Thursday, 26 May 2022

Heggies Vineyard Single Block Reserve Chardonnay 2017


This is a fabulous Chardonnay. Great fruit, well-handled oak, and all up, it's wonderfully balanced. I'll have a large pour, please.

Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2018


There is a charm here. A little flint, a little matchstick too. Soft creaminess sways throughout with a neat complexity in the mid-palate to muse over.

Heggies Vineyard Cloudline Chardonnay 2021


Clean and fresh, there is a skip in its step. A tidy entry-level Heggies Chardonnay from the Eden Valley.

Simpson Estate Elaine Chardonnay 2019


A newbie for me from Margaret River that impresses. I tasted this on International Chardonnay Day and it stood up well.

Tyrrell's HVD Chardonnay 2021


These are the oldest Chardonnay vines in the world they say, right here in the Hunter Valley - Australia's longest continuous wine producing region. This is an absolute glamour. Chardonnay fans rejoice.

Thomas Wines Herlestone Shiraz 2019



Andrew Thomas' exploration of great Hunter Valley sites continues.

The Herlestone Vineyard was an integral part of the Rothbury Shiraz releases back in the 70s and 80s. Found beside Mount Pleasant's Rosehill vineyard on red soils, this saw third and fourth use oak to ensure the fruit expressed itself. There is plenty to enjoy here.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Dalwood Estate Chardonnay 2021


This Dalwood Estate has skipped up five bucks since the previous vintage but you'd pay it. It's a pretty impressive Hunter Valley Chardonnay.

Keith Tulloch Chardonnay 2021


Tasted as part of the Hunter Valley Legends and Tourism Awards media famil, this won the best one year old Chardonnay at the 2021 Hunter Valley Wine Show.

Ridgeview Impressions Chardonnay 2021


Tasted over lunch as part of the Hunter Valley Legends and Tourism Awards media famil, I was surrounded by wine royalty at the table. How could I not mention the huggable Winsor Dobbin to my left, Brian McGuigan to my right and the glamorous Cathy Gadd and Jane Thomson sitting opposite? This Chardonnay was pretty good too.

Winmark Chardonnay 2021


This was a head-turner and not for the right reasons. It was tasted over lunch as part of the Hunter Valley Legends and Tourism Awards media famil. Apologies for no bottle pic, the website didn't have one nor did I take one at the time. I can tell you the label was green if that is at all helpful...

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Crittenden Estate Pinot Noir 2020


Pinot Noir happiness from Mornington Peninsula's Crittenden Estate.

Mercer Wines Vermentino Bianco 2022


The number of emerging varieties sprouting from the Hunter Valley dirt continues to increase. Some work, others not so. Vermentino is one that is rocketing along and this example from Mercer Wines is a ripper. Sunshine and summertime in a glass. Get in on the action I say.

Long Gully Estate Chardonnay 2021


A really enjoyable Yarra Valley Chardonnay from Long Gully Estate. I'd happily have a glass, and maybe I just did that.

Mount Broke Albarino 2021


I tasted this Albarino at the recent Hunter Valley Legends and Tourism Awards media famil. I'm guessing this is Mount Broke's first release of the variety.

Monday, 23 May 2022

Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Industry Awards 2022


I was fortunate enough to spend the last couple of days traversing the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest continuous wine producing region dating back to 1828, with a group of media delving deep into what makes the region tick. 

Most famously recognised for its incredible ability to produce the world's best Semillon, we took part in several masterclasses and tasted some 65+ wines. Shiraz, the other glamour of the region, certainly played its part - beautifully medium-bodied in all its glory, but a stand-out variety, and one that deserves more credit, were the stunning examples of Chardonnay. Very much sitting in the shadows of its regional siblings, Hunter Valley Chardonnay is an excellent drink and there are so many diverse expressions of it.

A tasting was also undertaken of some emerging varieties including Albarino, Fiano, Vermentino, Viognier, Touriga, and Sagrantino to name a few. 

Our first stop was at Tyrrell's to taste through 16 examples of Semillon. Hosted by Mark Richardson (Tyrrell's) and Andrew Thomas (Thomas Wines), a bracket of recent releases was followed by a bracket of 2013 showcasing how well Semillon will age. The best examples were uber fresh and you'd think they were bottled yesterday!

Semillon is a variety ideal for summer drinks in the sun. As Andrew Thomas said, "Anything you can squeeze a lemon on, Hunter Semillon is the way to go." That sums it up perfectly!

The stand out Semillons from around the region come off the alluvial soils found on the valley floor. A great take away was that cooler years have shown better long-term cellaring potential and warmer years lean to more immediate enjoyment. Andrew Thomas added that 2013 was the greatest Semillon vintage in the last twenty years.

Of the eight recent releases, the top picks were:

Brokenwood Oakey Creek 2021 (tank sample most likely heading to ILR), Silkman Reserve 2021, Thomas Braemore 2022, Tyrrell's Vat 1 2022. These wines showed soft, delicate citrus fruits, clean and well-handled acidity with impressive precision and purity.

The 2013 Semillons were absolutely incredible and have all shared their fair share of bling over the years. The best of the best were:

Briar Ridge Dairy Hill 2013, Brokenwood ILR 2013, Mount Pleasant Lovedale 2013, Thomas Braemore 2013. The freshness of these wines was incredible and really highlighted the ageworthiness of Hunter Valley Semillon.

Lunch was calling and it was back on the bus to Ben Ean, recently purchased by Brian McGuigan. As we arrived we were met by the man himself with a glass of Chardonnay in hand. Lunch was served and seven Chardonnays were enjoyed alongside an excellent feast. The pick of these was Tyrrell's HVD 2021. A runaway favourite, it comes off what are said to be the oldest Chardonnay vines in the world. Terrifically complex with a leaner drive, it's just magic. The Dalwood 2021 and Scarborough Keeper of the Flame 2021 (a new wine yet to be released) both stood tall and impressed. The latter shows how 100% new French oak can be handled exquisitely without dominating the fruit. Drink more Hunter Valley Chardonnay I say! Funny that, I made that my goal for 2022 - check it here.

Shiraz was up next and it was off to the new Mount Pleasant cellar door. This place is something and one out of the box. Guests are in for a treat when it officially opens in a couple of weeks.

Here we explored 12 wines, each example showing the 2019 and 2009 version. Hosted by Stuart Hordern (Brokenwood), Andrew Sparks (Mount Pleasant) and Phil Ryan (Mount Pleasant), Hordern explained the best Shiraz vineyards sit on red soils, perched on a hill that is east facing. These sites hug the range which shelters the vines from the afternoon sun and wind. Of course, like the Semillon vineyards, there are exceptions, but it is a credible rule of thumb to apply when you picture where the best blocks sit: Old Paddock, Old Hill and Graveyard to name a few.

Of the first bracket, the Thomas Kiss and De Iuliis Limited Release were blistering wines, both in their youth and the aged example. Hordern described both producers as making 'contemporary Hunter Valley wines' with their quality shining through. The Thomas Kiss is a single vineyard wine and comes from the Pokolbin Estate vineyards planted in 1969. The De Iuliis on the other hand is a blend of his best parcels (Steven and Lovedale Road) although the 2009 was predominantly from the famed Tallawanta vineyard. If you don't know these two producers, it's time to introduce yourself. Andrew Thomas is a meticulous winemaker and his perfection seeps through his wines. Mike De Iuliis is an excellent producer and his high-level consistency sees him standing tall alongside the much more famous brands in the valley. Respect.

The second bracket was all about the old firm - Tyrrell's Vat 9, Brokenwood Graveyard and Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea. Tyrrell's Vat 9 2009 and both the Graveyard 2019 and 2009 stole the show. Winemakers chase the black fruit profile and the 2009 wines of these two exhibited precisely just that and were humming. Classically medium-bodied, Hunter Valley Shiraz is a stunning drink when done well.

One more stop saw us drop by Peppertree to be hosted by Gwyn Olsen (Peppertree) and Aaron Mercer (Mercer Wines). As mentioned previously, the exploration of emerging varieties in the Hunter Valley is really gaining some momentum. Given the warm Hunter days during summer, the disease and drought threat is real. Producing fruit able to contend with both would make the life of viticulturists and winemakers less stressful. Pecorino is said to show resistance to disease and Touriga is a high cropping variety that thrives without water. Add these to the vast array of other varieties around the region and there is something to pique everyone's interest.

A glittering black tie dinner capped off an incredible day. The wonderful camaraderie and warmth in the room plus the fabulous community vibe were thrilling to experience. The award winners are listed below although something that ought to be mentioned is the fitting tribute paid to the late Hunter Valley Legend Karl Stockhausen by Mount Pleasant's Phil Ryan.

Riedel Young Achiever of the Year: Alex Beckett (Briar Ridge Vineyard) 
Liz Silkman and MC Iain Riggs
HVWTA Tourism Operator of the Year: Beyond Ballooning 
HVWTA Accommodation Operator of the Year: Spicers Guesthouse 
Jurds Viticulturist of the Year: Jerome Scarborough (Scarborough Wine Co.) 
Wine Selectors Cellar Door of the Year: De Iuliis Wines 
First Creek Winemaking Services Winemaker of the Year: Liz Silkman (First Creek Wines & Silkman Wines) 
HVWTA Outstanding Contribution of an Individual: Christina Tulloch (Tulloch Wines) 
HVWTA Patron: Brian McGuigan AM 
Hunter Valley Tourism Legend: Philip Hele OAM (Hunter Valley Resort & The Farm Hunter Valley) Hunter Valley Wine Legend: Neil McGuigan

Sincere thanks to all at Hunter Valley Wine Tourism and the winemakers who made this experience such a memorable one.

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Sunday, 22 May 2022

The Hydropath Society Gruner Vetliner 2021


Gruner Veltliner has found a happy home in the Adelaide Hills. Take a whiff of this wine from the Hydropath Society and you can't help but want to imbibe. A fabulous drink and a blistering bargain, find it.

Susuro Farfalla Vermentino 2019


I've seen a couple of Vermentino wines from Victoria's Alpine Valley. They possess a little more density than lighter, fresher styles from other regions. The food-friendly appeal of this release backs up my previous experiences.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Hobbs Tin Lids Aria Secca Shiraz 2020


Long with a flirtatious spiciness that gains momentum through to close, I had this open for four nights and it didn't miss a beat. 

De Bortoli Melba Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018


The Melba Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is only released in exceptional years. Here is a keeper that will live well beyond a decade. Looking for a birth year wine that will reward handsomely? Pop this on your radar.

Susuro Farfella Nebbiolo 2021


Soft and lacy, this Nebbiolo from the famed Pyrenees Malakoff vineyard is well worth a look. It's a disco for the senses. An excellent example of what modern Nebbiolo looks like, you can't help but feel upbeat in its presence.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Octtava Piano Pinot Noir 2021


A delicate Mornington Peninsula Pinot from small producer Octtava.

Alkimi Syrah Rosé 2021


Clever. Fun in the sun kind of stuff. Long lunch gear supreme. Big love here! 

Patrick Coonawarra Home Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2016


Patrick of Coonawarra is one of the quiet achievers in the historic region. One of their strengths is their ability to produce age-worthy reds and whites. This Cabernet off the Home Block is no different. By the way, I love the new labels.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Hydropath Society Seeing Red Grenache 2019


The endless supply of Blewitt Springs Grenache continues to filter through to this tasting bench. Tom Robinson got in touch and asked if he could throw me a bottle for a look. Why not? My exploration of Grenache knows no bounds. This is a tidy drink with the slurp factor sky-high.

Ox Hardy Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2021

In a word, fresh. Fruit-driven happiness delivered by Ox Hardy.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Levantine Hill Optume Shiraz 2017


The sibling to the Optume Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, this is elegant, delicate and lacy. Silky and wonderfully balanced, it's an excellent Yarra Valley Shiraz. 

Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2021

I had the opportunity to taste this during the week with Yalumba's red winemaking gun Kevin Glastonbury. Such a cool and charismatic gent, Grenache flows through his veins. His meticulous approach is evident in this new release Vine Vale Grenache.

Scout Waipara Pinot Noir 2020


I traveled to Waipara in February 2020 and fell in love with the place. Less than an hour from Christchurch airport, we found a cozy place to stay at Georges Road winery. The Wine Pod is brilliant. Go there with your loved one.

What struck me about Waipara is the finesse of the wines. Pinot rages on in this district (like most in New Zealand), but Waipara Pinot is different. It really speaks to me. There is some depth yet it possesses a salivating medium-bodied appeal. The fruit isn't overly dense yet has some carry. There is some vitality about the wine too, not to mention the soils that hum along in the background. This Pinot Noir from Scout is a ripper.

Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz 2020

The 2020 Hunter Valley vintage was a challenge and it is no more evident with Andrew Thomas' minuscule releases. Normally releasing a vast array of Shiraz from across the district, Thommo's scrupulous fruit selection resulted in only three Shiraz being released. And in true Thomas Wines style, no stone was left unturned to deliver the best wines possible.

Lienert Estate Roussanne 2021


I've said it before, these Lienert wines have such impressive shelf appeal. This is a damn good Roussanne too - a win-win.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Oakridge Vineyard Series Willowlake Chardonnay 2020


Willowlake can do no wrong. It's that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Here is another superb Chardonnay from Oakridge. Boom!

Moorilla Cloth Label White 2016


A skinsy white with plenty of personality. It's rich with rounded shoulders as it slides through with ease. I have no detail on the make up of this wine, but does that matter when it tastes and feels so good?

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2019


Australia's best Chardonnay? Absolutely! The focus and purity are something else here. What a glamour! A sublime wine and then some.

L'Artisan Le Rosé 2020

An easy-going Rosé from Languedoc.

L'Artisan Le Chardonnay 2020

The weight of this bottle may be the reason cargo ships are taking so long to traverse the seas at the moment. Damn, there is some glass in the frame...

L'Artisan Le Sauvignon Blanc 2020

An imported Frenchie to add to the pile for those that can't get enough of the already flooded Sauv Blanc market. Spending four months on lees, this goes ok.

Thomas Wines Two of a Kind Shiraz 2020


A quick look at Andrew Thomas' new Two of a Kind release - his traditional blend of Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale Shiraz.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Ox Hardy Upper Tintara Vineyard Shiraz 2018


I described the 2017 as workmanlike and rustic. Nothing has really changed with this 2018. If anything, they are two very consistent releases. Tick.

Long Gully Estate Single Vineyard Syrah 2020

There is a lot to like about the softness of this wine. A single vineyard Syrah from the Yarra Valley, it's very smart and a delight to drink.

O’Leary Walker Hurtle Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV

Cleansing and refreshing, this is solid aperitif gear from O'Leary Walker.

Long Gully Estate Malakov Vineyard Syrah 2020

Malakoff or Malakov? The label states the latter which no doubt is an oversight. But then plums were misspelled on the label as 'plumes'. Little errors like these take the gloss off a pretty, fragrant and delicious Pyrenees Syrah.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Curly Flat Estate Pinot Noir 2020


This Curly Flat Estate Pinot is a ripper. A blend of all estate fruit, it's a great experience to line up the Central and Western Pinots beside it to see how this Estate came to be. A blending masterpiece one could say...

Long Gully Estate Pinot Noir 2021


My first look at Long Gully Estate - a small Yarra Valley winery that has had its fair share of turmoil in recent years. It's great to see small businesses like this bouncing back. I like this Pinot. It's a respectable drink.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Oakridge Vineyard Series Barkala Chardonnay 2020


Wow. Just wow. $45 for this is madness. Sheer delight and then some. There are Chardonnays out there $20+ more expensive but aren't in the same class. This is all precision and focus rolled into a neat package.