Wine Australia’s Regional Roundup Tasting – Jan 28/11 Ticket Info

January 26 is Australia Day, equivalent to our July 1, Canada Day.  On Friday January 28, Wine Australia will be having their Regional Round-Up tasting.  Additional wine tastings of great Aussie wines will also be held in April and in June.  I have the details for all 3 events below.  If you want to attend next week’s event, buy your tickets soon before they sell out! Tickets are $49 each—it’s a bargain ticket price for the sheer number of wines that will be in the room.


Wine Australia’s Regional Round-Up

Date: Friday, January 28th, 2011
Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm

Venue: Buschlen Mowatt Art Gallery
Tickets available here: House Wine

Celebrate Australia Day (which is on January 26th) by getting to know her more intimately. Offering an unending variety of wine, this sizable country is blessed with a great diversity of regions. Revisit familiar favourites like Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Hunter Valley as well as acclaimed cooler areas such as Margaret River and Adelaide Hills. You will also have a chance to discover lesser-known regions including the Yarra Valley and Langhorne Creek. A great way to compare and contrast wines from cooler pockets with those from warmer climes—and there are over 60 wines to try!

A sneak peak at some of the wines…

  • Yabby Lake Pinot Noir 06
  • Camelback Block Two Shiraz 07
  • D’Arenberg the Money Spider Rousanne 08
  • Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 06
  • Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet 08
  • Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Cabernet 07
  • Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 08
  • Brokenwood Semillon 08

WINERIES FOR THE REGIONAL ROUND-UP

Barossa Valley Estates Henry’s Drive Shingleback
Bleasdale Jacob’s Creek St. Hallett
Brokenwood Jim Barry Tahbilk
Camelback Kangarila Road Thorn-Clarke
Chapel Hill Katnook Estate Treasury
Cumulus Langmeil Wirra Wirra
d’Arenberg Petaluma Xanadu
Evans & Tate Peter Lehmann Yabby Lake
Gemtree Ring.bolt Yalumba
Grant Burge Robert Oatley Yering Station
Heggies Shaw + Smith

Event #2: Down Under Mix Up

Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011
Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Details and Tickets available here: House Wine

Event #3: Summer Sipper

Date: Saturday, June 25th, 2011
Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Details & Tickets available here: House Wine

A Visit to Chateau Ste Michelle and Airfield Estates in Washington State

This past weekend I made a short trip across the border to visit a few wineries in Washington State.  One of the days was a visit to Chateau Ste Michelle and Airfield Estates, located in Woodinville, WA.   It was quite a contrast in scale, but the people I spoke to at both wineries were passionate about the wines that they produced.  I like that.  What did I try, and do I have any recommendations for you?  Of course!

Chateau Ste. Michelle

I spent an hour at Chateau Ste. Michelle, being led through a tasting of wines with one of their staff members, Bob.  I appreciate all the time Bob spent with me, considering how busy the tasting room was at that time.  I tried white, red, and dessert wines.

On the white wine side, I thought their Cold Creek Chardonnay 2008 (US$25.99) was very elegant.  The Cold Creek vineyard is the oldest and hottest vineyard owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle in the Columbia Valley.  This wine was medium golden in the glass. Vanilla, oak, lemon and apple aromas.  It was medium body with toasty, lemon and light spice on the palate.  Light acidity to complement the roundness of the wine.  Spice and lemon on the finish.  Would go nicely with some salmon.

An easy drinking white was their Pinot Gris 2008 (US$14.99). Pale lemon in colour.  Lemon, spice and apple aromas.  Crisp acidity, with apple, melon and oak flavour.  Medium body with nice round mouthfeel.

For their red wines, I have a few recommendations.  The Cold Creek Merlot 2007 (US$30) is big and bold.  Deep puple in colour.  Vanilla and cherry on the nose.  Round and smooth on the palate, with tannins kicking in mid palate.  Flavours of ripe black cherries and a hint of chocolate.  Medium length with a very drink finish. Drink now or wait a year.

Canoe Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Horse Heaven Hills was also another big wine.  Canoe Ridge is their mid-tier wine level. The grapes for this wine comes from their Horse Heaven Hills vineyard.  Deep purple in colour.  Purple fruit, vanilla, and sweet ripe plum aromas.  Juicy plums and cherry flavours along with vanilla.  Medium body with fine tannins and a dry soft finish.  There was a hint of cedar and some chocolate on the palate as well.  This wine coated my glass.  Very nice.

My last red wine pick is their Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.  Ethos is the top tier wine level from Chateau Ste Michelle.  This wine received 90 points from Wine Spectator and 92 points from The Wine Advocate, and is my top wine pick!  The wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 3% Syrah. The wine is deep garnet in colour.  A nice nose, with aromas of capsicum, cherry, and meat.  Round on the palate with soft tannins.  Meaty, cassis, black cherry, and chocolate flavours.  The wine went through a very light filtering before being bottled, so don’t be surprised to see a bit of sediment in your glass.

For dessert wines, I was infatuated with their Eroica Riesling Ice Wine 2006 (US$60 for 375ml bottle). This wine was made in conjunction with Dr. Loosen from Germany. The Riesling grapes were harvested from their Horse Heaven Vineyard on Oct 31, which according to Chateau Ste Michelle is very rare.  This is only the fifth time in their 40 year history that this has occurred.  It scored 93 pts in Wine Spectator. The wine was a medium golden colour in the glass.  Petrol, flowers, lemon nose.  Very pretty. Medium body, with a wonderful lime flavour, petrol, and good acidity to balance the sugar and fruit.  Medium sweetness.  Lovely lime finish.

Airfield Estates Winery

Airfield Estates winery is a family-owned operation.  It has passed through a few generations.  Why “Airfield Estates”?  During WWII the US Military asked the Miller family if they could setup an airbase on their land to train pilots. The airbase continued operations until the mid 1940’s. Shortly after WWII came to an end, the pilots moved off-site and the recently constructed buildings were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only bidder turned out to be H. Lloyd Miller. These unique buildings became the headquarters of the Miller family’s farming operations up to today. You will notice an aeronautical theme to all their wine labels.  They have a Thunderbolt, Lightning, and Mustang wine, which are three different types of fighter aircraft.

A white wine I particularly liked was their Gewurztraminer 2009 (US$14).  Pale lemon with a green tinge in the glass. Lots of lychee and pear aromas.  Some spiciness with pear and lychee flavour.  Medium length.

Another white I liked was their Lightning 2008 (US$18). This is a Rhone-inspired blend, consisting of 50% Viognier, 25% Rousanne, 20% Chardonnay, and 5% Marsanne.  It scored 90 Points on Wine Advocate. Pineapple and vanilla aromas. Medium acidity but still quite a creamy mouthfeel.  Peach and some oak flavours.  Medium length.

On the red side, I enjoyed their Mustang 2008 (US$25). This is a blend of 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, and 2% Mourvedre.  I had not heard of the Counoise grape before.  From Wikipedia: “Counoise is a dark-skinned wine grape grown primarily in the Rhône valley region of France. Counoise adds a peppery note and good acidity to a blended red wine, but does not have much depth of colour or tannin.”  This wine was medium purple in colour.  Quite a complex nose, with aromas of cassis, vanilla, and cherry. Medium body with soft tannins.  Red cherry, raspberry, vanilla, and butterscotch flavours.  Medium length.

Another red wine of note is their Aviator 2008 (US$30). It is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec.  A Bordeaux blend, just missing Carmenere.  Medium garnet in colour.  Capsicum, vanilla, plum and some meatiness on the nose.  Medium plus body.  Round up front, then dry on the finish.  Capsicum, vanilla, and cherry flavours.

If you live in the Vancouver, BC area, it is only a short 2 hour car ride to Woodinville, WA.  There are many wineries in the area for you to explore.  Enjoy!

What is Old World Wine?

Old World wine, strictly defined, are wines produced by historically the wine producing regions of Europe. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain would be the top producers of Old World wine. These countries have been responsible for many innovations in wine making, such as selecting vitis vinifera as producing the most enjoyable wines (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Riesling).The Old World region invented the glass bottle for wine, and sparkling wine, among other accomplishments.

Old World wine is also about a style and a mentality about the land. In the Old World, you hear about “terroir“, and how terroir drives which grapes are grown in a region. For example, in the Rhone Valley, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne are grown. You would not traditionally find these grapes grown in Bordeaux or the Loire Valley.

What is terroir? Terroir is often used to describe the aspects of a wine region such as soil, climate and topography that are often out of the winemaker’s control. These unique features affect the ripening of the grapes, the nutrients that are absorbed from the soil, and more, which combined make the wine from the syrah grape in the Rhone Valley to taste different from syrah made elsewhere in the world. With the thousands of years that wine makers in the Old World have had with experimenting with different grape varieties on different soils, with different slopes and drainage, and climate, they have found the varieties that produce the best wine in each region.

Another aspect of Old World wine, is tradition. Tradition can be good or bad. Traditions help us learn from the past so that we do not have to go through the learning process that our ancestors have gone through. Such as determining that Syrah grows very well in the Rhone Valley. But on the other hand, tradition can be very prescriptive. Telling you that you can only grow Syrah in the Rhone Valley. Some wine makers, may for example want to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. They can, but the wine would not be accredited as AOC in France by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine. This has happened in Italy, where some wine makers in the Tuscany region wanted to grow and produce wine with red grapes other than sangiovese. These wines could not be certified as DOCG of Italy at that time. The wine makers were producing excellent wines, and eventually the Italian wine certification body in Italy relented and made a new category for these Super Tuscan wines, called IGT. So change is possible in the Old World, but it can be a long process.

Old World Wines can also be thought of according to style. If you are thinking of a wine from Bordeaux, you are thinking of a wine, with some fruit, a solid backbone from tannins in the grape and from the oak aging. The wines are restrained. Not super extracted fruit driven wines, with lots of vanilla flavour. In time these Old World style Bordeaux reds evolve in the bottle, with the tannins softening, providing support to the fruit, and the flavours and aromas becoming more complex. Some Old World style wines are produced by the wine maker to reach their peak 5 – 10 or more years after the wines are bottled.

That’s a brief overview of what is Old World wine. Much more can be said about Old World wines, and maybe I will discuss more in future blogs. Enjoy.