Craggy Range has by far the most glamorous tasting facility of all the wineries I visited in Hawkes Bay late last year. Its natural setting is glorious, but the spacious room itself is all glass and shiny surfaces — very upscale indeed. Worth a visit, for sure. There’s also a large range of wines available for tasting, including this, one of Craggy Range’s premium cuvées. It is a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and, on tasting at cellar door, was almost impenetrable. I took this as a personal challenge, of course, and purchased a bottle for later tasting.
Grosset Gaia 2002
Ngeringa Syrah 2005
Mount Ida Shiraz 2001
An older Shiraz from one of Australia’s more renowned regions for this variety, Heathcote in Victoria. This wine is, interestingly, sealed under Stelvin, which is somewhat unusual for red wines of this age. Although Mount Ida is a famous vineyard in Heathcote, I’m not especially familiar with its output, so this tasting was quite exploratory for me.
Clonakilla Riesling 2005
It pays to check on wines now and then. The slightly old Rieslings I’ve tasted lately are proof enough, and this wine continues the trend. I remember tasting this at cellar door and finding it a steelier, more austere style than the usual Clonakilla. I loved it and bought several, expecting it to age slowly.
Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Once you get past the ridiculously overwrought bottle – it’s so big and heavy that no foil cutter I know of could possibly work – what you get is a wine that smells, well, expensive: generic New World Napa-esque fruit + some very expensive Bordeaux toast oak. Hm.The surprise is entirely in the mouth: the weight is much more French than Napa, and it tastes mostly of very high quality oak. It seems just a little bit watery and then it’s gone. There’s a very small amount of tannin – frankly, it feels wimpy – and then it’s gone. Again: Hm.I’ll come back to this later on and see if it improves, but as of right now, the bottle is the only thing that’s impressive here, which is odd considering their $8 wines are pretty good (the Porcupine Ridge line).Later: After an hour’s aeration, this started to taste like mesquite or cedar incense, the kind you’d be in an American national park on summer vacation. Cedar, cedar, cedar, and more cedar. Yawn. Kind of tasty, but utterly lacking in personality. Avoid.Boekenhoutskloof
Domaine Gautheron Chablis 1er Cru Vaucoupin 2005
It’s a balmy Summer’s Winter’s evening here in Brisbane, and I’m in the mood for Chablis. Handily, I had this lying around the house. This particular wine sees no oak at all, so in theory should express pure Chardonnay fruit and, one hopes, its corresponding terroir.
Grosset Watervale Riesling 2005
I’ve tasted a few not-quite-new Rieslings of late, and the 2002 Grosset Watervale
Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Another wine from the cellar, this time a Coonawarra Cabernet from a vintage perhaps somewhat overshadowed by its immediate predecessor.
Bonny Doon Ca' del Solo Albariño 2007
Several decades in to the ongoing, evolving project that is Bonny Doon Vineyard, it looks they may finally be arriving at the most interesting place yet – and ironically, it’s an arrival that sort of predates the winery’s founding. By that I mean that they’re now trying to produce wine the way you would have done it a hundred years ago in France, except presumably with a few newfangled tricks such as refrigeration and proper hygiene.This wine is one of the first Demeter-certified biodynamic wines they’ve grown, and the complexity of it suggests (to me, at least) that they might well be onto something. This is a far cry from the weirdly plush, microbubbled oddities they’ve been crapping out for a while now; instead, what you get here is a beautifully light-colored wine with a floral nose that’s oddly like what I imagine Portuguese laundry detergent might smell like: rose petals and generic “clean” with an edge of cucumber.In the mouth, this is fatter than you’d expect, with a finish that tapers off quickly to reveal a note of crushed seashells and faded lemon rind. Before it goes, it’s a sort of dilute orange blossom honey note you’ve got along with, well, a sort of drying minerality. It’s fairly distinctly itself, whatever that is, and as such it gets two big thumbs up from this drinker. I only wish I had a plate of fresh oysters to accompany it.