Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cullen 2010 Margaret River White

Well, here's another string to add to the Summer Drinking bow…

We're already looking at a regular mix of light reds and Rose, Riesling and the odd Semillon Sauvigon Blanc or SBS, drawn from Brook Eden, Rockford, Pfeiffer and Pikes, with maybe a bottle or two of the Brook Eden Pinot Gris ond Rockford White Frontignac thrown in for a bit of variation.

There'll be a six pack of the Hay Shed Hill Block 1 SSB thrown in for something towards the premium end of the spectrum and, of course, there's plenty of other wine sitting in the rack that will need to be removed to make room for incoming summer supplies.

Based on a slight degree of disappointment with the Margaret River Red I hung off this one for a bit, but a retry of the red had me sneaking the previoous rating a bit higher, bunping the 3.5 I could buy this up towards a 4* I should buy this. I'm still not !00% there, but if I'm going to line up for more of the White, and given the fact that I don't quite need a dozen of these, I'll probably be in for a couple more of the reds.

Time to whack a bottle of the Red in the fridge to see how it handles that option, and I'd better get a Mangan Vineyard Semillon in there as well.

Cullen 2010 Margaret River White (4.5/5 $19) A variation on the traditional Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with a splash of Chenin Blanc, a dash of Chardonnay and a touch of Riesling, it's still basically a Margaret River SBS with added complexity from the additional elements. Those extra dimensions come across on the nose, with enough elements in there to keep you sniffing for a while as you have a go at identifying them. They deliver across the palate as well, with a rounded elegance coiled around a core of soft-edged acid. An interesting blend for the short term with depth on the palate that's remarkable in a wine that registers 12.5% alc/vol. I may well be looking for more of this one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rockford 2006 Handpicked Eden Valley Riesling

Having disposed of the caught them just in time 2003 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling, and continuing with the Thai flavours around dinner time, I was inclined to see how the other cork-closed bottles in the bar fridge were going.

The rediscovery of the Art Series was, as previously recounted, a byproduct of the knowledge that we had at least one bottle of Rockford 2006 Handpicked Eden Valley Riesling in there, and it was a wine we'd tried back in December 2009, with remarks to the effect that it had a very pronounced lemon flavour, a palate that could almost be described as lemon on steroids. Very nice, but very pronounced at the same time. There were still definitely Riesling characteristics lurking behind the lemon, but the expected lime notes were more or less conspicuous by their absence, so I was rather interested to see what another year and a half had done to it.

We are, after all, about to turn the attention to the pre-summer stock up, which will include most of a box of the Alicante Bouchet, so the question's going to be what do we get with it?

Based on this one, there'll definitely be some Riesling in the order.

Rockford 2006 Handpicked Eden Valley Riesling (4.5* $19) Twenty-one more months in the bottle hasn't done much to dim the colour, which was still fairly bright straw yellow, but the lemon on steroids we'd noted back in December '09 had rounded nicely through the nostrils and across the palate, the aged (no, make that mature, five years isn't quite aged) characters are coming to the fore and while there's no rush to knock over t'other one, it'll be lucky to be still sitting in the fridge this time next year. Include the current vintage in the next order? Definitely?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Leeuwin Estate 2003 Art Series Riesling

Well, here's one that underlines the need for accurate records and careful monitoring of stock.

There are excuses, but, really, leaving two bottles of a fondly-remembered favourite to the point where they're starting to slide is, to all intents and purposes, unforgiveable.

I can start by blaming the cork closure, and the care I took to ensure that anything in the bar fridge that boasts one lies on its side.

The shelving in the bar fridge is such that the best way to maximise capacity is by piling everything that's lying horizontal atop a single shelf, which in turn means there are eight or nine bottles lying in a configuration that makes the bottom layer difficult to extract without a complete remove/restack operation.

And while I've been fairly meticulous in keeping track of what I've bought since that $50 box of Tahbilk Everyday Drinking 2004 Sauvignon Blanc back in late March 2007 there's nothing on a spreadsheet that runs down to Row 543 and reveals a long term average per bottle of $11.18 that refers to Leeuwin Estate 2003 Art Series Riesling.

There are a couple of entries for 6 Assorted bottles from Magees from around Christmas 2007 that could be right, but, really, after close to four years there's no way of knowing.

What I do know is there were three cork closed bottles on the bottom of the pile, and at least one of them was a Rockford Eden Valley Riesling that had managed to avoid an entry in the Bento database and would probably have gone rather nicely with last night's Thai curry.

Restacking that section so I could get at the Rockford produced two bottles of 2003 Art Series, and a quick check with Mr Halliday revealed a Drink by 2009, so there was a fairly hasty redrawing of the evening's drinking arrangements. There are leftovers from last night to be consumed this evening, so we'll be waving a not quite teary goodbye to its brother tonight.

Leeuwin Estate 2003 Art Series Riesling (4* $n/a) It might have started out light, delicate and fresh with passionfruit aromas but from the first whilff it was fairly clear that we've caught this one just in time. There was a fair dose of the aged Riesling kero notes on the nose and across the palate, but they were almost muted, as if someone had taken a plane to anything resembling a rough edge. Interesting as an exercise in drinking a Riesling that's reaching the end of its development, but not, once the other bottle's gone, one that I'm keen to repeat.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Brook Eden 2010 Pinot Noir

It may seem, at times, that I'm not overly critical when it comes to wine but when you're buying from around two dozen wineries that are almost invariably Halliday 5* operations I'm not that likely to be running across too many duds, am I?

From time to time, however, there's the odd thing that I don't quite get, and one of them is the make up of the Pinot Noir half of the Winter 2011 Brook Eden Vintage Club pack.

As far as the Chardonnay side of the pack is concerned I've already marked down the '10 as one to watch out for when it goes on sale, and with the '09 currently on sale that may not be so far into the future.

I've still got another bottle of the 2010 on hand, and an '09 for comparative purposes.

It's a bit more difficult with the Pinot Noir.

I'm not the greatest fan of Pinot Noir, since our visit to the Yarra Valley was well before my palate started to veer away from big old-style full-bodied reds. Most of the Pinots I tried while we were there were very light bodied, and I found myself using the term strawberry flavoured lolly water with alarming frequency.

That's probably a case of not going to the right places, an underdeveloped palate, and my bad luck but I was much more impressed when we got to northern Tasmania a bit under a year later.

Still, I'm not entirely convinced, and Brook Eden is about the only place I buy from regularly that does Pinot (Pfeiffers do as well, but I haven't lined up for a reorder) so I don't get to taste a whole lot of them.

With the 2008 currently on sale, you'd assume that it'll be a good eighteen months before the '10 Pinot goes on sale, which seems like a remarkably long lead in time for the two bottles in the pack.

I've got a bottle of the '08 that'll be sampled in the not too distant future, and when I look back into the archives to when the '08 first landed in these parts I noted that pack two years ago had a bottle of the '07 for comparative purposes.

I can't help thinking that single bottles of the '10, the '09 and the currently available '08 might have worked a bit better in a sort of here's the most recent one that won't be out for a while, here's the '09 that'll be on sale shortly, and here's the current release, so you can see how the '10 is likely to be in twelve months time and what to expect when it eventually goes on sale...

Brook Eden 2010 Pinot Noir (4* $32 Vintage Club when it comes out? RRP should be around $39) Deep bright medium red with traces of purple in the glass, savoury bouquet with cherry notes and a medium bodied mouthfeel with asoft tannins and a variety of (probably still under-developed) flavours across the palate. Still very young, but I suspect it has what it takes. Will be interesting to try it again in the 2013 Vintage Club pack…

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hay Shed Hill 2009 Block 2 Cabernet Sauvignon

I like it when someone delivers you a ready made, straightforward but still rather elegant to a potentially thorny problem.

We weren't long back from Western Australia and I was trying to figure out how to include the wineries we'd visited over there into a purchasing schedule that didn't have much room for manoeuvre when the flier about the Hay Shed Hill Four Seasons Club arrived in the P.O. Box.

The beauty of those we'll send you a specified number of bottles at prescribed intervals wine clubs is that the buyer is saved the effort involved in deciding what he or she wants to buy. Someone else makes the decisions, but you've probably got the chance to try what you would have ordered in the first place and, most importantly, it takes the when out of the ordering equation.

In the end it all depends on whether you're interested in what they're offering.

In this case, an arrangement where you receive the Semillon Sauvignon Blanc in summer, their Sangiovese and Tempranillo in the autumn, Cabernet Sauvignon in the winter and Chardonnay in the spring looked pretty attractive at a first glance, though the $180 a throw for half a dozen wines seemed rather steep, so I did a bit of basic research, and a bit was all that was needed.

Apart from the autumn wines, the wines are drawn from their Block Series, wines made from single parcels of fruit from designated blocks that supposedly represent the best grapes on the property.

Fine, so how were they rated?

The SSB consistently rated 84 from Mr Halliday, the Cabernet ranged between 94 and 96, and the Chardonnay was the same.

As far as the pricing went, the autumn wines were $20, the SSSB $30, the Chardonnay $35 and the Cab Sauv $50, so I figured that $135 x 6 was $810, while four times $180 was $720, and the deliveries were freight free, so why not?

The SSB duly arrived, and made for quite sublime summer drinking, the autumn wines were acceptable without being overly impressive, but this one…

Hay Shed Hill 2009 Block 2 Cabernet Sauvignon (5* $50) Bright deep dense red in the glass, intense berry and blackcurrant notes on the nose and a complex palate built from a base of tightly wound tannins this wine provides ample justification for signing up for the Hay Shed Hill Four Seasons. Colour me highly impressed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tahbilk 2009 Marsanne

I know it was supposed to be Cabernet Day, but the ongoing issues with the continuing cherry tomato glut meant we were down for spaghetti with tuna, cherry tomatoes, olives and capers, which isn't Cabernet-friendly territory.

I'd previously tried the 2009 Tahbilk Marsanne in November '09, noting the change from the darker green bottle to a clear one so right from the start you can see the pale straw colour that you'd usually only get a good look at once it's in the glass and suggesting that while most of the usual suspects were present on the palate, the honeysuckle notes weren't quite as pronounced as I'd expected, though if you were to leave it for twelve months, I was confident Mr Honeysuckle would be making his presence felt.

Presumably it'll continue to figure in the odd vertical tasting half dozen (which is where I found it, a steal at $75) so I won't be buying a box, but will definitely be looking out for more.

Tahbilk 2009 Marsanne (4.5* $13 Web Special) Pale straw, in transition from the previously noted citrus aromas as the honeysuckle increasingly comes to the fore through the nose and across the palate. More, please...

Cullen 2009 Margaret River Red

I'm not sure what motivates the rest of the blogoverse, but as far as I'm concerned the Little House of Concrete family of sites gives me a means of keeping track of what I've drunk, read and listened to, what I thought and, maybe, the chance to interact with people with similar interests.  While there have been over a thousand hits on the Wine Rack and Music blogs, there haven't been too many comments, which is fine, since I haven't been too active in commenting on any of the thirty-something blogs I follow.

Keeping track of things is particularly important where the Wine Rack is concerned, and from time to time there's a bottle which brings all of the major considerations into focus, and although those considerations mightn't apply to anybody else, sorting them out in my own mind is an important part of the whole box and dice.

This little bracket of wines bring a couple of those considerations into fairly clear focus.

For a start, back when we were investigating the economics of retirement and formulating a budget I figured a long term average price of $10 per bottle was about what I could afford. Things have changed over the intervening years, particularly after I'd finished paying off the house, and we're now looking towards $20 as the average, though the sheer quantity of relatively cheap wine I've bought over the years has the average well below $12.

The changed circumstances mean that I can now start looking at wines I wouldn't have considered a couple of years ago, which then becomes a consideration when you're making up your mind about what goes in the box.

Do you, for example, get a dozen selected from the top of the range or do you work across the price points?

That's not such a major consideration when you're looking at Grosset, for example, when the bottom of the range is just under the $30 mark, but when you're looking at Cullens, you can balance some of the $100 top level with a $20 entry level.

Then there's the question of when you're actually going to drink them. I'm hardly likely to be opening a bottle of Rockford Basket Press to go with stak, mashed spuds and peas on a Saturday night, am I?

Actually, it's be nice to think that I could, but the harsh light of reality rules that out.

There's also a definite place for something that's relatively lightly weighted in the Alc/Vol Stakes, particularly wen you're looking at a bottle over lunch that won't leave you totally stonkered for the rest of the afternoon.

Given the northern environment and the relatively limited cellaring capacity, there's a tendency to go for wines that are short- to medium-term prospects rather than something that you might be looking at holding onto until the 2020s.

We get two seasons in these parts (I've labelled them hot and not) and with the temperature starting to climb as we head into September the subject of summer drinking is always lurking in the back of the mind, and we're always looking for reddish wines that are either lighter bodied or will handle a stint in the fridge.

For all those reasons I was particularly looking forward to trying the Cullen 2009 Margaret River Red and White, both sitting on the 12% mark, that I'd thought were eminently drinkable and rated as 4.5* I really need to buy this when we visited the winery about twelve months ago.

Making up the order, I'd used both as the basis of mixed cases, with four of the MR Red and the Cab Merlot, three Mangans and a single Diana Madeleine comprising the red portion of the order. After trying this one, however, I'm not sure I'll be using the same mix next time around. 3.5 on the scale equates to I could buy this though I'm still open to persuasion.

Cullen 2009 Margaret River Red (3.5* $20) Bright red in the glass, fresh aromas through the nose, balanced and medium bodied across the palate, but I felt there was something missing, and it's more than likely something to do with the 12% alc/vol, though the change from the previous year's Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec/Merlot/Petit Verdot/Cabernet Franc blend to 80% Merlot 15% Malbec and a dash of Petit Verdot might account for the disparity between the 4.5* '08 and this one. Still, there are another three bottles left that might change my mind, and one of the little devils will definitely be going in the fridge for a short spell...