McLaren Vale


So, tomorrow’s the Big Day, a Super Bowl with lots of spindly Roman numerals, and manly men and their womanly women with gather in front of giant television screens, as once our distant ancestors gathered around protective campfires, to watch the display of sportsmanship, athletic skill, mayhem and commercials. And, of course, chow down on all sorts of food that we understand is super-comforting but super-bad for us. I cast no aspersions; I merely offer a few red wines to match with the hearty, deeply sauced and cheesy, rib-sticking, finger-lickin’ fare. These wines display varying levels of power and bumptiousness but not overwhelmingly tannins; that’s not the idea. Rather, the idea is to stand up to some deeply flavorful snacks and entrees with which most people think they are obligated to drink beer, but it’s not so. I provide here brief reviews designed to capture the personality of each wine with a minimum of technical, historical and geographical folderol. With the exception of the Sean Thackrey Sirius 2010, which I purchased online, these wines were samples for review. By the way, I recommend opening most of these examples about the time that Renee Fleming launches into “The Star-Spangled Banner”; they’ll be ready to drink by half-time.
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XYZin Old Vine Zinfandel 2011, California. 14.5% alc. Medium ruby color; plums and fruitcake, black cherries, blueberries, note of lightly candied pomegranate around the circumference; a highly developed floral-fruity-spicy profile; very dry, dense and chewy, freighted with dusty, slightly woody and leathery tannins, but robust and lively in a well-balanced and tasty way; not a blockbuster and all the more authentic for it. Now through 2015. Chicken wings, pigs in blankets, baby-back ribs. Very Good+. About $16.
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Vina Robles “Red” 2011, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, California. 14.5% alc. Blend of syrah, petite sirah, grenache, mourvedre; winery does not specify percentages. Dark ruby color, almost opaque at the center; intense and concentrated; black cherries and plums, oolong tea, a little tarry and infused with elements of briers and brambles, gravel and graphite; dry grainy tannins, vibrant acidity (I thought that my note said “anxiety,” but I knew that wasn’t right); long spice-packed finish. A dense yet boisterous red for pizza and chili. Very Good+. About $17.
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Bonny Doon Contra Old Vine Field Blend 2011, Contra Costa County, California. 13.5% alc. A blend of 56% carignane grapes, 28% mourvedre, 9% grenache, 6% syrah, 1% zinfandel. Dark ruby color, tinge of magenta; robust and rustic, heaping helpings of ripe blackberries, blueberries and plums with notes of pomegranate and mulberry and hints of lavender and pomander; graphite-brushed tannins make it moderately dense, while pert acidity keeps it lively. Cries out of cheeseburger sliders and barbecue ribs. Very Good+. About $18.
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Paolo Manzone Ardi 2012, Langhe Rosso, Piedmont, Italy. 13/5% alc. 60% dolcetto d’Alba, 40% barbera d’Alba. Production was 300 cases; ok, so you can’t actually buy this, but I would make it my house red if I could. Brilliant medium ruby color; black cherry and plum, dried spice and potpourri, rose petal and lilac, but, no, it’s not a sissy wine; taut acidity and deep black and red fruit flavors; dry underbrushy tannins, lithe, almost muscular texture, graphite minerality flexes its muscles; sleek, stylish, delicious. Now through 2016. Very Good+. About $18.
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Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010, Tuscany, Italy. 14% alc. 85% sangiovese grapes, 15% colorino, canaiolo, merlot. Dark ruby color, lighter magenta rim; dried black cherries and currants, smoke, cloves, tar and black tea; dried spice and flowers, foresty with dried moss, briers and brambles, really lovely complexity; plush with dusty tannins, lively with vivacious acidity; terrific presence and personality. Now through 2016 or ’17. Venison tacos, pork tenderloin. Excellent. About $26.
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Allegrini + Renacer Enamore 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 15% alc. 45% malbec, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 10% bonarda, 5% cabernet franc. This wine is a collaboration between the important producer of Valpolicella, in Italy’s Veneto region, and the Argentine estate where the wine is made, but in the dried grape fashion of Amarone. It’s really something. Dark ruby color with a deep magenta rim; tons of grip, dense, chewy, earthy, but sleek, lithe and supple, surprisingly generous and expansive; black fruit, dried herbs, plums, hint of leather; earthy and minerally but clean and appealing; a large-framed, durable wine, dynamic and drinkable, now through 2019 to ’21. With any animal roasted in a pit you crazy guys dug in the backyard just for this occasion. Excellent. About $26.
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Sean Thackrey Sirius Eaglepoint Ranch Petite Sirah 2010, Mendocino County, California. 15.1% alc. Opaque as motor oil, with a violet sheen; blackberries and blueberry tart, hints of lavender, potpourri, bitter chocolate and pomegranate; a few minutes in the glass bring in notes of spiced plums and fruitcake; ripe, dense, chewy, dusty but not o’ermastered by tannin, actually rather velvety, exercises its own seductions; alert acidity, depths of graphite minerality. Now through 2018 to 2020. Chili with bison, venison, wild boar. Excellent. About $40.
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d’Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings GSM 2009, McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14.5% alc. Production was 300 cases (sorry). 67% grenache, 26% shiraz, 7% mourvedre. Radiant medium ruby color; “ironstone” is right, mates, yet this is a beautifully balanced and integrated wine with real panache and tone; plums and black currants, hint of red and black cherries; dust, graphite, leather, slightly gritty grainy tannins; earth and briers, granitic minerality but a core of bitter chocolate, violets and lavender. Carnitas, chorizo quesadillas, barbecue brisket. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $65.
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Chester Osborn, fourth generation owner and chief winemaker for d’Arenberg, in South Australia’s McLaren Vale, decided that for 2010 he would bottle a separate shiraz wine (and three grenache) from each of the 12 vineyards that contribute to his top “iconic” wine, The Dead Arm Shiraz. The point was to celebrate and emphasize the concept that different ages of vines, variations in soil and sub-soil types, difference in the geological lie of the land, the aspect and exposure — all elements in the notion of terroir — would produce wines of different character. I tasted nine of those 12 very limited edition shiraz wines and found that each one, while generating true syrah/shiraz qualities, exhibited a varying sense of detail and dimension. Primarily what they share is tremendously dense and sizable structures and, in some cases, nearly impenetrable tannic and mineral qualities; they’re wines made for the long haul.

Australia doesn’t hold a patent on strange and colorful names for wine labels, but that continent surely can lay claim to jump-starting the trend, with the irrepressible Chester Osborn taking a good deal of the blame. I won’t explain the flamboyant names of the separate vineyards represented here, though each label, traversed by the signature d’Arenberg red stripe, has a tale to tell. Osborn himself is depicted in pixie fashion on each image, complete with his trademark curly blond locks and loud shirts.

I’ll offer these brief notices in alphabetical order. All of these McLaren Vale shiraz wines received an oak regimen of 20 months in new and old French barriques and old American barrels. Production for each was 200 six-pack cases; price per bottle is $85.

Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Calif. Samples for review. Image of Chester Osborn from thedrinksbusiness.com
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d’Arenberg The Amaranthine Shiraz 2010. 13.8% alc. 44-year-old vines. Plot is 3.3 hectares (8.3 acres), loamy sand on limestone. Deep rich ruby color; tar and leather, briers and brambles; black cherries and plum pudding, very spicy; dense and chewy, freighted with velvety tannins and graphite minerality; the mineral and oak elements increase on the finish. Try 2015 through 2020. Excellent.
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d’Arenberg The Bamboo Scrub Shiraz 2010. 13.9% alc. 18-year-old vines. Plot is 1.5 hectares (3.9 acres), sandy loam on sand. Dark ruby-purple color; deeply fragrant, fruity (black and blue fruit) and spicy; also densely tannic and earthy; very ripe though, fleshy, slightly macerated, yet boldly structured, austere and a little demanding; great vibrancy and resonance. Try 2015 or ’16 through 2020 to ’25. Excellent.
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d’Arenberg The Blind Tiger Shiraz 2010. 14.1% alc. 87-year-old vines. Plot is 2.4 hectares (6.1 acres), sandy loam on sand. Deep opaque ruby color; ripe and fleshy plums, black berries and black currants, spiced in a compote; very intense and concentrated yet among the most balanced and integrated of these shiraz wines; woody spice, almost exotic, dusty graphite and stacked-up tannins enlivened by blazing acidity. A huge wine but nothing austere. Try 2015 or ’16 through 2020 to ’24. Excellent.
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d’Arenberg The Garden of Extraordinary Delights Shiraz 2010. 14% alc. 42-year-old vines. Plot is 2.4 hectares (6.1 acres), sandy loam on sand. Deep ruby-purple color, magenta rim; perhaps not extraordinarily delightful but certainly a wine of enticing floral and spicy aromas wafting over its abyss of tannin and granitic minerals; very intense and concentrated black and red fruit but nicely knit and balanced for a highly structured wine. Try from 2015 through 2020 to ’22. Excellent.
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d’Arenberg J.R.O. Afflatus Shiraz 2010. 13.9% alc. 102-year-old vines. Plot is .5 hectares (1.28 acres), sandy loam on limestone and clay; one of the original plantings on land that Joseph Rowe Osborn acquired in 1912. Dark ruby color; very spicy and very floral with heaps of graphite and granitic minerality; blueberries and lavender; ripe, fleshy and meaty; tapenade and potpourri; but all tightly wound around flinty tannins and some wood influence. Best after 2016 or ’17 through 2022 to ’25. Excellent.
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d’Arenberg The Little Venice Shiraz 2010. 14.2% alc. 15-year-old vines, the youngsters of this group. Plot is 3.6 hectares (9.25 acres), heavy loam on heavy clay. Very dark ruby-purple color; plums and black currants inlaid with graphite, lead pencil, cedar and iron filings; quite dry with grainy dusty tannins and pronounced earthiness. A bit too cabernet-like. Try 2015 through 2020 to 22. Very Good+.
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d’Arenberg The Other Side Shiraz 2010. 14% alc. 96-year-old vines. Plot is 2.2 hectares (5.6 acres), clay, sand and loam on limestone and clay. Dark dark ruby color, almost ebony; piercing minerality and swingeing tannins; leather, briers and brambles; intense core of graphite, potpourri, violets and bitter chocolate; spiced and macerated red and black fruit, notes of black tea, vanilla and cloves; tremendous presence, tone and resonance. Try 2016 or ’17 through 2025 to ’28. Exceptional.
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d’Arenberg Shipster’s Rapture Shiraz 2010. 14.2% alc. 43-year-old vines. Plot is 1.5 hectares (3.9 acres), sandy loam on limestone. Dark ruby color with a magenta rim; a big hit of woody tannins, scintillating granitic minerals and intense and concentrated red and black fruit; earth and underbrush, tough as iron, dense austere finish. Try 2015 or ’16 through 2020 to ’24. Very Good+ with perhaps Excellent potential.
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d’Arenberg Tyche’s Mustard Shiraz 2010. 14% alc. 17-year-old vines. Plot is 4 hectares (10.28 acres), loamy clay on limestone. If any of these blockbuster wines can be said to be beautiful (while densely sizable), this is the one. Deep ruby-purple color; plums, black currants, blueberries; violets and bitter-chocolate-covered cherries; leather, smoke and graphite; very earthy with notes of moss and mushrooms; but the whole package, while very granitic and concentrated, is sleek, polished and almost paradoxically elegant; long finish brings in some austerity. Try 2016 or ’17 through 2024 to ’28. Exceptional.
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“50 Great Wines of [The Year]” is a post I look forward to, even though its production is fraught with anxiety. “Fraught with anxiety!” you exclaim. “FK, you get to taste and write about terrific wines all year long! This task should be easy!” Look, my apostrophe-addicted friend, I started with a list of 76 potentially great wines and had to eliminate 26 of them. It was painful; it hurt my brain and my spirit. Even now, going back over this post just before I click the PUBLISH button, I am wracked by indecision and regret. On the other hand, life is about choices, n’est-ce pas, and we all have to knuckle down and make those choices, difficult as the job may be.

I reviewed 624 wines in 2013, compared to, for some reason, 642 in 2012, though I suppose 18 wines is not statistically significant in that range. Or perhaps it is; I’m not a statistician. Out of 642 wines in 2012, I rated 18 wines Exceptional. In 2013, out of 624 wines, I rated 28 as Exceptional. Did I taste that many better wines in 2013, or am I getting soft as I near my 30th anniversary as a wine writer? How did I choose, for “50 Great Wines of 2013,” the 22 examples to add to the 28 rated Exceptional? By reading again every review I wrote over the past year, by weighing the description and the language, by revisiting my memory of the wine, by looking for wines that possessed that indescribable quality of charisma, that combination of personality and character that distinguish a great wine. I could expand this post to 60 or 70 or 75 wines, but I’ll leave it as is. Suffice to say that these “50 Great Wines of 2013″ could include others, but for now, I’m sticking with these.
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Artesa Vineyards & Winery Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $40.
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Adelsheim Ribbon Springs Vineyard Auxerrois 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $25.
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Amapola Creek Jos. Belli Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 400 cases. Exceptional. About $45.
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Archery Summit Vireton Pinot Gris 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $24.
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Belle-Pente Winery Belle-Pente Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 785 cases. Excellent. About $35.
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Black Kite Cellars Rivers Turn Pinot Noir 2010, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Excellent. About $52.

Image from princeofpinot.com.
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Boekenoogen Chardonnay 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $35.
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Brooks “Ara” Riesling 2010, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $25.
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Calera Wine Company Reed Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Mount Harlan, San Benito County. 398 cases. Exceptional. About $55.
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Capitain-Gagnerot Bourgogne “Les Gueulottes” 2009, Hautes Côtes de Beaune. 100 percent chardonnay. Excellent. About $27.
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Catena Zapata Adrianna Malbec 2009, Mendoza, Argentina. Exceptional. About $120.
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Colgin “IX Estate” Red Wine 2009, Napa Valley. Cabernet sauvignon 69 percent, merlot 15 percent, cabernet franc 10 percent, petit verdot 6 percent. 1,200 cases. Exceptional. About $450.
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Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $80.
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Champagne David Léclapart L’Alchimiste Estate Premier Cru Extra Brut Rosé (non-vintage), Champagne, France. Exceptional. About $175.
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Domaine de Bernardins 2009, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. Excellent. About $25 for a 375-milliliter half-bottle.
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Domaine Carneros Étoile Téte de Cuvée 2003. Exceptional. About $100.
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Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Exceptional. About $65.
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Domus Aurea 2009, Upper Maipo Valley, Chile. Cabernet sauvignon 85 percent, merlot 7 percent, cabernet franc 5 percent, petit verdot 2 percent. Exceptional. About $60.
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Drouhin Vaudon Montmains Premier Cru 2910, Chablis, France. 200 cases imported. Exceptional. About $39.
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Dunstan Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast. 391 cases. Exceptional. About $40.
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Dunstan Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma Coast. 291 cases. Exceptional. About $50.
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Dunstan Durell Vineyard Rosé Wine 2012, Sonoma Coast. 100 percent pinot noir. 95 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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Elyse Naggiar Vineyard L’Ingénue 2011, Sierra Foothills. Roussanne 52 percent, marsanne 32 percent, viognier 11 percent, grenache blanc 5 percent. 416 cases. Excellent. About $28.
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Champagne Franck Pascal Tolérance Rosé Brut (nonvintage), Champagne, France. Pinot meunier 58 percent, pinot noir 39 percent, chardonnay 3 percent. Excellent. About $55 to $65.
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Frankland Estate Netley Road Vineyard Riesling 2012, Frankland River, Western Australia. Exceptional. About $28.50.
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Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $60.
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Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2010, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $42.
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Halter Ranch Block 22 Syrah 2011, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. With 13 percent grenache and 11 percent tannat. 175 cases. Excellent. About $36.
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Inman Family OGV Pinot Noir 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 308 cases. Exceptional. About $68.
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J Late Disgorged Vintage Brut 2003, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Pinot noir 49 percent, chardonnay 49 percent, pinot meunier 2 percent. 500 cases. exceptional. About $90.
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Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia. Exceptional. About $66.
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La Rochelle Donum Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Carneros. 259 six-pack cases. Excellent. About $75.
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La Rochelle McIntyre Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé 2012, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 112 cases. Rose of the Year. Excellent. About $24.
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L’Aventure Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 425 cases. Exceptional. About $85 (winery only).
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Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot 2009, Columbia Valley, Washington. Excellent. About $60.
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Morgan Winery Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 375 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Morgan Winery Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir 2008, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 95 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
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Nickel & Nickel Darien Vineyard Syrah 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $53.
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Penner-Ash Riesling 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Exceptional. About $23.
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Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $85.
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Ramey Wine Cellars Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $60.
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Ramey Wine Cellars Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Napa Valley, Carneros. Exceptional. About $60.
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Rombauer Zinfandel 2010, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $34.
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Renaissance Vineyards and Winery Granite Crown 2005, North Yuba, Sierra Foothills. Syrah 60 percent, cabernet sauvignon 30 percent, merlot 7 percent, cabernet franc 2 percent, petit verdot 1 percent. 74 cases. Excellent. About $40.
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Robert Turner Cabernet Franc 2010, Napa Valley. 50 cases. Exceptional. About $35.
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Shirvington Shiraz 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia. Excellent. About $70.
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Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2011, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 463 cases. Exceptional. About $30.
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Smith-Madrone Riesling 2012, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $27.
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Steven Kent Winery Ghielmetti Vineyard “Small-Lot” Cabernet Franc 2010, Livermore Valley, Alameda County. 48 cases. Exceptional. About $50.
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Tablas Creek Vin de Paille “Quinressence” 2010, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 100 percent roussanne dessert wine. 100 cases. Exceptional. About $85 for a 375-milliliter half-bottle.
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Yes, another title change, from “Weekend Wine Sips” to “Weekend Wine Notes,” because I think that nomenclature more accurately described what I do in these posts. “Sips” implies that all the wines are recommended, and that’s not always the case. So, today, a dozen wines that derive from many grapes varieties and combinations thereof and from many countries and regions. Prices range from about $14 to $53, and if you were hoping to buy some wines by the case, they would be the Hendry Ranch Rosé 2012, Napa Valley (about $15), and the Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Paso Robles (about $14). There are also some hearty red wines to accompany steaks and burgers, pork chops, leg of lamb and other items from the grill. As usual, I eschew technical matters and concerns of history, geography and biography for quick, incisive reviews, sometimes transcribed directly from my notes. The purpose is to pique your interest and whet your palate. With one exception, these were samples for review.
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Hendry Ranch Rosé 2012, Napa Valley. 13.5% alc. Zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, primitivo (which is really zinfandel, right?). Pale copper-salmon color; very charming bouquet of strawberries and raspberries with undertones of peach and orange zest; loads of juicy berry and stone fruit flavors but dry, spare, mildly spicy; limestone and flint minerality and zippy acidity provide structure. Hugely enjoyable quaffer and substantial enough to accompany all manner of picnic and pool-side fare. Very Good+. I paid $15.
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Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 14.3% alc. Very pale straw color; hints of guava and lime peel, grass and grapefruit, a bit of fig and celery seed; dry, vibrant, lively; lovely texture poised between crispness and an almost talc-like silkiness; citrus and stone fruit flavors imbued with notes of grass and dried herbs; the limestone minerality burgeons from mid-palate through the finish. Excellent. About $14, a Great Bargain.
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Frei Brothers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 14.2% alc. Pale straw-gold color; very fresh, clean and zesty; pear and grapefruit, lime peel, thyme and tarragon, celery seed and freshly mown grass; a nicely chiseled sauvignon blanc, faceted with brisk acidity and scintillating lime and chalk elements; a touch of oak lends spice and suppleness to a texture that seethes with leafy notes of pear, honeydew melon and hay; finish is dry and austere. Now through 2015. Excellent. About $17, representing Good Value.
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The Whip 2012, Livermore Valley, Alameda County. (Murrieta’s Well) 13% alc. 43% chardonnay, 15% gewurztraminer, 13% sauvignon blanc, 9% orange muscat, 8% viognier, 5% pinot blanc, 3% muscat canelli. Pale gold color; boldly floral, with notes of jasmine, honeysuckle and orange blossom; peach and pear, touches of roasted lemon, mango and greengage, apple peel and almond skin; quite dry, spare, savory and saline with an austere permeation of limestone and flint on the finish. Now through 2015. Very Good+. About $21.
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Lapostolle Canto de Apalta 2010, Rapel Valley, Chile. 14/1% alc. 36% carmenere, 31% merlot, 18% cabernet sauvignon, 15% syrah. Very dark ruby-purple; strikingly fresh, clean and fruity, with cassis, blackberry and blueberry, plums and blueberry tart, hint of fruitcake dried fruit and spices; velvety, cushiony tannins; very dry, dusty graphite; intense and concentrated black fruit flavors; finish packed with tannin and minerals. Fairly rustic for a wine from Lapostolle. Now through 2015 or ’16. Very Good+. About $20.
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Una Selección de Ricardo Santos Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.4% alc. Deep ruby-purple color; dusty tannins and granitic minerality; dense and chewy yet supple; cassis, ripe black raspberry, cherry and blueberry; hints of cloves and sandalwood, graphite and underbrush; lippsmacking acidity and velvety tannins; slightly astringent finish packed with spice and minerals. Now through 2015 or ’26. Very Good+. About $19.
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El Malbec de Ricardo Santos La Madras Vineyard 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% alc. Dark ruby color; cassis, black cherries and plums, lavender, violets and a tight line of bitter chocolate and allspice; a real graphite-granitic edge, intense and concentrated but a deeply flavorful wine, with roots, earth and forest floor elements. Perfect for steak, burgers and rack of lamb. Now through 2015 to ’16. Very Good+. About $19.
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Toad Hollow Goldie’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Russian River Valley. 14.4% alc. Lovely medium ruby-mulberry color; spiced and macerated red cherries and currants, highlighted by notes of cloves and sassafras; opens to hints of black cherry and rhubarb; very attractive tone and heft, pretty juicy but dry, with swath-cutting acidity and mild-mannered and supple tannins for structure, oak staying firmly in the background; the finish brings up slightly funky elements of clean earth, underbrush and more spice. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $19.
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Penalolen Cabernet Franc 2010, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 14.3% alc. Dark ruby color; heady yet slightly brooding notes of blueberries and black currants, bacon fat, black olives and cedar; big finely-honed, plush tannins; well-honed and polished, lots of personality but plenty of grit and grip; intense flavors of black and blue fruit, very spicy and with hints of dried herbs and flowers; long, dense mineral-packed finish. Now through 2016 or ’17. Well-made rendition of the grape that’s beggin’ you for a medium-rare ribeye steak or a rack of ribs. Excellent. About $19, Good Value.
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Yangarra Estate Vineyard Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14.5% alc. Deep ruby-purple color with a magenta rim that practically glows in the dark; lots of depth and layers, intense and concentrated; bitter chocolate, lavender and leather, earth and graphite; very ripe, spicy and pure blackberry and blueberry scents and flavors with a wild strain of ebony juicy delicious restrained by stalwart tannins and vibrant acidity; wheatmeal and walnut shell austerity characterize a finish crowded with oak, tannin and graphite. Try 2014 or ’15 through 2018 to ’20. Very Good+ to Excellent Potential. About $25.
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Bodegas Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordòn Reserva 2006, Rioja, Spain. 13.5% alc. Tempranillo 80%, garnacha 15%, mazuela 5%. Dark ruby color, slightly lighter rim; ripe and spicy, fleshy and meaty; macerated and slightly stewed black and blue fruit scents and flavors; white pepper, sandalwood, cloves, hint of lavender; silken and mellow but with plenty of dry grainy tannins and mineral-based power. Now through 2018 to 2020 with roasted quail or duck or grilled pork tenderloin. Very Good+. About $17. Rioja Reservas tend to be excellent value.
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Nickel & Nickel Darien Vineyard Syrah 2010, Russian River Valley. 14.7% alc. Consistently one of the best syrah wines made in California. Dark ruby-purple color; amazing dimension, detail and delineation; intense and concentrated yet generous and expansive; meaty, roasted and fleshy fruit scents and flavors, with macerated wild berries and plums infused with leather, briers and brambles, touch of damp moss and wet dog; squinching tannins are round and plush, while acidity plows a furrow on the palate; huge graphite and granitic mineral character solid through the finish. Try from 2015 or ’16 through 2020 to ’24. Exceptional. About $53.
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Shirvington is a small family-owned estate founded in 1996 by Paul and Lynn Shirvington and their sons Tony and Mark. Everything about the family, the winery, the website, the labels and its products is understated. There is no expression of ego or personality, no attempt to be all things vinous to all consumers; what matters is only the purity and intensity of their two wines, a cabernet sauvignon and a shiraz. The estate’s first commercial release, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, received the Wine of the Year Award at the McLaren Vale Wine Show. An impressive beginning whose promise has been handily fulfilled. I focus here on the Shiraz — elsewhere this is the syrah grape — from 2009 and 2005. I tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and ’08, and they’re truly beautiful wines, but my concern in this series is with shiraz. These wines were tasted at a trade event in Chicago on May 15. Shirvington is imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa Ca. Image, much cropped, from ladonnadelvino.com.
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The Shirvington Shiraz 2009, Mclaren Vale, aged 17 months in 60 percent new oak barrels, 40 percent once-used; the ratio of barrels being French 65 percent and American 35 percent. The implication in this careful oak regimen of getting proportions and balance right applies to the wine as a whole; there’s an irresistible sense here that every aspect of the wine is both carefully calibrated yet generous and expansive. The color is dark ruby-purple; aromas of black currants, blackberries and blueberries are warm, meaty and fleshy, permeated by notes of cloves and white pepper, leather, violets and bitter chocolate, while the appealing ripeness is balanced, and the complexity is deepened, by a strain of cool graphite minerality. The Shirvington Shiraz 2009 is sleek, lithe, a little muscular and supple in its black pantherish manner, not ponderous or blatant in any way, and certainly not opulent; it’s as elegant as shiraz gets while retaining latent dynamism. Tannins are dense yet polished, packed with woodsy underbrushy elements, acidity is tense and arrow-straight, and the whole package is imbued with a powerful granitic mineral character. This is, in short, an example of great winemaking. Now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $70.
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Take the qualities of the Shirvington Shiraz 2009, mellow then a bit, allow them to steep and macerate, give them four years of honing, and you have the Shirvington Shiraz 2005, McLaren Vale. The color is still solid dark ruby-purple, perhaps with a tinge of magenta at the rim; the bouquet feels a bit more broad and expansive, a few shades more ripe and generous than its younger sibling, even more intensely spicy. The ’05 aged 14 months in oak, 85 percent new barrels, and in much more American oak, being 90 percent to 10 percent French; interesting and important choices, tailored, by necessity, to the conditions of the year and the characteristics of the grapes. Everything is in place, the black fruit scents and flavors, the cloves and white pepper, leather, bitter chocolate, the forest and graphite elements, the texture balanced between muscularity and suppleness, all, in this vintage — now eight years gone — wrapped in utmost harmony and appeal but with no diminishing of power or energy. Now through 2016 to 2020. Excellent. About $70.
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In the Wine Atlas of Australia & New Zealand (HarperCollins, 1998), James Halliday refers to Kay Brothers in McLaren Vale as a “traditional winery with a rich history and some priceless old vines.” As far as history is concerned, the winery was established in 1890 by brothers Herbert and Frederick Kay (pictured on many of the labels) and is the oldest estate in McLaren Vale still owned by the founding family. Winemaker now is Herbert’s grandson Colin Kay, who uses traditional methods and in fact employs the winery’s original basket press and open-top fermenters. “Priceless old vines” refers to the estate vineyard’s Block 6, planted in 1892 and still producing shiraz grapes that are bottled separately as the property’s flagship wine. As for me, these are the sorts of wines and the kind of family estate that are a joy to write about, because they embody a heritage and an adherence to old-fashioned methods, and they evince no desire to be all things to all people. These Kay Brothers wines from 2010 were tasted in Chicago on May 15, 2013.
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The entry-level wine at this estate is the Kay Brothers Hillside Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale. The color is very dark ruby, almost black in the center and with an intense violet rim. Despite the portent of that depth of hue, this is not a heavily extracted wine and is impressive for an impeccable sense of balance, especially in the sway dusty tannins against vibrant acidity and a dynamic graphite element. Fruit shines though, with a bright array of ripe and slightly macerated black and red currants, blackberries and blueberries fostered by earthy touches of leather and briers and hints of cloves and sandalwood, lavender, bitter chocolate and dried thyme, all of these aspects beautifully proportioned and poised. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2017 to 2020. Excellent. About $35.
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Next is the Kay Brothers Basket Pressed Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale, a wine derived from the estate’s Amery Vineyard; it
spent 18 months in American, French and Bulgarian oak barrels. The color is dark ruby with a vivid magenta cast; aromas of ripe black currants, blackberries and mulberries are deeply infused with cloves and allspice and some wild spicy and floral note, as well as graphite-tinged touches of briers and brambles, making for a lively and engaging bouquet. On the palate, this wine is pure and intense, downright lovely in its lucid spicy black fruit qualities but also a little chiseled and flinty, more faceted than rounded, so while every element is balanced and harmonious, the emphasis lies in a somewhat sculpted structural character. I don’t mean that this nature is a flaw, in fact far from it; I love the crystalline, scintillating approach that bolsters the wine’s ripe fruit with its slightly Olympian — yet thoroughly drinkable — personality. 14.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to ’22. Excellent. About $45.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Third in this trio is the Kay Brothers Amery Block 6 Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale. Of the original 12 acres of Block 6, planted in 1892, only four acres remain. The wine aged 20 months in American oak barrels. The color is dark ruby that sports magnificent depth and clarity, while the complete package is wrapped in the paradoxical yet totally complementary qualities of rigor and allure; my first note: “just beautiful.” While the wine’s sense of dimension — its breadth and depth of tannin and mineral elements. its profound acidity and longevity on the palate — feels immense, it does not diminish the finely-etched details of fruit and flowers and spice that lend the aspect that many great and profound wines often display, a quality of refinement and grace. Here’s a wine that offers a lesson that I mentioned in a previous post this week, that thoughtful winemaking disappears into the wine; there’s no ego here, rather a tribute to a revered pieces of land and the grapes it faithfully produces. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to 2024. Exceptional. About $66.
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