Deviation Road Pinot Noir 2013


The facts

Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills, produced by Deviation Road.
Sample. Retails at $45. Full disclosure – I also sell this wine.
Closure: screwcap.
Alcohol: 13.5% abv.

The waffle

None. This is good wine! You need no excuses to drink it!

The wine

Tasting note written on day 2.

Pale and almost garnet in the glass. The nose is actually reasonably pronounced. It’s very perfumed – there’s a definite breeze of fresh rose petals – and then fresh red berry fruit, in particular strawberries and raspberries.

On the palate, plenty of fresh red berry fruit – it’s juicy and luscious. The tannins are fine and velvety and there’s good acidity too so it feels beautifully structured. There’s a touch of perfume here too and in the mouth the wine develops a subtle savoury edge. Excellent length.

Arrivo Nebbiolo 2006

Arrivo Nebbiolo 2006

The facts

Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo from Arrivo
Purchased at auction, not readily available
Closure: screwcap
Alcohol: 14.5% abv

The waffle

I’ve been in love with Arrivo Nebbiolos since first tasting them at a wine tasting shortly after we returned to Australia. Nebbiolo can be challenging to drink (all those tannins!) and to make. It’s rarely cheap.

The wine

(Tasting note written on the second day)

Pale and garnet-brown in the glass. Think washed out red-brown bricks.

The nose is not particularly pronounced and there is very little in the way of fresh fruit (there’s a surprise). Rather, things are all about fresh and dried tobacco. It’s very savoury – there’s some cedar too – but there is a touch of dried rose petals too.

The palate is also savoury and the tannins have softened to being pleasantly chewy. Acidity is good and the wine has decent length although there’s not a lot in the way of development.

I’m really conflicted by this wine. I’ve been lucky enough to try various vintages of both this and its serious older sibling, the Lunga Macerazione, in the past and unreservedly loved them. Halliday, on tasting this wine in 2014, raved about it and put a ‘drink by 2020’ on it. And I got this out of the cellar to celebrate a special occasion. And yet … I’m not in love. In my mind, did I big it up way too much? Undoubtedly. Having bought at auction I can’t be 100% confident that it’s spent its life stored perfectly. And not having had the luxury of tasting the same vintage year in year out, I can’t be sure that it’s not just hit a bit of a flat spot.

Will this stop me buying these wines? God no. Next time, I’ll ensure I come to the wine with no preconceptions and no expectations and I’ll probably be blown away!

Honey Moon Vineyard Rose Brut 2011

20151231_092158wine cat approves

I promised you some more bubbles before the new year kicked in and I’m only just managing to squeeze this in. Appalling form but I suppose that at this time of year it’s to be expected (unless I were one of those people who wrote blog posts months in advance and scheduled them all … maybe one day!).

A few weeks back we were out for dinner vaguely near Belair Fine Wines when Andy suggested we drop in to have a look. While having a little wander, my eyes lighted on these Honey Moon bubbles. I am a HUGE fan of the Honey Moon Shiraz and Pinot Noir so I was keen to try this out.

The Honey Moon wines aren’t cheap – they all (bar the still rosé) seem to hover between $40 and $50 so you may need to save them for special occasions. When it comes to bubbles, in my opinion, ‘special occasion’ is generally ‘day with a “y” in it’!

After the experience of both this and another rosé sparkling, I really think these are wines I am going to have to drink more often because I’ve really enjoyed them, perhaps a little bit above and beyond white bubbles.

This wine is predominantly Pinot Noir – just 13% Chardonnay. The wine is also disgorged on demand – on the side of the bottle it notes that it was disgorged for Belair Fine Wines in September 2014. The theory is that while the wine rests on the yeast lees it remains fresh, vibrant and young and takes on aged characteristics much more slowly Once disgorged, the ‘regular’ sparkling wine ageing process kicks in. Indeed, Bollinger, one of Champagne’s well-known houses, has trademarked ‘RD’ (neatly, ‘recently disgorged’ in English but really ‘récemment dégorgé’ in French), which it uses on one of its (more) premium wines.

Another good thing about this wine is that it arrives in your hands topped with a crown seal. You won’t have to spend time messing with the muselet and lacerating your hands and then breaking the Ming vases when the cork explodes out. Just locate the bottle opener and you’re good to go. I really wish that more sparkling wine came under crown seal – after all, it is what most of these wines are sealed with while they’re ageing, AND it’s easy to open.

So – ticks all round for this wine. If you can find it – it’s definitely worth investing in.

The wine

Salmon pink in colour, with a reasonably pronounced nose showing strawberries and cream, a hint of talciness and citrus.

On the palate, the mousse is incredibly fine and mouth filling. The citrus character is a little more dominant and I suspect it is beefed up by the wine’s excellent, and very persistent, acidity. But this wine is all about strawberries and cream and mixed red berries.


Honey Moon Vineyard Rosé Brut, purchased from Belair Fine Wines for $45
Crown seal.
12.5% abv.

Deviation Road Pinot Gris 2015


Hmmm, I see that I’ve actually only reviewed two Pinot Gris (although one of those was the 2014 Deviation Road wine) and already I find myself thinking “I must find something interesting and different to say about the grape”.

To that end, I turn to Wine Grapes and I hope I’ll find a titbit that is as interesting to others as it is to me. Perhaps not – because the more obscure the wine trivia, the more exciting I find it. But bear with me, because I’ll follow it with some words about a lovely wine.

Pinot Gris is a colour mutation of Pinot Noir and has something of a muddled history in Europe. While generally considered a white wine grape, its colour is variable and can be quite dark – even, apparently, as dark at Pinot Noir. For the most part, if you stick with the idea that it’s a pinky grey (the grape, not the wine – the wine is usually very pale!), you’re on the right track.

Unsurprisingly, for anyone who has suffered one too many pub Pinot Grigios, while it is grown throughout Europe, the largest plantings are in Italy. It is also found in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Wrapping up the rest of the world, a tiny amount is grown in South Africa and … (and this is the really exciting wine geek fact!) Japan.

I’m an unashamed fan of the Deviation Road wines in general, and last summer the 2014 Pinot Gris was a definite highlight and this wine kicks those same goals. Yes, you can go out and buy cheaper Pinot Gris (and probably even cheaper Pinot Grigio!) but with Christmas around the corner, you should treat yourself to a bottle which you pop in the fridge and keep ready for a hot evening.

The wine

Pale straw in colour. The nose is quite pronounced and shows some rich oiliness as well as fresh pear, pear drops and even more super ripe pears.

In the mouth those pear and pear drop characters show up but there’s also refreshing lemon (and good acidity) and lemon pith for added texture. The finish could almost be described as savoury.

The wine smells, tastes and feels lovely.  For me, this wine ticks the boxes of being both interesting and delicious, all in the one package.

Deviation Road Pinot Gris, sample. RRP $28.
12.5% abv.

Deviation Road Altair Rose Brut NV


I do not receive so many samples that the novelty has worn off and one of my favourite packages to receive comes from lovely Adelaide Hills winery, Deviation Road.

I am still yet to visit the cellar door (I feel like I may have already written this earlier this year) which I feel is terribly remiss of me. But I do champion these wines and the Loftia (the winery’s vintage white sparkling) makes a regular appearance in my classes.

I did feel vaguely bad about tasting this wine on my own, as I know that it is a favourite of a friend of mine. But, I do find that if I don’t look at samples sharpish they end up waiting quite a while for their turn on the tasting bench. Plus, it’s been a hot weekend and we’d had a big sushi dinner, and sparkling rosé seemed like just the biscuit … (let’s be honest, that’s the real reason).

The wine

Pale salmon pink in colour. The nose shows off vibrant strawberries and cream, with a zip of citrus and touch of yeastiness.

On the palate the wine comes across as bone dry – the accompanying notes say that the dosage is 9g/L but the excellent acidity means that you don’t really pick this up. The strawberries and cream are there, cut with fresh lemon juice and the wine has a pleasant, almost savoury, finish which has good length.

I don’t drink a lot of sparkling rosé (maybe I need to address this) so I can’t benchmark this wine against anything I’ve recently tasted.

However, against my general tasting background (and I taste/try/drink a reasonable amount) this wine stacks up very favourably. The strawberries and cream character is both very pleasant and what I have come to expect from a pink sparkling. With an rrp of $32 a bottle, this also delivers sound value. It is 50:50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which accounts for the very attractive (and necessary, in my opinion) citrus. 24 months on lees delivers the savoury complexity. It’s lovely that a lot of this (inherently interesting) wine making chit chat shows up in the wine.

Yet again, Kate and Hamish Laurie deliver the goods.

Deviation Road Altair, sample. RRP $32.
12.5% abv.

Deviation Road Pinot Noir 2012


I’ve written before about Deviation Road and how I’m a huge fan of their wines so I’m not going to repeat all of that.

I may have also written about how much I enjoy Pinot Noir. That’s not saying much – I enjoy most good wines and find that if you match mood, food and wine you can’t really go wrong. However, Andy is much less of a wine enthusiast than me, and Pinot Noir is one of the grape varieties where our taste in wine does actually collide (the other biggie in terms of style is Beaujolais). I never have to ask Andy twice if he wants a glass of Pinot.

As with so many wines, Pinot really reflects where and how it’s been grown and made. New World Pinots are typically what I would describe as brighter, more fruit driven wines. Maybe a little more approachable and generally a little less funky than their Burgundian counterparts. Sometimes, especially in cheaper wines, this can leave them seeming a little vacuous, but in smart wines you end up with something very pretty and very drinkable.

As I’ve come to expect with the Deviation Road wines, the Pinot over delivers. We both enjoyed every mouthful and have spent some serious time considering in investing in a case (well, Andy spent 15 seconds and said to buy a case, I’ve been prevaricating about letting the moths out of the wallet).

The wine

In the glass, pale and quite garnet in colour.

The nose is mostly about fresh red fruit – strawberries and raspberries. But there is also some savoury complexity to flesh that out – strawberry leaf, a hint of black olive and even some peppery spice.

Those red berries carry through to the palate, but there’s also a snap of tart redcurrant which feels almost crisp. The tannins are soft and silky and there’s good, finely balanced acidity. There are subtle savoury notes here too but these are more meaty than on the nose. It’s a beautiful wine with excellent length so you get to enjoy it just that little bit more.

If you like smart Pinots, this is definitely a wine you should try.

Sample. Available from the Deviation Road cellar door (Longwood, South Australia) for $45.
13.5% abv.

Deviation Road 2014 Pinot Gris


I am a little fussy about my Pinot Gris. Those made in the more neutral Italian style (and so generally labelled Pinot Grigio) I find lacking in interest. This may be the fault of English pubs, who for so long served dull, dull, and cheap Pinot Grigio as the standard house offering. But those made in the more textural (wine wanker word, I know!), savoury and intense Alsace style (labelled Pinot Gris) I do find myself getting along with. The Adelaide Hills in particular appears to be a happy hunting ground for this style of Pinot Gris. My experience thus far leads me to believe that these are wines that generally benefit drinking young and that the wineries that are getting ‘it’ right are getting ‘it’ right consistently.

Deviation Road is one such winery. I am a huge fan of Kate and Hamish Laurie’s Longwood outfit (although, despite living about half an hour down the road, I’ve never got myself to the cellar door). I’ve been lucky enough to sample their new releases a couple of years in a row, and around the middle of last year I interviewed Kate for an essay. Kate is probably the easiest interviewee I’ve dealt with ever.

So I have a massive soft spot for these wines. I was impressed by the 2013 Pinot Gris so I was keen to have a look at the 2014. In addition, I’d very recently tasted the Pinot Gris which had picked up several gongs at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show. I’d been rather underwhelmed by that wine but I was interested to see how the Deviation Road equivalent (at almost twice the price) would stack up.

In brief, the Deviation Road more than stacks up. I would much rather have, enjoy and savour one bottle of the Deviation Road Pinot Gris than the equivalent two bottles of the medal winner. This just proves to me (yet again) that while wine shows have their place, punters need to be aware that not every wine is entered and the show results are best viewed as a rough guide, rather than a definitive state of the nation.

The wine

The nose shows quite pronounced pear and pear drop characters, with some green apple and slight melon.

The palate shows off the pear – ripe, but not overripe and none of the potentially confected pear drop that I saw on the nose. Green apple, citrus and an all important touch of warm spice all make an appearance. There is good acidity, coupled with excellent mouth feel and texture as well as good length.

I think that this wine more than demonstrates that it’s possible to buy wine that is both approachable and classy. With a recommended retail price of $28 it may not fall into your every day drinking price bracket but it is definitely worth every penny.

Sample, RRP $28. Deviation Road is distributed by Negociants so it shouldn’t be too hard to track down and you can buy the 2013 through the Deviation Road website.
12.5% abv.

Tempus Two 2011 Pinot Gris


Pinot Gris is one of those grapes that tends to excite some discussion regarding style. In Italy you find some generally lightweight and inoffensive wines, labelled (in Italian, funnily enough) as Pinot Grigio. And in France (in the Alsace, one of my favourite regions and sadly one I’m yet to visit) it’s labelled as Pinot Gris and tends to be made in a slightly weightier, more complex style.

This latter is definitely my preference and there does seem to be some consistency with Australian producers using the French or Italian grape name in order to mark out the style of the wine in the bottle. Of course, this is tending towards a convention, rather than mandate, so it’s still very much a case of caveat emptor.

I picked up this Tempus Two 2011 Pinot Gris from the local bottle shop where it was marked down to $17 a bottle. Usual pricing is around $10 more and according to the internet, a retail price of around the $25-27 mark seems about right.

Tempus Two wines have the funky little pewter ‘labels’ that make them stand out on the shelf so this wine should be easy to spot.

In the glass, the wine was pale straw with just a hint of green to it. The nose was a little tight, not giving up too much, but there was a slightly spicy characteristic along with crisp pear and apple and a touch of lemon. Things looked promising.

In the mouth, the same pear and apple came through and the acidity was pretty good. Unfortunately, the wine came across as a touch unbalanced with the alcohol really dominating the finish along with some unripe pear.

The wine had good mouth feel and weight to it: it had the extra oomph that I’d expect from a Pinot Gris but overall I felt the palate just didn’t live up to the nose.

I won’t be rushing back to buy up the shop’s remaining discounted stock: the back label is quite explicit that this is a wine for drinking young and a tiny part of me also wonders if this bottle had been subjected to some slightly less than ideal storage at some point … Having said that, I will be keeping an eye out for the 2012 (current release) and giving that a go. There was enough of interest in this bottle to merit a look.

$17 from Cellarbrations, Flagstaff Hill.
12.5% abv.

Ochota Barrels 2011 Strange Little Girl Arneis


I spent a long time complaining that Italian whites were boring. I maintained they didn’t taste of anything and if they did they had an unpleasant oily, nutty character to them that didn’t agree with me.

However, my attitude to wine is that if I don’t like something, I don’t understand it and I should try more of it. So I persisted with Italian whites and they continued to disappoint me. Until I tried a Roero Arneis one day in a restaurant.

And now I am something of poster girl for Arneis. Luckily for me, there is a fair bit being grown in Australia and it’s readily available, even from big chain bottle shops.

Ochota Barrels is a small, highly regarded Adelaide Hills winery. It’s taken me an age to get around to trying the wines (despite managing to cheerfully recommend them to others – I figure recommending something you want to try is valid) and earlier this year I picked up the Arneis from Belair Fine Wines. I seem to recall that the wine was marked down to $27 (from what, I don’t remember).

In the glass the wine was a pale gold colour. The nose was quite pronounced, showing preserved lemon with some honeysuckle and a slight nutty character.

In the mouth, there was good and persistent line of acidity, with definite herbal notes: think anise characters like fennel and dill, some marzipan/bitter almond nuttiness that was not too pronounced, and a well balanced mouthfeel. The finish zipped in with some raw, fresh lemon.

This was a well balanced and integrated wine and one that I desperately wanted to love (you know – all the hype about finally trying one of these wines), but the leanness and the raw citrus edge just made it fall slightly short of the expectation I’d set.

I think the problem here was all about me. The Ochota Barrels website doesn’t list a current vintage Arneis so I’m probably not going to have a chance to revisit this wine. On the one hand, this is a shame, but on the other, it means I’ll just have to keep my eyes open and pick up something else from the same stable.

This wine was purchased from Belair Fine Wines for $27.
Closure: screwcap (I think).
Alcohol:  12.5% abv.
Bottle 214/286.

Adelaide Hills Crush Festival

View Crush – Cellared Guide in a larger map

Direct link to map:

This weekend sees the Adelaide Hills play host to the Crush Festival. Most of the events take place on Sunday but a few wineries are hosting events across the long weekend.

When you’re out visiting a wine region you always need to know where the closest cellar door is, so I’ve put together a google map detailing all the participating cellar doors as well as some information about opening times, events and whether bookings are required.

I’ve taken the information from the Crush brochure. The beauty is that when you’re out and about this weekend, you’ll be able to load up this map on your smartphone and work out where to head to next. In theory, no wasted time driving around in circles and no disappointment on arriving somewhere and discovering it’s hosting a ticketed only event.

Let me know what you think!