Tag: eRobertParker.com

Aug 08 2012

Kilikanoon: Exceptional Wine and Music Making go hand-in-hand!

Posted on August 08, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Having previously worked in the arts, I’m always intrigued by stories of people who have made the transition from one art to another. Nathan Waks, executive director and proprietor of Kilikanoon, used to be the Principal Cellist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. But by all accounts, he is having just as much fun promoting Kilikanoon overseas, and still occasionally playing the cello to  appreciative audiences at Kilikanoon promotional dinners!

Not that he needs to put on much of a show to sell the Kilikanoon portfolio. You may have read that Kilikanoon was recently named Winery of the Year 2013 by James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion. The Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman also recently included Kilikanoon in his list of “Australian Wineries to Put on Your Radar,” noting that “this long-standing, family-owned Clare Valley winery builds remarkable elegance into its range of rich, complex and expressive shiraz bottlings from both Clare and Barossa.” (Australian Wineries to Put on Your Radar by Harvey Steiman Wine Spectator 31 July 2012)

 

 

 

Founder and chief winemaker Kevin Mitchell is very much a wine man. His father, Mort Mitchell, planted and still tends Kilikanoon’s Golden Hillside suite of contiguous vinyards, including Mort’s Block, which is home to Kilikanoon’s flagship wines such as the Oracle Shiraz and the Mort’s Reserve Riesling. After completing his wine studies in 1992, Kevin gained extensive wine making experience both in Australia and the United States before purchasing the Kilikanoon property in 1997.

Thirteen of Kilikanoon’s wines received 94 points or higher in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2013. While the emphasis is on shiraz, Kilikanoon also makes an excellent range of cabernet sauvignon, greanche. riesling and semillon.

The focus is on making wines with strong regional and varietal definition, an approach that has won the … Read the rest

Jun 06 2012

Bass Phillip Pinot Noir: “Pushing the boundaries of Australian Pinot Noir Greatness.”

Posted on June 06, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In light of one of my earlier posts, Cellaring Australian Pinot Noir: How long do they last? I was interested to read that Bass Phillip’s proprietor Phillip Jones is most emphatic that good pinot noirs can last a very long time. On his recently launched website, Jones states that the commonly held view that pinot noir cannot be cellared for more than five to six years is “absolute nonsense!”

He goes on to say: “Our most enjoyable wine experience ever were the 1908 Cos de Tart Burgundy and the 1949 Rousseau Le Chambertin, both drunk in about 1990. We are still drinking some Bass Phillips from the late 1980s, and the Premium and Reserves from the early to mid 1990s are looking fresh and complex today.”

Jones, of course, is someone who knows a great deal about pinot noir. His Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir and Premium Pinot Noir have been pivotal in gaining serious international recognition for Australian pinot noir. Jones was an early pioneer of high quality pinot noir production in Victoria and, as the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown observes, he “is still leader of the Pinot pack in Australia.” (eRobertParker.com #195 June 2011)

The Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir is among only 17 wines rated “Exceptional” in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine. Langton’s Andrew Caillard MW writes that “It is a madly rare, profoundly intense and exquisitely balanced wine which reflects the nuances of an exceptional vineyard site.”

The exceptional vineyard site of which Caillard refers to is in Leongatha, South Gippsland Victoria. After first experimenting with Bordeaux varieties in 1979, Jones closely planted (9,000 vines per hectare) the vineyard to pinot noir, releasing the first 1989 vintages of the Reserve, Premium and Estate bottlings in 1991. Today the vineyard is … Read the rest

May 05 2012

Reviews for Penfolds Grange 2007

Posted on May 05, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Reviews for the Penfolds Grange 2007 are starting to trickle in. As you may recall, the 2006 Grange was a stellar vintage. Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s gave the wine a perfect score of 100 points, rating the 2006 Grange as the best vintage since 2004.

2006 was always going to be a hard act to follow, especially since the 2007 vintage was plagued by drought, high summer temperatures and severe frosts early in the growing season. Of course, only the best quality fruit is used for the Grange, and Penfolds has the luxury of being able to source prime material from different sites and regions. The 2007 is a blend of 97 per cent shiraz and 3 per cent cabernet sauvignon.

Grange is definitely not a wine designed to be imbibed upon release, and early reviews and scores are often revised as the wine ages. As the influential American wine critic Robert Parker commented, Grange is a wine that ages at a “glacial pace.” His Wine Advocate regularly re-tastes the wine at 3-7 year intervals, updating reviews and, most importantly, the crucial point scores.

Usually point scores and reviews for Grange tend to improve as the wine ages, but sometimes they dip and then come up again. Like a great Bordeaux, some vintages of Grange have a propensity to ‘close down’ and then ‘re-emerge’ after several more years of cellaring.

The Wine Advocate’s reviews of the celebrated 1990 Grange, for example, are a case in point. (Incidentally, this was the vintage that was named ‘Red Wine of the Year’ by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995 – the first time it chose a wine outside of France or California!)

In his 1995 review of the 1990 vintage, Parker remarked that “The 1990 is the greatest, most complete and richest … Read the rest

Feb 02 2012

Bannockburn Serré Vineyard Pinot Noir: A little slice of Burgundy in Geelong

Posted on February 02, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of making wine from a single vineyard is vintage variation. Most winemakers worth their salt will decide not to make a single vineyard wine if the vintage is deemed not to be superb.

The widely acclaimed Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir is an excellent example of a top notch winemaker’s respect for the integrity of this approach. As winemaker Michael Glover explained to the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown, “Our winemaking is reactive. You’re constantly reacting to what the season is.” (2008 Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, eRobertParker.com #195 June 2011)

The Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir is made from a dry-grown, organically cultivated 1.2 hectare vineyard planted at Bannockburn in 1986. The vineyard was deliberately designed to match the tough conditions of the great grand crus vineyards of Burgundy. Closely planted vines (9,000-10,000 per hectare), narrow rows and low trellising force the roots to dig deep for moisture and nutrients, and limit crop yields. Apparently, in 2006 yields were so low that fruit from four vines were required to make just one bottle of wine!

Garry Farr of By Farr established Bannockburn’s reputation as one of the finest makers of pinot noir in Australia. But Glover, who took over in 2005, is taking the Serré to even greater heights. The Wine Front’s Campbell Mattinson describes Glover as “an idealist, a passionate man who’s done his time and made his mistakes and learnt the ropes – and has now been handed the keys to a set of Ferrarri-like vineyards, open licence to drive them really fast, and really well.” (From Evan to Earth, From Hands to Glover: Bannockburn by Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front 13 November 2006)

For Glover great wine is definitely made in the vineyard, and one of the … Read the rest

Nov 11 2011

Wine Tasting: Château Rauzan-Ségla – An Exceptional 2nd Growth!

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last Wednesday night I attended a Bordeaux Shippers‘ tasting at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. These tastings are a great opportunity to sample out-of-reach legendary Bordeaux wines like the Château Mouton Rothschild, Premier Cru Pauillac 1996 ($1,142) as well as some excellent Bordeaux in more affordable price ranges.

One of my favourites of the evening was the Château Rauzan-Ségla Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe Margaux 1996 ($185). Ok, not exactly a bargain, but this wine is widely regarded as a “super-Second”, and one of the best wines in the appellation after 1st growth Château Margaux.

One of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, Château Rauzan-Ségla has a bit of spotted history, which may be why its name is not as familiar as it should be to most people. Apparently Thomas Jefferson, one of the world’s greatest oenephiles, bought a few cases in 1790, and in 1855 the estate was ranked Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe, equal at the time to Château Mouton Rothschild. The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin notes that the wines of the 19th century have become legendary. (Neal Martin, Château Rauzan-Ségla, eRobertParker.com, November 2006)

But for most of the 20th century, its reputation waned and it was not until the 1980s, when the château was taken over by the négociants Eschenauer, that the vineyards were replanted and the winery modernised.  Since 1994 the perfume house Chanel has continued to make a substantial investment in the estate, restoring its position as the head of the class of the 14 2nd Growths.

 

Less than 100,000 bottles of the Grand Vin are produced each year. A blend of 54% cabernet sauvignon, 41% merlot, 4% petit verdot and 1% cabernet franc, the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then barrel aged for 18 to 20 months in barriques, … Read the rest

May 05 2011

A Taste of French Terroirs: Champagne Highlights

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The French-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry sponsored a trade day on Tuesday, A Taste of French Terroirs. The event proved a great opportunity to sample Champagne from some great grower-producers: Breton Fils, Champagne Mailly Grand Cru, Champagne Marc & Fils, Champagne Paul Goerg, and Champagne CH. & A. Prieur, also makers of Champagne Napoleon. In general, these Champagne Houses are grower co-operatives or family run businesses.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Champagne: Highlights of a Memorable Tasting, an increasing number of independent grower-producers in the Champagne region are interested in making people think about Champagne in the same way as they would a fine Bordeaux of Burgundy. The importance of terroir as defined by the health of the vineyard, the soil type, climatic conditions and the artisanal skill of the winemaker are gaining resonance in understanding and assessing the quality of fine Champagne.

The grower-producers blend to a house style, but unlike the bigger houses that draw their grapes from a multiple of regions within Champagne, the grower producers typically limit their selection to vineyards from their own village. Consequently, one of the best ways to appreciate terroir is to try the wines produced by the smaller houses. Champagne Paul Goerg, for example, which was founded by a grower’s co-operative in 1950, makes Champagne primarily from the chardonnay grape. Its 120 hectares of premier cru vineyards near Vertus, just south of the famed Cotes des Blanc, have micro-terroirs that lend the wines from different vineyards unique characteristics. The south facing areas, for example, produce rich and supple wines, whereas the east facing slopes give the wine rigour and minerality.

 

Only 17 of Champagne’s 319 villages currently enjoy the highest Grand Cru status. The Mailly Grand Cru estate is a single vineyard 70 … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot: An ‘exceptional’ Bordeaux Blend

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Of the 17 wines in the ‘Exceptional’ category of Langon’s Classification of Australian Wines only four are cabernets. Cullen Wines’ Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot shares the stage with another Margaret River icon, the Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, both wines reflect their respective winemakers’ uncompromising approach to quality and obsessive attention to detail. No wonder these superior talents have lifted their wines to world-class status in a remarkably short period of time!

The Diana Madeline is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Named after Diana Cullen, who founded Cullen Wines with her husband Kevin in 1966, this exceptionally elegant, balanced wine is the product of the consummate winemaking and vigneron skills of the couple’s youngest daughter Vanya.

Vanya Cullen followed in her winemaker mother’s footsteps, taking over as senior winemaker in 1989. Like her parents, she was very interested in applying organic principles in the vineyard, but after attending a workshop on biodynamic viticulture with Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive and Aubert de Villaine from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, she realised the value of making both the vineyard and winery biodynamic. (The Matriach of Margaret: Cullen Wines by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com May 2010)

The results of this conversion (the vineyard was certified biodynamic in 2003 and the winery in 2008) is clearly demonstrated in the fresh, elegant style of the Diana Madeline. As a result of the use of biodynamic viticulture, Cullen has seen a marked improvement in the structure and oxygenation of the soil, which in turn has enhanced the tannin ripening of the fruit. Consequently, the grapes can be harvested earlier at lower sugar levels and higher acidity.

Indeed, Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate cites the 2008 Diana Madeline as “another example of Cullen’s emerging ability to achieve physiological ripeness at lower alcohols … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Grenache: Standing Tall as a Single Variety Wine!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Chateau Tanunda recently picked up the Single Estate Red Wine Trophy for The Everest Old Bushvine Grenache 2008 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London. The IWSC is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, so the trophy represented a big win for Chateau Tanunda. Here’s what the judges had to say about the wine:

Dark crimson purple to rim. Wow! What a seductive nose! The characters are almost decadent in their exotic power. Old vine complexity shines through here. Crushed raspberry, asian spice, loganberries, sandlewood, lavendar, chocolate mints, fruitcake, framboise, ferrous earth, leather, coal, cocoa bean … the list could be endless. Full bodied, lavishly rich and compelling in the mouth, layers that wash again and again over the palate, changing in ever more complex ways. Well. This is one of the most thrilling wines I have ever tasted.

I was intrigued that a single variety grenache had won because on its own grenache doesn’t seem to be a popular wine style. In fact, Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate argues that “the absence of a global grenache icon is something that hampers respect and recognition of the variety.” Grenache is typically used as a blending variety, think Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but as Martin observes “pure grenache is more common in Australia where clusters of ancient vines provide more incentive to bottle the vineyard separately.” (The Unsung Chameleon Next Door: Grenache Symposium 2010, Grenache: Playboy Or Nobleman? by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com, September 2010).

Even so, only a handful of Australian wine producers make a single variety grenache. d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale is unusual in the sense that it is somewhat of a grenache specialist. Its portfolio contains eight wines with a grenache component and two single variety labels, The Custodian and The Derelict Vineyard. … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Australian Tempranillo: Coming into its Own!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

My husband had the good fortune to attend the NSW Wine Awards Dinner at Guillaume at Bennelong in October. He came back raving about the Mount Majura Vineyard 2009 Tempranillo (Canberra District), which was among the top 40 best wines of the show.

Mount Majura produced its first vintage of tempranillo in 2003. Since then the wine has garnered so much acclaim that it has become the flagship variety of the winery!

Mount Majura’s Viticulturist and Winemaker Frank van de Loo very much believes that great wine is made in the vineyard, and the volcanic soils on limestone at Mount Majura are in fact quite similar to Artadi’s acclaimed Vina El Pison vineyard, which makes one of the most celebrated Rioja tempranillo wines in Spain.

The Canberra district is in many regards also climatically similar to Rioja and Ribero del Duero, where Spain’s finest tempranillos are made. As British wine critic Oz Clarke observes, “To get elegance and acidity of of Temparnillo, you need a cool climate. But to get high sugar levels and the thick skins that give deep colour you need heat.” Canberra delivers both in spades! (Experimental Grape Varieties in Australia, The Vintage School 2.4, Vintage Direct)

According to The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown, “the best young Tempranillos typically reveal plum, black cherry and blackberry flavours complemented by pepper and spices plus a uniquely earthy/savoury character that is not so dissimilar to great Pinot Noir.  The finest examples can age for twenty years or more.” (Tempranillo Temptations in Asia, eRobertParker.com, May 2009)

Her description of the best young tempranillos sounds remarkably similar to Nick Stock’s recent review of the Mount Majura Tempranillo 2009. “Smells of dark cherry, cassis and brambly berries and baking spices – this is one fine Tempranillo from the Canberra District. … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Showcasing the Margaret River in Sydney

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com wine critic, recently said, “Margaret River has already achieved great things, but not as great as what will follow.” (Final Thoughts on Margaret River, June 2010).

In less than 45 years the Margaret River, one of the most geographically isolated wine making regions in the world, has garnered an extraordinary level of recognition both in Australia and overseas.

And as a recent showcase of 25 labels from the region at the MCA in Sydney last week attests, the Margaret River is still an extremely dynamic and emerging wine region. In addition to the icon wineries, which include Vasse Felix, Moss Wood, Leeuwin Estate and Cullen,  a growing number of small, family-run wineries are making wines of distinction, and many new and long-established wineries are successfully experimenting with a range of different varieties and blends.

Margaret River has long been synonymous with Bordeaux style cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. Indeed, at the Showcase I overheard a number of guests say that they were restricting their tastings just to the reds. But Margaret River also makes outstanding chardonnay (Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay and Pierro Chardonnay are rated ‘Exceptional’ and ‘Outstanding’ respectively in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine), and many of the wineries make excellent sauvignon blanc/semillon and semillon/sauvignon blanc blends.

For such a young wine region Margaret River has an enviable number of celebrated wineries.  Xanadu, Woodlands, Voyager Estate, Fraser Gallop Estate, Lenton Brae, Wise Wine, Cape Mentelle, Brookland Valley, Celestial Bay, Fermoy Estate, Flametree Wines, Juniper Estate were some of the stand-outs from a long list of acclaimed wineries which were represented at the showcase. Yalumba, the famous brand more commonly associated with the Barossa and Coonawarra, showcased its … Read the rest