Monday, October 31, 2011

Pfeiffer 2011 Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne

It's interesting how rapidly some experiments become part of the mainstream. Take, for instance, Jen Pfeiffer's decision to blend a bit of Marsanne into a batch of unwooded Chardonnay that seemed to be missing something on the way to a clean, fresh, fruit driven wine.

That was in 2008, and there's been a repeat of the blend in each of the subsequent years, because (as I remarked at the time) it works rather well. Clean pale colour, aromatic nose (and you can definitely pick the Marsanne) and a refreshing wine that's easy drinking.

On that basis I'd reordered the '08 and while the '09 was quite acceptable, I thought it didn't work quite as well, and I suspected  that while the '08 was an attempt to tackle a problem, the successor was a case of matching the formula that worked last time rather than approaching a particular issue with a particular batch from a particular vintage. It was still a reasonably attractive unoaked white but it didn't make me sit up and take notice the same way the '08 did.

It seems the 2010 sneaked past through the mid-year C3 pack that I opted not to sign up for (it doesn't seem to have been included in the C2 selections that landed here, and there's nothing in the fairly extensive electronic documentation hereabouts to suggest it was,)so I'd guess that it walked out the door fairly rapidly (otherwise I'd have guessed it would have turned up in the October 2010 box).

And the 2011 suggests that may well have been the case, because both bottles of this crisp, fresh, unwooded style disappeared with extreme rapidity.

Pfeiffer 2011 Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne (4* $16.50) The Marsanne comes pushing its way through the nose with definite elements of honeysuckle alongside melons and peaches. Pleasantly aromatic, and that impression follows through across the palate with citrusy young Chardonnay characters to produce a refreshing style for summer drinking. Summer in these parts tends to be the time for Rose and Riesling, but there may well be three or four of these lining up in the box with Mr Gamay.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pfeiffer 2009 Carlyle Cabernet Merlot

Given a location around two hundred kilometres from the nearest Dan Murphy's with local liquor outlets tied to the big marketing conglomerates and nary an independent wine merchant on the horizon if you're looking to find something interesting to drink in these parts you've got a bit of a problem.

That point got rammed home fairly firmly about two months ago when our Last Friday of the Month Retirees Lunch Club set out for a go at the fare on offer at Coyotes. They do a quiet line in BYO Wine Only, and when they opened the wine list included items like the 94 Halliday points Capel Vale Cabernet Merlot, Pikes Pinot Grigio, and Tatachilla Growers Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, all of which I'd be quite happy to drink...

Just before we left Madam asked if I was going to head down the BYO Road, and my response was that I was confident there'd be something interesting on the wine list.

When I asked for the list, however, I was dismayed to find an array of the usual big corporate suspects and the initial reaction was that there was nothing on the list I was interested in drinking.

I mean, it's not like I need to have a drink at lunch time, and if I can't find anything interesting I might as well give the liver a slight break n'est ce pas?

Madam helpfully pointed out the Yalumba Y Series Riesling, and I relented to the extent of a glass where otherwise I might have gone an interesting bottle with samples shared around the six person table.

Actually, I should have known something along these lines was likely since Coyotes has gone from a Mexican theme to Steakhouse status with a subscript of We're hot, food's not!

So I'm obviously in the minority as far as food and drink are concerned, and in a landscape dominated by Thirsty Camels, BottleMarts and Liquor Legends I'm obviously going to be looking further afield.

Which is what I've been doing anyway, and with around twenty places I want to buy from I can afford to be a bit selective.

More than that, as I continue to encounter wines that are very bloody good I'm increasingly disinclined to worry about some that may well have been perfectly acceptable a couple of years ago.

Take this one, for example. Back in April 2009 I was looking at the '07 and with a Hungarian Gulyas that I figured needed a hearty full-flavoured red. Berries and a touch of mint (that’s the cabernet, folks) on the nose, more on the medium than the full-bodied end of the spectrum once it gets into the mouth, it wasn’t quite what I was planning on, but turned out to be a rather nice little match-up all the same.

In May last year (before I'd got to the five star rating scheme I'd remarked that the '08 went rather well with that favourite sugo alla bolognese. Definite notes of mint on the nose, along with enough other elements to keep the I'm getting a bit of mob quite happy. I didn't hang about sniffing too long, however, since the first sip revealed a rather elegant wine with plenty of berry fruit flavours, well integrated oak and a long finish. Nice.

That, however, was pre-Margaret River and the subsequent realignment of the Cab Merlot goalposts.

Last night the '09 was the first bottle I cracked out of the October C2 Club pack, and, quite frankly, with 3.5* translating as I could buy this and could changing to might when you drop back half a star, I really don't have much option but to go the three since I found myself wishing they'd doubled up on something else rather than this one.

No, three stars means I might buy this, though the only situation where I can foresee that happening would be on a restaurant wine list or in a bottle shop where everything else was generic, usual suspect mainstream.

There's no way this is going to talk me out of a bottle of Gamay when the order goes in within the next month, though had it turned up in The Wine Society a couple of years ago at an attractive price I could well have been lining up for a box.

Pfeiffer 2009 Carlyle Cabernet Merlot (3* $18.50) Purple red in the glass, rather subdued through the nose and fairly soft across the palate, while it was easy to drink I don't see a need for any more once the two bottles in the October C2 dozen are gone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ross Estate 2009 Barossa Valley Tempranillo

While I've probably got enough wineries to buy from, and spreading thirty-something cartons across around twenty wineries isn't exactly easy, you do feel like trying something different from time to time don't you?

Then there's the prospect of something substantial for nothing, and the chance of picking up $5000 credit by signing up for a mailing list, not that you'd be holding your breath in a promotion that runs till the end of November.

There mightn't be a myriad out there when it comes to discount wine operations but there's definitely a great wing of 'em and the various ones we deal with (or rather the ones he deals with, I've been known to get a bit sniffy about some of these matters) has been a frequent topic of discussion when I encounter Jimbo on the morning walk, particularly when someone has encountered a new one that operates on a slightly different modus.

I'd noted the existence of VinoMofo, the nom de web for Wine Cru Pty Ltd, part of the cluster of sites operated by The Qwoff Boys that includes and

They seemed to come up with an interesting offer every so often (actually they're coming up with an interesting offer on an almost daily basis) and there's no obligation to buy, so I figured I may as well register, get the daily email and suggested that Jimbo might feel inclined to do likewise. The thinking behind that revolved around (a) the $5000 credit promotion and (b) the thought that I could check with Jimbo when I spotted an interesting offer to see whether he was interested in part of it.

That way, I figured, I could get a few interesting wines onto the premises and still keep buying from the cluster of wineries I've been patronising for the past few years.

Basically VinoMofo sends out one offer per day, usually a dozen or a half-dozen priced somewhere between 40 and 60% off the list price. They charge freight (standard rate nationwide, which suits me fine) and it isn't an arm and a leg, so that's fine as well.

The way it seems to work (and if I'm wrong here feel free to correct me) involves hooking up a winery with a small parcel of wine they're keen to get out the door with enough customers to move all of it, and if there isn't enough interest to move a minimum number of cases (the Tip number) the deal falls through. Deals are open for three days, and the wine is shipped on the fourth, which is when the details appear on your credit card statement.

Occasionally if the day's offer sells out quickly (as happened with a recent Pants Off Friday 2010 Clare Valley Single Vineyard Watervale Riesling $25 > $9.50) they'll throw out another offer along the same lines (in that case 2009 High Scoring Clare Valley Riesling $22 > $8.50) which explains why we're looking at a couple of cases en route to split with Jimbo.

I had, however dipped the big toe in the water the week before for a six pack of this little number ($18 > $10.50) and based on an initial sample maybe I should've ordered a second box...

Ross Estate 2009 Barossa Valley Tempranillo (4.5* $18) From the first whiff of a savoury nose this one had me very firmly on side as I watched the Wallabies v Wales playoff for third at the Rugby World Cup. Brightly coloured, medium bodied, savoury notes on the nose, cherries and spice across the palate and silky tannins with a seductive mouthfeel it's an excellent match for the pasta and chilli dishes that feature on the Little House of Concrete menu. Impressive, and I could definitely have gone back for more. Hopefully there'll be a similar Vinomofo offer somewhere down the track, and if I happen to spot a bottle in a bottle shop when wwe're on the road I'm in!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Paulett 2010 Polish Hill River Riesling

Hindsight, as has frequently been remarked, delivers 20/20 vision, but at least I now know what I'll be doing should similar circumstances arise.

But, as I do so often, I'm getting ahead of myself.

As remarked elsewhere the approach of summer means that I'm turning my thoughts to Rose and Riesling, and there has been a fair bit of deck clearing and space generating in the wine rack as I try to cut down on the cases on the office floor in anticipation of incoming Gamay, Alicante Bouchet, Big Men in Tights and, of course, Riesling.

I'd been giving serious thought to a call to Kilikanoon for a mixed dozen - eight of the Mort's Block and four of the Mort's Reserve seemed like a sound concept - when a phone call from Pauletts had me revising the plans.

Given the $20 RRP for the current Polish Hill River, the $45 they're asking for the 2006 Aged Release and the POA beside the 2009 Antonina $290 a dozen freight free for an eight-two-two mix seemed like a rather good price, and it took all of about ten seconds deliberation before I was providing credit card details.

$250 for the Polish Hill River part of the package, around a notional ninety for the two Antoninas and somewhere between (on prior form) $18 and $24 for freight suggests a probable regular price of around the full $360, so $290 wasn't a bad deal at all.

It took a week or so for the wine to arrive, which was fairly impressive in itself (other shipments from the same post code have taken close to a fortnight) and I was licking my lips in anticipation after I'd had a glance at Mr Halliday when I'd put the phone down.

96s for both Polish Hills and a 97 for the Antonina and a comment that Neil Paulett reckons the Antonina is the finest riesling he has produced tends to do that to you.

There's a regular routine associated with incoming wines involving photographs and data entry into the Bento database, and while I wasn't quite ready to go through all that around three on a Friday afternoon I was inclined to have a look and a quiet gloat over the contents of the package.

I guess the top view that revealed a dozen similarly shaped bottles should have prompted an 'Ullo. 'ullo, what've we got 'ere, given the fact that the Antonina comes in a high-shouldered custom made container rather than the regular Riesling bottle we've come to know and love, but I grabbed random bottles from around the box, only to discover all of 'em sported a 2010 Polish Hill River label.

A quick phone call to the winery resulted in an instruction to take the box back to the Post Office and send it back C.O.D. They would, I was assured, have the right box on the road first thing Monday morning.

Proceeding as instructed I ventured downtown on Monday and did as I was told, noting along the way that there was a cost of around $65 for the shipment!

That is, as you'd note, rather more than the freight I'd been charged previously and suggests the Australia Post predominance in the wine shipping business comes on the back of significant discounts for large volumes. Steve Doyle quoted me a figure in the thirties when I put in an order for a Bloodwood dozen, and that was coming from Orange. Steve sends his stuff through another carrier…

Regardless of all that, and given the expectation that Pauletts wouldn't have been slugged the whole $65 when the box turned up on their doorstep, I was thinking that next time something similar happens I'll be asking them to take me on trust and send me another box containing what I ordered and bill me for what I actually received.

Now, having tried one of the 2010 Polish Hill River I'm wishing that I had. Hindsight, 20/20 and all that.

Paulett 2010 Polish Hill River Riesling (5*  $20) Pale straw that almost gleams in the glass, an abundantly fragrant nose that sits about half way between a firm statement that this is Clare Riesling and standing yelling it from the rooftops. Make that two-thirds of the way towards the rooftops.
Once it hits the palate there are the regulation citrus and lime notes, the characteristic minerality to match what's on offer on the nose and an elegant finish that's all class. Looking at this I should have kept that other box, shouldn't I? This one's up there with the very best the Clare Valley can offer, and I've still got the Antonina and the Aged Release to get to!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rockford 2006 Rod & Spur Cabernet Shiraz

I've remarked previously about the longevity of old habits and still haven't quite got my head around the concept of a fifty-cents-less-than-thirty-bucks red as a  Saturday night dinner for one accompaniment but it's about time to start considering the contents of the annual Rockfoed order.

With a France-Wales Rugby World Cup game on the box and a big old-fashioned lumparump for dinner the idea of a big old-fashioned red had a certain je ne sais quoi.

And, of course, I could make up my mind about including the current vintage  (the 2008) in the order...

Rockford 2006 Rod & Spur Cabernet Shiraz (4.5* $29.50) Cabernet dominant this time around (63/37%), deep red in the glass savoury leathery nose with berries and blackcurrants, not quite full-bodied but not exactly restrained either, rounded mouthfeel and silky tannins that ran all the way along the palate. Both varieties in this classic blend bring their own elements to the party and they've meshed together very nicely after five years. Could well have gone on for around a decade, but with limited cellaring space that five year span looks about right for these parts. Reorder? I definitely think so.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bloodwood 2006 Maurice

The position of the iMac on the desktop means there are frequent distractions from reflected movement across the screen and while I can always keep the curtains closed I prefer the natural light, thanks very much.

Besides, it gives me a chance to keep an eye out for people trying to sneak up on me.

Not that we get too many unannounced callers at The Little House of Concrete.

The most frequent such caller is The Actor, who's usually bringing back a pile of material that'd usually reside on the LHoC Bookshelves. He's about due for another visit, and with 'Er Indoors transformed to 'Er Overseas Dodging the Aftershocks, the air-con on, the volume on the stereo well down to avoid disturbing the indoor feline population we're trying to keep away from the roadworks machinery as they do up the road outside, having the curtains closed would probably be taken to mean that Hughesy was temporarily elsewhere and callers should call back later.

It was just after ten yesterday morning when reflected movement indicated a couple of approaching figures, and a swivel on the Estate Manager Chair revealed an incoming ex-boss and his missus, back in town for a couple of days and checking on old acquaintances.

Given the relatively early hour and a crowded calling schedule\ it was far too early to be opening anything, but after a chat we pencilled in a rendezvous around four in the afternoon, with sampling a few of the better bottles on the premises as the main business on the agenda.

A quick trip to the butcher on the corner produced a variety of sausages (Mexican jalapeno, Mediterranean spice, lamb mint and rosemary, bush tomato and mountain pepper) to run through the oven and provide valuable blotting paper and when The Rifleman arrived on the doorstep just after four and a cleansing ale it was time to sample a few, with the rest of each bottle to be finished over the next few days.

Mrs Rifleman had a number of ex-colleagues to visit, which explains her absence from the next bit.

Tahbilk evangelism meant starting with a sample of the el cheapo cleanskin that's helping to keep the long term average price per bottle down around the $11 mark, followed by the Holm Oak 2005 Riesling and a Tahbilk 2006 Marsanne (which seems to have slipped past inder the reviewing guard) before we headed into red territory.

Matters were complicated slightly when we were half way through a couple of smidgens of the Fermoy Estate 2008 Yallingup Vineyard Cabernet Merlot. Mrs Rifleman appeared on the doorstep, and, momentarily, I thought we wouldn't quite be getting to the already opened and breathing bottle of Bloodwood.

As it turned out, however, the visit was merely intended to deliver an announcement that a change to the original itinerary meant the Rifleman had an extra half hour (at least) to continue tasting and conversing, so I reckoned we might as well have a little go at the Baileys of Glenrowan 2008 1920s Block Shiraz along the way.

Readers who are thinking we're going over the top a little here are reminded that there's an ongoing issue with wine cartons on the floor where they're not supposed to be, incoming deliveries, special offers and the prospect of stocking up for the summer of Riesling and Rose, so at the moment it's all about creating space…

Plus, of course, the secondary consideration that The Rifleman was one of the best bosses I've worked for and did the right thing by Hughesy a couple of times so I figured I owe him a decent sample or two. I'm tapping this out over a post-lunch snifter of the '06 Marsanne, so I'd be a reasonably happy camper if I didn't have three rogue flighty felines who appear to have gone to ground in a storm water drain and probably won't be emerging till around dusk if they reappear at all…

But I, as I frequently do, digress.

The extra half hour turned into a close to extra hour, and that gave us time for a lengthy savouring of what's probably the best red I've sampled this year.

Steve Doyle's explanation for the origin of the blend appears in this unashamed copy and pastage from the Bloodwood website:

As a winemaker you top-up and taste barrels throughout the year, and you get to know some of the better ones on an on-going and quite personal basis. If they make up a parcel of wine which holds together with continuing interest, then we will release them as Bloodwood Maurice.

Which, given the fact that everything else I've tasted from there has been impressive, probably means the extremely impressive 5* rating should come as absolutely no surprise...

Bloodwood 2006 Maurice (5* $30) Deeply hued in the glass, complex berry and chocolate notes on the nose, savoury oak lurking in there as well, silky tannins running all the way along the palate. Sampling this made the perfect conclusion to the tasting session, since I don't think there's anything on the premises that could follow it. We'll be having at least one of the current vintage in each subsequent order…

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hay Shed Hill 2010 Block 6 Chardonnay

 Ah, the joys of a changing palate…

Or, more accurately, developing styles and changes in public perceptions. It's not that long since the drinking public seemed to be pouring vast quantities of Anything But Chardonnay down their collective throats, a shift in consumption that had winemakers scrabbling around for a way back once the big buttery styles I used to like went off the boil out there in Consumerland.

And in the wake of the Kiwi Savalanche, you'd be wondering how anything else was going to get a look in, but here's a perfect example of what's out there for the Savvied-out drinker, assuming you're not getting a bit of Semillon in with the Savvy or haven't rediscovered the joys of Riesling.

Hay Shed Hill 2010 Block 6 Chardonnay (4.5* $35) Early picked fruit from thirty-five-year-old dry-grown vines, free run juice, a total lack of malolactic fermentation (so not even a daub of butter in sight)  and minimal exposure to oak delivers fresh apple, citrus  and stone fruit aromas to the nose, concentrated flavours across the palate in an elegant understated style that's simultaneously vibrant and intensely fruity. Very easy to drink now, and could develop over the short to medium term, but the stocks wi;l, I suspect, be gone by autumn.