Capel Vale Debut Pinot Noir 2014

Capel Vale Debut Pinot NoirThe vineyards of Western Australia are perhaps best known for their Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends, but despite the lack of a technically “cool” climate, they can produce a reasonable Pinot Noir as well.  While it might not be graced by the more voluptuous fruit of regions like Central Otago, the winemaking team at Capel Vale have done well with their Debut 2014 Pinot Noir which hits the shelves at only around $18 a bottle.

Hailing from their Pemberton vineyards, the Debut is a lively style which focuses on fruit and flavour more so than grace and charm.  The strawberry and stewed plum characters dominate from the first sip whilst hints of maraschino cherry and black forest cake creep in towards the back palate.

The relatively high (14%) alcohol leaves it a little hot on the finish but there’s enough acid to prevent overt flabbiness developing.

At the price point, it’s obviously good value and with a residual sweetness, it’s well suited to dishes like Sichuan Quail or Peking Duck.  Worth a try!

Woodstock Pilot’s View Shiraz 2012

Woodstock Pilot's View Shiraz 2012If you’ve ever wondered what virtues American Oak can bring to Shiraz, I’d suggest looking no further than the Woodstock Pilot’s View Shiraz 2012.

In its typically McLaren Vale way, the deeply crimson Shiraz is luscious, ripe and voluptuous across the palate yet shackled at the back by the muscular vanilla and coconut American Oak tannins that drive a long, yet sweet and spicy conclusion.

I suspect that the French might consider the style to be bold and lacking in grace but to my palate, the sweet oakiness and the chocolate and vanilla vibrance, makes for a berry-licious marriage of viticulture and cooperage.  With great natural acidity and solid tannins, the Pilot’s View will undoubtedly stand the test of time in any cellar.

It’s only available at the cellar door or on premise, but at around $38, it’s one of the best investments I’ll make this year!

Gibson Bridge 2015 Pinot Gris

Gibson Bridge Pinot GrisIt pains me to once again have to speak highly of a wine from the Marlborough Region of New Zealand’s South Island, but the Gibson Bridge 2015 Pinot Gris is deserving of every accolade it receives.  Unsurprisingly, previous vintages of this Pinot Gris have won numerous awards and the recently released 2015 edition seems destined for similar fame.

It’s a fragrant style with a spicy cinnamon and nutmeg edge at the front, and voluptuous pear and ripe nectarine characters through the mid-palate.  If you allow the wine to warm slightly in the glass, the richness of the fruit becomes obvious and an apple pie and ice cream sweetness lingers on a star anise-like conclusion.

The slightly sweet finish makes it a perfect partner for spicy Asian cuisine or even maple sauce embossed wattles with deep fried ice cream!

Either way, it’s beautifully balanced, aromatic and worth every cent of its $25 price tag.

Wolf Blass Altitude Chardonnay 2015

Wolf Blass Altitude ChardonnayChardonnay is a style that tends to polarise palates at times, but is surely the noblest of white varietals and arguably, the most versatile grape that wine makers have in their armory.

There are times that a luscious, mouth-filling creamy and textural white is required and others, when a lean and tight (if not acidic) wine is the order of the day.  And when that latter situation arises, you could look no further than the Wolf Blass Altitude Chardonnay 2015.

Aptly named from the elevated vineyards of the Adelaide Hills, the Altitude has benefited from the region’s cooler climate and milder sunny days to show a natural crispness that belies the intensity of its tropical fruit nose.  There are abundant nectarine and peach characters at the front but with a hint of toasted oakiness that evolves across the palate.  It is not the heavy, over oaked or malo bolstered type that Kath and Kim would make their staple, but rather, a crisp, light and zesty style that retains its modesty through the long and lean conclusion.

I personally prefer a little more fullness in my Chardies, but at only $20 a bottle, it would be a perfect partner for a fig, pear and buffalo mozzarella salad.

Steels Creek Estate 2013 Cabernet Franc

Steels Creek CFCabernet Franc is not a style that we often see vinified as a single varietal, but when it’s done well, it can be at least the equal of its better known cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Most frequently, Cabernet Franc is used in the classic Bordeaux blends to provide charm, aromatics and fragrance to what is my all-time favourite red blend.

In Victoria’s Yarra Valley there aren’t a lot of winemakers braving a single varietal of the style, but on a recent field trip we happened upon the Steels Creek Estate 2013 Cabernet Franc.

It’s a remarkably vivacious style in its youth and shows a lively deep cherry colour in the glass with a lighter rufescent edge on the rim.  Whilst it’s only medium in body, there is a vibrance to the blackcurrant and cranberry fruits that emerge from the savoury shadows of your first whiff in the glass. The luscious red fruits evolve and embrace the palate in a generous bear hug before tobacco and cassis undercurrents appear at the back end.  The balance is terrific as oak characters embolden on the finish and allow the seductive Cabernet Franc to fragrantly weave its intoxicating aura, leaving your taste buds yearning for that next sip.

It’s a wine made only in small quantities (one barrique) so economies of scale aren’t able to constrain the cost, but even at $40 a bottle, I reckon it’s a “must” for the discerning cellar.

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is a practice group leader of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers, part of the Slater and Gordon group, and lover of fine food and wine

Taylors St Andrews Single Vineyard Clare Valley Shiraz 2009

Taylors St Andrews ShirazThey are the Artisans who created one of my all-time favourite Rieslings and now, the team at Taylors are using fruit from the very same region to craft a Shiraz that arouses my tastebuds in much the same way.

The Taylors St Andrews Shiraz hails from South Australia’s Clare Valley and the 2009 vintage I recently cracked is even more impressive now than when I was first blessed with the experience some three or four years ago.

In the glass, it’s a deep, dark bloodshot colour which is rufescent around the edges.  There are hints of savoury molasses characters on the nose, but once on the front palate, its layer upon layer of delicious (sweet) stewed plums and toffee apple characters with an edge of chocolate, black forest cake and coffee at the back end.  It almost makes me feel like I’m visiting the Shingle Inn!

But the real appeal of the St Andrews is its undeniable richness and the mouth filling, yet voluptuous feel of the premium Shiraz fruit as it transitions across every stage of the palate.

Not surprisingly, it isn’t cheap (the current vintage sells at $65 a bottle), but class costs: and I suspect it will only improve over the next decade or so.

Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is a practice group leader of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers, part of the Slater and Gordon group, and lover of fine food and wine

Seville Hill No 8 Shiraz 2012

Seville HillWhat was once a small apple and cherry orchard near Seville in Victoria’s Yarra Valley is now Seville Hill Estate; a six hectare vineyard producing low volumes of high quality Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz grapes.  Agriculturalists John and Josie D’Alosio removed the fruit trees and planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines in 1991, but have since expanded their range to include graftings of some Italian styles like Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese and Tempranillo in 2011.

And while their Cabernet is excellent, I reckon their 2012 No 8 Shiraz is the standout from the stable.  It’s a perfect compromise between structure and power as the upfront black cherry and mocha characters robustly drive their way through a mouth-filling mid-palate, before pepper and subtle spices meet French Oak and subdued tannins at the finish.  It’s a wine of great integrity as it flows seamlessly despite layer upon layer of flavours unfolding as it weaves its magic through your mouth.

There’s enough natural acidity to suggest that despite its current drinkability, it will only improve over the next decade or so – not that I can see it laying in my cellar racks for that long!

At $60 a bottle it’s not a quaffer, but undoubtedly one of the best Shiraz from the region that I have ever had the privilege to enjoy.

De Bortoli Sacred Hill Chardonnay 2015

De Bortoli Sacred Hill ChardonnayThe value end of the retail wine spectrum is a busy if not duopolistic space, but if you can look past the “specials” promoted by the Coles and Woolworths operations, there are some Australian made wines punching well above their weight.  Like the De Bortoli Sacred Hill Chardonnay 2015.

It’s a product of the Riverina region near Griffith in New South Wales where the warm dry climate is well suited to growing high volumes of white wines like Semillon and Chardonnay.  Such is its suitability to viticulture that the Riverina is, in fact, now the second biggest wine producing area in Australia!

Unlike many of its competitors at the quaffing price point, the Sacred Hill does not give the impression of being a mass produced product best stored in cardboard!  It shows lively fruit throughout yet possesses great poise and balance.  The nose is somewhat unyielding but reveals its French oak exposure from the outset with perhaps just a slight hint of nectarine.  Once on the palate, voluptuous pear, stone fruit and honeydew melon characters embrace gentle acids and drive their way to a long crisp finale.

It’s a remarkable wine given its $5 price tag and well suited as a quaffer or when catering for the crowds.


Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is a practice group leader of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers, part of the Slater and Gordon group, and lover of fine food and wine

Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay 2012

Bird in Hand Nest Egg Chardonnay 2012I have tried some seriously good Chardonnay in my time and expensive ones at that; but few, if any, have been better than the Bird in Hand Nest Egg 2012.  And it seems that it’s not just my own palate that has been thoroughly impressed by the Nest Egg.  James Halliday gave it an outstanding 95 points in his 2014 Wine Companion and it even won Best Wine of Show at the International Cool Climate Wine Show in 2014.

As the $75 price tag suggests, it’s an indulgent style but one which hints at nectarine and toasted cashews on the nose and a zippy citric creaminess through the middle.  The obvious influence of malolactic fermentation may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that process and some exposure to quality French oak, has added a creamy complexity that oozes sophistication and adds palate weight through to a lingering finale.  I love the way that a gentle acidity and a toasty oakiness caress and cajole your tastebuds yet deliver an overwhelming elegance to a world class wine.  It’s not cheap, but it’s bound to become an Australian icon.


Our wine reviewer, Travis Schultz, is a practice group leader of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers, part of the Slater and Gordon group, and lover of fine food and wine

Cumulus Climbing 2015 Pinot Gris

Cumulus Climbing 2The cool climate, dry autumns and elevated vineyards in Orange, New South Wales, make it an ideal environment for growing Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but it may be the Alsatian inspired Pinot Gris grape that puts it front and centre of the viticultural map.  In the United States, Pinot Gris is now the second biggest selling style of dry white wine (after Chardonnay) and it’s slowly gaining momentum here Down Under. Its growing popularity is probably a reflection of the compromise it offers between aromatic and austere, and the inoffensive nature of its gentle acid backbone.

The Cumulus Climbing 2015 Pinot Gris is a genuine ambassador for the Orange locals as it delivers all the best of the Pinot Gris’s attributes, but at a sub $20 price tag.  And it’s all about texture, mouth feel and palate weight.

Sure, there are some delightful pear, Fuji apple and Quince flavours that remain lively right across the palate, but it’s the way the wine emboldens and expands as it builds to its defined but well constrained conclusion, that makes it such an attractive drink-now proposition. Some French Oak exposure and a bit of stirring on lees have given it a riper, fuller and more textural presence and leave a sense of opulence as you impulsively reach for the glass to take just another sip. It’s approachable on its own, but also well suited to pairing with spicy Asian dishes.