Another set of overdue notes coming through, this time from a great dinner at Oscillate Wildly with a small set of friends. Some of my favourite dishes from the night are in the photos below;

Trumpeter, Radish and Ponzu

Beef, Shiitake and Sesame

“Strawberries and Cream”

NV Jacques Selosse Champagne Brut Initiale – France, Champagne
Disgorged 30/04/2013. Lemon, violet florals, ginger snaps and a light nuttiness that adds a layer to the nose that really appeals. The palate shows grand power, it is layered and intense with the pure vibrancy of the fruit also permitted to shine through. Would have been happy to drink this all evening! 92/100

2005 Domaine Matrot Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
Quite fresh on the nose, it starts of with lemon, green apple and white florals and is followed by some pistachio as perhaps the only sign that it has much age on it. The palate has a richness that also has drive behind it and there is a saline streak that I adore in this type of wine. I don’t think it is a bottle for extreme long term aging but it is showing so well now and should continue over the shorter-medium term. One of the best bottles I’ve had from this producer. 92/100

2011 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
Served blind. Redcurrant, cherry and roses along with meaty and earth styled aromas, as well as some toasty oak showing through. The palate shows superb balance between the pure red fruit and some complex savoury elements. This is the perfect example of the beauty of Rousseau in its youth. 93/100

2010 Domaine Bruno Clavelier Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brulees Vieilles Vignes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
Corked. NR/100

2005 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune 1er Cru Grèves Vigne de L’Enfant Jesus – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru
Served blind. Decanted for 4 hours and apparantly had tightened up quite a bit since opening. It was still quite perfumed with raspberry, rhubarb, violet and some earthy hints. The structure is firm, with the youthful fruit and a good lift of acid providing a little bit of respite, but still feels like this needs plenty of time. 92/100

1996 Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT – Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
This seems more Cabernet-like at the moment, even though I know it isn’t a large % of the wine. Blackcurrant, cherry, smoke/ash and chocolate. Medium bodied palate, it isn’t super complex but it has some slightly plush fruit and the tannins still provide it with grip. Had a small amount left over two nights later and it was still drinking really well, so it likely has some time left to develop. 91/100

2009 Pedro Balda Rioja Majuelo de la Rad Cosecha – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
Cherry, raspberry, tobacco and some oak. Really good texture on the palate and a light touch with the tannin structure, this would match quite a lot of types of food. Very youthful but will improve for sure. Was glad to try this as I’ve been keen to for some time! 91/100

2003 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese – Germany, Rheinhessen
Pear, grapefruit, spice and peach aromas. Lovely balance, it has really good acidity behind it and as a result the sweetness doesn’t at all stand out. This grew the longer it was in the glass. Super good stuff. 91/100

Sydney La Paulée - Gala Dinner

I’m a few months late with these notes but this was the gala dinner at the end of a week of events for the Sydney Burgundy Celebration, organised by sommeliers Franck Moreau MS, Amanda Yallop & Michaël Engelmann MS. I also attended a large walk-around tasting the night prior and may post some quick notes on the highlights of that.

This BYO event gave our table of 10 the chance to bring out our very best bottles of Burgundy and I think we did very well! Most of these notes are based on a proper glass but I’ve tried to include if they were just a taste/splash from kind friends at other tables.

The food on the night was okay but not amazing, given the calibre of chefs involved I hoped for a bit better – but at least it let the focus on the night be the wines.

WA marron, salt water duck and white miso salad (Neil Perry)

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Roast quail, bacon toast and ravigote (Richard Purdue)

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Slow cooked beef cheeks, roasted celeriac purée, puffed wild rice (Peter Doyle)

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Époisses (Burgundy) and Fleuron Vache (Pyrénées) with black grapes,ficelle and crackers

The Wines:

  • 1995 Louis Latour Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Grapefruit, honey, pear and oak. Medium bodied with good texture starting to show, it is definitely still in a fresh phase but is taking on more complexity. I don’t think it will live for an extremely long time but it still has time to improve. 90/100

  • 1988 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Flinty and smoky with lemon and wax. Brilliant palate with oodles of texture and showing both youth and complexity. A sense of extremely fine balance along with great poise. Fantastic wine. 94/100

  • 2008 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Premox affected. NR

  • 2011 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Pepper and mint with candied lemon and peach – aromatics are very much open and singing. Delicious palate with superb acidity assisting the rich but precise fruit. Loved it! 94/100

  • 1999 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny Bourgogne Blanc – France, Burgundy, Bourgogne Blanc
    The nose is quite expressive initially with citrus, florals, light licorice and light herbs coming through but with time in the glass it calmed down and was probably less interesting for it. The palate has a good hit of upfront richness but the mid-palate intensity dips away before the acid kicks in and picks things back up to drag the fruit into a medium length finish. Drink over the next couple of years.
    90/100

  • 1972 Maison Albert Bichot Meursault 1er Cru Charmes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Butterscotch, nutty and sea spray with plenty of toast – quite interesting though it’s maybe not appealing for everyone. Lots of toast and nutty character on the palate, though it’s a little one dimensional. Did improve in the glass before fading slightly. 88/100

  • 1929 Pierre Bourée Fils Chambolle-Musigny – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny
    Quite stemmy and dusty earth on the nose – not a whole lot else. The palate is better than the nose, it’s light bodied and there is a light red fruit character still remaining. Nice to try but the age is showing. 86/100

  • 1929 Pierre Bourée Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Clos de la Justice – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
    Great nose of cinnamon, leather, mint, cherry and earth. Good weight, in that aspect it is better than the last bottle – this one has some sweet fruit hanging on and the structure has receded but is still providing a frame. Considered, resolved and very good. 91/100

  • 1995 Bernard Dugat-Py Mazis-Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru
    Great intense aromatics – strawberry, violets, cherry, rhubarb and meaty earthy notes. The palate has fantastically bright acidity and some serious structure to it. Ticking along very nicely. 93/100

  • 2006 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
    Just had a tiny pour of this but it was memorable all the same. Bursts out of the glass – graphite, cherry, florals and spice. Brilliantly pure fruit and the wine has the structure and minerality to easily back it up into the long finish. 95/100

  • 2002 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
    Another short taste but another awesome wine. More restrained aromatically than the 2006 but layered and serious with earth, spices and red cherry. The palate is where this really shines, with genuinely serious structure and imposing tannins that are not out of place with the clean dark fruit and a great core of acid. Super impressive now
    but give it time if you can! 96/100

  • 1996 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, La Tâche Grand Cru
    Complex aromatics that built constantly in the glass, evolving frequently and holding your attention for as long as you can give it. Meaty at first with huge doses of mixed spices, then raspberry and floral notes, followed by musk and cherry and earth. Seamless on the palate, is has immense class and vitality. Long and driven, this is
    without doubt brilliant. 96/100

  • 1998 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Musigny – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Musigny Grand Cru
    Fantastic nose with earthy and sappy forest floor, charcoal, roses and strawberry. Initially I’m surprised by the brightness of the red fruit on the palate, but I quickly encounter a very fine but pressing tannic element along with a more expected muscular and imposing structure. Amazing length and of course the wine as a whole should get even
    better from here. 94/100

  • 2004 Lucien Le Moine Clos de la Roche – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
    Tasted blind. Stems dominate with plenty of green character – pretty obvious it is 2004. Acidity on the palate is good and well integrated but there is a herbal edge that I just don’t like. 86/100

  • 1996 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
    Extremely floral and perfumed right from the get go – along with supporting notes of earth, cherry and spice. The palate feels complete, with a wonderful feeling of composure. The acidity crackles and works so well with the light red fruits. Has started to show a little development but it’s still a long way from its peak. 96/100

  • 2008 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
    Very perfumed nose along with pepper and spices, smoke and sweet red fruit. The palate on pouring is not immediately approachable, but given time in the glass it started to open ever so slowly. This wine is very serious and really is in need of slow consumption and contemplation at the moment. Essential to give it time if possible! 93/100

  • 2002 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Bonnes Mares – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
    Wickedly perfumed – violets, dark cherry, a meaty earthiness and tobacco – showing really well for such a young wine. Even the palate isn’t entirely standoffish, it’s seriously structured but there is enough fruit density and clarity to rise and provide pleasure already. Lovely wine and probably my favourite of these from 1998-2002 that
    I’ve tasted. 94/100

  • 2007 Domaine Dujac Clos St. Denis – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru
    Sappy but pleasant nose with vanilla, roses, and raspberry. The palate exhibits fine acidity and light but high toned fruit, there are even the beginnings of some complexity, especially in the mouthfeel but the brightness from the acidity and fruit is still centre stage for now. 92/100

  • 2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
    Have tried this once before and I commented on how it would have been the star on almost any other night – well at this event it happened to encounter a cavalcade of insane Burgundy, but still well and truly held its own. Meaty, black cherry, spice and musk aromas. Palate has excellent freshness and lift, with great length and depth to the fruit. A great wine that I hope to encounter a third time, on a night where it is allowed to shine bright! 94/100

  • 2008 Domaine Prieuré Roch Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Only a small taste of this – stemmy, violets, cinnamon and cranberry. Bright red fruit on the palate, this is drinking really nicely already, it has fine structure but I can’t see it going very long term. 91/100

  • 2003 Faiveley Chambertin-Clos de Bèze – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
    Dark nose of violets, mocha chocolate, vanilla and smoky perfume. Palate continues the impression of density with deep black fruits and a domineering tannic kick. Very persistent acidity does help and the length of the wine is excellent. I liked it ever still in this stage of its youth but to do it justice needs time. 92/100

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2008 Ulysse Collin Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Les RoisesFrance, Champagne
October 2012 disgorgement. One of my favourite grower-producers. Touched by nutty oak, with honey, vanilla, apple, pear and chalk. The minerality and acidity cut a path through the honey tinged fruit, with fantastic balance for my taste. 92/100

2003 Domaine Louis Michel Chablis Grand Cru Les ClosFrance, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis
Toasty lemon, with sesame, honeycomb and florals. This took time to open up but was really very pleasant once it had. Rich on the palate but has control as well. Medium length and good flow. 90/100

2011 Coche-Dury MeursaultFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
Lot #3. Lemon scented, with flint, ginger, grapefruit and musky florals. Initially feels slightly broad on the palate but it focusses back in quite superbly toward the mid palate and finish – ending up with a feeling of precision. Plenty going on with this wine. 91/100

2006 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. JacquesFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
Complex aromas of spice, graphite, meat, floral and truffle notes. The tannins are ultra fine and they prop up the delicious red fruit. Composed and has fantastic length. Really lovely already. 93/100

2004 Domaine Rossignol Trapet ChambertinFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin
Served blind. Vanilla oak, cinnamon, rhubarb and plum with a herbal edge to it. Black cherry fruit on the palate provides a certain roundness and while the herbal notes come through too they are interesting rather than distracting. Medium length, good texture, nice wine! 91/100

2006 Domaine Yves Cuilleron Côte-Rôtie La MadinièreFrance, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
Menthol/eucalyptus, kirsch, some bretty type notes with plenty of oak and licorice. Rich on the palate with nice spice interwoven. The tannin is prominent and works well with the richness of the fruit. Very good. 90/100

2008 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape ReserveFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Lovely perfume – garrigue, strawberry, earthy and peppery spice with a touch of stem and perfumed red fruits. Very restrained palate, has very fine acidity with the light red fruit. A serious wine is here behind all the perfume and appeal. Came back to a small glass after two hours and it was singing. 93/100

2006 Azienda Agricola Valentini Montepulciano d’AbruzzoItaly, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
What an idiosyncratic wine. Coffee, musk, licorice, blackcurrant, some herbs and cola. Superb energy, there is sweet black fruit that is cut through by sizzling acidity. Had great length and interest, really shining with food. Constantly changed and evolved in the glass. A great experience. 92/100

1999 Paolo Scavino Barolo CarobricItaly, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Five spice, rose, licorice, tar and light chocolate aromas. Like the initial intensity on the palate, it is bold and the fruit has a tinge of richness to it, but it feels very well balanced. Excellent even now and has potential to develop for another 10 years or so. 93/100

1994 Soldera (Az. Agr. Case Basse) Brunello di Montalcino RiservaItaly, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
A fantastic nose – smoke, black tea leaves, rich red cherry, five spice, graphite and iron. The palate is brilliant, I wished my glass would never end. The detail and texture is outrageously good. Lovely balance between fruit and tannin – it is really drinking superbly well. Fantastic!! 96/100

2006 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore OrnellaiaItaly, Tuscany, Bolgheri, Bolgheri Superiore
Mint, truffle, camphor, raspberry, kirsch and raspberry aromas – building layer upon layer each time you go back to it. Powerful, driven palate with acidity keeping it bright. Really needs another 10 years as it is all power and only slight nuance on the palate at the moment. 92/100

1995 Zilliken (Forstmeister Geltz) Saarburger Rausch Riesling AusleseGermany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Lemon, orange, grapefruit and even some sulphur still remains. Very dry feeling for an Auslese, there is great fruit purity and freshness. Not really showing any development, this is good but very very young. 90/100

My favourite two dishes on the night (The Bentley restaurant in Sydney);

Scampi + Shaved Lettuce + Avocado

Pork Cheek + Garlic and Yoghurt Puree + Radicchio + Jamon

JJ Prum 2012 Riesling

This trade tasting was held by the Australian importer for these wines (Bibendum Wine Co.) at Mr Wong restaurant in Sydney. As mentioned in my writeup of the 2011 range, I adore the wines of JJ Prum and they are one of my favourite wineries in the Mosel, so while I probably have some bias towards this estate I also hold them to a very high standard due to my lofty expectations.

The 2012 vintage in general across Germany is one that I’ve heard mixed reports on, but based on this tasting I feel that this was a very successful year for JJ Prum, especially among the Spatlese and Auslese wines. These are wines that are immensely pure and bright with acidity is lifted a notch up over the 2011s – while they are utterly delicious now they will reward patience and I believe will develop into classics. As I mentioned elsewhere, the only downside to this tasting was that breakfast the next morning was exceptionally mundane in comparison!

Here are my tasting notes of the 2012 wines that were shown and a 2004 for comparison, as well as a couple of photos of the excellent food that was matched with each flight;

  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett
    Initially there is a touch of funk but this backs away to show peach, lime and a light herbal note. Rounded mouthfeel via the off-dry level residual sugar and some luscious fruit, there is acidity present but it doesn’t assert itself as much as I would like it to. It does have some immediate appeal although the flavour does peter out slightly toward the finish. 87/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett
    Leaps out of the glass aromatically, I could smell it before lifting my glass. There are wild floral notes, spice, orange peel and mandarin along with ripe peaches. The palate is perhaps not quite as exciting, it has medium fruit intensity with some depth to it and while it held its sweetness much better than the Estate Kabinett, I wish it were just a little bit more vibrant. 89/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett
    Slate pervades the nose, with graphite, violets, lemon rind and some apricot notes supporting it. The fruit shows off lovely purity (a running theme throughout this tasting) alongside a frame of acid that provides a note of clarity and finesse, as such it rose above the other Kabinett wines today for me. With good drive and length, this was both impressive and delicious. 91/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spätlese
    Not as expressive and more held back right now compared to the Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett, there is a little peach and a little lime and spending some time swirling coaxed these out just a little more. The sweetness is clearly a step up here compared to the Kabinett, though the tangy acidity also takes a leap forward and I actually like the balance on this more. Medium length with good potential to improve. 89/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese
    Bright aromas of lime, grapefruit chalk, flint and blood orange. The fruit intensity is probably the most dense of the three Spatlese that we tasted, which makes the job done by the acid extremely impressive – it twinkles across the palate and following the finish an impression of minerality remains. The sweetness is really a background character, although with the dish (steamed fish fillet with ginger and shallots) the tinge of sweetness really worked. wonderfully. 91/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
    A burst of matchstick initially but this peels away and the resulting aromas are incredibly intense and perfumed – layered florals, pear, apple, slate and nectarine. The balance is exceptional, nigh on perfect, the sweetness is intertwined with brilliantly focused acidity and there is a sense of weightlessness even aside the great depth of flavour. One of the best young Spatlese I’ve ever tried – sublime stuff! 94/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese
    Spiced orange, pear and some tinned pineapple aromas. Very good honeyed fruit provides the weight with enough acidity to keep up. Nice but seems closed and lacks some of the excitement of the other Auslese for now. 90/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
    Lemon, white floral notes, talc and passion fruit make up the nose. The palate is electric, the acidity soaring and heightening your senses. Surges across the palate and I struggled to keep up at times – fortunately the persistence and carry is excellent so there is plenty of time to think about each sip. A very successful wine that was even better with food to accompany it. 92/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese
    Still very much in the Himmelreich slate/mineral driven style, but at this level I started to see more ripe fruits including peach, apple and pear along with some wax – it’s really quite lovely already and it even feels like it is holding back something more. The fruit character is one of precision, purity and great length, the acidity supporting and lifting the fruit up, finishing with a sense of purpose. 93/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
    An exciting nose of peach, mandarin, apricot, white florals and a streak of lime. The sweetness and ripe fruit is delicious and yet there is poise and control at all times, there is some serious magic involved behind this balance. Elongated by a tight swath of acidity, this has the hallmarks of a classic. 93/100
  • 2004 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese
    A brief interlude from the 2012s, from the 2004 vintage that is described by the estate as having a similar feel. A note of kerosene is just starting to emerge, followed by orange peel, spices, slate and minerals. The development on the nose isn’t as evident on the bright and still youthful palate which is nonetheless starting to sing. Detailed and beautifully composed, this is a wine that has all the elements to develop over the next 15 years. If this is the direction the 2012s are headed then I need to make sure I have some 2012s put away. 92/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel
    A serious amplification of intensity and ripeness on both the nose and palate, I needed a moment to step back and adjust my approach. Struck match, pineapple, grapefruit, flint and smoke. Ultra delicious, with the botrytis only just hinted at behind a wave of pure fruit. Mouth-filling though it doesn’t lack focus somehow, probably in part due to excellent texture. Superb, though patience will be rewarding! 94/100
  • 2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel
    Has an intensity to it similar to the 2012 Graacher Himmelreich, with a aroma profile including peach, pear, honey, deep floral perfume as well as a herb note on the side that provides an additional layer of interest. The sweetness here is intense but pure, avoiding dipping into syrup territory. There is a saline character to the acidity that enhances the flavour and cleanses the fruit. With a rich butterscotch sauce the sweetness retreated somewhat but the wine was not overwhelmed. A marvellous note to finish on. 94/100

Steamed Dim Sum

Fried Dim Sum

Mr. Wong’s special fried rice with pork and prawn

Steamed fish with ginger and shallots

Salt and pepper lamb cutlets, fennel and cumin

Wok fried baby bok choy with garlic, chilli and oyster sauce

Mango pudding, passionfruit granita, pomelo and pearls

Mr. Wong’s deep fried vanilla ice cream served with butter scotch sauce

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Late last year a few of our wine group got together to try to emulate the success of a friend’s birthday dinner at Black in 2012. There were fewer of us in attendance this time around, but we gave it a good shot and enjoyed some brilliant wines (a few bottles are not in the photo). I’ll highlight a couple of the highlights below;

We kicked things off with a (not pictured) bottle of NV Krug, probably with about 2 to 3 years bottle age on it (pre-dating the Krug ID system but with the new label) – it was drinking beautifully, peach and pear with nutty and complex earth aromas. Vibrant fruit and sizzling acidity on the palate. I adore grower Champagne, but when Krug is on song it is still one of my favourite wines.

I didn’t know what to expect from the 2002 Bernard Dugat-Py Charmes-Chambertin, the wines of Dugat-Py are controversial – some people adore them and others have a long list of criticisms including that they are over worked with huge extraction and density. My own experience has been very limited so I can’t be sure what side I fall on, but this bottle went a long way to convincing me that I’m on the side of those that would love to drink more! This was almost the polar opposite of some of the issues I listed above, it had an etheral, entrancing nose – earth, truffle, floral perfume and raspberry. Oh so brilliantly balanced, with lithe fruit and excellent but not at all ovebearing structure. Like most great wine it was very hard to pin down and it required real focus to tease out its beauty and detail. Continued to evolve and shift in the glass, with the last sip the best all night.

Another producer I’ve had not nearly as much experience as I’d like with, is Tenuta Greppo (Biondi-Santi) and his famed Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (from 2004 on this occasion). I’ve had a small number of older ones but not one this young. After the Dugat-Py I was sure that it would be incredibly difficult to top, but this rose and met the challenge with aplomb. Double decanted for about 8 hours. Cherry, autumn leaves, licorice, iron and roses – earthy and cinnamon aromas too, the complexity is outrageous. Lovely black fruit forms the base of the palate with plenty of depth and acidity supporting. Long and really lovely – superb!

Just the barest step behind the Biondi-Santi, but a wine that would have been assured of top billing on any other night was the 2005 Guigal La Turque. Predominantly Syrah with around 7% Viognier, the La La wines from Guigal would certainly be candidates if I were forced to pick a desert island wine. Superb aromatics – bacon and smoky charcoal, graphite and a real dark floral perfumed lift. The palate is certainly brooding in style, though it has a silky mouthfeel with some lovely spice to it as well. Needs time obviously but also obviously a very very fine wine.

The 2011 Mollydooker Velvet Glove was served blind by the birthday boy. Lots of the full on aromas you’d expect – blueberry, cassis, dark chocolate and raspberry. Rich and quite sweetly fruit driven, there is opulence to it but it has immense freshness and lift that pervades throughout the palate. Bold and viscous, it is really impressive how it manages to somehow not feel entirely over the top!

The final wine I’ll talk about is the 2010 Vieux Château Certan. I’ve essentially given up on the hope of buying top Bordeaux from good vintages again in my lifetime due to the expense involved, but there is the occasional opportunity to taste them thanks to generous friends. 86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, the nose is a melange of powerful fruits including blackcurrant and plum, with graphite, stalk, earth as well as red cherry. Rich and with a distinct feeling of density, there is nevertheless excellent restraint and the balance is nigh on perfect for me. There is complexity to it already which is amazing considering the potential to evolve alongside the brilliant tannic frame. The more I tasted it, the more I liked it and I hope (pray) to get to try it again in the distant future.

A few photos of some of my favourite dishes from the night;

Beetroot, sheep’s milk curd, beetroot ash
Beetroot, sheep's milk curd, beetroot ash

John Dory, cured in sake, smoked milk w/ rock kelp crisp
John Dory, cured in sake, smoked milk w/ rock kelp crisp

Probably my top dish of the night: Steamed snapper, black vinegar, radish, mushroom
Steamed snapper, black vinegar, radish, mushroom

1928 Lafite Cork

Another great tasting put on by Greg and Shannon from Rare Wine Dinners earlier in 2013. The undoubted highlight of the night for me was the chance of a second encounter with the 1964 Cheval Blanc, a legendary wine that floored me the first time I tasted it, as well as a 1928 Chateau Lafite (cork pictured above). Tasting notes for the wines are followed by a few quick photos of the food from Restaurant Arras.

  • 2009 Schloss Vaux Steinberg Riesling Brut – Germany, Rheingau
    Powerful nose of lemon, pineapple, white floral notes and slight nutty elements. The palate has a dash of fruit sweetness to it and while there is good acidity to counter, a tiny bit more acid would have lifted this even higher. I thought this was very good regardless and would happily drink it any time. 89/100
  • 1985 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Rare – France, Champagne
    Another late disgorged bottle. Mocha and earth with some apricot, apple and honey. The palate doesn’t quite have the same brightness as the last bottle which really gave it such great spark but there is good depth and length and this is still very good. 91/100
  • 1988 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Vintage Rare – France, Champagne
    Lemon pith, browned butter, sea spray and pear aromas. Bright acidity that is integrated brilliantly into the rich, rounded fruit. Great length, this lovely Champagne is right near its peak and drinking amazingly well. 93/100
  • 1978 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Amazing lifted orange peel and apricot over the top of butterscotch, some oxidative nutty notes and quince. The palate is a highlight, it is tangy and has some grip to it while having terrific texture. Complex and fully mature, this is great stuff. 93/100
  • 1978 Cantine Conte Zandotti Frascati Superiore – Italy, Latium, Frascati
    Wood, caramel, nutty and marzipan notes – with some time it took on a more sherried character that seemed like it would dominate given sufficient air. The palate has that same aged wooden note, though it was interesting that it had some freshness to it even though all the other characteristics were so aged. Medium length but trailed off very quickly afterwards. An interesting wine that would probably have been better quite some years ago but was worth trying. 87/100
  • 1987 Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Erdener Prälat Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Lemon barley nose with some florals and grapefruit in the background. A touch of bitterness distracts but the sweetness is there to almost cover it up and draw attention elsewhere. With medium length, it isn’t overly complex and I think it should be consumed now based on this bottle. 88/100
  • 1945 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Rosalack Auslese – Germany, Rheingau
    Wonderfully complex nose – honey and ginger with some toffee, various earthy spices and mandarin. The palate shows off excellent structure and balance still, with impressive powerful fruit and uninterrupted flow. The sweetness is present and gives the wine a delicious quality that had me drinking it much too quickly, the last sip of this was the best with the balance still extremely impressive. 93/100
  • 1964 Schloss Eltz Rauenthaler Rothenberg Riesling Auslese – Germany, Rheingau
    Wheat, apple and graphite with a light touch of spice to it. The palate is balanced though it is perhaps a touch shallow overall and either more intensity or depth would be appreciated. Holding up fairly well, but a 1971 of the same wine earlier this year was probably just a bit better quality wise. 88/100
  • 1947 Hospices de Beaune Beaune Cuvée Estienne – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune
    Smoky barbecue sauce with some undergrowth and a smidge of vegemite. The palate is similar and for me was just a bit too far past its best, though others at the table found much more pleasure and preferred this to the Leroy. (NR/flawed)
  • 1969 Hospices de Beaune Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Les Duresses Cuvée Boillot Leroy – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru
    Very appealing aromas of strawberry, rose, cherry, tea leaves and a dash of rhubarb. Initially the fruit on the palate is bright and lovely, though it started to drop away with time and the tannin that was hidden became more evident. A pure and pretty wine that was eminently enjoyable. 91/100
  • 1957 Lionel J. Bruck Côte de Beaune Reserve du Jubile – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune
    Black cherry, smoked meat and a whiff of tobacco. The palate has just a light touch of fruit with decent acid that extends the wine into a medium length finish. A pleasant wine with some interest to it. 88/100
  • 1964 M. Chapoutier Hermitage – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    A pretty and perfumed nose of violet, raspberry and cinnamon plus a bit of briar, smoke and intense licorice. The palate is both complex and enticing, it is helped along by nearly resolved tannins that give the wine much needed structure and balance for the amazingly pure red fruit flavor. Held well in the glass for half an hour then seemed to start fading. 93/100
  • 1979 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Belleruche – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
    The nose has some appeal with earth, cherry and smoke. The palate however was short, with tannin and acid dominating over faint traces of fruit. Others liked this more but I couldn’t see it. (NR/flawed)
  • 1928 Château Lafite Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Promising scents of graphite, undergrowth, cassis and earth. More youthful that could be anticipated on the palate, this wine has beautiful finesse and it is incredibly precise with a framework of fine tannin providing impressive structure for the age. The palate actually started to fill out a little with time in the glass, though it never quite got to the level of impact that one might expect from a typical Lafite. The length is very good and while it is not as complex as one might hope for (a result of the pasteurisation?), it was still a privilege to try. 93/100
  • 1964 Château Cheval Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    This is a wine that I have overly fond memories of, in 2007 I gave it 100 points after I was left completely mesmerised. It was with some trepidation that I approached this, given the expectations and potential to not live up to that incredible last bottle.

    The initial impressions were promising, the beguiling aromas brought back strong memories of the last bottle – cherry, cedar, licorice, raspberry and after some swirling and patience it took on more earthy and truffle characters. If the nose wasn’t enough to convince me the palate certainly was, with exceptional class on display. The balance is stunning with plush, powerful and remarkably youthful fruit, in harmony with superb structure through impeccably fine tannin and acidity. This is a legendary wine and to have tried it twice is humbling. My clear favourite on the night, a great distance out in front of some other special and rare wines. 98/100

  • 1959 Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux Le Haut-Lieu – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Heady intoxicating notes of beeswax, pear, ginger, apricot, pineapple and marzipan. The palate has plenty of rich honeyed fruit up front with the fine acidity providing a perfect foil. Has very impressive length and carry, with good complexity there already but still the potential to develop further. Awesome. 94/100
  • 1969 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Goldloch Riesling Edelbeerenauslese Cabinet – Germany, Nahe
    Marmalade, pineapple, pear and some slate. Really quite lovely balance with pure sweet fruit and plenty of restraint rather than outright power. Great length and a very tasty wine, though it feels a tad superficial. Some more time in the bottle wouldn’t hurt and perhaps the complexity will continue to develop. 93/100

Mackerel, oatmeal and strawberry dressing

Red Pepper Cannelloni “Paella Style”

“The Raw and The Cooked”

Roast Scallops, artichokes, rosemary and nettles

Salmon, Lime and Tonka bean

Roast Skate, Parsnip, Vadouvan and Raisin

Duck, Apples and Cabbages

Lancashire Hotpot by a Yorkshireman

Venison, Pine Smoked Octopus, Lentils and Cocoa Nib

“Still Raw and Still Cooked”

$50F8085A661ABAE7

I was pleased to receive this sample as I’ve read plenty about Alex Retief, but despite Canberra being one of my favourites local regions I hadn’t yet gotten the chance to try anything from this winery. The Sauvignon blanc fruit was sourced equally from the Revee Estate vineyard in Tumbarumba and from the Ravensworth vineyard in Murrumbateman. The fruit was fermented in French barriques for 10 months on lees and 450 dozen were produced.

Variety: 100% Sauvignon blanc
Region: Tumbarumba and Murrumbateman
Country: Australia
Winemaker: Alex Retief
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 12.5%
RRP: $28
Source: Sample
Winery Website: A.Retief

Tasted from Zalto White Wine stemware.

Tasting Note: Aromas of peach, green apple and passion fruit, with just a hint at grass and sugar snap peas in the background. The oak is not at the fore on the nose, but it shows more influence on the palate giving the wine a smoky edge in addition to more prominent grass and tropical fruit flavour. There is balance through a razor like core of acidity, exactly how I like it to be.

Enjoyable to drink overall, and it delivers interest through the texture and structure. 90/100

This is one of the better Sauvignon blanc based wines I’ve had this year. Others that have particularily stood out in the last year were all from Sancerre and included;

2011 Gérard Boulay La Comtesse Monts Damnés
2010 Alphonse Mellot Edmond
2010 Domaine Etienne et Sébastien Riffault Akméniné
2010 Domaine Pascal Cotat Les Monts Damnés

When to Drink: Now while it is fresh and the acid maintains its edge, though it has the structure to hold over the next 2-3 years. 2013-2016

Guillaume at Bennelong

Last weekend I had dinner with friends at the soon to be closed Guillaume at Bennelong. I hadn’t been to Guillaume previously, so when this dinner came up I was super keen as I probably wouldn’t have another chance at its current location.

Some brief comments on the restaurant – the food was very impressive, it’s in a style that I really enjoy where in one way it is simple as it’s a few high quality ingredients and maybe a sauce, but it is granted complexity through the sheer technique and thought that goes into each dish. My favourite courses were the Truffle Risotto, which had some of the best Australia truffles I’ve ever tasted (from Manjimup in WA I believe) and the Wagyu beef with Paris mash. The general service was actually a bit patchy, there was nothing major but it was also far from perfect and didn’t live up to the expectation for a venue like this. The wine service was much better, though a shortage of glassware throughout the night was surprising.

I would definitely return if the restaurant was open past the end of this year, but I’m hopeful a new location in Sydney is found and that I’ll have the chance to visit.

Here are the photos and tasting notes from the night;

The Food

Squid “tagliatelle”, sea urchin, tapioca “cracker”

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Truffle Risotto

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Partridge, chestnut, broad beans, foie gras, truffle

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Wagyu Beef, parsnip, parsley, garlic, shimeji mushroom, potato galette

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Sweetbreads and Tongue, raisins, almonds, gingerbread

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Tajima Wagyu Beef, chestnut mushrooms, spinach, shallot, merlot sauce

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American Cheddar

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Chocolate Souffle, cherry ripple ice cream

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Petit fours

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The Wines

  • 1992 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Oenothèque – France, Champagne
    Pale coloured. Lemon zest, toast and mineral aromas initially, with air some more richness starts to come through with a hint at honey. The palate has bright acidity and that mineral element shines through as well. Still in the process of developing and with plenty of room to move upwards. 92/100

  • 2007 Bouchard Père et Fils Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Too oxidative, especially on the palate. NR

  • 2010 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Grapefruit, lemon and straw, after time it shows some lightly tropical notes. The palate is restrained and the finesse is impressive. While it has excellent length and it is a superb wine, a little bit more depth and power would have really lifted it a notch. 93/100

  • 2008 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Bonnes Mares – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
    Meaty notes, red cherry and rhubarb with a tinge of earth and chestnut, and in the background initially, but lifting continually was a very fragrant perfumed element. The palate shows off focused minerality and fine acidity, with plenty of red fruit showing through. It’s more restrained in nature than muscular, though the tannins are firm and this obviously needs time to flourish. 93/100

  • 1999 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
    Served blind. The nose showed leather, smoky meat, some blood/iron and well woven spice aromas. The palate is weighty and was much more muscular than the previous wine. The tannins and oak are prominent still, but the length is just outrageously good with the acidity dragging the fruit through the structural elements. Great stuff, though it is still very much in its youth. 94/100

  • 2011 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Beautifully perfumed aromas draw you into this wine with violets, red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, a touch of oak influence and typical vosne spices – I would be entirely happy smelling this wine all evening. Superbly silky and with savoury spice, the fruit is dense but with a brightness to it that matches the nose. Fantastic depth and carry, this is a wine that aspires to brilliance and reaches it! 95/100

  • 1990 Gaja Barolo Sperss – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Dense nose of tar and graphite with cherry and licorice. The palate is taut but detailed and both the structure and the length are seriously impressive. It’s 23 years old at this point and I’d probably back it to develop for another 10 with ease. 93/100

  • 1995 Château Lafite Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Given a long decant. Youthful and intense nose of pencil shavings, kirsch, cassis and some roses. The explosive youthfulness shows on the palate as well but it never feel overbearing as the structure is equally uncompromising. This has barely budged since I last tried it 5 years ago, at that time I said it would develop over the next 20 years and I’d probably still say the same again from now. 95/100

  • 2000 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT – Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
    A decadent but complex nose – plum, graphite, kirsch, coffee, cocoa and licorice. Clearly very rich and sultry in style, it has stunning depth and purity in the fruit to give it dimension and amplify the interest. Impeccably long, this is truly superb and a clear step up on a very very good 2006 Redigaffi tried a few weeks prior. 96/100

  • 1997 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT – Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
    Thoughts were that this wasn’t quite in the best condition. Lots of undergrowth/autumnal decay, earthy mushroom and five spice. The palate is similarly very savoury, with some ripe fruit being hinted at. Fading a little bit on the finish, this is probably more developed that it should be if the bottle was in great condition but it was still quite tasty regardless! NR

  • 2004 Penfolds Bin 60A – Australia, South Australia
    Opulent but intoxicating aromas of blackberry, cassis, cinnamon, plum, tobacco and black cherry. It’s incredible how seamless the palate feels, despite the tremendous density and youthful power of the fruit. The tannin structure is really impressive as it is not at all obtrusive while still providing structure to reign in the immense fruit. Delicious but give it time if you can. 95/100

  • 1983 Taylor (Fladgate) Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Fresh and quite lifted aromas with olive and caramel, berries and chocolate. Rounded and luscious palate that is balanced out by fresh acidity. Good length. Drinking quite well now. 90/100

A stunning array of wines - Jayer, DRC, Rousseau, Chave, Raveneau, Harlan, Haut-Brion and more

Five years ago our group had the opportunity to buy a bottle of 1993 Henri Jayer Cros Parantoux with excellent provenance from a local source, we split the bottle 8 ways and have been waiting for an appropriate time to open it since. Earlier this year we decided that 20 years from vintage was as good a time as any and a dinner was planned with plenty of advance notice at Tetsuya’s in Sydney.

I’ve never actually seen another bottle of Jayer Cros Parantoux in real life, let alone had the chance to drink one – so all week leading up to this dinner my nerves and anticipation were rapidly building. I couldn’t see ever having another chance to drink one of these so if this bottle wasn’t up to scratch it would be heartbreaking.

Everyone in attendance brought along another bottle and as usual the generosity was beyond belief. This is a great group of friends and I’m really lucky to know them.

A quick note on Tetsuya’s before the wines, this was the first time in a couple of years that I had been back. I’ve always had good experiences there and expected it to be good but there were a number of people in the group that weren’t especially keen on going (either because of a less than thrilling experience or because of reports they had heard), but I believe even the sceptics came away surprised and very happy – one said that it was the best food he’d had there across numerous visits in the last 8 years. I too thought it was brilliant and would happily return again. Only slight issue for some was that the corkage is hitting record levels, but I’d much rather the option than them saying no – plus we were very well looked after personally by the wine director with no problems during the night, so I think it was worth it. Food photos follow the tasting notes.

  • 1982 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne – France, Champagne
    Deep gold in colour. The nose is very much in that heavily aged champagne style and personally I loved it – lots of apple cider, orange rind and chestnuts.. The palate is so much brighter, with acidity and real drive to it – it’s really surprising after the nose but its a great contrast and works well. Consistent with another bottle 4 years ago. 93/100

  • 1999 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut – France, Champagne
    Very bright nose – green apple, pear, sea spray and light brioche. Beautifully fresh palate, it has superior balance and great length. It’s still very primary and it will benefit quite a bit from some time in the bottle but it is still tasty now. 92/100

  • 2004 François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Lemon, white florals and flint on the nose. Wonderfully intense palate, with flavor that just builds and builds but there is a saline minerality that persists along the length of the wine and provides drive and verve. Very youthful still, but excellent nonetheless. 93/100

  • 2006 Remoissenet Père et Fils Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Montrachet Grand Cru
    This is probably the best wine I’ve had from this estate. Tight initially, it unwound slightly to show lemon, straw and light mint along with a noticeable but not overly intrusive oak component. Powerfully rich fruit on the palate, there is some tense acidity that keeps things in balance. This defies the general vintage reputation as it is powerful and mouth filling but has precision to it as well. Coming back to the wine many hours later toward the end of the night, it had barely budged, so I think giving it some time to mature would be a viable and good idea. 94/100

  • 1993 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cros Parantoux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    The cork was pulled at the start of the dinner (and while it wasn’t in perfect condition, it did look appropriately aged and marked) but was only decanted just before pouring it into the glasses, a number of hours later.

    My first impression from the aromas was outright relief, that it was not corked or in poor condition! The nose was amazingly complex and burst out of the glass with Vosne five spice, black cherry, smoke and lots of meat/game character. The palate was stunningly textured with very fine tannin providing the structure. It was both powerful and poised, with unbelievable length and impressive depth to the fruit. Complex and harmonious, this lived up to, and probably even exceeded my expectations for it. I had this in the glass for a number of hours and it became more and more earthy, then finally started to retreat aromatically after about 4 hours when I took my last sip. At 20 years of age it was in a good spot where it still had primary elements but they were phasing into more complex aged characters. A magnificent wine and I’m glad that I got to drink it with such good friends. 96/100

  • 2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
    Spice, black cherry, rhubarb and graphite aromas – with time it starts to lift and shows extremely pleasant florals. The palate is on the restrained side of medium-bodied but it has purpose and good flow to it. Kept getting better with time and I think this will be a great medium term prospect. On almost any other night this would have been the star but it had two unbelievable wines either side of it. 93/100

  • 2006 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echezeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru
    Served blind. Incredibly perfumed and pretty floral notes then spice, musk, cherry and a just a smidge of earth. On the palate it is so relaxed, composed and classy, especially next to the very tense/taut 2009. Very long, with considerable depth to it. I was surprised when this was revealed, but maybe I shouldn’t have been as I think it might be impossible to go wrong with DRC in 2006. 94/100

  • 2009 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echezeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru
    Also served blind. There is less intensity to the florals compared to the 2006 next to it, but they are still there as well as tobacco, black cherry and some strong stemmy elements. Very tense and taut on the palate, it isn’t as immediately appealing but it has clear class and very good structure through the oak and excellent acidity. Above all, I think this needs some serious time to unwind and show what it is capable of. 93/100

  • 1989 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Smoky and meaty aromas with black cherry and dark florals. The palate is right up my alley, it is wonderfully savoury with an overlay of powerful and expressive fruit with super texture. Right in the slot for drinking, but obviously still plenty of time left. Fantastic. 94/100

  • 1995 Château Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    This wine caused quite a silence around the room when it was poured, I think many people, including me, were slightly entranced by just how good it was. Kirsch and graphite with plenty of spice and earth. The palate is a study in how a wine of this power can still feel refined, especially with balance this close to perfect. The depth is stunning. For me, it is now at a point where it is ready to drink, but it will be a fair few more years until it peaks. 95/100

  • 1996 Harlan Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Graphite and tobacco with lots of blackberry and cassis. The palate is opulent and powerful but there is an impressive mineral streak to it that provides freshness and a sense of balance. Dense and layered, this is very very persistent length-wise. 95/100

  • 2003 Chris Ringland Shiraz – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Range
    Dark chocolate, cinnamon, tobacco and blackberry aromas. Huge power on the palate from the fruit, but there is more to this wine than just intensity, spend some time with it and you find layers and I think it has a certain class to it. For me this is a touch behind the 1999 and the unreal 1990, but it is still a great wine in it’s own right that will benefit from more time in bottle. 93/100

  • 2005 Schloss Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    From 750ml. Apple, pineapple, ginger, spice and honey aromas – quite intoxicating! It has fairly intense sweetness but the balance overall is excellent with a wave of acid coursing across the palate. A little bit in-between youthful exuberance and the complexities that come with more age, but still delicious. 92/100

  • 2007 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    From 750ml. Intense botrytis driven nose of pineapple, pear, honey and vanilla. The outright minerality of the palate is quite brilliant, both taming and extending the intense sweetness through its precision. Extremely appealing and with some more age it should be a real delight. 93/100

Chestnut Soup
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Pacific Oysters With Ginger & Rice Wine Vinegar
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Salad Of The Sea
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Marinated Scampi With Walnut Oil & Egg
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Confit Of Petuna Ocean Trout With Apple & Endive
Unpasteurised Ocean Trout Caviar

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Snapper With Soy Butter & Nameko Mushrooms
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Roast Breast Of Duck With Eggplant & Corn
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Tea Smoked Quail Breast With Parsnip & Calamari
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Slow Braised Beef Short Rib With Pickled Mushrooms
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Pear Sorbet
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Apple Granita With Mint Ice Cream & Basil Jelly
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Chocolate & Hazelnut Marquise With Cognac Ice Cream
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Petits Fours
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Hunter Valley Sunset

A recent long weekend provided an overdue opportunity to spend some time tasting in the Hunter Valley. I’ll just give some general impressions on some of my favourite wines as I was writing quick notes rather than any great detail. There are plenty more brief notes on Cellartracker for the wines I didn’t include in this post.

Some general thoughts on the vintages, 2011 seems to be a very strong year overall for both Semillon and Shiraz. 2012 for Semillon is not as strong in my opinion and from what I’ve heard the reds in 2012 were almost entirely wiped out, a disaster. 2010 is not generally considered a good year in the Hunter for Shiraz due to rain during harvest, but I tried a number that were excellent.

On the whole, the experiences provided by the cellar doors were very good. If I had one general complaint, it’s that I wish the ISO tasting glasses would be phased out. I understand there is cost involved in replacing glases, having to cater for ways to wash them etc, but I think if you are trying to show off your product at its best and some of your competitors are using good glassware, it puts you behind. Only two places that I went to charged a tasting fee and one of those was still using ISOs – I think if you are charging a fee it is reasonable to provide some good glasses.

Anyway, on to the favourite wines and wineries.

Lake’s Folly
Good glassware and always a worthwhile viist (during the few months they are usually open each year). Only two wines (although there are some special releases every now and again) so you can taste quickly and move on.

  • 2012 Lake’s Folly Chardonnay – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Spicy, nutty and oats with some pear aromas. The palate is powerful, with good mouthfeel and nice balancing acidity. There is oak present but I found it quite restrained. I liked it, but couldn’t justify buying this vintage at the asking price ($65). 90/100

  • 2011 Lake’s Folly Cabernets – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Spice, cherry and licorice on the nose. Sprightly and vibrant palate, with very good depth and carry. Very much in the Lake’s Folly classic style of Cabernet, this is great but really needs time to unfold. 92/100

Meerea Park
Very good glassware, Riedel restaurant or similar. $5 tasting fee redeemable on purchase and a minibus full of people came in and left due to the fee, which was good for our experience as the staff were already quite busy. The service was a little but slow at first, but the lady serving us was doing a good job and was friendly once things slowed down a bit. I had a poor experience here a few years back, so I was glad that it went well this time.

  • 2003 Meerea Park Sémillon Terracotta – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Burnt butter, orange peel and wax aromas. Palate has medium complexity and intensity, leading into a quite good length finish. Drink now and over the next 3 years. I thought this was good value for money for a 10 year old release. 91/100

  • 2008 Meerea Park Sémillon Alexander Munro – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lemon, some bubblegum and some nutty character already. The palate is still youthful with bright acid and good texture developing. It was a bit off-beat but I liked it and think it will develop well over the medium term. 90/100

  • 2010 Meerea Park Indie Shiraz Pinot – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    80% Shiraz, 20% Pinot Noir in a nod to some of the old school blends from the Hunter Valley. Cherry, stems, pepper and plum aromas. The tannins stand out on the medium bodied palate, they are grippy and need some time to be absorbed. I’d like to see this in another 7-8 years to see how it is doing. 90/100

  • 2010 Meerea Park Shiraz Hell Hole – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Very earthy nose with licorice, dark chocolate and raspberries. Very deft palate balance and some compelling depth to the fruit. The structure is spot on and this is a wine that should age wonderfully. My favourite wine on the day at the Meerea Park cellar door. 92/100

  • 2010 Meerea Park Shiraz Alexander Munro – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    A more dark fruited nose than many of the other releases tried at Meerea Park, with blackberry, earth and plum notes. The palate shows oak influence but it is well handled by some powerful and quite deep fruit. The aforementioned oak and some fine tannins contribute to impressive structure and this wine should be left alone for some time to age and develop. 91/100

Bimbadgen
ISO glasses. A disaster overall, it is my fault for not looking into it more but it was on the way to another location and it has a good reputation. I found the wines to mostly be unable to stand up to critical analysis. Only 7 out of 17 wines offered were from the Hunter Valley which is not necessarily an issue but I do prefer to taste Hunter wines when I’m there. The wines that did impress tended towards the very high point on the pricing scale. At one point there were 12 people being served by 1 staff member who was doing their best but was unable to provide good service to everyone.

  • 2010 Bimbadgen Shiraz Signature – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    A more serious wine and quite good. Plum, black pepper, blackberry and cedar. More depth and layers to the fruit and I found much better balance than the other wines tried. Very good. 90/100

First Creek Wines
ISO glasses. A good setup with seating around barrels and friendly staff. Wines were vacuum pumped after every pour, which I understand is a commercial decision but I can’t help but feel it hurts the aromatics of the wines with this constantly being done each and every time.

  • 2011 First Creek Wines Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Reserve – Australia, Tasmania, Southern Tasmania
    Stemmy, cherry and nicely bright and floral nose, there is some oak in the background too. Palate is similar with bright fruit and good length. The fruit is quite forward but there is some structure evident as well. I liked this, but it is quite expensive at $45. 90/100

  • 2012 First Creek Wines Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre – Australia, New South Wales
    Meaty, cherry and plum with raspberry and spice. Medium bodied and good carry with the spice character coming through on the mid-palate into the finish. Tasty! 90/100

  • 2011 First Creek Wines Shiraz Winemaker’s Reserve – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Floral and quite earthy on the nose, with some spice and blackberry. Good depth with layered fruit and very good structure. Very young and needs some time to age and develop. 91/100

McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant
One of the highlights of the trip in terms of experience (and some pretty good wines too). We started off with ISO glasses but as soon as they saw I was serious they brought out Riedel and also swapped to a different glass a few times for the different grapes/styles. The staff were excellent and kept bringing the better wines for us to taste without me having to feel like I was begging them for a pour from bottles that they already had open (like at some other cellar doors).

  • 2009 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Sémillon Phil Ryan Signature – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Second picking grapes from Lovedale. Lemon, light toast and hay aromas. A big step up in depth over the 2011 Elizabeth before it. Has driven acid and great balance. Will age well over the medium-long term. 90/100

  • 2006 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Sémillon Anne – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    A declassified Lovedale after the winery decided it wasn’t up their required standard. Very youthful nose still with lemon, lime and light florals. The acidity and structure is a clear step up on the other Semillon tried so far. Great length and intensity, this is still developing but should get better over the medium term. 91/100

  • 2007 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Sémillon Lovedale – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Consistent with previous tasting in December last year. Straw, light smoke and hay on the nose and it has already taken on some waxy notes. Youthful and intense on the palate with good length and texture. Give it time. 91/100

  • 2009 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Rosehill – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Charred oak, raspberry and earth. Palate is medium bodied but with some good savoury intensity. Textured and well balanced. Drink now and over the medium term. I slightly preferred the 2010 but this was very good. 90/100

  • 2010 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Rosehill – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Earthy, with raspberry and roses. Palate is savoury and has great depth and balance. I really liked this quite a bit, just a touch ahead of the 2009 for me right now. Has good potential as the structure is there too. 91/100

  • 2010 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Maurice O’Shea – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Floral, with spices and earth – layers of aromatics that lift this above the other wines even when it is so youthful. Medium bodied palate and with superior balance and structure. Great length and superb potential. This is one of the best releases of this wine that I can remember tasting. 93/100

  • 2009 Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon GDR Hilltops – Australia, New South Wales, Southern New South Wales, Hilltops
    Blackberry, olives and toasted oak. Lots of structure on the palate, the tannins are fine but they do take centre stage at this point. I think this needs at least a couple more years in the bottle in order to be really enjoyable. 90/100

Gundog Estate
Riedel glassware. Cellar door staff were fun but they didn’t seem very interested in the details, I kept having to ask for the vintage after every pour etc.

  • 2013 Gundog Estate Sémillon Wild – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    2-3 weeks skin contact. Floral, citrus and passion fruit aromas. Skin contact element is subtle, perhaps contributing to the good texture. There is a pinch of residual sugar but the acidity cuts through. Very good. 90/100

  • 2012 Gundog Estate Sémillon Off-Dry – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Apple, pear and slate. Nice minerality with a lick of sweetness. For me, just a bit better balanced than the 2013 edition. 90/100

  • 2012 Gundog Estate Sémillon Poacher’s – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Flinty, minerals and lime. Bright palate, with good balance and freshness. A good mineral element to it. Good length, a nice wine. 90/100

  • 2012 Burton McMahon Chardonnay – Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
    Wheat, grains and some oak influence. Good texture, it’s nicely bright but still has complexity. Enjoyable. 90/100

  • 2012 Gundog Estate Shiraz Gundaroo – Australia, New South Wales, Southern New South Wales, Canberra District
    Intense aromas with five spice, cherry and black currant. Good length, with nice intensity as well. Lovely length actually, and has the potential to age over the medium term. 91/100

McLeish Estate
ISO glasses. A surreal experience, the staff member was friendly enough but seemed to have little idea about how vintages work and also found it hilarious that I was taking notes. The wines were good and they had quite a vertical of the Semillon available to taste, but I don’t think I’d go back soon.

  • 2005 McLeish Estate Sémillon – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Honey, orange peel and floral notes. Medium bodied and nicely developing. Drink now to around 2018. 90/100

De Iuliis
Riedel glassware. Great cellar door staff, who were happy to let me taste reserve wines and so on. A good experience here.

  • 2011 De Iuliis Sémillon Sunshine Vineyard – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lime, lemon and minerality on the nose. Very good clean acidity and nice length. Bright fruit with intensity and drive. Should age well. 91/100

  • 2005 De Iuliis Sémillon – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lemon and just starting to hint at toast. Bright and clean palate, with good texture. it is starting to gain some roundness but the acidity is so cleansing. This is still on its way upward. 91/100

  • 2009 De Iuliis Chardonnay Limited Release – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Buttery, with spice and wax. Nice palate development already with good texture and depth. Mouth feel is rounded and pleasant. 90/100

  • 2010 De Iuliis Shiraz LDR – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Blackberry, spice and floral notes. Lovely spice on the palate and very fine tannins giving the wine structure. Medium bodied with great balance and very good length. 91/100

  • 2009 De Iuliis Shiraz Limited Release – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Bigger in style than the LDR Shiraz, this ramps up the oak influence and spice, with violets and some layers of black fruit. The palate is medium bodied but leans toward the heavier sides as well, it has good fruit depth and plenty of structure but loses out on some of the elegance that I really like in great Hunter Shiraz. 90/100

  • 2011 De Iuliis Shiraz LDR – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Very floral nose, with some spice and graphite. Delicious on the palate. Great length and structure, there is a core of minerality that drives and completes the wine. Great stuff. 92/100

Hermitage Road Cellars
Worst glassware of the trip, smaller than ISOs. Staff were friendly and enthusiastic but showed some basic wine knowledge errors. A number of wineries were avialable to taste but the Andrew Thomas wines stood out. Would come back to taste the Thomas wines if the Small Winemakers Centre is a crush of people like this time.

  • 2012 Andrew Thomas Wines Sémillon Braemore – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lemon, apple and light floral notes. Bright fruit with lovely length and balance. 90/100

  • 2010 Andrew Thomas Wines Shiraz Sweetwater Individual Vineyard – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Floral, violets and spice aromatics. Good tannin structure overlaid with savoury fruit. Good length. 90/100

  • 2010 Andrew Thomas Wines Shiraz Kiss – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Tightly wound, some spice, rhubarb and violets. Palate has good fruit depth. Structured well, but doesn’t have great interest at this stage. 90/100

Scarborough
Tasted at the new cellar door running in parallel with the old site, I don’t think the new location is as good as the old one but the choice is still there. ISO glassware. Complimentary goats cheese and bread sticks with the tasting, a nice touch.

  • 2012 Scarborough Wine Co Sémillon White Label – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Citrus (mostly lemon) and sherbet. Much better acid here than the 2011 Green label. Good body and minerality. Some time in bottle will serve it well. 90/100

  • 2010 Scarborough Wine Co Chardonnay Yellow Label – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Nutty, fig and lemon. Good acidity and balance on the palate. I like this, I’m not sure how it’ll age but it’s pretty tasty stuff now. 90/100

  • 2011 Scarborough Wine Co Chardonnay White Label Selection – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Spicy oak and straw. Much more elegance here than the 2010 and 2009 White Labels. Good texture and length with potential. 90/100

Keith Tulloch
ISO glassware. Seated tasting either inside or on the verandah with a nice view across the valley. $5 tasting charge redeemable on purchase. Limited range available to taste but the Kester is the top wine and I managed to get a taste of the Field of Mars Semillon without too much prodding.

  • 2012 Keith Tulloch Sémillon – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Pear, florals and spice. Good structure with bright acid and fruit intensity balancing. I tried this a couple of days prior at a restaurant and while it was more open this time, it still needs some age to show its best. 90/100

  • 2011 Keith Tulloch Sémillon Field of Mars Block 3 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Pretty nose, with florals and pears plus good minerality. Mouthfilling without roundness, there is good texture and drive on the palate. Great balance and even better potential. 91/100

  • 2010 Keith Tulloch Shiraz Kester – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    4 hours in the decanter. Tightly wound still, with spice and cherry as well as tobacco and earth. Good fruit depth and the savoury/fruit balance is spot on – providing interest against the plush, tasty fruit. Structurally very good too. Come back to this in 10+ years for its best. 91/100

Tyrrell’s
ISO glasses. A bit of a struggle to get to taste the better wines and still missed out on trying the Johnno’s, 4 Acre etc.

  • 2007 Tyrrell’s Sémillon HVD – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Toast, wax and citrus peel. Better depth than the previous Semillon tried, it has good carry and some minerality. Still very youthful but it is starting to soften a tiny amount – should still be given some time to develop further but won’t need long term aging. 90/100

  • 2007 Tyrrell’s Sémillon Vat 1 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Tight nose – some lemon and minerals with light smoke. Texture takes a step up over the 2007 HVD. Appealing length and depth to the fruit. Too youthful, give it more time. 91/100

  • 2012 Tyrrell’s Chardonnay HVD – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Appealing aromatics – some perfumed floral notes, very light oak and lime. Well textured and balanced with good length. Should develop nicely in the medium term. 90/100

  • 2008 Tyrrell’s Chardonnay Vat 47 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Quite powerful nose with wax, melon and straw. I really like the texture, with cleansing acidity and powerful fruit that never feels out of balance. Very good. 90/100

  • 2011 Tyrrell’s Shiraz Vat 9 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Pepper, earthy, blackberry and cherry. Nice elegance to the palate, it is tightly wound but will be very good with more time. 90/100

  • 2011 Tyrrell’s Vat 8 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    4-5% Cabernet and the remainder Shiraz. Nice aromatics – floral, dark chocolate and cherry. Medium bodied with lots of earthy spices on the palate. Good mouthfeel and length. 90/100

Audrey Wilkinson
Served in ISO glassware. Cellar door is in a stunning location on top of a hill, with great views down into the valley. Service was friendly.

  • 2011 Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Spicy and toasty oak along with flint and pear aromas. The palate has nicely woven minerality and intensity of fruit. Very young and has the potential to get much better. 90/100

  • 2010 Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Shiraz The Lake – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Cherry, raspberry, spice and very light earth – otherwise it is clean and vibrant. Really pleasing sense of structure to the palate through fine tannin. Balanced and with good length, I really liked this but had to pass at $65. 91/100

  • NV Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Vin De Vie Hunter Valley – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Brandy snaps and strawberry. Quite fresh on the palate, not too heavy and the spirit element doesn’t stick out. Enjoyable. 90/100

Restaurant Wines

    Wine highlights tried at various restaurants on the trip.

  • NV Pierre Gerbais Champagne Tradition Brut – France, Champagne
    Biscuity, with honey, floral and lime notes. Lovely purity to the fruit with fantastic acidity and length. Very very good Champagne. 91/100

  • 1992 J.B. Becker Wallufer Walkenberg Riesling Auslese trocken – Germany, Rheingau
    Great colour. Nose shows ginger, pear, apricot and light honey. The palate has lovely spice and great length. Drinking right in the slot now. 91/100