Saturday, March 19, 2011

Whiskey Gully 2005 Upper House Cabernet Sauvignon

We were headed for the Granite Belt a bit over twelve months ago, and while, in my host's words, there's a winery for every week of the year, the visit was about renewing old acquaintances, introducing new life partners and that sort of thing rather than maxing out on the tasting opportunities.

A quick look at the options meant that we arrived with two places to visit, and one of them was Whiskey Hill Wines, which seemed to be an operation strong on character that was probably worth a visit.

So we did.

The operation hosts an eatery where Friday nights are apparently in the substantial range, and Saturday morning probably wasn't the best time to be calling, but the proprietors' daughter was friendly after an extremely late night (Dad was cleaning the kitchen and not overly impressed by the world at large), the collection of stringed instruments on the walls intriguing and the wines worth a look. We escaped with a couple of bottles, including this one, and would definitely go back if the place is still in the same hands.

The daughter, however, was looking to relocate to France, and Mum and Dad had put the place on the market. While I'm inclined to go back I'll be checking local sources for info before doing so.

Whiskey Gully 2005 Upper House Cabernet Sauvignon (4* $26) Quite attractive retro style red if you like that style, which I do. While there's nothing wrong with the wine, which packs most of the requisite elements into the glass there's nothing that makes me stop and take notice either. Long finishing steak or roast beef style that won't have you racing out looking to buy it by the pallet but does its job quite satisfactorily.

The 4* rating translates to: I should buy this, but there may well be constraints that prevent me from doing so. The constraints run in at an unwillingness to shell out for a dozen, uncertainty about the current state of play at the winery and a website that doesn't seem to have been updated in a while.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fermoy Estate 2009 Yallingup Vineyards Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

While mileages may vary when it comes to winery ratings those of us with a limited budget as far as time is concerned need some sort of framework to start from when we're visiting somewhere like Margaret River. Lacking either local knowledge or acquaintances who've visited the area recently (though we had one friend who pointed us towards Hay Shed Hill) it was a case of turning to Halliday, and a quick squizz revealed enough five star operations to keep us busy for a week rather than the two-and-a-bit days we had available.

In cases like that, the list from Halliday is a starting point and you (or rather I, readers may operate differently) then start sifting through other details to sort out the wheat from the chaff. We had Cullen Wines pencilled in for lunch on the last day, didn't want to overdo it, and I noted with interest that Fermoy Estate was just down the road from the planned stop, conveniently located near a chocolate factory Madam expressed an interest in, and, in Halliday's words "happy to keep a relatively low profile, however difficult that may be given the quality of the wines". Sounded good to me.

Which explains how we got there. What happened when we did meant that we'll be keeping an eye on the website for frequent orders even if they're nowhere near the heavily discounted ($20 to $7,50 by the dozen with freight)

Fermoy Estate 2009 Yallingup Vineyards Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (4.5* $20) Not quite half and half (52-48%) the Semillon characters sit on top of the grassy passionfruit Sauvignon Blanc, resulting in a blend that's  tightly knit with a tangy complexity and a lengthy finish across the palate and plenty on offer through the nose. A wine that had me wishing there were more than five of them left.  Will be looking very closely at the 2010.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fermoy Estate 2009 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc

While I'm quite aware that I've been marching to the beat of a different drum for much of the past forty years a recent stroll around downtown Bowen reinforced the difference between Hughesy's tastes and the drinking habits of the wider community in these parts.

Given the prevailing humidity, a walk downtown usually comprises a two-and-a-half-block trek from home to the (air-conditioned) post office, with subsequent stops at the bank, the regular newsagent and the local library, all of which offer a temporary cool down.

The need to visit the supermarket on Friday resulted in a further stop at the corner newsagent, and with around a hundred metres to go before the supermarket I yielded to temptation and sidetracked into the liquor barn.

These days, my wine purchases are almost invariably made direct from the winery, so visits to the liquor barn have become few and far between. They've remodelled the interior as well, so these days I'm not quiote so familiar with the layout.

The new look works around the multi-layer stand the bottles up arrangement, with signs indicating areas devoted to particular varieties and styles. I'd have had no problem locating the Sauvignon Blancs, for example, though I'd have a bit of a problem if I was after something interesting and attractively-priced that didn't come from New Zealand.

There was, however, nothing to indicate where I might find a Riesling, and I managed a fair cooling off period before I found a limited range hidden at the very bottom of the Moscato and Sweet Whites section.

Now, if I had to pick a varietal that's ideally suited to the tropical lifestyle, where people tend to go for fish and seafood and some of us don't mind the flavour profile of Thai dishes, I'd be heading directly for the Riesling without passing GO and collecting $200.

I could well have gone a Riesling with dinner that evening, but an email from Fermoy Estate had landed boxes of 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, rather remarkably reduced from $20/$22 to $6.25 ($7.50 when you add freight) and the Sauv Blanc needed to be sampled.

Two points that emerge from the above:

(i) Continued bafflement at the public's refusal to go for varietal Riesling (actually, I'm sure the reason lies in the confusion between generic goon-bag swill marketed under the name and the genuine article);

and (ii) The marketing snow job that's persuaded the broad mass of Australian drinkers to subscribe to the cut price Savalanche rather than sample some of the very acceptable styles produced on this side of the ditch.

That second point presumably accounts for some of the remarkable price reduction in

Fermoy Estate 2009 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc (4.5* $22) Almost crystal clear pale straw, brightly aromatic and leaning to the tropical rather than the cut grass end of the spectrum, balanced with genuine varietal character, depth  and a lengthy finish, this was quite wonderful drinking and had me wishing I'd (at least) doubled the order. Assuming consistency across future vintages I'd happily pay the full RRP whack, and at the discount on offer at the time (it's presumably long gone) a no-brainer.

Baileys of Glenrowan 2009 Rutherglen Petit Sirah

Ah, varietal synonyms! Don't you just love the little devils? Unpacking the December 1870s Club pack from Baileys I was mildly bemused (not an uncommon occurrence in these parts) by the presence of both a Durif and a Petit Sirah, varieties that are, as far as I can make out, synonymous.

The notes accompanying the pack suggested the name differentiation stemmed from different handling of two parcels of fruit, and (total surmise here) the parcel that went through French oak treatment acquired the French varietal moniker, while American oak treatment suggested use of the American synonym.

Baileys of Glenrowan 2009 Rutherglen Petit Sirah (4.5* $25) While its cousin/brother was remarkably understated for a Durif, this one takes things a step further with softer, rounder and more velveteen tannins across the palate. Richly aromatic on the nose, it scored a big seal of approval from Madam, to the point where I'm looking seriously at a reorder. Available in half-dozen lots (15% discount and freight free for 1870s Club members) a six-pack should do us for the duration of a regular Bowen chilly winter (i.e. the week when the overnight minimum drops below 10).