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

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