I’ve got a soft spot for Taylors, as much for the good value of its standard range as for the fact that I enjoyed many a good evening out on its wines before I became interested in what I drink, as opposed to being simply interested in drinking. St Andrews is Taylors’ premium label, a range I don’t have much experience with beyond the Riesling. I do enjoy a nice Clare red, though, so here goes with the St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon from 2004.
Not much gives this away as Pinot Noir except, perhaps, its colour and a hint of animalé on the nose. I tasted this blind and picked it as a commercial Shiraz blend, perhaps with a bit of Mataro. There’s straightforward red fruit and a good deal of sweet, vanilla and spice oak. Perhaps a bit of funky stalk? Nothing too challenging, though.
There’s nothing like a dry, brittle cork that falls apart directly into the bottle to start an afternoon’s drinking off right, is there? Thankfully, once the cork was extracted, what was left was a brilliant, overly clean-looking wine with pale tinges of green in the glass. On the nose, it comes across as decadent, rich, and full, promising ripe pear, Brazil nuts, and lots and lots of butter (hey, this is California, after all). However, what you taste isn’t what you smell, which is why this wine strikes me as a real winner given the price. It manages to come across as much more Chablis than Carneros at first, only relenting and delivering the toasty buttered goods on the finish, supported by nervy acidity that supports it all to great effect. Still, there’s enough complexity from oak and what I suspect is only partial malo that delivers a drinking experience unexpected at this price. This is pretty damn good stuff.Gloria Ferrer
It’s been a busy week here in San Diego; lots of friends over for various social events, which usually means lots of wines drunk and no proper tasting notes as I’m loath to whip out the laptop in social situations. So! Here’s a quick rundown of interesting things tasted this week:2004 Clonakilla shiraz viognier: beautiful as ever, all cedary wood and fading violets, with interesting smoked meat notes throughout it all. Tannins are wonderfully textured, and this wine really seems to be hitting its stride lately.1994 Meerlust Rubicon: I didn’t know quite what to make of this. Unlike the 1993, drunk earlier this month I think, this one seems to be very much dead or dying. Weirdly redolent of camphor and mothballs, this wasn’t entirely unpleasant – yet not pleasant enough to actually drink. Interesting, though: there might be a target market for this, but I’m definitely not it.2005 J Rickards ‘Sisters’ meritage: Wow, this was a surprise. The first JR wine I’ve tried, I think the best way to describe this one would simply be ‘classic California.’ Rich, boisterous red wine that isn’t minerally or refined, but a pure joyous expression of sunshine and warmth. Really well judged oak kicks in as well for a very sensuous experience; this has got to be one of the best California wines I’ve tried lately. Delicous.2005 Hamilton Russell pinot noir: This wine is weirdly on again off again for me. Two years ago it was great, last year not so much, and now it’s great again, turning distinctly earthy with a cigar box aspect, yet still managing to remain relatively light and delicate. This has got to be one of the best wines from South Africa.2005 JK Carrier Willamette Valley pinot noir: To a certain extent, this wine is so correct that at first it’s a bit underwhelming. Give it time and air, though, and it broadens out into an earthy, kola nut thing, dark and brooding and somewhat less delicate than the HR. Pretty fantastic, though, with an undercurrent of earthy minerality that’s very uncommon. Damn good value, too, at $36 or so.Finally, I did want to post a shout-out to the fine folks at Coopers Creek in New Zealand: they gave me two styrofoam shippers at no charge last January, so I bought a bottle of their fanciest Chardonnay (and I’ve stupidly forgotten what it was called). Turns out it was damn good, very similar to the Ridge in style (oak, but not too much; good acidity, tasted of cashews and cream), and all around a lovely wine.
I’ve popped the cork off a Pinot Noir in anticipation of a good match with roast duck this evening. The bird is resting, so I’ve a few minutes to swirl and sniff my way through this reasonably priced Burgundy from Savigny-les-Beaune. A very Pinot-esque purple/red/orange hue that is pretty and not especially dense. Colour’s one of those things I tend to gloss over a bit; with Pinot, though, I enjoy the paradox of a red wine that can often lack colour density but which, when it’s good, is intensely aromatic and powerful in the mouth. One of the charms of the variety, I guess.
Domaine du Prieuré
An instantly aromatic wine — one of those that fills its immediate vicinity with smells a few seconds after being poured. There are flowers and citrus zest and all manner of high toned things. Once this aspect of the wine settles, though, nascent bottle aged characters emerge and it is these that form the backbone of the wine’s aroma. Although just beginning its journey, this wine seems to be approaching maturity with determined elegance. There’s no disjointedness to the aroma. Rather, a layer of intense citrus fruit dovetails neatly into hints of toast and beeswax. It’s all quite seamless, surprisingly so for a wine that isn’t yet released to the market. I hesitate a little here because there’s also a slightly blunt character to the aroma profile, a lack of light and shade that, I hope, will appear with more time in bottle.
Wine, for me, has been an acquired taste, or rather a series of acquired tastes that continue to accumulate the more I drink. Funny thing is, an acquired taste can be the most stubborn, displacing attractions that, at first, feel easier and more natural. So it is with Pinot Noir in general, and Burgundy in particular. I’m far from the most erudite taster, yet my first smell of this wine had the same effect as (for me) the smell of a Hunter Semillon, or a Coonawarra Cabernet. In other words, at least at first, the recognition of something familiar has as much to do with one’s pleasure as the absolute quality of the aroma. The accumulated experience of tasting makes the smell of this wine the summation of all the Pinots I’ve smelled. It is most curious to me, and something I’d like to explore further. If only I knew where to start.
Dusty Dutch cocoa and vanilla essence before all else, but with a deep vein of dark, savoury fruit running underneath. There’s real sophistication and complexity here, with bursts of licorice and spice adding detail to the aroma profile. It seems quite woody; happily, the oak is well matched to the fruit character.
The screwcap on this bottle was encrusted with a foul-smelling yellow sludge that almost had me tipping its contents down the sink immediately. I’m glad I didn’t, though, as the wine seems in fine condition.
At 4.2 g/l residual sugar, I think this wine is technically off-dry. It is made from bought grapes by a small, family-run producer in the Southern Flinders Ranges, North of the Clare Valley.