Saturday, March 1, 2008

Australian Wine at the Windward Grille, Essex, MA

Spunky Mommy’s husband and I are engineers at the same company. A group of our friends went to a wine dinner at the Windward Grille in Essex, Massachusetts on the 28th of February. The wine portion was hosted by Ross Lochrie of Horizon Beverage Company, Avon, MA. Ross is from Australia so it was fun to get his perspectives on the wine.

Australian wines can be very interesting. We all have seen the mass produced wines from Down Under, but just as with any other region, there are wineries that produce unique wines, some regional and some single vineyard.

The common denominator for all of the wines we had at this tasting was that the growing conditions are tough. The weather is hot, dry and the soils are poor. Grapes produce high quality fruit in these conditions. All of the wines were intense, full of flavor and very bold.

Another common trait I have found is the minty characteristics of many Australian wines. The vineyards are generally near eucalyptus trees which will impart their flavors and aromas to the wine. This is part of the Australian wine scene and adds an interesting layer of complexity that many regions just cannot replicate. I’ve seen this in a few single vineyard wines from California, but don’t expect this from New York or French wines!

Thanks for the photo, Spunky Mommy!
To start things off, we were served a baby spinach salad tossed with Portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, crispy bacon and balsamic dressing topped with Great Hill Blue cheese. Although this dressing had balsamic vinegar, it was not a vinegary dressing making it compatible with the wine.

Ross served us Water Wheel Memsi White. Ross tells us that the vineyard is planted in red, dusty clay soil and is flooded once in the spring. This is the only water the vines get so the grapes are very concentrated. Memsie is stainless steel tank fermented.

Memsie White
Water Wheel
Vintage: 2006
Blend: Sauvignon Blanc 40% Semillon 30% Roussanne 21% Chardonnay 9%
Alcohol: 12.7%
TA: 5.3
pH: 3.24
Residual Sugar: 11.8

Pale straw yellow, honey, pear, litchi, apple, lemon. Sweet, crisp, with a buttery mouth feel. Long fruity finish. I got a little black pepper in the long finish. This will go well with sea food and white meats. This is a good wine that I would enjoy chilled on it's own on a hot day. The viscous mouth feel is interesting and the fruitiness is refreshing.

Thanks for the photo, Spunky Mommy!The next course was a Portobello Stuffed Mushroom. The mushroom was stuffed with crabmeat and topped with mozzarella cheese.

Ross noticed that I was taking tasting notes. Jokingly, he commented, “there is one in every crowd.” “One! Heck Ross, there are four more engineers at this table!” Then he broke out the Longwood 12 Stave Shiraz/Grenache. The Grenache component came from 60 year old bush vines in McLaren Flat. The Shiraz is estate grown at Longwood. All fruit is fermented in 1 and 2 ton open tanks. Ferments are hand plunged three times daily. Wine is basket pressed directly to oak to complete malolactic fermentation then racked 3 times prior to bottling. The wine is aged in French and American Hogs heads and Bariques for a total of 18 months.

Longwood clearly is making a high quality product for the retail of $16.99. The yield is kept down to a very low 2 tons per acre. T-bin fermentation and hand punch downs are very labor intensive and I think the effort showed in the wine. (This style of wine making is in our earlier article.

12 Stave
Vintage: 2006
Appellation: McLaren Vale
Varietal: 60% Shiraz, 40% Grenache
Cases Produced: 500
Filtration and fining: Zero fining. Minimal filtration prior to bottling.
Alcohol %: 15.2
Total Acid: 3.58
pH: 3.58
Residual Sugar: 0.8
Color: Garnet

The wine has a mildly smoky nose, cherry, blackberry and elderberry. It has nice tannin structure from the French and American oak combination. Chocolate, mint and eucalyptus. This is a very good wine today and will lay down for up to 8 years. It would be interesting to grab a case of this and taste it over the years.

Thanks for the photo, Spunky Mommy!Next came Lobster Ravioli in an arugala tomato cream sauce. Rather than shredded filling, this ravioli was filled with chunks of lobster. Very good, and remember that we have lobster boats in our front yard, so when I say it is good…

This was a funky pairing. Ross brought out a Craneford “Allison Parsons” Shiraz. An interesting point about Craneford is that they use a old basket press. This is clearly old school but the way it treats the fruit, you get really nice soft, fine tannins. The yield from the sourced vineyards was about four tons per acre which is a good yield for a wine in this price point. The vineyard is located on the edge of the desert resulting in very concentrated fruit. The wine is aged in American and French oak for 12 months.

Allison Parsons Shiraz
Appellation: Barossa Valley
Yields per Acre: 4 t/acres
Cases Produced: 2,000
Wood treatment: American & French Oak
Length of barrel maturation: 12 months
Alcohol %: 15.46
Total Acid: 6.95
pH: 3.73
Residual Sugar: 0.51
Color: Dark purple

Summary: Blueberry, strawberry, pomegranate, sandalwood, and eucalyptus. A very flavorful, fruit forward wine that will do well with some aging. The comments from the table were that it was easier to perceive the fruit characteristics without the oak getting in the way. I feel that the oak treatment was spot on with this wine.

This is a Taster A photo.The main course was Cranberry Balsamic Duck Breast. Oven roasted duck breast served sliced over butternut ravioli tossed with pine nut, spinach, butter and brown sugar. I’ve tried to cook duck, it has its challenges. This duck was done to perfection, flavorful, moist and you could cut it with a fork.

Ross brought out Tait "The Ball Buster", an inky dark Shyraz blend. Tait Wines is located at the southern end of the famous Barossa Valley, in a town called Lyndoch in South Australia, and overlooks the spectacular Barossa Ranges. The grapes that make up the Ball Buster blend are sourced from different vineyard locations throughout the Barossa. Vineyard sites are chosen to ensure that the resultant fruit is intense and that cropping levels do not exceed 3.5 tones an acre; typically these are clay soils on the fringes of the Barossa. The age of the vineyards that make up the 2006 Ball Buster Blend vary between 7 and 40 years.

This is a Taster A snap shot.The BallBuster
Tait Wines
Vintage: 2006
Appellation: Barossa Valley
Price: $16.99
Blend: 78% Shiraz, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot
Cases Produced: 15,000
Wood treatment: Used (3 to 5 year old) American (80%) and French (10%)
Length of barrel maturation: 12 months.
Alcohol %: 16.0
Total Acid: 6.7
pH: 3.53
Residual Sugar: 1.2
Color: Inky purple

Summary: The first thing you notice about this wine is that it is highly extracted and you cannot see the stem of the glass. The wine is cherry, blackberry, menthol, chocolate and blueberry with spicy clove, lemon zest, allspice, sandalwood tannins. Very concentrated flavors, a real fruit forward wine that would hold up in any Rochambeau contest.

This was a fun night with great foods and wines. Taster B and I are happy we made Ross’ acquaintance and will be looking for his wines. All of the wine have Stelvin closures pointing to the retirement of “Old Reliable”.

We ended the evening with Tiramisu and Benjamin Port.

This is a Taster A snoap shot.


The Spunky Mommy said...

Oh, your photos are MUCH better than mine! As I said, I am not that good at putting into words how a wine tastes - I often like or don't like it but I can't tell you why. This dinner was amazing - thanks for joining us. See you in March?!?!