Domaine Dublère Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Sous le Puits 2006

The best thing I can say about this wine is that, alongside its many sensual charms, it prompted a conversation that ranged from the irony of Burgundian terroir to the application of Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence to winemaking. Some people’s worst nightmare, no doubt, but Heaven to this particular wine tragic; I love wines that are larger than themselves.

An expressive, assertively complex aroma comprising (amongst other things) grilled almonds and cashews, detailed lees-derived notes, vanilla and an attractive level of sulphur. It’s fresh and savoury, and wears both its fruit character and winemaking very much on its sleeve. That it’s a typically Burgundian, worked style is evident immediately (barrel fermentation, batonnage, malolactic fermentation); thankfully, its technique is sympathetically applied. 
A burst of canned peaches in the mouth, accompanied by a range of mostly-savoury flavours like banana skins, almond meal and spicy oak. The flavours are granular within the fabric of the wine, accompanied by a lively, textural mouthfeel. Flinty acid underlines the palate from start to finish and feels slightly raspy on the tongue, a foil to rounder, creamier textures. The wonderful thing about this sophisticated mix of textures, aside from providing its own interest, is the way it prompts the clear expression of individual flavours: one can both taste and feel almonds, peach syrup, and so on. The effect is especially wonderful on the minerally after palate.  This is a great example of truly integrated structure. 
A really nice Chardonnay, then, smart and delicious in equal measure. The extent of the winemaking poses its own questions that I won’t explore in detail here, except to suggest the archetype of the “winemaker as custodian of terroir” (as I believe my lunch companion phrased it) demands critical thought.

Domaine Dublère
Price: $A90
Closure: Cork

Domaine Jomain Puligny-Montrachet 2006

As Douglas Coupland recently tweeted, 2009 feels like a party you can’t wait to leave so that you can go off and do something else you’d actually rather be doing.Over the last year, I’ve watched nearly one in four of my friends lose their jobs – and those of us that are still working are watching our incomes erode in the face of increasing costs for virtually everything. (Those of you in Washington state who now have to deal with newly raised prices at state-run alcohol stores? My heart truly goes out to you.)So where’s the silver lining in all of this? Well, quite frankly, I haven’t seen it yet. Although I’m reading about grape harvest gluts in Napa and Marlborough, I haven’t been lucky enough to score any deals on wine. Heck, I’ve bought virtually nothing at all this year: the Scholium Project raised their prices to $100 a bottle, Quilceda Creek is asking $98, and so on. Even if these were the best of economic times, these prices are out of the reach of virtually everyone (save for, I suppose, those of us who work in finance or the health insurance industry). But surely there are huge stocks of unsold wines being marked down to bargain basement clearance prices, right?Alas, no… except for this wine, apparently. This is one of only a few wines I’ve seen so far this year that are being marketed largely on the basis of cost. I paid $27, but the label says “Retail $50!” And did anyone ever pay $50 for this wine? Well, I have no idea… but if I had, I wouldn’t be disappointed.A wonderfully smoky burnt match nose tinged with sea salt, burnt cream, and buttery stewed quince sets things in perspective right away. Yes, the wine is over-bright, somewhat pale, and not much to look at, but oh, what a smell. There’s also a faint hint of night blooming jasmine and other pale flowers; there’s also just a hint of sulphur, but it’s restrained.Cacophonous at first, the wine pulls in half a dozen different directions. At first, there seems to be a strong suggestion of sucrosité, but blink and it’s gone, replaced by a finely textural sensation of slippery elm, buttressed by fine, subtle oaky notes and carried along by the kind of jovial acidity often lacking in California chardonnay. There’s a sort of toasted nut effect here too, no buttery flavor to speak of in particular (although I suspect there’s definitely malo in full effect here, texturally speaking). It all trails off into a lovely, hazy finish that reminds me of dried apples.This is absolutely delicious and good value at $50 – and fantastic at $27. If you can find it, buy it; I’d even hazard a guess that some cellaring would be in order here.Domaine Jomain
Price: $27
Closure: Cork

Jimbour Station Shiraz 2008

I like the idea of this wine. Its fruit is sourced from a single estate vineyard in the (I believe undeclared) Darling Downs region of Queensland. The region was an important centre for winemaking at the turn of last century, so there’s some provenance at work here. 

I admit to having no experience of Shiraz from this or any other producer in the area, so I’ve no preconceived ideas as to flavour profile or style. Which can be a little anxiety-producing when it comes to tasting. I’m not sure if anyone else finds this, but having no immediate context in which to place a wine recalls, in a sense, Sartre’s nausée. It’s always more comforting to know what to expect. 
To the wine itself, the nose shows fresh juicy plums, some vegetal or stalky influences, and a high toned note that is not quite white pepper. There’s also a bit of vanilla oak. Not complex but very lively and quite distinctive. It’s also a bit angular, as if the Other Mother’s spindly hands from Coraline are reaching out of the glass to poke at your nostrils. 
The palate reflects many of these impressions in the way it is put together. There are, individually, some attractive elements. The fruit flavour in particular is really vibrant and fresh, with good depth and clarity. There’s also spice and some higher toned stalky notes (not sure if the winemaking included an element of whole bunches). I like this expression of Shiraz; it’s built for tasty quaffing. But I’m struggling with the structure here. It feels clunky and disjointed and really needs some time to settle down. Spiky acidity is the most prominent influence, contributing excitement but also fatigue after a few sips. Tannins are quite dry and even, though a tad raw too, ensuring good thrust and persistence through the finish. The alcohol is unbalanced, with perceptible heat on the palate and a roundness to the mouthfeel that doesn’t quite match the wine’s flavour density and profile. One longs for a less pumped up presence that enables great gulps of tasty Shiraz flavour.
A mixed experience, then, but full of promise too. There’s real merit to the fruit in this wine, and I’d love to see a more balanced expression of its flavours. 

Jimbour Wines
Price: $A13.30
Closure: Stelvin

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2008

This wine smells and tastes like a pomelo. I know this because I was shopping at my local market this morning and one particular stall was selling nothing but enormous, yellow pomelos. I tasted one and would have bought some if my plaid Nanna basket on wheels were not already filled with other goodies. Wikipedia accurately describes pomelos as tasting like “sweet, mild grapefruit.” Pomelo. Like typing it, like saying it. 

I like tasting it too, but there are some other smells and flavours here as well. Spicy, toasty oak, for starters, evident on both nose and palate and needing some time to integrate further into the wine’s flavour profile. Maybe some white nectarine-like flavours, softening the pomelo and adding a bit of lusciousness. It’s all varietal and all there.
What I like most about this wine, though, are its bones. Even as a young’un, this packs a real punch, especially in the mouth, with fresh flavours that show inviting immediacy and impressive intensity. There’s a particularly good tangy sourness to the flavour profile that is absolutely mouthwatering, in the way a Sao with butter and Vegemite can be mouthwatering. A tight line straight through the mouth leads to a finish that vibrates with citrus fruit and lovely oak. 
It’s so very young right now and, although it’s tasty (and a great accompaniment to sardines on toast), I’ll be leaving my stash alone for a few months (if not years) to flesh out. Should be outstanding at the right moment.

Hoddles Creek
Price: $A18
Closure: Stelvin

Cardinham Estate Sangiovese 2007

Refreshingly, the back label doesn’t lie; it reads straightforwardly: “Everything about this wine seems to be built around dark chocolate and black cherries.” And so it is. Which may not sound very Sangiovese-like, but let’s proceed with an open mind to the wine itself.

On the nose, there’s… oo, chocolate, of the quality sort, edging towards cocoa powder. Some almonds perhaps, cherries too, and an impression of gustatory delight I usually get when selecting what to buy at the bakery. It’s funny; some wines remind me of eating, and this is one of them. There’s nothing especially complex about the aroma, it just smells good, in the way a freshly made chocolate muffin smells good. 
In the mouth, surprisingly light and nimble. The flavour profile continues to revolve around key notes of cocoa, red fruits and almonds. On first sip, I felt a bit let down as there’s a lack of thrust through the entry and middle palate. After adjusting to the style, though, I started to appreciate it more. It’s what I call a “watercolour” wine; one that can seem delicate to the point of transparency, but which nonetheless carries an entire picture within its frame. Mouthfeel is quite interesting, in that it’s very supple and finely textured too, especially towards the after palate, where ultra-fine tannins settle gently on the tongue. Surprising power and persistence on the finish, with sweet cherries and almonds riding a flavoursome wave. I wonder if the alcohol is slightly too high for the style; in absolute terms, 14.2% abv isn’t groundbreaking, but there does seem some heat on the palate, and I suspect aspects of the mouthfeel are similarly pumped up.
This isn’t at all what I expected, but I am enjoying it, and it seems to me a “real life” wine, made for drinking on a weeknight with one’s favourite pasta dish. Drink now for maximum pleasure.

Cardinham Estate
Price: $A20
Closure: Stelvin

Unison Rosé 2008

I have previously tasted the 2006 version of this wine and, swirling this more recent edition tonight, my earlier note remains relevant to a large extent. This is a savoury rosé style, quite full and somewhat angular; in other words, a more challenging wine than some. 

On the nose, a funky meatiness mixes with flowers, spice, red fruits and vegetation. It’s a serious aroma profile, not blowsy or even particularly expressive. But there’s a nice clean fruit character underlining the whole thing that I like very much. The palate has an unexpected thrust of fruit sweetness that is both sympathetic and a little surprising – the effect is akin to the North African habit of adding fruit to elaborately spiced, savoury dishes, in that it is organic but also creates tension in the flavour profile. Aside from this rounded, sweet red fruit, there are florals and peppery spice and a general masculinity (in the context of rosé style, anyway). It’s fresh and with a good slippery yet somewhat grainy texture. Nice medicinal finish.
Not your usual rosé, then, and perhaps a provocative drink to those who like more outré pink styles, sweet or dry. Personally, I like it a great deal.

Unison Vineyard
Price: $A20
Closure: Stelvin

Dominique Portet Shiraz 2002

Sadly, I only had one bottle of this left – and I opened it just now only to find that it was corked. Based on the previous bottles of this I’ve enjoyed over the years, though, I’ll leave this not-a-tasting-note up here as a reminder of the quality of the other bottles; this wine is a good example of New World wine made with a nod towards Old World sensibilities: it’s not over-oaked, not overly alcoholic, and yet hasn’t artificially been limited in its elevage so that it slavishly mimics Old World wines. Instead, what you get is a wine that walks the line between the two: fully ripe New World fruit, yet with earth and minerality (subtle, but it’s there). Even relatively soon after its release – a year or two, if memory serves – it had characteristics of older wines: a relatively flat, gracious palate with fine grained tannins and a rich nose of sweet brambly fruit.I’ll miss this stuff and hope to find more of it again in the future.Dominique Portet
Price: $20
Closure: Cork

Sandstone Cellars V

There’s something to be said for a wine that makes itself smelled even from across the table. I poured a glass of this, sat down at the computer, and at no point forgot that it was there: it positively exudes perfume. The color is remarkable: rich and deep, dark red with a slightly watery rim, at first giving the appearance of an older wine but somehow it’s all very youthful at the same time.

One smell of this and I’m transported: this does not smell like any wine I’ve had before. All kinds of random associations come to mind: the crisp, dry, crinkly skin of fresh tomatillos; dusty corridors in government buildings in distant counties, dessicating in the summer heat; the smell of the upstairs closet with Mom’s college papers, reel-to-reel tapes and all; a warm summer’s night in the house where grew up in the San Joaquin valley, crickets and trains on the night breeze, the warmth never fully gone from the hay bales outside. It’s remarkable.

Trying to think more traditionally about this for a minute, there seems to be a dry, dusty mint or basil note hovering over dry baker’s chocolate on the nose, wet earth, dried meats (not smoked), and (remarkably) something like dried violets. In all honest, I find it absolutely fascinating: so many different smells, such odd suggestions of things that really don’t have tastes or smells. If a mark of a great wine is that it somehow manages to remind you of things in your past that you’ve forgotten, well, then this wine’s a great one.

The first thing that strikes me about this wine in the mouth is the texture: it seems much richer, unctuous, fat, wide than most others do. Taking a minute to experience the physicality of the wine, I sense that it seems to slip away quietly, somehow vanishing towards the middle-back of the mouth while leaving that same impression of fullness behind. There’s good acidity here, which I suppose guarantees the soft disappearance; the tannins are finely checked and leave a lingering sense of elegance.

As far as the flavor of the thing goes, it again doesn’t really taste like any other wines I know. There are fleeting hints of typical syrah and zinfandel – snatches of deep, plummy fruit and smoky bacon fat – and yet there’s some other flavor dominant which (and I do apologize for the suggestion) somehow reminds me of mucilage or packing tape: it’s definitely not the usual thing. At times I find it challenging and not quite welcome; at other times, especially when paired with some soppressata-style salami, it calms down into something more conventionally agreeable, with flashes of comforting sweetness amongst rich smoky earth and ripe red fruits.

I have absolutely no idea what Don Pullum and the rest of the folks at Sandstone Cellars are doing, but it’s some of the most interesting wine I’ve ever tasted. If there ever needed to be proof that Texas makes serious wine, this is it.

Sandstone Cellars
Price: $25
Closure: Cork

Cardinham Estate Shiraz 2006

I have a soft spot for Clare Shiraz and this is good example of the genre, in an easygoing and very much fruit-driven mode. In terms of provenance and winemaking, this comes from 100% Estate grapes and is aged in older American oak for eighteen months. 

A dark, brambly nose that shows juicy blackberries, sambuca and a bit of sweet vanilla. There’s a sense of straightforwardness to the aroma profile that suggests easy satisfaction; it doesn’t play hard to get. Very much a similar story on the palate, with plenty of juicy dark berry fruits and enough oak to frame the fruit flavours appropriately. Entry is fairly slow to get started, though by the time the middle palate arrives there’s an abundance of generous fruit and edges of spicy anise. Very well judged tannins begin to flow at this point, quite loose-knit and ripe. The after palate shows a lighter fruit character, verging on red berries, before a coffee and liqueur finish of some deliciousness.
Nice wine, this one. It combines the spirit of a quaffer with the flavour profile of something considerably more distinctive and regional. 

Cardinham Estate
Price: $A20
Closure: Stelvin

Dowie Doole Tintookie Chenin Blanc 2006

Considered in conventional terms, a more serious wine than its sibling, though to my mind this is an entirely different conversation from whether it’s better or worse. Indeed, I’m on the record as preferring many “second label” wines to their reserve partners, as what constitues a “reserve” wine for some producers strikes me as most unimaginative. Throwing oak, extract and a general exaggeratedness of scale at something does not automatically make a better or more worthy wine. Dowie Doole’s Tintookie poses the question of reserve wines rather differently. For a start, it’s made from Chenin Blanc, so the template for its elevated status isn’t so obvious as some. Indeed, what does a reserve Chenin Blanc look like in the Australian context?

According to Dowie Doole, it has a whole lot more winemaking for starters, and a price tag to match (though still rather reasonable when placed in context — this is a single vineyard wine made from seriously old vines). Interestingly, my initial reaction on smelling this wine was that it shares some characteristics with aged Hunter Semillon; specifically, a cheesy note along with a bit of toasty development. First impressions are where such similarities end, though. There’s marked minerality on the nose, along with high toned citrus and a general sense of control. I’m not sure that it smells terribly similar to its Loire models, but that’s a good thing in my book. This is its own wine.
The palate shows quite full, intense fruit flavours that nonetheless sit within a tight, textural, minerally context. Good impact on entry with immediate flavour and mouth-watering (natural) acidity. Bursting forth from this framework is juicy, slightly simple citrus fruit on the middle palate, almost painfully intense, and for me a little at odds with the restraint and complexity shown elsewhere. A lovely dry, textural after palate leads to a long, flinty and quite beautiful finish.
This is a really fascinating wine, though I’m not sure it coheres as a style from top to bottom. I am wishing for a more extreme expression of the fruit, less luscious and more ethereal, which I suspect would complement the character of the acid and the textural inputs. Perhaps some further bottle age is what I’m really looking for. A really worthwhile wine and one I’m glad exists.

Dowie Doole
Price: $A30
Closure: Diam