When a wine is identified as coming from a single vineyard, it creates an expectation of distinctiveness, of an identifiable character that goes beyond simple varietal or regional correctness. In a way, the question of what a single vineyard bottling brings (if anything) over and above a well executed blend goes to the heart of what we value in wine. It’s a big topic that I won’t try to do justice to with this note, but I will say that the last bottling of this wine, the 2008, was by far my favourite Dowie Doole Shiraz from that vintage precisely because it tasted different, perhaps less glossy than the Reserve, but to me more attractive for its kinks.
I’ve not yet tasted the 2010 Reserve, but the single vineyard bottling, rechristened Cali Road, recalls the most pleasing aspects of the previous release. Immediately, the aroma is unvarnished, showing lovely regional earth and cocoa alongside typically plump McLaren Vale plum fruit. Oak plays a prominent role too, and I might object to its volume if it weren’t so typical of old school red wine from this region, and hence almost an expected element of the style. Its character is also well matched to the fruit aromas.
The palate is superbly drinkable. It enters with grace and subtlety, building to a middle palate that maxes out at medium bodied and is awash with down home red and black fruits, regional earth and salty texture. Structure begins with firm, well integrated acid and transitions to grainy, loose knit tannins through the after palate; its almost 15% alcohol is nowhere to be seen. Oak is, again, a feature of the wine, albeit one that is integrated and quite delicious. What I like most about this wine is its understatement. It’s just so unforced and, at the same time, shows real personality. This is the quiet guest at a dinner party who, half way through the evening, becomes the centre of attention without once calling attention to himself.
I feel like this is McLaren Vale Shiraz stripped of modernity, where the winemaking is traditional and the resulting wine intimate and real. Absolutely my sort of wine, and very much worth the price premium over the standard Shiraz in the range.