Archived entries for Australian Wines

Grapefest: A Celebration of Grapes, the Vines and the City

For years, I have billed myself as someone “with a love of the grape and a collection to prove it.”  Ironically, I had never attended the largest wine festival in the Southwest.  Grapefest is in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb about 20 miles from Dallas.  Luckily, this is the year I could rectify that situation.

The city was founded in 1843 when General Sam Houston led representatives of the Republic of Texas to a meeting with members of 10 American Indian nations. They joined to negotiate a treaty of peace and friendship at Grape Vine Springs, also known as Tah-Wah-Karro Creek. The first settlers started arriving a year later and the city was named for the wild mustang grapes that grow abundantly in Texas.

For the past 31 years, Grapefest has entertained 150,000 patrons with wine tastings, special events, a variety of foods, a family Carnival and Midway as well as an interactive KidsWorld.  We brought our daughter, so some of the over 21 events like the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, the world’s largest consumer-judged wine competition, and the Texas Wine Tribute were off limits to us and we spent much more time on the Midway than normal.

 

 

But we got to enjoy the Champagne Terrace, we were a “celebrity” guest at the GrapeStomp (Team Dallas Wine Chicklet) and spent a lot of time in the wine pavilion tasting a variety of wines from the Central Coast in California and Barossa Valley in Australia.

 

We even spent a little time in the VIP room of Messina Hof’s first urban winery in Grapevine.  I discovered that a Texas winery is making two sparkling wines, which was a surprise to me.  The tasting room is located on the site of the former Wallis Hotel.  The winery had more than 40 different wines, tastings and premium flights, wines on tap and gourmet food items.

Grapefest is sponsored by Bank of the West and in 2012, Grapevine was named a World Festival and Event City by the International Festival and Events Association.  It was a great celebration of wine, winemakers and wineries.  While I’ll probably attend a few more adult-oriented tastings next year, it was a fun family event.


Savour South Australia Wines: Old Vines, Classic Wines, Family Lines

Terry, Michelle and Ryan Representing the Texas Wineauxs

Savour South Australia Wines came to Cafe Momentum in Dallas recently and it reiterated for me how much wine is a journey and how much I still have to learn.  When I thought about Australia, Shiraz was the grape that naturally came to mind.  But there is so, so much more.

Adelaide is the wine capital of Australia and South Australia has 18 unique wine regions including Barossa, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale.  The State of South Australia consists of six regions and two territories with 1.3 million residents.  What I also didn’t know is that Australia is home to some of the oldest living vines in the world.  Even more surprising because Phylloxera has never hit the Barossa and McLaren Vale Regions, the vineyards have been producing fruit for hundreds of years.

Jennifer Lynch, the General Manager of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association, kicked off the session with an overview on the geology of the region and a discussion on the changing weather patterns and soils.  The first Colony in Australia was founded in 1836 and McLaren Vale was founded by John McLaren in 1938. The first wineries were in operation by 1850.  Today there are more than 100 wineries and 250 grape growers in Australia.  It is one of the most diverse geologies in the world with diverse temperatures, different topographies and unique soils.

The McLaren Vale has four traditional seasons and is well known for reds like Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre, but also grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Whites include Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling (and that is good Riesling!)

Then we moved to Barossa.  The first settlers came to Barossa in 1842 from England, Germany and Scotland.  They brought an attitude of preserving the land and a love for farming and agriculture.  Barossa is one of the custodians of the oldest continuous producers.

James March, CEO, of the Barossa Wine and Grape Association, called it “tasting history in a glass.”  He talked about growing up on a vineyard and how the topography of the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley are completely different, likening Barossa to Napa Valley and Eden Valley to Sonoma.  From warmer and drier in Barossa to wetter and cooler in the Eden Valley.  From the deep and rich soil of Barossa to the rockier soil of the Eden Valley.  The different climates make very different wines.  You can find whites like Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Reds include Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz (Syrah), and Mourvedre.

Chuck Hayward, an Australian Wine Educator, led us in a tasting of 12 unique wines from the regions.  Many were typical for what I thought of the Australian wines that I had prior.  However, there were a few surprises – especially the 2012 Torbreck Woodcutters Semillion (Barossa) that had lots of lime, acidity, green melon and a nutty texture.  It was my first tasting of Australian Semillion and it was a great, refreshing wine.

 

I also really enjoyed the Shiraz’s – the 2013 Langmeil Freedom 1843 Shiraz, 2012 Kaesler Old Bastard and the 2012 Torbreck Run Rig – all from Barossa.   Lots of black fruit, plum, raspberry, herbs and other different styles and expressions of the shiraz grape.  Another shining star with the 2010 Angove the Medhyk Shiraz (McLaren Vale) with lots of red fruit, flowers and mocha as well as getting to try older wine in the 2006 Elderton Ode de Lorraine (Barossa).  The Elderton had notes of juicy fruit, dark berry and was a great expression of the oldest soils on the planet.

Who knew that Australia had sparkling wines?  I tried the 2012 Singleback Black Bubbles (McLaren Vale) made from sparkling shiraz using the champagne region “Methode Traditionelle.”  They told us it is often served during Christmas morning and it was a fun, unexpected twist.

It was a great seminar that really showed the families, the heritage, the history, the region and the unique wines of South Australia.

 


June Wine Round-Up: A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s June, it’s hot and it’s time for the round-up of wines that made the grade this month.  It’s a mix of red and whites that consisted of wines from around the globe.  We tried many more than what made this column.

The notable wines from California, Australia, France, Spain and Greece were as follows:

White

2013 Jordan Chardonnay – tropical fruit, a touch of oak, but well balanced with a nice minerality that made it perfect for a seafood dinner accompaniment.

2011 Ktima Tselepos Blanc De Gris Moschofilero – I tried a few Greek wines, but this one topped my favorite list.  Great acidity, citrus and minerality.  It was great.

2013 Palacio de Bornos Rueda Verdejo – Very refreshing with a nice mix of citrus, flowers and fruit.

 Red

2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – what can say I say?  Jordan makes delicious wines.  This had notes of chocolate, cassis, blackberry, herbs and vanilla.

2012 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon – big blackberry taste, nicely balanced with notes of chocolate.

2012 Alanera Rosso Veronese – dried black fruit, spice, tobacco and mocha.  This had a great earthiness and nice balance.

2012 Salton Intenso Cabernet France — red fruit, strawberry, tobacco, leather and coffee.  A really interesting representation of Cabernet Franc.


2012 Yangarra Ironheart Shiraz – whoa – deep dark fruit, mocha, blueberry and earth.  This one blew me away.

2012 Yangarra GSM – black cherry, mocha, herbs and earthiness make this another must try red.

2013 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso – a nice tempranillo blend with notes of chocolate, mocha, eucalyptus, licorice and deep black fruit.

2012 Protos Tinto Fino – earthy, black berry, violet and herbs. A good everyday drinking red wine.


Two Lands Wine: California Craftsmanship with Australian Character

My love for Ehren Jordan’s wine began with a yellow balloon tied to a non-descript mailbox in Napa Valley.  We were tasting at another winery when I asked my paradoxical question – “if you weren’t working here, what is the first place that you’d stop and taste the wine.”  That brought us to his newly debuted Failla Winery, which was so new it was still unmarked except with that yellow balloon, where I had an amazing conversation with Jordan.  We talked about his vision, why he made the wines he made and the importance of boutique, small production wines.

Hickin and Jordan

Fast forward about seven years later and I was invited to an online digital tasting with Jordan and Bernard Hickin, Jacob’s Creek Chief Winemaker from Barossa to taste the newly debuted Two Lands label.  The two winemakers created a cross-collaboration combining the boutique wine experience at a price point not normally delivered under $14.

Jordan talked about combining, “California craftsmanship with Australian character to create a depth of experience.”  He also discussed how he was blown away when he visited Australia for the first time after having several members of his wine team talk about the great experience they had working on the region. 

We tried four wines in the line-up and I fell in love with two.  I am usually not a Pinot Grigio fan, but the 2013 Two Lands Pinot Grigio has notes of stone fruit, red apple and acid that gave it a nice balance.  The 2013 Two Lands Shiraz was delicious with notes of blueberries, cocoa, herbs, black cherry and chocolate. 

These two value wines bring together the best of both worlds at a price point that makes it easy to afford.

 

 


What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been: A Conversation with David Ready Jr.

It’s rare you sit down with an individual that saw 175 Grateful Dead concerts, went on tour with them and lived to tell the tale.  Then you find out he’s an esteemed winemaker for Murphy Goode, a newly converted runner (lost 50 pounds since he started), believes in giving back to the community to bring his dad’s legacy to life and is just an all-around cool person. 

David Ready started his career in winemaking in 1985 when his dad strongly suggested getting a job would be a good idea.  He grew up in Minnesota, played in rock band for a time and is a huge Vikings fan.  He worked harvests in Australia and Sonoma.  David moved back to California approximately 20 years ago and it’s been home since.  He worked his way up from cellar master to assistant winemaker and then served as the winemaker for Zinfandel in 1997.  Today he supervises 18 wines.  

David came through town last month to talk about his Homefront Red release, which raised 300K for Operation Homefront, a 501c (3) organization developed to support the families of deployed service members immediately following 9/11.  The organization provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.  And the cool thing is that the distributors and sales people for the winery have chipped in to support the effort as well.

Ready wanted to do this to honor his father who passed away during the fall of 2010.  He pondered what it meant to “do good” with the current owners of the winery.  His father served in Vietnam and his family has a long history of military service.  In his words, “Everyone knows someone who has served.  These kids go off in search of a better life, service our country, get hurt and then they and their families suffer.  No family should ever be left behind.”

He makes wines that he wants to drink and wants to match them with different foods and settings.  “I love a big cab, but not every day,” he said.  We tried a few and I want to continue to drink them too.  Clearly he has found his calling and you can tell he’s passionate about food, wine and socializing. We tried the following:

  • Murphy Goode The Fume Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – citrus, tropical fruit and melon.  A really nice $14 poolside or Texas patio wine.
  • Murphy Goode Dealer’s Choice Alexander Valley Cabernet 2010 – blackberry, herbs, bay leaves and thyme.  A very well balanced and drinkable wine that could age well or be opened today. 
  • Murphy Goode All In Claret Alexander Valley 2011 – a blend of Alexander Valley merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot is full of dark cherry, blackberry, herbs and raspberries.  It was a really great blend.
  • Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2010 – raspberry, Asian spice, black cherry with balance.  This wine called for BBQ but didn’t need it to be appreciated.

Hardy Wines and Accolade Wine Group: A Match Made in Heaven

Australian wines hit America right around the time I started to drink wine with a cork and figured out that I could afford to buy a case of Lindeman’s.  About 1.6 million cases were imported in 1995.  Today the Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine with 750 million liters a year.

I credit Australian wine with beginning my long love affair with the grape.  However, along the way what was shipped in by the large wine makers began to lose its luster.  Smaller production companies were acquired and some of the brands languished.  Luckily, that course is starting to correct.

With the acquisition of Hardy Wines by Accolade Wine Group about 15 months ago, there is a renewed focus on bringing the Nottage Hill and William Hill brands back to the US market.   Paul Lapsley, group chief winemaker for the Hardy portfolio wines, came through Dallas to talk and taste about the wines in his portfolio.  Lapsley’s been making wines for more than 30 years and has worked at some of the top wineries in Australia after doing several months in Burgundy.  Hardy Wines have been made since the late 1870s and are one of the long-time family wine making legacies.

We tried the following wines and they were some of the best value wines I’ve tried in a long time:

  • Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2012 – had lots of tropical fruit, peach, nectarine and oak.
  • William Hardy Chardonnay 2012 – loved the minerality and acidity of this wine.  It was made in a very Old World style with tropical fruit, lemon, vanilla and oak.
  • Nottage Hill Pinot Noir 2012 – black cherry, mushroom funkiness, vanilla and herbs.  Quite the bargain at under $10.

  • Nottage Hill Shiraz 2011 – dark berry, spice, chocolate, licorice and herbs.
  • William Hardy Shiraz 2011 – blueberry, plum, blackberry, chocolate and earthiness.

We then moved to the Tintara wines from McLaren Value, which was established in 1861.  These wines were from 2010, what has been referred to by many as a stellar year for Australian wine.  After trying the 2010 Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz, seductive and lush are the words that came to mind – especially for the $20 price tag.

The grand finale was the Winemakers Rare Release Shiraz 2008, which was made from the best grapes of three wineries.  This was incredible with notes of chocolate, spice, pepper, thin mint Girl Scout cookies (trust me), blackberry, mocha and vanilla.  It had miles of depth, power and complexity.


Angove Family Winemakers: 127 Years of Family, Legacy and Australian Heritage

I heard from my PR contacts at Trinchero Family Estates, who have been working in partnership with Angove Family Winemakers, that Tim Boydell, their senior vice president, was making a visit to Dallas and had a great story to tell me about their history and their wines.

Tim Boydell was brought on several years ago to help the winery manage change.  That’s tough at a winery that has been part of the family business for 127 years and is currently on its fifth generation, but with Australia’s renewed focus on quality wines, biodynamic processes and expanding its reputation for world-class wine, the family knew it needed to invest to grow.  Tim chuckles at the time he provided John Angove, the Chairman, with his strategic plan for the winery which involved writing a check “with many zeros.”

First, a bit of history about the Winery’s Founder William T. Angove, MD, who came from Cornwall, England to Adelaide in 1886.  Like most doctors of his time, wine was used for medicinal purposes and he developed a vineyard.  Like many, his hobby became his passion and he started making wine full time after he closed his practice a year later.

Today Angove is a major player in Australia.  It provides about 1 million cases of wines per year, which includes 14 different labels.  It is the eighth largest Australian winery and exports half of its production to more than 40 countries.  The Angove shield depicts the family interests of mining and winemaking.

 

We tried a number of wines that showcased why Australian wines have been scored so highly over the last year or two.  Here was the line-up:

  • 2010 Angove Warboys Vineyard Range – an elegant mix of licorice, berry and spice with lots of fruit and finesse
  • 2010 The Medhyk – this is the Angove’s approach to a flagship wine.  Lots of chocolate, spice, black fruit and terrior.  I loved this wine.
  • 2008 Coonawara Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection — all fruit up front.  Meat in a glass, screams for food, blackberry, cassis, mocha and oak.
  • 2012 Dr Angove “The Recipe” – red blend that was made specifically for the US market that was based on the wines he used to make in England.  Very juicy with mocha and cedar.
  • 2012 Nine Vines Moscato – oldest grapes in Australia which result in a wonderful dessert wine with hints of orange blossom, honeysuckle and apricot.

Unfortunately because the Four Seasons appeared to have no understanding of Friday Dallas traffic from Las Colinas to the West Village, we had to cut our visit short.  But, based on the Australian hospitality and the quality of the wines that I tried that day, I was glad to find out Texas is the number one US market for Angove Wines.  I look forward to watching what comes from Angove Family Winemakers.

 


Celebrity Wines: The Good, the Bad and the Funny

Christy Lemire at the Oscars

Check out my column today in Culture Map Dallas where I interviewed Associated Press Movie Critic Christy Lemire to find out what she thought the persona of the wines would be based on the celebrity.  Then Jasper Russo, who runs the fine wine program for Sigel’s, and I tried the wines.


Wine Club Reunited: Spanish Heavy Hitters, White Flights, Napa Finds and Cajun Cuisine

Picture a group of very driven, professional folks that have a passion for wine, like to have fun, enjoy off the beaten path wines and make sure to not take ourselves too seriously.  The last part a total 180 from what you would expect a somewhat serious wine club to look like especially from a group representing a snapshot of corporate America.

We tried taking ourselves too seriously in the beginning where we voted members in, selected favorite wines and then tried to store them for the right period of time before opening and officially voting on our favorites. That all changed one fateful night of tasting Turley Zinfandels where we threw all decorum out the window and had an amazing time.  There may or may not be a YouTube video that you will never find capturing our version of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”  Throughout the years, we changed the goal of the club to enjoying wines we haven’t had before while putting the emphasis on fun.  And, you know, I ended up learning and retaining a lot more knowledge.

As most groups go, life got in the way for awhile and we had not met in a few months.  When Peter and Jen revived the group, I was excited. I walked in with my Spiegelau glasses and no idea of what surprises were in store.

It turns out we were having a Mardi Gras theme with homemade Cajun food.  Our hosts wanted to do a Spanish red theme, but knew that it wouldn’t match the food, so another theme was added to go with the dinner.  We started with wines that would go well with spicy food.  Our first line-up included the following:

 

  • Chateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc 2011 – a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle with grapefruit, minerality and a little hint of sweetness.  Great wine under $10.
  • Chateau Guibon  2011 – lots of pear and melon with a nice balance from the blend of Semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle.  This wine is led by the Semillon and is more muted than the first.  Another nice white under $10.
  • Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 09 – lots of citrus with lime, grapefruit and green apple.  Great minerality and nice finish. Also in the $10 range and a great bargain.
  • Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 09 – lots of grapefruit, exotic fruit and grassy notes. 
  • Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 07 – I am a big fan of Merry Edwards wines – especially the Sauvignon Blancs and Pinots – this had the same minerality and citrus notes, but unfortunately had lost some its essence with time.

 

Then it was truly showtime – a line-up of highly rated Spanish reds, all from the highly-rated 2004, of which I have not had the opportunity to try.  Our line-up was:

  • Bodegas y Vinedos Alion Ribera del Duero 04 – inky black with blackberry, chocolate, spice and some floral notes.  Incredibly rich and yummy.
  • Baron de Magana 04 – priced under $20, this wine had notes of oak, blackberry, current and graphite. Very earthy.
  • Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 04 – it took some time in the glass for me to appreciate this big wine.  I tasted mocha, cardamom, cinnamon and something that was almost port-like.
  • Vall Llach Priorat 04 – lots of blackberry, herbal notes, chocolate, coffee, peanut brittle, vanilla, minerality and spice.  I really liked this wine and it changed in the glass through the course of the evening.
  • Numanthia ‘Termanthia’, Toro, Spain 04 – this was an incredible wine by one of the best Spanish wine makers out there.  It was complex with black and red fruits, eucalyptus and as smooth as silk.  My absolute favorite of the evening.
  • Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero Flor de Pingus 04 – definitely needed more decanting time, but had notes of cherry, chocolate, oak, smoke, sage, licorice and coffee. 

 

And if we hadn’t tasted enough great wines, one of our participants had just returned from a trip to Napa, so out came the Guilliams Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 07 and Seavey Cabernet 09.  And that was a fabulous end to our evening and a foggy start to a Sunday morning.


How Much Wine Is Enough: The Art of Stocking the Bar for a Party

We were co-hosting a party of the first grade parents at my daughter’s school and expected about 70 people.  I was stumped by the age old question — if you are throwing a party, how much wine do you buy?  The general consensus at least on the web is about half a bottle per person.  Experts say to plan for a 3:1 ratio of red to white. If a normal 750 ml bottle of wine contains 25.361 oz. and a normal glass of wine is usually 4-6  oz., I needed to plan about 4 – 6 glasses per bottle.  So 70 wine drinking people would consume about 35 bottles.  Or not.

Also, my husband insisted on having a bourbon, vodka, scotch, beer and other bar selections.  In retrospect, walking in with almost three and a half cases of wine alone, was a big overkill.  So, if you are having a cocktail hour reception that goes for 2-3 hours, unless you expect a group of college kids on a bender, I’d recommend cutting that in half.

It is my mantra to not serve safe wine choices and push people out of their comfort zone.  I did that by purchasing mostly European and Australian wines with the exception of my value Cabernet, 2010 Blackburn Cabernet, which I feel in love with at Russo’s Coal Fired Italian Kitchen during my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” quest. It is priced between $10-$13 a bottle and I believe it rivals $25 cabernets.

Of the 6 wines served, we had one white and one red group favorite:

  • 2010 Vacqueyras Jean-Marie Arnoux, which is 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, and is a Rhone priced under $16.
  • 2011 Burgans Albarino Rias Baixas, fruity, dry and crisp.  We picked this up for about $11.

The good news is that we had enough leftover wine to have yet another party and I found some more great wines perfect for a Tuesday.




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