Henry’s Drive 2010 Dead Letter Office Shiraz


One of the perks of my gig at (the sadly now defunct) Sumptuous was the lovely selection of wines I got to taste. While I did have input in the theme of the wines, and I did get to make suggestions as to wines to taste, there was always at least one wine I didn’t pick. Which I thought was great, because it was a surprise. And I’m also inherently pretty lazy. When it comes to dining out, the shorter the menu, the better. If it comes as a set menu – result. Set menu with matching wines – double result. I don’t have to make any decisions!

So I was pretty happy to visit my GPO box and find two bottles from Henry’s Drive. Henry’s Drive is based in Padthaway (Limestone Coast), in the south eastern corner of South Australia. It’s not a brand I’d come across before so I came to both bottles with no preconceptions.

Henry’s Drive has the bulk of its vineyards in Padthaway, with just 30 acres in McLaren Vale. The fruit for this Shiraz is sourced from both regions: an almost even split in this release, the scales just tipping slightly in favour of McLaren Vale (55:45).

In the glass the wine was intense. Ruby red in colour, with a pronounced nose showing black plum, spice, licorice and tar. There was also a hint of vegetal character.

This black fruit dominance carried through onto the palate but there was also vanilla, spice and a touch of black pepper on the back palate. The wine had a lovely savoury finish with an aniseed/licorice kick to it. The wine had a good level of acidity and soft tannins that provided weight and structure but weren’t drying. The tannins, alcohol and fruit were all very well integrated, making this a well balanced and easy to drink wine. It might be 14.5% alcohol but you wouldn’t know it.  While this is lovely to drink now, you don’t need to be in a hurry to drink it either.

Although this was a sample, the RRP is $25. If I’d paid $25 for it I’d have been pretty happy. The internet suggests that you may be lucky and able to find it under $20, in which case you’d be even happier.

This wine was a sample.
14.5% abv.

BoomBoom! 2011 Syrah


Something I need to do is not walk into a bottle shop until I’ve actually made a decision about what I’m going to buy. Almost without fail, I will stand slack jawed, looking at the wines, unable to choose. Mostly, this is because I want to choose something interesting and different and new and exciting and with those kinds of criteria it’s too easy to dismiss almost everything on the shelves as not quite up to standard.

I was having one of those days on Wednesday, when I wandered into East End Cellars. Normally I am quite on the ball but other than knowing that I wanted a red, I was dismissing a lot of wines out of hand and getting grumpier by the minute.

Then my eyes alighted on the Boom Boom!. Had this wine been from the Barossa or McLaren Vale I’d probably still be sitting here, thirsty and grumpy. But this is a Syrah from Washington (state, in the north west corner of the US). I’m pretty sure I haven’t had a WA Shiraz/Syrah before (I’m actually pretty sure I haven’t had a WA anything before) but I do know I have two pretty special bottles from that region in the cellar awaiting a ‘special occasion’. This wine would be a figurative dipping of the toes in the water.

The wine is made by Charles Smith Wines, a producer about whom I know nothing. So do I tell you about shiraz, the producer, the region? That’s a good question. I think the region is worth a mention because many people seem unaware that places in the US outside California produce wine. I guess if you mention Washington to an Australian they’ll think of either Starbucks or Microsoft or both. And maybe Frasier, if they’re old enough.

I’m not going to claim to be familiar with wines of the Pacific North-West but I have had a couple of Pinot Noirs from Oregon – both pretty classy wines at their respective price points. Washington is further north again than Oregon and borders Canada, so this is not hot climate wine making. The state’s first vines were planted in 1825 and the first winery appeared at Walla Walla in the 1860s, although vitis vinifera grapes (the ones we typically associate with winemaking) weren’t planted until 1871. Today there are over 700 wineries, with red wines dominating production.

In the glass, this wine looks young. It’s quite deep and intense and very purple/ruby in colour.

The nose is quite pronounced, with forest fruits, undergrowth and a pleasing earthiness to it. There’s a layer of vanilla over the top and some licorice and aniseed notes.

On the palate, there was some really tart, almost crunchy, red and black fruits at the start which are rounded out by some bitter chocolate. The tannins are soft but there’s good acidity and quite a good mouthfeel. The wine does finish slightly hot (it’s only 13.5% abv) but I think that’s a case of there not being quite enough fresh fruit going on. While the length was not bad the fresh fruit really dropped away quickly and I’d describe this as quite a lean wine.

If you’re after a big bold Australian style fruit bomb, then this wine is not for you, but I actually quite enjoyed it.

What I didn’t enjoy was that I paid $32 for it. At that price, it’s underperforming. However, if you’re lucky enough to live in America, the current release (the ’12) retails for $US15 (which translates as $AU16 and frankly, if I’d paid that for it, I’d be a LOT more enthusiastic).

This wine was purchased from East End Cellars for $32.
13.5% abv.

WBW80: Dry Rose


I was pretty pleased to spot a discussion about the return of Wine Blogging Wednesday on facebook. Wine Blogging Wednesday, after running for ages, has had something of a hiatus but in its earlier incarnation I was a reasonably regular participant and I often found it a good excuse to try something very left of field.

Of course, a bit more regular writing* and engaging with the wine blogging community is no bad thing – especially as I’ll be heading off to the Digital Wine Communications Conference in a couple of months.

I won’t lie – I was pretty disappointed that the theme for the return of WBW was dry rosé. Here in the southern hemisphere it’s the middle of winter and rosé is the last thing on my mind (especially this week – our twenty year old hot water service has just given up the ghost!).

But if nothing else I figured it would be good practice for summer. My initial thoughts had been to head out and find some new, quirky, different, small batch … and then I ran out of time to hit the shops where I’d be able to find such gems. I ended up with a bottle of 2013 Turkey Flat Rosé, from South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Turkey Flat is a well known, established and well regarded winery with some seriously old vines. Last time I was up there (yes, I’m privileged enough to about an hour and a half’s drive away) we came away with a few reds so I was expecting good things.

Still, enough waffle – and on to the wine, a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Dolcetto. Make of that what you will.

In the glass, the wine is a very pretty pale salmon pink.

The nose is pretty pronounced but I didn’t get a lot of fresh fruit. Think confected: pink lollies, sherbert and musk.

On the palate the wine is dry (residual sugar is actually 4.8g/L so some may detect the merest hint of sweetness) with good, refreshing acidity. Although the palate starts off reflecting the confected nose, there is some tannic structure and (hoorah!) some fresh strawberries and raspberries.

If you can’t tell, I was a bit disappointed in this wine. Not because it’s a bad wine but because it’s a style of wine that just doesn’t appeal to me. I know there are tons of people for whom this style works and they will love this wine but I look for something a bit more steely, serious and stern in a rosé.

If you’re looking for something fun, pink and relatively uncomplicated to drink this summer (wherever you are!) this could definitely be for you.

This wine was purchased from Dan Murphy’s for about $17.
Closure: screw cap.
Alcohol: 13% abv.

* If you’re worried about my blogging commitment, I do write a food blog, Eating Adelaide, and I know the DWCC organisers are keen to get more involvement from food bloggers … talk about hedging your bets!

Tim Adams 2001 Aberfeldy

Tim Adams 2001 Aberfeldy

Another wine from the cellar and I didn’t date the tasting note but it was a while ago. This is a Clare Valley Shiraz from the very well known (in South Australia, at least) Tim Adams stable.

The grapes come from the eponymous vineyard, first planted by the Birks (of Wendouree) in 1904. And some of this old stock remains – now well over 100 years old, but in 2001 the vineyard was just approaching its centenary.

This is not their cheap, every day quaffer and the winemaking notes (thankfully still available on the website) reflect that. Basket press, plenty of time on skins, and a year on both new and one year old American oak.

I can’t remember how much I paid for this bottle, but I know that I bought it at the winery in very early 2004. It is still available but you can expect to look for it and pay between $55 and $65 a bottle. When it was released it received plenty of praise and even today, at twelve years of age, it is looking very good. The current release (2009) sells through the website for $50.

Unlike many big family sounding names in the Australian wine industry Tim Adams Wines is still owned by Tim Adams and his wife and he is still chief winemaker.

In the glass the wine looked remarkably young: very intense, and more ruby in colour than garnet. I was very surprised because prior to opening I’d been concerned that I’d be drinking a lovely wine that, yet again, was past its prime.

The nose was quite pronounced, with fresh blackberries, pepper, with chocolate and leather. The palate was showing the age more than either the appearance or nose. The tannins were quite drying and, while there was a burst of fresh blackberry, the tertiary characters were much more apparent. There was a lot of chocolate and the wine was very savoury and leathery, with a meaty finish. Although the length was good the complexity of flavours did drop off quite quickly.

This is one wine that I feel I got to in the nick of time and I was very pleased that I did. If you have a stash of the ’01 I’d be taking a look at it now, at least, if not drinking it up.

This wine was purchased from the winery in 2004.
Closure: cork.
Alcohol: 13.7% abv.

Greenock Creek Seven Acre Shiraz 1995


Yep – you read that right – 1995. This wine has been loitering in the cellar – not being drunk because it was “too good” or “too special” (and, for a good chunk of that time because I was living on the other side of the world). Mostly, I drag a bottle out of the cellar and it’s turned to vinegar which is neither too good nor too special. There have been some notable exceptions but they are few and far between. Drink your wine people – the special occasion just needs to be a Friday or Saturday night.

Greenock Creek doesn’t appear to bother with a website but the wines are held in high regard and command scary prices. I’m vaguely depressed by the fact that, as a poor uni student, I was able to afford this wine which, if I could find it now, would probably set me back the best part of $100 (the current release seems to retail around $50-60). In June 1998 Robert Parker Jnr scored this wine 98 in Wine Advocate. While I care very little for scores, this is interesting because 1995 was not an awesome year in the Barossa. Of course, that was 14 years ago and most of the drinking windows I could find suggested that this wine would be past its best.

Well, it was past its best but it was by no means knackered.

The cork came out cleanly, easily and in one piece – something that always fills me with hope!

In the glass it is surprisingly youthful – less dense than you expect from a Barossa Shiraz but still pleasingly garnet in colour.

On the nose, blackberries, soft, old leather, and slightly meaty, with just a whiff of the fortified about it.

The palate still has masses of blackfruit – surprisingly so, there’s good acidity and chewy tannins but they are now drying, which is disappointing. There’s also anise and dark, bitter chocolate.

Almost a text book aged Shiraz, really. No doubt had this been drunk a few years ago it would have an amazing wine.

This wine was bought at the cellar door in October 1997. I didn’t record the price.
Closure: cork.

* I care very little for scores but note this here for interest.

Charles Melton 2009 Grains of Paradise Shiraz


I certainly don’t want readers of cellared to think that I spend my life knocking back expensive and exotic wines while I sit in front of the tv eating a cheese toastie. I most certainly don’t and as far as I’m concerned the best wines are those that retail at a price most people can afford but that punch well above their weight.

However, it’s also true that every now and then people want (or need) to buy celebration wines. You know – the wines for significant birthdays, engagements … I’m very privileged in that a few times a year I teach WSET courses where I get to try wines that I enjoy but generally don’t have the opportunity to  buy myself.

The Charles Melton 2009 Grains of Paradise Shiraz, from the Barossa Valley, is one such wine. The Charles Melton website lists it as $58.90 but sold out, my bottle was purchased from the Edinburgh Cellars where it retails for $68 but other internet prices look a little higher. If you’re not in Australia it may actually be cheaper than that to pick up (hint to any readers in the UK!).

In the glass the wine is super dense and ruby in colour. It smells of plums, black cherries, Black Forest cake, but there’s also something smoky and meaty there – think salami and cured meats.

On the palate, there is tons of black fruit, laced with vanilla and toasted coconut. There’s some acidity and plenty of tannins, but they’re beautifully soft. The really lovely juicy fruit is persistent and the wine has good length.

With so much fruit and tannin I would not be scared of cellaring this wine for a while but it is also drinking perfectly well now. It really depends on what you look for in a wine. Many people (particularly South Australians who are brought up on big, bold, fruit forward Shiraz) will quite possibly prefer it younger but if you are patient, and have good cellaring facilities, I imagine it will reward you well.

You can see how an older vintage is maturing with this review of the 2006 Grains of Paradise.

The wine was purchased from the Edinburgh Cellars, $68.
Closure: screw cap.