Not too long ago I drank quite a bit of Australian wine, particularly Shiraz. Given that this grape, also known as Syrah, expresses greatness in the Barossa Valley I could not pass an opportunity to revisit this region for this months’ Wine Blogging Wednesday. Our host, Adam from Wine Zag, proposed we look for any wine from Australia’s Barossa Valley but for me only Shiraz would do, much the same way only Cabernet would do for Napa Valley. One other limitation was to choose a wine for $30 USD or less. I’m well aquatinted with great values from Barossa but have not tasted any lately so I was a little concerned as I entered my local wine store to explore the options available this week.
The main reason for my exile from Barossa and most of the wines of Australia of late has been value. There are many great wines made in Australia but far fewer under $30 than in the past (at least it seems to me). Some of this is due to shipping costs; some of this is due to exchange rates. Today the best bang for the (American) buck comes from the Iberian peninsula or lesser known parts of Italy and France. Even California, Washington State and Oregon are bringing the value in these recessionary times. But there still are some producers who are managing to bring the value from Barossa even today.
One of those is Schild Estate, a family run winery in Barossa that over delivers value if judged by the wine I tasted this evening. Established in 1952, this winery produces a range of wines but with an emphasis on Shiraz. And after tasting their entry level Shiraz today, I can see why they lavish so much attention on the variety. It is because it’s delicious.
Schild Estate Wines, Shiraz, Barossa 2009 ($18) – Dark purple in color with aromas of cherry, plum, bacon, and black licorice. Round in the mouth with concentrated blackberry, plum and black pepper flavors finishing with savory tannins. A very nice expression of Aussie Shiraz at a stunning price.
Screw cap closure
Thanks go to Adam for hosting this month and for provoking me to taste a Barossa wine and blog about it. Stay tuned for next months edition of our global virtual tasting to be announced soon.
It has been nearly three years since I last hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday but my choice of theme was easy. Wines made from Rhône varieties are among my personal favorites and I was hoping to learn about many more new wines from participants this month. There were 25 bloggers posting reviews from all over the world. Thanks again to all who took the time to participate and here they are in the order I learned about them:
- The first post came two weeks early from Karla at Sol Wine & Film. An overview of the Curtis Winery of Santa Ynez Valley in California, the subject fit the theme perfectly but somehow didn’t mention WBW. But Karla used the WBW hashtag so is included in this roundup.
- New entrant Rags, the Kenyan Wine Brat, posted his video review of CrossRoads Winery Syrah from Texas. While he is no Gary V, his use of “refrigerator smell” to describe the Syrah near the beginning made me think of the famous New York Jets fan. Nice start, man; looking forward to more!
- Next up was Lisa from Wine Muse posting a review of a 2009 Rutherglen Estates “Shelley’s Block” Marsanne Viognier from her native Australia. Made from 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, the wine sounds wonderful and a great value at $15AUS.
- Joe the Suburban Wino posted a long and somewhat rambling post about Rhône styled wines that begins with a rant about how difficult the circumflex over the “o” in Rhône is but then uses that word about a hundred times. No review here but there is some serious Rhône knowledge thrown down within Joe’s hilarious
- Another video review was posted by Aleksi who selected two wines for his tasting. The first is the Bellingham, The Bernard Series, Grenache Blanc Viognier (no vintage mentioned) which proved to be an interesting wine despite some metallic flavors. His second selection seemed more successful, 2006 Spinifex “Papillon”, a red blend made from Carignan, Cinsault and Granache.
- Next up was Bob from 2001 Bottles – A Wine Odyssey with a 2006 Church & State “Coyote Bowl” Syrah from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. It’s not surprising to me that such a nice Syrah could come from Canada as most of the best examples of this variety come from cooler sites. Also tasted was 2009 Twisted Tree Rousanne/Marsanne which was also a winner.
- Richard, The Passionate Foodie and next month’s WBW host, tasted a 2007 Sutton Cellars Carignane “Piferro Vineyard” and found it to be an, “easy drinking wine, but with appealing character, and would be an perfect pairing with burgers, pizza, or even pasta.” Count me in to pick up some of this to try soon.
- First time WBW participant Jason from The Ancient Fire Wine Blog was next with a 2007 Penfolds Bin 138 GMS blend. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, the wine proved to be, “assertive, but not abusive.” Hope to see you next time, Jason!
- The VA Wine Diva was next with a trio of Rhone-styled wines from Virginia. The first was a 2009 Veritas Vineyards Viognier which was overall a nice wine marred a bit on the finish with a touch of heat. This was followed up by an earthy and leathery 2005 Ingleside Vineyards Syrah. The tasting was capped off with a 2008 Pollak Vineyards “Mille Fleurs” fortified Viognier dessert wine.
- Andrew from Spittoon, the bloke who got me first into WBW back when he hosted, was next with a 2009 See Saw Shiraz-Mourvèdre. Although information about the wine was hard to come by, it proved to be a winner for under £9.
- Matt posted next over at A Good Time With Wine tasting a 2007 Liberty School Cuvee, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. Although Matt prefers the leaner French style in his Syrah, he did like this California wine.
- Next was Magnus posting a bi-lingual review of a 2007 Annie Camarda Syrah from Washington State, quite a find in his native Sweden. And the wine was, “Well balanced, big and juicy with a nice acidity that bring excitement and sophistication – this is good and I am willing to buy me some bottles for the summer as well as for the future.” Magnus was the only person this month to accompany his review with an Iron Maiden video, a trend I’d like to see continue
- Ryan from Catavino in Spain posted next tasting a 2006 Cellar Malondro red blend. A blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Cariñena from D.O. Montsant, I recalled my trip to the region in 2007 which Ryan commemorated with an archive photo on the post.
- Next was Michael, The Wine Undertaker, who tasted a 2008 Sterling Vineyards Roussanne from Carneros. The wine was the first taste of Roussanne for him but will not be his last given how well this bottle performed.
- Colin from Grapefan passed along a tasting note on Adegga as he took a week long vow of no wine. The wine sounds like a winner, though, a 2006 Syrah from Napa Valley’s Hyde de Villaine.
- Frank from Drink What You Like posted another Virginia Viognier, this time from Jefferson Vineyards. From the 2009 vintage, the wine sounds very interesting and one Wine Blogger Conference attendees will no doubt taste as it’s made in Charlottesville, the site of the 2011 event.
- Next up was Sebastien at downcellar who posted a pair of Mourvèdre from the New and Old World. First was a meaty and dark Spice Route Mourvèdre from Swartland, South Africa. The Old World entry is a 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain. Both sound like excellent examples of Mourvèdre from outside The Rhône.
- My own entry was next, a tale of two Rhone-styled wines from California. In the end, the Steele “Writer’s Block” Roussanne delivered the goods for a steal of a closeout price.
- William from Simple Hedonisms was next with a review of Wesley Ashley “Intelligent Design Cuvee” Red Rhone Blend. The blend of Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre sounds outstanding.
- Next was Remy at The Wine Case who posted a nice write-up of a 2009 Edmunds St. John “Wylie” Syrah. The effort from this venerable producer of California Syrah proved very nice but made Remy wish he had a bit more patience to see what the wine would evolve to with further cellaring. That’s why you buy more than one bottle, man
- Andrea from Wine Skamp posted next with a review of 2008 Santo Cristo Garnacha, a decent sounding quaffer from Spain’s Campo de Borja.
- Megan was next from the Wannabe Wino blog with a review of a 2009 Hahn GSM blend which sounded like another winner from California.
- Rain followed next from Teach Us Wine with a cautionary tale to always check the seal on your bottle particularly if it’s a screw-cap. Her tale is full of fail but I’m sure she will come back strong next time.
- On Wine Blogging Thursday, WBW founder Lenn Thompson posted his entry; a well-chosen 2005 Doon Vineyards “Cigare Volant.” And it seemed worth the wait.
- And last, but certainly not least, the fabulous Thea posted her entry at Luscious Lushes, a tribute to winemaker Kevin Hamel. She pulled a bottle of 2002 Hamel Wines Syrah, Westside Hills from her cellar to share but also recounts experiences with the 2001 vintage and some other favorite Syrah’s.
So that’s it. I count 25 bloggers and 28 wines tasted. Most of these were red but 8 whites were also reviewed. If I somehow missed your entry, please let me know in the comments and I will update this post.
Thanks again to Lenn for letting me host once again. And without further ado, I pass the baton to Richard from The Passionate Foodie for a very special edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday next month.
I first heard about this wine on the 3 Wine Guys podcast (thx, T-bone) so I picked up a bottle when I saw it at a wine store this summer. And I’m glad I did as it really shows off what blending young vines can do for a wine.
This is a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot from noted winemaker Chris Ringland. I’ll have to check out his other efforts given what magic he casts on this modest wine.
Henry’s Drive, “Pillar Box Red” 2005 ($10) – Deepest purple-black in color. This one needs to unwind a bit before it shows it’s best but once fully open it features nice black and red fruit aromas with fennel and a bit of chaparral. Full and rich black cherry and strawberry fruit gives way to a bit of licorice, vanilla and spice on the finish. A delicious fruit bomb for everyday drinking.
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The second wine tasted on my visit with Cameron Hughes in late May. This one is more in line with what you would expect in an Aussie Shiraz; rich, bold and powerful. One for the cellar.
Cameron Hughes, Lot 42, Shiraz Barossa Valley, “75 year Old Vines” 2005 ($18/sample)
Dark purple in color with blackberry, white pepper and fennel aromas. Rich and bold in the mouth with blackberry jam, mint and licorice flavors finishing with firm tannins. I’d lay this one down for a few years to let the tannins soften a bit or decant for 2-3 hours before serving. Another stunning value.
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Being the “wine guy” with family and friends, I’m often asked about the best values. In fact, part of the reason I started this blog and podcast was to share these tips. Although I find great values to write about here quite often, what I encountered with the following wine falls into the “extreme value” category.
The reviews that follow are from a podcast I recorded with Cameron Hughes the last time I was in San Francisco. We covered his approach, sourcing practices and business model for over an hour; about 40 minutes of which was recorded. As fate would have it, this is the first podcast recording to inexplicably vanish since I started doing this almost 3 years ago. It’s really a shame, but Cam has agreed to re-record for an upcoming show in the next week or two. But I’m posting these reviews now because I don’t think there will be any wine left in two weeks time.
Cameron Hughes is a nÃƒÂ©gociant who specializes in bringing the best value for money to wine lovers. He does this by finding the best juice available — increasingly from outside of the U.S. — and blending and bottling under his label. He keeps his costs low by only selling online or through Costco stores here in the U.S. who take a much lower markup than other wine retailers. The result are some stunning wines at prices that make you wonder what he’s thinking. For example, the wine here could stand up to a $50 Shiraz and hold it’s own; Cam sells it for $20. When I asked him about his pricing practices, he smiled and said, “I’m making friends…”; then he opened this wine for us to taste.
Cameron Hughes, Lot 38, Shiraz, Barossa Valley, “100 year Old Vines” 2005 ($20/sample)
Very dark purple in color with aromas of blackberry, mocha, licorice and spice. Jammy and rich in the mouth with blackberry fruit and black pepper flavors finishing with moderately firm, but well integrated, tannins and good acidity. This is a big wine but it has massive fruit to balance the alcohol and a concentration that seems to only come from old vines. I’m going to let my bottles rest for a year or two before enjoying but it’s drinking very well right now.
I would suggest you buy this wine sooner rather than later as only 500 cases were released yesterday. Visit Cameron Hughes online to order (no Costco for this one).
I tasted this wine at San Francisco’s Vino Venue while tuning up for my barrel tasting the next morning at Pax Cellars. I’d heard of Two Hands Wines, and their reputation for fine Shiraz, but this was my first taste of their wine.
Two Hands is a single-minded effort to produce the best Shiraz made in Australia. Since starting only seven years ago, this winery has made some of the most celebrated Shiraz in the world and, if this tasting is any indication, their reputation is very well earned.
Two Hands Wines, “Gnarly Dudes” Shiraz, Barossa Valley 2005 ($30) – Dark purple in color with aromas of blackberry, plum, licorice and spice. In the mouth, concentrated blackberry, pepper and spice flavors finish long with a silky mouthfeel. Delicious.
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