Category Archives: Wine of the Week

Aug 08 2011

Wine of the Week: Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In his post, Tasting Australian History: Six decades with Peter Lehmann (Wine Spectator 12 October 2010), wine critic Harvey Steiman talks about a recent  tasting of the 1996 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz. As Steiman notes, 1996 was the best vintage of the 1990s for Barossa Shiraz and this wine certainly didn’t disappoint:

astonishing suppleness, depth and power. Gorgeous stuff, it showed spicy cherry and blackberry flavors that glowed through polished tannins. Has power without excess weight, and it feels like it can go on for decades. Easily 95 points, non-blind.

I always enjoy reading recent reviews of older wines. The best red wines are designed to age, and typically shiraz can take 10 of more years before it starts to fully evolve. Terrific reviews of older bottles are also a testament to the talent and skills of the winemaker and, of course, the quality of the initial raw materials, which is all about insuring the best outcomes in the vineyard.

In the case of Peter Lehmann, the extraordinary talent of the winemaker is already the stuff of legends. Peter Lehmann had already notched up more than 30 years as a winemaker, first at Yalumba and then at Saltram, before starting his eponymous winery in 1979. Steiman comments that “some of the Shiraz wines he made at Saltram in the 1960s are regarded as among the finest Barossa wines every produced. They are still perfectly sound and continue to be used by Barossa winemakers to demonstrate the longevity of Barossa Shiraz at its best.”

Chief Winemaker Andrew Wigan, who has been with Peter Lehmann since its founding, is also one of Australia’s top winemakers; as recently as 2009 he won the coveted  Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine ‘Winemaker of the Year’ award.

The Stonewell Shiraz is regarded as the … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Wine of the Week: Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon is undoubtedly one of Western Australia’s top cabernet sauvignons. Ray Jordan of the West Australian recently singled out the Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 as the ‘Best of the Best’ of 500 wines from all over Australia selected for tasting. Here’s his review:

An opulent and densely packed cabernet from Margaret River. Just about the best yet under this label, with its deep, black fruits, dark chocolate and black olive aromas. Tannins are slightly chewy and the fine-grained oak lays a long path to a lingering finish. Excellent wine of great power and potential. (Aussie wines back in top form by Ray Jordan, Fresh Best Reds, The West Australian, 7 July 2011)

Howard Park is owned by Jeff and Amy Burch, and is one of the 12 members of Australia’s First Families of Wine. Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate recently spoke about how much he enjoys writing about family-owned wineries:

I can tell you, that as a wine writer, it is infinitely more rewarding composing a piece where an individual and/or a family are the proprietor and not a corporation. That is not to imply that the latter craft inferior wine, but rather that the lifeblood of a vineyard, the soul of a wine, is manifested and enhanced by the personality of the winemaker, the stories they have to tell, their trials and tribulations, their triumphs and disasters. It brings the words of an article to life and hopefully renders the prose more interesting to both write and read. (Keeping It In The (Australian) Family by Neil Martin, The Wine Advocate, August 2010)

What I most enjoy is seeing family wineries go from strength to strength without compromising the integrity or quality of their wines. Since it was … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Wine of the Week: Henschke Hill of Grace 2006

Posted on July 07, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If any wine could potentially knock Penfolds Grange off its mantle as Australia’s most iconic wine, it would undoubtedly be the Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz. These two wines share the stage as Australia’s preeminent expressions of shiraz. Together they perennially deliver almost unbeatable quality, and command equally impressive prices upon release.

But whereas Grange is a multi-regional blend sourced from Penfolds very best vineyards, the Eden Valley Henschke Hill of Grace comes from a single, eight hectare vineyard that was planted in the 1860s with pre-phylloxera material brought from Europe by the early settlers.

Hill of Grace was first made by Cyril Henschke in 1958. Today the wine is very much the product of the shared vision, talent and expertise of fifth generation winemaker Stephen Henschke and his wife, viticulturist Prue Henschke.

The Henschkes are absolutely fastidious about every aspect of vineyard and winery management.  Projects over the years have ranged from a clonal selection nursery to soil management innovations. The Hill of Grace vineyard, for example, is now mulched with wheat straw to avoid herbicide treatment under the vines. This technique also allows more organic matter to be incorporated into the soil and preserves precious soil moisture. Organic and biodynamic principles are also utilised.

The  minimalist intervention approach to winemaking that was favoured by Cyril Henschke in the 1950s and 60s has been continued by Stephen Henschke. The handpicked grapes, picked at full maturity, are vinified in traditional open fermenters and matured for 21 months in a combination of new French and American oak. The use of racking, sulphur, fining and filtration is minimised or avoided.

2006 is considered one of the best of recent vintages, and the reviews have been excellent. Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate scored the 2006 97+points  and described it as a … Read the rest