Wine tasting in Barossa and McLaren Vale

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Over the Easter holidays, we took a short trip down to Adelaide down in South Australia, with the primary aim to check out the different wine regions. We’d planned the itinerary such that we visited Barossa on Thursday, hiked over Good Friday, and visited McLaren Vale on Saturday. Fortuitously so, because when we arrived we learnt that most places shuts down completely on Good Fridays!

Anyway, the point of this post is create a repository of sorts of the wineries we visited, and the standout wines for us. We barely scratched the surface on our exploratory trip. There’s still the whole of Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra! But it was a good teaser. While we found Adelaide itself a pretty unremarkable sleepy but green town and its nearby seaside town of Glenelg little more than a tourist trap, the wine regions are world class. The restaurants we hit were all really good as well.

In total, we visited 9 wineries. A few standouts: Greenock Creek, Torbreck, and D’Arenberg. The others had a couple wines that we loved too, but those three had a wide range of well made wines.

The one place whose wines we were quite disappointed with, Kaesler, also happened to be the one place that actually charged us for tasting. They charged us $30 for two people, even though we had elected to share a single glass. Unfortunately, their wines mostly seemed unbalanced, either too hot in the nose or in the mouth, with a bitter sort of finish. It was a letdown, particularly since the wines had come at the recommendation of a wine broker who was the boyfriend of one of Jeff’s acquaintances.

First stop of the trip was Two Hands. We’ve been a fan of their Garden series, but had never tasted the rest of their line up, so we were excited for the opportunity. But although we were the first ones in the cellar door, our host seemed most distracted, pouring our tastings then disappearing into the next room for long minutes before he popped back out to refill our glasses. That kind of put a damper on the experience. In all, we tasted 7 bottles there, with the favorites being:

1. 2013 Samantha’s Garden $60 – velvety tannins, quite restrained

2. 2013 Bella’s Garden $60 – brighter, more fruit that Sam’s. Bigger tannins

3. 2012 Secret Block Moppa Hills Barossa Valley Shiraz $100 – delicious. HUGE nose with silky, silky tannins

We didn’t buy any wines though, in part due to our lukewarm tasting experience.

We stopped at Greenock Creek next, where again we were the first tasters in the cosy cellar. Our host there was much more affable, and enthusiastically talked us through his lineup of 6 wines. Favorites:

1. 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $38 – capsicum, beautiful tannins, smooth

2. 2012 Apricot Block $38 – the wine was so named because the parcel of land on which it came from used to be an apricot plantation. Anyway, beautiful wine, with smooth tannins and bright fruit. Granite soil

3. Seven Acre Shiraz $48 – really elegant!

4. 2005 Roennfeldt Road Shiraz $200 – HUGE! Big nose of spice. Big body, with a bit of port/prune because of the high alky (17.5%). Looooong finish

It’s interesting to note that Greenock, going forward this year, has decided to revert all their closures back to cork. Previously, they had used stelvin closures for most of their wines intended for domestic consumption, but have since decided that cork is the way to go. We left with their Cab and the Seven Acre. Would have bought more but we wanted to play it safe since we still had a bunch of wineries to visit.

Torbreck was next on our list, where, from their extensive wine list, we picked 12 to taste. We were really taken with 3 bottles in particular:

1. 2011 The Steading (56 Grenache, 23 Shiraz, 21 Mataro) $37.50 – French style, light bodied, smooth tannins

2. 2012 The Pict (100% Mataro, single vineyard, Greenock) $75 – loved the nose. Spicy. Beautiful structure

3. 2012 The Gask (100% Shiraz) – very elegant!!!

At Torbreck, we were also given the opportunity to taste some of their more premium wines alongside their museum collection. 🙂 We are always so appreciative of cellar doors that do so, because we aren’t likely to shell out good money for something we aren’t sure how it tastes! Anyway, we tasted the $125 2012 and 2002 The Factor Shiraz side by side. Both were quite yummy, with notes of blueberries. The 2002 felt like it could still stand a few more years in the bottle! We also tried the $125 2012 Descendant (92 Shiraz, 8 Viognier, co-fermented) – soooo smooth. And the $235 2006 and 2012 Run Rig (97 Shiraz 3 Viognier). While the 2006 had mellowed out to yield notes of blueberries, the still-to-be-released 2012 was still very young and close, albeit with smooth tannins. These were well made wines, but The Pict stood out for us the most, in part because we found it the best bang for the buck. Departed with a bottle of that; would have bought The Steading and The Gask as well, but we were still cautious of how many bottles we wanted to hand carry back.

A brief stop for lunch at FermentAsian to refuel, then we hit up the aforementioned Kaesler. We did like their $150 Alte Reben Shiraz, and found it to be beautifully balanced, especially in comparison with their other wines heh.

Maybe because we were feeling quite sleepy after a full and delicious meal at FermentAsian, but we didn’t feel quite inspired by the wines at Rockford. I mean, we couldn’t find any fault with them, but my notes were mostly scribbled of “nice”. That’s well, pretty sedate as far as recommendations go. But I’d like to think though, they should be in fact quite lovely, especially the $59 2011 Basket Press Shiraz, with its notes of white pepper and spice.

Our last stop in Barossa was at Grant Burge. They didn’t give free tastings of the Meshach (of which we have, and love, the 2002), but we did taste a bunch of their other wines, my favorite of the lot being the $75 2012 1887 Shiraz – smooth tannins and beautiful structure.

Saturday morning, we drove the 45 minutes from Adelaide to McLaren Vale. Compared to Barossa, McLaren Vale is so much more picturesque, with its gentle rolling hills of golden vines. We were again the first customers in the tasting room, this time at D’Arenberg, and enjoyed the attention we were given, especially since the tasting room filled up a half hour into our tasting.

As we started on the whites – of which the winery has a long list for tasting – our host pointed out a stack of cases in the corner. Those were entry level Stump Jump Shiraz meant for export to Sweden, he told us, but the exporter cancelled the order at the last moment. Because they had already slapped on labels designating export to Sweden, the winery couldn’t sell them to domestic retailers here and was thus offloading them at steep discounts to customers. Haha we snapped up a case. It will make for great everyday wine at fantastic value!

We spent over an hour at D’Arenberg. We started off picking a few to taste, but our host kept enthusiastically recommending more to try; who are we to decline?

Our favorites:
1. NV DADD Sparkling $28 – made in the traditional champagne method, a serious bready wine. Yummy. We may have picked up two bottles

2. 2013 The Witches Berry Chardonnay, cellar door exclusive $18 – we picked up a couple. Very clean, with just a hint of wood, refreshing

3. 2013 The Money Spider Roussanne $20 – good lemony, easy to drink

4. 2006 The Twenty Eight Road Mouvedre $40 and 2010 The Twenty Eight Road Mouvedre $29 – we enjoyed both. Lovely berry nose. Bought two back (no holds barred now, since shipping was free haha)

5. The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon $65 – it is doubly lovely to taste a cab in between all that Shiraz. The backbone and structure that the cab provides is all the more refreshing. Gorgeously balanced. We also tried the 2006 vintage, which would have benefitted from a longer decanting (we opened a new bottle to taste). Still, the tannins were still pretty robust in the 2006, so this is a wine that will keep. Bought a bottle

6. The Blind Tiger Single Vineyard Shiraz $100 – so elegant, so delicious. Floral nose, with notes of blue berries. Super smooth tannins. We tasted this along side The Other Side and The Swinging Malaysian, also single vineyard Shiraz at $100. The other two were more restrained, with grippier tannins, but still quite yummy. Bought a bottle of the Tiger

Popped over to Mollydooker next door after. Their tasting room set up is very different. Instead of a bar that you stand at, we shuffled around long tables set in a rectangle, moving from one bottle to the next. Mollydooker’s Carnival of Love is their signature wine; their 2012 was most recently rated #2 wine of 2014 on WineSpectator. We tasted the 2013 vintages. The Carnival of Love, at $75 a bottle, we found still quite closed. Smooth tannins, but restrained. In comparison, we really liked the Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz ($49). Velvety tannins, lovely dark fruit. Beautifully balanced. Just delicious. Picked up a bottle. Their Gigglepost Cabernet Sauvignon ($49) was a great example of Cab as well.

We decided to take it easy on the wine tasting, and visited one more stop before we drove back into the city for lunch. Coriole was our pick. I’d never heard of the winery before, but chose it after browsing online for suggestions on where to go in McLaren Vale. The winemaker seems partial to Italian grapes. They have wines from Fiano, Barbera, and Sangiovese. Our favorites though, were the 2013 The Dancing Fig Mouvedre Grenache Shiraz ($25 cellar door only wine) and the 2013 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), both of which we bought. The Dancing Fig was lively and vibrant, with lovely mouthfeel of blueberries. The Cab had a gorgeous smoky and spicy nose. Great structure.

Overall, we were really very impressed with the quality of wines that we tasted – and yes, they were more exciting than the Hunter Valley wines in general. Just have to find another time to visit!

*All prices in AUD btw

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