Thursday, November 24, 2022

Cristom Mt. Jefferson Pinot Noir

 Cristom is a well regarded producer from the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Its vineyards grow on the volcanic soils of the Eola Hills, in the heart of the valley. It is a biodynamic producer. The Mt. Jefferson cuvée is a blend of three estate vineyards. Fermentation occurs with native yeast and whole-bunch.

The 2017 Cristom Mt. Jefferson Pinot Noir tastes of black cherry, but is predominantly savoury in the mouth. This wine is not in the pretty camp of Pinot Noir, but in the structured camp. The tannins are firm covering the fruit flavours, which are not as intense as I would have liked. For those drinking Burgundy, this is more Gevrey-Chambertin than Vosne-Romanée. This Mt. Jefferson is a good wine, well made, but the best fruit clearly ends up in the single vineyard wines.

Score: 92/++

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay

 Many of the great wine regions are densely planted, for example Burgundy, Barossa, Marlborough. But then, there are wineries which produce outstanding wine, which sit almost by themselves and create this special place. I find this quite curious. Such examples are Bass Phillip in Gippsland or Kumeu River just 30km north west of Auckland. Today, I will review the 2020 Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay.

The Coddington vineyard is not owned by Kumeu River, but it has taken grapes from this vineyard for over 20 years and has made a single vineyard wine from there since 2006. The 2020 Coddington Chardonnay is bright and pure. Yellow peach, yellow apple and apricot flavours are supported by a rich and creamy texture. 

This is a smooth wine with a delicate finish. It is a fine wine, made in a Burgundy style. It is just missing an x factor. Maybe it will emerge in a couple of years.

Score: 93/++

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Yangarra Ovitelli Grenache

 The Ovitelli Grenache is the mid-level Grenache of Yangarra, planted right next to the High Sands vineyard. The 75 year old vines are also grown in deep sand. One of the main, if not the main difference is that this wine is matured in ceramic eggs, not oak. It remains on skins for a long 100 days or so.

The 2019 Yangarra Ovitelli Shiraz is simply a beautiful and delicious wine. It is fragrant and intense at the same time. The strawberry colour translates to strawberry flavours, as well as maraschino cherry. The wine has a vibrant and silky mouthfeel, great purity and not heavy. The tannins are finely detailed and remain in the background. The underlying acidity promises a long life. The finish is long with savoury undertones. - Stunning!

Score: 96/+++ 


Thursday, November 17, 2022

Macedon Ranges, Part 3: Cobaw Ridge

 The third stop of this short tour was at Cobaw Ridge. Although this winery has been around for over 30 years, I have not known it until now. They make natural wine, if you take organic farming, no fining and filtration and very limited sulphur at bottling as the definition.

The flagship wines are the Chardonnays. The 2021 Chardonnay is a refreshing wine, with grapefruit flavours, quite pithy. The wine goes through 100% malolactic fermentation, which Alan Cooper, the winemaker, says is a must to maintain stability in the wine, if no filtration is applied. This is a balanced wine, full of character (95 points). The 2018 Chardonnay, from a warmer year with higher yield, is a fuller wine, showing some development, but still with a good structure (92 points).

The 2021 Il Pinko is a Rosé made from 100% Shiraz. It was only kept three hours on skins. As a result, the colour is quite light, but this is deceiving. This is an energetic and powerful Rosé (92 points). The 2021 L'Altra is another Rosé with 15% Pinot Noir added. This is an easy drinking wine, not very distinctive, but quite delicious in the mouth, with fine acidity (90 points).

Finally, I was tasting Lagrein, a Northern Italian variety. I have only come across this once, at Tertini, where I tasted a much younger wine. The first one here was the 2006 Lagrein. The flavours are an attractive blend of mulberry, cherry liquor, and licorice. It is quite an acidic wine with medium dry tannins (92 points). The real highlight was the 2000 Lagrein, a more mellow and softer wine, it felt wise and balanced with some eucalypt and herbal flavours adding to the palate. It was drinking beautifully (95 points).

So, who says wines made in this style cannot age? I think the difference to, say, a number of natural wine makers in the Adelaide Hills is, that a bit of sulphur is applied and 100% malolactic fermentation. This clearly increases ageability. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Macedon Ranges, Part 2: Curly Flat

 Curly Flat was probably the first winery which put Macedon on the wine map for a wider audience. The style of the wines could not have been more different to Bindi. The vines are grown on rich volcanic soil. The wines used to be generous, sometimes quite broad, but delivered great drinkability. I have not been in touch for a number of years, so I was looking forward to this tasting.

The focus was on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, tasting quite a number of years.

The first wine was the 2005 Chardonnay. Australian Chardonnay does not always age well, but this one certainly did. It still had some energy left. This is a rich and powerful wine. Toasty and nutty characters now dominate the palate. The structure is still good (92 points). A big jump to the 2016 Chardonnay. This wine was big and oaky. I found it quite fat (89 points).

A new winemaker took over, maybe four years ago. He is supposedly trying to turn down the richness in the wines, and the new oak components. The example I tasted first was the 2020 Chardonnay. I still found the fruit component very big in this wine, and the shape wide rather than long. There was more acidity in this wine, which made it more lively (92 points). Then I tasted the 2018 and 2019 Chardonnays. The 2018 in particular felt quite flabby. 

Curly Flat is in some financial stress because of the divorce/payout from the previous owner. I feel these Chardonnays come from increased yields to boost production to improve cash-flow.

The first red wine I tasted was the 2015 Pinot Noir. It showed an interesting blend of strawberry and dark cherry fruit, as well as savoury notes, but the structure was not great (90 points). The 2019 Pinot Noir was similar, a bit more savoury, and a little green, which I thought benefited the wine in this case (91 points). The best wine was the 2020 Pinot Noir. It had a silky, more sophisticated mouthfeel (93 points).

Overall, it has to be said, this tasting did not deliver what I was hoping for. My sense is, for economic reasons, the winery is moving into a more commercial space.   

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Macedon Ranges, Part 1: Bindi

 It was high time to catch up with Bindi again, the high quality producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Like in many parts of the country, the rainfall this year has been significant. As a result, the grass growth has been substantial, as can be seen on the photo of the famous Block 5 Pinot Noir vineyard.

These days, Bindi is much more than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but we started with the two well known Chardonnays from barrel. 

The 2022 Kosta Rind Chardonnay is grown on volcanic soil, which gives the wine some generosity. Lime and citrus flavours are balanced with earthy notes. There is a saline quality to the attractive palate, balanced by fine acidity (94 points). The 2022 Quartz Chardonnay is a sensational wine. As the name suggests, the soil is quartz mixed with clay. This delivers a more structured wine. There is a lot of complexity on the palate of this bigger, yet dynamic wine. The mouthfeel is quite dry, with the acidity more prominent. This wine will need time to unfold. It is very persistent in the mouth, with chalky tannins and a long finish (97 points).

Then we started to taste from bottle.

The first wine was a surprise in more ways than one. The 2022 Riesling, from an outside vineyard, is Michael Dhillon's first foray into Riesling - and what a cracker this is. The grapes were grown on granite soil, quite common in Macedon. There are some floral notes here, but the main impact on the palate is lime and citrus. This wine has a wonderful texture. It is not broad. The wine has good drive, without being dominated by acidity. I liked this a lot (95 points). We tasted a 2022 Rosé, which showed an interesting blend of redcurrant, some herbal notes and white pepper. However, the slightly sweet finish overtook the positive palate impression for me (88 points).

We then went to some Pinot Noirs from new high density planted vineyards. The Darshan vineyard, named after Michael's grandfather, was planted in 2014. We tasted the 2017 Darshan Pinot Noir, the first wine from this vineyard. With 3(!) year old vines, it showed amazing promise. Dark cherry fruit blends in with mushroom and forest floor characteristics. The purity of the fruit stands out. This is a classic Pinot, quite delicate, with a silky feel: a beautiful wine (94 points). Then came the 2020 Block 8 Pinot Noir from a densely planted vineyard in 2017. So this is another wine from vines three years old. Again, it is delicate, with dark complexity and grippy tannins. This was followed by the 2021 Block 8 Pinot Noir. This showed vintage variation. The wine had higher acidity and showed good length. I found it delicious (95 points).  

The final Pinot Noir was the 2021 Kaye Pinot Noir, named after Michael's Mother. This wine is a bit more forward and approachable, with dark cherry the dominant flavour. Having said this, the structure of the wine does stand up (93 points). I found the 2021 Pyrette, the Shiraz from Heathcote, a bit perplexing. This is meant as an early and easy drinking wine. It is quite dark and peppery, with a mix of cherry and earthy notes, and a quite pronounced beetroot flavour. I did not think it gelled together all that well (90 points).

I spent two hours with Michael Dhillon on this visit. His commentary, as always, was full of insight. He has now managed this site for over 25 years, and the wines benefit from this experience. The Pinot Noirs from the new plantings are already amazingly good. It is clear he is not done yet. More great wines will come from here.   

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Vieux Télégraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape

 On of the wine trends I find annoying is that new and unproven wineries and wine ventures decide to charge the same prices that wineries who worked for decades to establish and refine their styles have managed to command. It is therefore always a pleasure for me to grab a bottle of a well known producer where I know what I will get. This has certainly been the case with the 2016 Vieux Télégraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

This wine is full-bodied and quite ripe, with the grapes grown on the famous pebble field of La Crau. The fruit flavours are raspberry, but also dark mulberry, often coming from old vine Grenache, which dominates this wine. The big mouthfeel includes savoury flavours of mushroom and earth, which add to the complexity of this wine. Persistent tannins balance the flavours of this big wine, which finishes relatively long and soothing.

This wine has a long life ahead. It is a bit early to drink now and will develop further complexities and nuances down the track.

Score: 95/++ 

Monday, October 31, 2022

De Bortoli Estate Vineyard Chardonnay

 De Bortoli is mainly know for its famous Noble One brand. But one should not forget it has sizable vineyard holdings in the Yarra Valley. This 2018 De Bortoli Estate Vineyard Chardonnay comes from there. 

The wine has an attractive mouthfeel with green apple and peach flavours. There are also some nutty notes. This is well balanced with sufficient acidity. The finish is a little short, but the overall 'package' is impressive for a value wine.

Score: 90/+

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Domaine Santa Duc Le Pied De Baud Chateauneuf

 This 2015 Domaine Santa Duc Le Pied De Baud Chateauneuf-Du-Pape is a bright wine. Home for them is Gigondas, but they have this plot in the northern part of Chateauneuf. The soil is a mixture of sand, clay, limestone and pebbles. I believe clay dominates. The vines are 90 years old, on average. The wine is Grenache dominant (80%).

The winery aims its wines squarely at the American market. So this is full-bodied, ripe, but also quite energetic. The palate is an attractive mix of cherry flavours, earthy characters, and spice. The finish is long and persistent, but the alcohol is distracting.

Score: 92/+ 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Stonier Chardonnay

 The first impression of tasting the 2020 Stonier Chardonnay is the smart oak treatment. Cashew nut flavours dominate the palate. Underneath sit stone fruit flavours, but then again it is cashew nut. The oak influence is not massive, but enough to cover the underwhelming fruit flavours. The outcome is a well made, but not very interesting wine.

Score: 89/0 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Miloš Winery

 The winery Miloš, situated about 50km north of Dubrovnik, is astonishing. More than 20 years ago, while all aspiring Croatian wineries went for new oak and French barriques, this winery started to make what they now call natural wines. The winery is certified organic, fermentation with indigenous yeast, no fining and filtration, very little sulphur and maturation in large Slavonian oak (like Barolo). Volumes are very small, only a few thousand bottles per wine, yet the premium wine is found in leading restaurants in Los Angeles and New York.

The vines are grown on steep limestone hills. Yield is a low 0.8kg per vine. The red variety is Plavac Mali, which I described in a previous post, the white Rukatac, which I know nothing about.

The white wine is a relatively new addition to the portfolio. It is grown at 250m altitude. I taste the 2020 Stalagmit. This is quite a full-bodied wine at 13.5% alc. matured in stainless steel. The focus is the texture, not the fruit. Wet stone and minerality are key, with some citrus flavours coming through. The two sons of the original winemaker are now in charge. I spoke with one of them who admitted there is a bit to go before this is an outstanding wine (86 points). The 2020 Rosé is made from Plavac Mali. It is dry, but not as pale as the French versions, and bigger in the mouth (86 points).

Then we come to the red wines, and they are fantastic. First the 2018 Plavac Mali. This is made from vines less than 20 years old. Red and black cherry flavours are integrated with attractive limestone minerality. The wine is very clean and pure. The tannins are chalky, very dry. This is such an attractive package at 13.5% alcohol. I have never given a wine at 12€ or less than $A20, 92 points.

However, a big step up is the 2012 Stagnum. This is the premium Plavac Mali. This wine has just been released after spending 6 years in barrel and 4 in bottle. It comes from 20 to 50 year old grapes. Detailed work in the vineyard means they can pick earlier than less sophisticated neighbours at phenolic ripeness, with the resulting wine being 14 to 15% alcohol, whereas other Plavac Mali can go to 16, even 17%. Also, acidity is higher. This wine has a slightly orange tint, like Barolo. It tastes of red and black cherry and dry figs. Earthy notes underline the palate. This is a powerful wine, yet elegant in the mouth. The wine has drive, the tannins are smooth. This is a revelation (96/+++).

I also tasted the 2007 Stagnum. For starters, this is a 15 year old natural wine. It can be done. This wine is very smooth, lingers in the mouth, but it does not have the complexity of the 2012. The young winemaker attributes this to the learnings they have had since then (93 points).

It is a pity that most of you will never have the chance to taste these wines. They are utterly unique and amazing.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Complexity In Wine

 Pinot Noir is probably the grape variety most influenced by clone selection. Therefore, many years ago, winemakers were trying to identify the ‘best’ clone. They then discovered a certain sameness in the grape juice. Then there was a switch to growing a number of different clones per vineyard which lead to positive results; more interesting wines.

Single vineyard wines are all the rage now, and they are supposed to represent the place where the grapes come from, but do they deliver the most interesting wine? Penfolds does not think so. It is famous for its multi-regional blends. And if you have ever tried Grange, you may have marveled at the layering of the fruit flavours. This is the result of different vineyard sources.

But if you dig a little deeper, a more complex picture emerges. Take Château Cheval-Blanc, the famous right bank winery in Bordeaux. The vineyard has sections of gravel, clay, and sandy soil. They have identified 53 mini vineyards on this site. They have younger and older vines. They grow Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. All this goes into their famous wine. Single vineyard yes, but a multitude of expressions.

Closer to home, the Gnadenfrei vineyard at Marananga has a west and an east orientation. At the top of the hill, there is little top soil. At the bottom, there is alluvial soil. All this is the source of Torbreck’s Laird.

Vineyards and winemaking are incredibly complex. There is not a one size fits all, but complexity is something worth striving for.

Any thoughts?