Our monthly lunch group met recently to enjoy yet another fine luncheon at the Santa Barbara Club, this time with a wine theme of Australian wines, a rare exploration for us.
Chef Humberto Perez was challenged to prepare a 5 course menu to pair with the wines without knowing what specifically was being brought. We did not have any whites as had been expected. The menu:
Seafood causa with purple potato and Dungeness crab roll with fresh local halibut tempura
Rack of lamb stroganoff with home made pasta-mint
Venison medallion with parsnip-date puree and foie gras
Gouda, triple cream, Humboldt goat and blue cheese
We had 6 flights of wines, the last one being dessert wines:
First flight of 3:
1994 ROSEMOUNT ESTATE MOUNTAIN BLUE SHIRAZ/ CABERNET SAUVIGNON MUDGEE NEW SOUTH WALES- all of these first 3 exhibited an extreme youthful, vibrant rich dark purple color; this was very pleasant giving up noticeable talc laced forward black currant and black raspberry notes with cranberry and black cherry coming end by mid palate along with a touch of earthiness and minerals; it finished a bit on the dry side as the tannins took over; this still needs time to integrate and balance out although a good drink now.
1997 JAMES IRVINE GRAND MERLOT EDEN VALLEY BAROSSA VALLEY SOUTH AUSTRALIA- this was very giving unleashing a bounty full of fresh, ripe fruit flavors with especially spicy and sweet cranberry and cherry notes prevailing; it was served up in a medium to full body, had nice depth and a long welcomed finish.
1996 [CHRIS RINGLAND] “there rivers” DRY GROWN SHIRAZ BAROSSA- the label only showed “three rivers”; years later, it reflected the winemaker`s name which I inserted here for recognition; this was bottle #0626 of 1,200 total bottles; decanted about 2 hours prior to serving; true to form from this producer, it was full blown, serious juice from a concentrated extraction evident from the color on and all the way through the back end; the nose had some bacon cranberry, plum, red and black cherry notes which continued on in the taste profile; it was full bodied and had a tannic backbone which will carry this for decades upon decades; it`s not even close to maturity at this stage.
Second flight of 3:
1998 WOLF BLASS PLATINUM LABEL MEDLANDS VINEYARD SHIRAZ BAROSSA VALLEY- this was the first single vineyard wine from this producer and it showed extremely well; with such inviting aromatics, it introduced a strong hint of goodness that prevailed from this point forward; there was a sweetness although not cloying that melded with the dark fruit with rich, ripe cranberry and black cherry most evident; mild bacon and white pepper accents embellish the taste profile as well as the soft mouthfeel.
1998 HARDYS “EILEEN HARDY” SHIRAZ McLAREN-VALE- PADTHAWAY-CLAIRE- this is another winner with lots of depth and complexity and major fruitiness especially with blackberry and cranberry notes; it had a full body and nice length and well integrated oak; it`s structure promises longevity, a good thing for this wine.
2001 SHIRVINGTON SHIRAZ McLAREN-VALE- the winners just keep on coming; here`s another big, full treat that merits full discovery over time and in small sips; it`s big and bold and has an abundance of fruit to share with spicy, vanilla, sandalwood, mild black peppered sweet plum and black cherry which is most noticeable along with some oakiness moving toward integration; the strength of the fruit stays the full course and carries through the long finish.
Third flight of 2:
2001 d`ARENBERG THE DEAD ARM SHIRAZ McLAREN VALE- it is named for a condition that affects old vines resulting in concentrated fruit on the remaining arm of the vine; another treat with a big boy`s energy behind it offering an abundance of sweet, dark fruity flavors especially containing licorice accented black cherry and berry notes; with nice mouthfeel, it continued on and on for extended pleasure.
2003 d`ARENBERG THE DEAD ARM SHIRAZ McLAREN VALE- having 2 different vintages close to each other from the same source provided an interesting comparison; I found then to be very different and am not sure what, if any, the vintage differences may have played as the influencing factor; this bottle had some mint infused, wood spiced dark fruit forwardness with black currant and blackberry notes most evident; it had a great soft and easy on the palate texture and good length.
Fourth flight of 2:
2001 CLARENDON HILLS ASTRALIS VINEYARD SHIRAZ McLAREN VALE- 14.3% abv; I noticed the alcohol content after experiencing a significant hit of heat at first which then fortunately dissipated somewhat and allowed for more pleasure that pain; the color was dark almost inky purple black; the nose was suggestive of something big and bold and that proved to be true; this is a highly extracted intense wine that offers a bounty of aromas and an explosion of tastes; I got coffee and chocolate blackberry and plum with a hint of flintiness; it`s full bodied, tannic with great extension.
2002 KAY BROTHERS AMERY VINEYARD BLOCK 6 SHIRAZ McLAREN VALE- 15% abv; this flight was paired perfectly as this wine almost reaches to heights of the Clarendon Hills; the color is seriously dark and inky, the aromas are so intense, one does not need to move closer than a foot away from the glass and the taste profile is full on black cherry and blackberry with a dark chocolate overtone; there is some violets, rosemary and licorice and much more coming in as it unfolds and expands; this wine is full bodied, tannic and long.
Fifth flight of 3:
2004 MITOLA ”SAVITAR” SHIRAZ McLAREN-VALE- from a winery that started in 1999, this was made from 50-80 year old vines and aged in 100% new French hogheads; interesting alcohol content on the label shows it is 14.12-16% abv; the wine is extremely concentrated and has years to go before being really approachable; the nose is redolent of bacon flavored black cherry which stays the course throughout and is joined by mid palate by dark chocolate and blackberry notes; its power almost overwhelms, so much so, it needs a lot of time to mellow out and gain some finesse; it would have been better if I would have decanted it way ahead of time instead of just before serving.
2004 KAESLER WOMS SHRIAZ/ CABERNET SAUVIGNON BAROSSA VALLEY- WOMS = weapons of mass seduction which is mindful of the previous owner of Napa`s Chateau Potelle, Jean-Noel Marketta`s use of VGS for very good shit; 15.5% abv; 65% Shiraz, 35 % Cabernet Sauvignon; this wine fits perfectly into the following the last flight; it`s also big and bold and offers in your face notes to immediately get one`s attention; even with the high alcohol content, it`s not that noticeable; in fact, the wine has some elegance and grace; I liked the smooth and soft mouthfeel and that it is “only” medium to full bodied; the concentrated dark fruit profile is pleasant and endearing; the oak seems to be integrated and the flavors of spicy fresh plum, blackberry and black currant are forward but not intrusive; this should have the stuffing to go for a long ride.
2004 TWO HANDS LILY`S GARDEN SHIRAZ McLAREN VALE- I liked this one a lot; it had nice balance along with a pleasant and easy on the palate sensory experience; there`s nice dark chocolate accented blackberry and black raspberry notes delivered in a smooth texture and carrying all of the treasures for a long ride before tailing off; this may have been my WOTD for what it had to give in the present moment.
Sixth flight of 3 dessert wines:
2001 CHATEAU RIEUSSEC SAUTERNES- 750 ml; somewhat green notes denoting youthfulness is almost as visible as the taste suggests as the color is of green yellow gold; nonetheless, it gives wonderful honeyed lemon butter, pineapple and caramel flavors served up in a thick luscious texture and, contrary to many previous bottles I`ve had, is devoid of the usual honeysuckle notes; I`ve had mostly 375s which could account for the increased youthful character for this one; this has bracing acidity and although different, it is as good as it has been acclaimed to be.
NV CHAMBERS ROSEWOOD VINEYARDS RARE TOKAY RUTHERGLEN VICTORIA- 375 ml; this comes from a family that first started in 1858 and is still in ownership; more recent labels show Rare Muscadelle; 17% abv; this gem is a treasure all unto itself and is such a wonderful bring by one of our members; truly rare, it is the color of molasses which actually shows up in the taste profile intermixed with burnt toast prune and plum notes; the texture is very thick and almost requiring spooning this out of the glass as opposed to drinking it; syrupy it is and a real sweet treat.
1993 AU BON CLIMAT “THUMBS UP” LATE HARVEST RIESLING SANTA MARIA VALLEY- 375 ml; 15% abv; the label lists the winemakers as being Jim Clendenen [ABC], Bob Lindquist [Qupe], Jim Adeleman, assistant winemaker at ABC and Qupe and Enrique Rodriguez, cellarmaster of ABC and the wineries first employee; honeyed pear and green apple notes are delivered in a thick and creamy texture; it has nice acidity and is very concentrated and serious from the nose through the palate coating finish.
This wine theme is a rare one for our group and certainly gave us an opportunity to explore regions, producers and wines less familiar for most of us. It was extra special to have more than just Shiraz and those other wines we had showed charm and elegance that offset some of the big and robustness of the more popular Aussie Shiraz varietal.
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