Tue 29 Mar 2011
Old Bridge Cellars is one of the country’s best importers of wines from Australia. Founded in 1990 by Rob McDonald and based in the city of Napa, Old Bridge bring to the United States such impressive labels as d’Arenberg, Bass Phillip, Brokenwood, Chambers, Jasper Hill, Leeuwin Estate and Plantagenet, among others. Many importers, after some period of time, begin to think about not just being the middleman but of actually producing their own wines — as Terlato does — so Old Bridge has debuted its line of wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma County dubbed Stickybeak, a name that has that inimitable Australian ring to it. “Stickybeak” in Australian parlance apparently means a busybody or, as a verb, “to have a look,” hence the winery’s logo of a rather Magritte-like personage wearing a black suit and bowler having a gaze across a white picket fence at an expanse of “wine country” beyond. Winemaker for Stickybeak is Wayne Donaldson; general manager is Gavin Speight.
I recently tried four of the Stickybeak wines and was impressed by two but, I’m sorry to say, disappointed by the others. These were samples for review.
Of this quartet, the wine I enjoyed most was the Stickybeak Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Sonoma County, an all-stainless steel blend of 72 percent semillon and 28 percent sauvignon blanc that’s clean and fresh and intensely floral. Notes of apple and grapefruit, spicy pear and a bit of fig waft from the glass in a welter of lime peel, jasmine and honeysuckle; yes, it’s as irresistible as it sounds. Hints of new-mown grass and dried thyme and tarragon overlay flavors of lemon curd and roasted lemon, a further dollop of leafy fig, all swathed in a jazzed texture of crystalline acidity and a dry, chalky, limestone-washed finish. Super attractive and exhilarating. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink through the summer of 2012. Very Good+. About $17.
The other Stickybeak wine I liked was the Stickybeak Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Coast, which is fermented in stainless steel and open vats and then aged in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. Here’s another fresh, bright wine — sporting a radiant medium ruby color — a pinot bursting with requisite tones of red currants and plums with hints of rhubarb and cola, cloves and potpourri, a warm and spicy wine with touches of wheatmeal, briers and brambles in its depths, which a few minutes in the glass devolve to clean, earthy minerality. If the wine has a flaw it’s that the finish turns not just dry but austere; perhaps it requires another year to find better balance. 14.3 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $20.
The Stickybeak wines that seemed problematic to me were the Chardonnay 2009, Russian River Valley, and the Syrah 2008, Napa County. The Chardonnay 09 was too much in every sense: too oaky, too spicy, too much toffee and brown sugar qualities, too dense and cloying; quite dry yet unpleasantly viscous. Call it a stylistic quarrel if you like, but I don’t recommend it. Avoid. About $17. I could find little of its titular grape in the Syrah 08, which seemed so over-ripe, so juicy and jammy and vanilla-ish and toasty that it could have been an over-ripe, jammy, vanilla-ish and toasty cabernet or zinfandel; California is filled with such wines. Again, no recommendation here. About $20.