Grosset Watervale Riesling 2002

There are a lot of reasons why Riesling deserves a bit of love. It’s refreshing, tasty and is generally excellent value. I like it most, though, for its transparency. When made in the usual Australian dry style, there’s nowhere to hide, with vintage conditions shining through clearly. This makes Riesling the most tantalising of grapes; a great year, when it happens, promises so much. Tasting a Riesling from such a vintage is like tasting the potential of wine fully expressed. Such a Riesling with bottle age, then, simply multiplies the anticipation. Perhaps I should start this note with my conclusion: that this wine is extraordinary and beautiful. Now that I’ve set the scene, I can try to describe it adequately. On the nose, delicate aromas of white stonefruit, a hint of honey, flint, etc. As with the best wines, the aromas are in a sense indistinguishable from each other, because they fit together so elegantly. There are some influences from bottle age here, but I suggest they are limited to a sense of honey and softness that may not have been present in the youthful wine. It’s certainly not a full-blown aged style, which makes sense considering the vintage and closure (Stelvin). The palate is a wonderful mixture of freshness and rich flavour. Tingly, steely acid hits the tongue immediately on entry, and is somewhat deceptive in terms of the wine’s flavour development. Although the structure remains youthful, the mid palate reveals definite aged influences, as yet subtle, but indicative of a promising development path.  Honey, round stonefruit and lime juice are well balanced between each other, without the awkwardness of some Rieslings in the middle of their development period. I don’t know whether it’s a question of quality or simply fortunate timing, but some Rieslings just seem to taste awesome at each stage of their development, whereas others hit their straps at a certain point and, outside of this window, can seem gangly and unbalanced. This Grosset is definitely the former type; it’s a wine that seems to glide effortlessly into the moment, composed and confident. Beautifully structured acid that mellows somewhat with time in glass carries flavour through the after palate and onto a finish that clings to the tongue like a determined celebrity stalker. Just excellent. What more to say?GrossetPrice: $A35Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

Penfolds St Henri 2002

Out of the bottle, this wine shows as a dark, heavy Australian shiraz with distinct aromas of hazelnuts and burnt sugar. However, it doesn’t come across as overly complex; it’s a bit dumb, strangely enough; with some more time and air, it didn’t seem to progress much beyond an agreeable but slightly generic “warm climate Syrah” note.Drinking the wine is an exercise in the texture of luxury; this is as plush as Beverly Hills plastic surgery, round and full at the edges, but (surprisingly) not overdone: this is not a humongous Barossa Valley fruit bomb in the mold of a Parker 95, but something far more difficult and rare: a balanced, well proportioned wine that is absolutely lovely on its own terms – and thankfully without a face-numbing hit of alcohol to back it up.The finish turns out to be the most amazing thing here: if it weren’t for the finish, you wouldn’t think this wine’s as expensive as it is. It lasts. Minutes later, you still have the impression of savoriness; it’s umami beyond belief and reminds me of ketjap manis and dark chocolate ganache. Long after you’ve swallowed, it’s still there… and there seems to be just a hint of minty eucalyptus that sneaks up after a minute or two. Delicious.PenfoldsPrice: US $40Closure: CorkDate tasted: June 2008

Clonakilla Riesling 2002

Canberra churns out its share of good Rieslings, and is home to the International Riesling Challenge, amongst other vinous highlights. Ken Helm of Helm Wines has been a key advocate for this variety in the district, and I will be tasting his Premium Riesling soon. For now, though, another regional benchmark — the Clonakilla Riesling. On release, this was right up there (to my taste) with celebrated Clare and Eden wines from this vintage, so I’m interested to find out how it’s tracking.People talk about letting red wines breathe, but white wines can be equally lumpy on opening, and often benefit from a bit of swirling and loving care. Case in point: this wine was a bit all over the place at first. Spritzy, acidic, some aged characters but overwhelmingly dry and austere. Not a great mix of elements. An hour later, things are settling in well. An interesting nose of nuts and baked goods mixed with a distinctive, savoury fruit note. I’m not sure it’s quite coherent, but it’s certainly characterful and perhaps even slightly provocative. Even after settling a bit, entry is still pretty lively, with full-on acid that collides with dry lemon fruit flavour. There are also some aged characters, but they are not straightforward honey/toast. Rather, they are more savoury and perhaps buttery, very much in alignment with the nose and more than a bit of fun. The whole, though, feels underdeveloped to me, and the wine’s still-prominent primary character is very much dominant. That’s not bad, it’s merely indicative of a certain stage of development, and does not mask the intrinsic qualities present, such as complexity and elegance. You realise on the mid palate that flavour intensity is impressively high, and the acid has shown itself well architected, if a little coarse. The after palate becomes quite savoury, and suggests to me this wine would be a brilliant aperitif, perhaps served with strongly flavoured canapes. Decent, fresh finish.I’m not at all disappointed with this tasting, and believe this wine has its best days still ahead. It’s developing really interesting aged characters that are out of step with the Clare/Eden norm and are all the better for it. ClonakillaPrice: $A25Closure: CorkDate tasted: June 2008

Chehalem 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006

I just moved the final 11 cases of wine from a storage space in downtown San Diego to our garage. Ouch. Remind me to never, ever move again – it’s been one year since I moved here, and I still have no idea where half of my wine is. That bottle of Ch. Musar Dad gave me? I dunno, maybe under the guest bed?Anyhow, I tried and somewhat succeeded to jam it all in a cheesy DIY “500 bottle” stand-alone wine cooling unit: it didn’t quite work, so I decided to just pull all of the stuff in Stelvin out and keep it in the one cool spot in the garage. I figure I’ll try to drink it this summer or serve it to wedding guests in August, what the heck.This brings us to this lovely bottle of Chehalem pinot noir. Oddly enough, this is the first red wine I’ve ever drunk from Chehalem: I love their rieslings and their pinot gris is pretty darned good too. They are of course from Oregon, however, so I’m obviously way behind on the Pacific Northwest boosterism/logrolling schedule, so here we go.First off, there’s a soothing, transfixing cola nut and Rainier cherry note that springs up the moment you unscrew the cap. It’s the kind of smell that instantly puts you at ease: whew, I just blew twenty bucks on a bottle of pinot and is thankfully not crap. It’s just a little bit sappy, so it doesn’t really strike me as a truly high end pinot, but the quality to price ratio? I can work with that just fine. There could also be just a hint of spicy barrel in there as well, and there’s even something like fresh roasted chestnuts (without the roasting). Go figure!Color is lovely: a milky light red that’s miles away from the overdone dark of some New World pinot. The flavor comes as a bit of a (welcome) surprise: fairly acidic and bright, no obvious sweetness, good body, with a bit of wood (?) supporting full, vibrant cherry and other red fruits. This is a fine example of standard quality Oregon pinot noir, and it’s very good value for money.NB: there seems to a very slight spritziness here that dissipates quickly; you might want to decant this one.ChehalemPrice: US $32Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

Dr. Loosen Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett 2005

It has taken a while to get a German wine up at Full Pour, which is odd because I’m a bit of a fan, and Chris is a Germanophile and fluent speaker of the language (I’m sure he will forgive me for spilling a few of his secrets). I guess I don’t buy as many as I should; the story of all Riesling perhaps, not just the German variety. In any case, here we have a slightly older release from the 2005 vintage, by all accounts a rather good one in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (or simply Mosel, as the region is now known).
A colour that shows no signs of age as yet — still pale and fresh with a slightly greenish tint. The nose really is impressive at first sniff. Well defined aromas of slate, talc, citrus flowers and fuller, more tropical fruit all emerge from the glass. It’s an instant “wow” wine, not through an excess of impact, rather because of its intrinsic complexity and attractiveness. The nose faded a little through the evening.
On entry, initially a very tight, coiled experience, with chalky acidity serving to attenuate the wine’s line quite prematurely. This resolved itself quickly, though, and the wine struck its true balance within about half an hour. There is rich, primary fruit on the mid palate, rather honeysuckle-like but with a prominent slatey, mineral dimension too. Complexity isn’t quite at the same level as shown on the nose, but the fruit character is multi-dimensional and jumps between richness, slate and lighter, powdery florals. For its part, the acidity never quite integrates as seamlessly as one would like. It continues to jut out a bit, being both a little rough and a little isolated at the same time. Imagine someone singing a song by yelping once, loudly, as opposed to maintaining a melodic line through the whole piece. This acid character prevents the wine from achieving a truly sophisticated balance, and the fruit ends up cloying ever so slightly. Despite this, there’s an undeniably impressive, long finish to the wine.
Not entirely satisfying, then, but still a lot to enjoy. I wonder if the acidity will play off against the fruit better with a little more bottle age. I’ll leave one or two in the cellar to find out.
Dr LoosenPrice: $A35Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

Bonny Doon DEWN Barbera/Freisa Amarone 2007

I’ve been on the Bonny Doon mailing list for coming up on a decade at this point, and I still feel my heart sink whenever I open up my every-two-months club shipment and see… something Italianate. Try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to wholeheartedly embrace Italian wines and winemaking styles, and that goes double when it’s an American or other winery who have just issued a press release saying that the second the American consumer market discovers Walla Walla sangiovese, they are absolutely sure that a massive new (and profitable!) wine market will appear out of nowhere.Yes, I’ve had ecstatic experiences with Italian wines before – Amarone is by far one of my favorite wines – but when I see something like this, I get all sad panda, very quickly. So, it was with some trepidation that I opened this bottle tonight.There’s an indefinable, high-tech-ness to the nose here; it smells massively fruity, and there’s an odd designer yeast-y (or something) note here was well. It’s kind of like aerosolized white pepper intruding into a basket of overripe raspberries set somewhere in a dilapadated garden of tea roses; there’s also a sour muskiness that smells of dry cleaning sent out after a long night at Studio 54 – all floral aldehydes, sweat, and “clean.” Finally, there’s a damascone peachiness sneaking in at the end. It’s all very confusing and kind of remarkable – this is wine? is it supposed to smell like this?Just a little bit sweet in the mouth, there’s a wonderful dark cherry note with tannins hiding in the background (but they don’t really seem to do much; was this microoxygenated?). Acidity is reasonable, it’s actually kind of delicious, and then there’s a very soft finish of damask rose with the tannin lingering around just a bit as well.So, yeah, this is a total Frankenwine, but hey. It’s delicious, it’s a welcome experiment, and it would (presumably) be a hell of a lot of fun to serve this to a connisseur of European wines and see if they can guess what it is. I know I couldn’t.Bonny Doon VineyardPrice: US $25Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

William Downie Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2006

Clad in equally stylish packaging, this wine is the Yarra Valley sibling to William Downie’s Mornington Peninsula Pinot tasted earlier at Full Pour. I really enjoyed the latter wine, especially after some extended breathing, and I enjoy what Mr Downie is doing with Pinot; that is, allowing regionality to speak for itself without attempt at imposing a sense of homogeneity. This is winemaking without ego, and it’s what I drink wine for.Deep but not especially dense colour, mixtures of orange and red and purple (and nowhere near as gaudy as that sounds). The nose is a riot of aromas from first pouring, and only improves with air. Instantly a deeper, darker wine than the Mornington Peninsula label, there are notes of turkish delight, ripe plum, bubble gum, sweet spice and other goodness, even a hint of sous-bois. Expressive and complex but with a sense of poise too, despite its generosity. Palate is equally fascinating, though perhaps a little unexpectedly controlled after the nose. The fruit’s depth and ripeness is certainly confirmed here. Entry is alive and sufficiently (though not overly) acidic, with a nice focused flow over the tongue. Flavour drives a tight line to the middle palate, where things settle and relax a little. The wine, interestingly, shoots off in a few directions at this point, with a high toned fruit lift on the one hand, and a foundation of ripe plum on the other, not at odds, but instead indicative of excellent definition and structure. Grainy tannins emerge quite late in the palate and help dark fruit flavour to reverberate through a very lengthy, impressive finish.There’s a lot going on with this wine, and its complexity will surely increase with time. If you can keep your hands off it. The fact is, it is fabulous right now, with its ultra-delicious flavour profile and approachable structure. Now or later, it’s a win-win. William DowniePrice: $A40Closure: DiamDate tasted: June 2008

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry 1999

Only a slight softness to the rich, crimson color suggests that this wine isn’t at all young; on the nose, what you get is mostly soft, sweet, rich earth with an gentle framing of soft spice. On the whole, it’s rather akin to Davidoff cigarettes: there’s something about this that screams “expensive,” as plush and rich as a Birkin bag, with a suggestion of the tobacco drying shed thrown in for good measure.In the mouth, it seems like it’s begun to fade slightly, with a certain drabness of fruit present. Even so, it is undeniably lovely and seems just the thing to have with a slice of Parma ham (thankfully, I do indeed have some handy thanks to fresh&easy’s discount pricing). There’s still a small bit of tannin on the finish – not very much – and it all ends with a sigh. Gentle, distinguished, elegant, and, I suppose, a reminder of what some Napa wines may have tasted like before Screaming Eagle, Colgin, and so on redefined the style in the 1990s.If you have some of this, now would be a good time to drink it. If you don’t, it’s not good value at the full retail price, but if you see it for $25, I’d seriously consider it.Beaulieu VineyardPrice: US $25 (K&L Wines pricing, normally $50).Closure: CorkDate tasted: June 2008

Mesh Riesling 2002

Of all the Rieslings made from grapes of the celebrated 2002 vintage in the Clare and Eden Valleys, this wine holds a special place in my heart. For a start, it was one of the most impressive of these wines on release. Secondly, it provided considerable enjoyment to Chris and I while dining at a (long gone) Indonesian restaurant in Glebe. I’ve had a six pack sitting in the cellar since 2002, and have managed to avoid drinking any until now. Great expectations, indeed.
The colour shows signs of development, with richer golden hues intruding into a pale, straw-like tint. Nose is funky. It’s funky in a roast nuts and honey sort of way, perhaps with some vanilla-like notes, even a hint of petrol. It’s a generous, almost slightly fat aroma profile, and most attractive too, although hardly an “ultra clean” aged style. Think toasted muesli and yoghurt and you’ll get an idea of this wine as it stands right now.Entry is deceptively smooth, as it takes a moment for acid to register on the tongue. Once it does, we see an attractive fullness of body (for Riesling, anyway) with dry, slightly chalky acidity. The acid feels slightly harsh, as if it doesn’t quite belong alongside this wine’s nascent richness. There’s more honey, some toasted oats, a little vanilla and spice.  There’s also more than a hint of dry lime, a hangover from this wine’s fresher days. Flavour drives through the after palate with admirable definition, and the wine’s length is beyond reproach.As much as i’m enjoying this, it’s a striptease performance that never quite reveals what you’d like to see.  Unlike those Rieslings where aged and fresh notes intertwine in scintillating conversation, I suspect this wine needs a more complete expression of age to display satisfying coherence and true character. Having said that, all the ingredients are here — intensity, complexity, structure. It’s a wine of quality for sure. I’ll be eagerly cracking another bottle open in, say, two years’ time. MeshPrice: $A25Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

Domaine Emilian Gillet Viré-Clessé Quintaine 2002

A slightly older white Burgundy this time, which will hopefully come as a relief after a slew of younger siblings. As an aside, at Full Pour we taste wines in a “real world” context as much as possible, which often means a single bottle at a time, often sipped slowly all evening. This serves to highlight the role of variety in enjoyment. A self-confessed addict of difference, I find working my way through a series of similar wines both highly revealing and slightly boring at the same time. Still, there are worse things I could do…

Pretty golden hay colour, good clarity. A really seductive nose, with rich almond, grapefruit, butter, and some clear botrytis influence. It’s a wine that reaches out of the glass and sucks you in without resorting to excess vulgarity — sort of like the difference between someone with a magnetic personality versus someone who is just loud. There are also hints of roast nut and spice that add complexity to the aroma profile. The palate delivers solidly on the nose. Entry is slippery-slidey, without any acidic harshness and yet showing freshness and vitality. Rich, round fruit builds on the tongue towards the middle palate, just as some acid structure starts to tingle on the edges of the tongue. Despite the freshness, this is a relaxed, generous wine that you don’t have to work especially hard to enjoy. A lot of this is to do with the ultra silky mouthfeel that balances slipperiness with acidity most satisfyingly. More citrus fruit and hints of sweet honey coat the tongue. The savoury nut/oak observed on the nose props up the fruit flavour in balanced fashion. If it’s not quite as complex as the nose suggests, this is easily compensated by the smooth, easy elegance of this wine. A nutty lift through the after palate keeps on rising through a very satisfying, flavoursome finish. Yum!

I’m tempted to say this wine lacks a certain sophistication, but that’s not quite right. It’s breezy yet substantial, and echoes a sense of generous provincial hospitality. Its mix of fresh and ultra-ripe notes is, I find, beguiling. Delicious, bloody good value, and quite different from all the other white Burgundies recently tasted.

Domaine Emilian Gillet
Price: $A34
Closure: Cork
Date tasted
: June 2008