cloves, savoury and earth. Full of character. If you like old world style, this is a "wow". Less than twenty bucks, shudda bought a case... Oh, and check out the cool artwork on the label...not very old world!

Next wine has an very classy label - one of the classiest I have come upon. The picture doesn't do it justice. And the product in the glass is pretty good too - made from grenache planted in the 1890's!! This is the Atteca, Old Vines, 2006 from Spain. Initially it was quite lively with blue/black fruits but after a few hours it closed right down. Dense and structured, there's a lot hiding in there waiting to come. Best to put it away for a few years. Serious and "good" wine, good value at $23.

Now a wine with one of the ugliest labels I've seen in a while - the Casa Silva, Reserva, Carmenere, 2006 from Chile. Dark purple with a classic carmenere nose, intense blueberry bramble. Full bodied with soft, chewy tannins. Fruit driven - rich fieldberry jam flavour but without the jammy texture. With time, a little tobacco appears. Solid wine, good stuff, well priced at $15. Just dump the label, guys!!
A short note on a wow wine - The Saltram, Mamre Brook, Barossa Shiraz 2005 is a winner and very well priced at $24. Classic full bodied Barossa shiraz, I only got a little taste of it (and it had already been open for 24 hours). Unfortunately more got spilled than I managed to scrounge in my glass - look for this one and buy it, I will be.
Cheers - Spring's here!!!