Simple pallets, Seriously

Artisans of the Barossa
Angaston Town Hall (15th September 2007)

The Artisans of the Barossa are a collective group of up-and-coming blips that should be on any serious wineos' radar screen. And I'm not kidding. See? No smile. We're talking absolutely freakin' serious drinkers. You fall in love with the colour purple, u adore dark crimson, deep ruby shades. You close your eyes when you inhale the seductive aromas, there'll be no wastage sniffing. And point chaser, I command ye of little faith to leave our kingdom.

A brief introduction of the Artisans. Dan Standish and Troy Kalleske are already known to the internationally after solid reviews by RP. However my attraction to this group is that there is more than just good wine. There is also variety, the willingness to go at it alone, makers who want to leave their individualistic mark iron-pressed into the soft folds of the juice. Here we'd refer to Spinifex, Schwarz Wine Co, Torzi Matthews, Massena. Simple, honest wines that speak volumes. The dynamic partnership at Clancy Fuller yielding brilliant drinks that ooze honesty. Teusner, Hobbs and Mt Billy are all one shot, captivating wines. The group has recently welcomed a new member - Radford Dale.

So I travelled into the Barossa on the redeye flight after surviving a Friday night's wedding drinks, leaving the Docklands relatively unscathed and with my clothes intact albeit trailing a stink after being hustled for $10 more and a half glass less of Billecart Salmon Rose champagne. I had been invited to a tastings of the Artisans' latest bottlings for a mere quarter-century, and they even supplied an appreciably sized Reidel glass which I managed to brandishing rather skilfully without spillage. The event was conducted within the reasonable confines of the Angaston Town Hall (note to self and driver: right turn AFTER Tanunda and past the train tracks after Kaesler) on a not so nice, somewhat cloudy day with spots of drizzle. Still, I had the inkling that a big day of tasting was still on track. Did I say tasting? Well, that went out the window after the first white, after all what's a designated driver for eh? Sorry Darren! Yupz, not much tasting ensued from that point on.. it all went straight down the hatch! (Painful evening, but that's not a story for now)  Maggie Beers did seem like she was having a jolly time.

Troy Kalleske

After a second of confusion as to where to start off the day, I ended up at the Kalleske table represented by brothers Troy and Tony, together with Troy's lovely fiancee. Troy's the main winemaker while Tony handles the marketing. It was my first time meeting them and it was good to be able to taste through the range, talk and learn more about the wines and what went into them.
Kalleske Clarry's Barossa White 2006
: $14. A 50-50 blend of semillon and chenin blanc. A terrific white. Lovely nose offered by the lightness of the chenin blanc with the robustness from the semillon. Good firm structure, not wobbly at all. Great balance and well-weighted and just enough acidity. 90/100.
Kalleske Lorraine Semillon (Late Harvest) 2006
: $10. Picked at 14Be and ultimately with 70g residual, this semi-dry sweet dessert white offers extreme value for money because it's clean and fresh, yet elegantly luscious. 89-90/100.
Kalleske Clarrys Grenache/Shiraz 2006: $18-20. I hesitated when Troy offered the Clarry's and I mentioned how I felt previous vintages of the Clarrys were a little too light for my liking. Then I noticed the colour. Wow! What a huge upgrade in terms of depth! This is a blend of old and new vines, in thirds of 60yo, 40yo and 5-10yo. Dense opaque purple colour, lovely aromatics contributed by the Kalleske grenache that I've come to love. The shiraz adds to the firmness of this wine, with fine tannins at the end. Incredible QPR, stock up! 91-92/100.

Kalleske Greenock Shiraz 2005: $38. The 2006 will be released in October. Vibrant ruby colour, nose of fresh red berries and white flowers. Great blend of flavours supported by soft tannins. Excellent aftertaste and finish. 94/100.
Kalleske Old Vine Grenache 2005: $45. I don't know, might have been just me but I wasn't captivated like I was with this one.
Kalleske Johann Georg 2005: $100. Dense purple colour with an intense summer nose of white acacia flowers. Great plum flavours and excellent aftertaste and finish. 97/100.
Kalleske JMK Shiraz VP 2005: $23. Juice from Greenock shiraz is run off and 15yo brandy is added. Great nutty nose (almond?). Dry, firm and crisp aftertaste. 93/100.

John Edwards

Mt Billy Wines fall under the jurisdiction of John Edwards, with the roots of it origin linking to Dave Powell of Torbreck not quite a full decade ago. Their vineyards not merely restricted to the Barossa region and also include the Southern Fleurieu region. The aim is to produce premium wines of about 500 cases each. Dan Standish is the winemaker of the Barossa wines while Peter Schell makes the Southern Fleurieu ones. The Southern Fleurieu range includes the 'Circe' Shiraz Viognier, a Chardonnay and a 'Saignee' rose. This was a Barossa event so only the Harmony blend and Antiquity shiraz were on offer.

Mt Billy 'Harmony' Shiraz Mataro Grenache 2004: $23. This southern Rhone inspired blend comprises of 50% shiraz, 25% mataro from 70yo vines and 25% grenache from 80yo vines. All vines were dry grown from the Gomersal region of sandy limestone soil. Matured in seasoned French oak of varying age for 26 months. This is a lovely food wine. 14.5%alc. Savoury meaty nose (smoked bacon?), yet its smooth and elegant. Fantastic finish and aftertaste. 92-93/100.

Mt Billy 'Antiquity' Shiraz 2004: $43. 110yo vines that are dry grown are handpicked for this Barossa flagship. Matured for 27 months in 20% new French oak. "The most structured 'Antiquity' to date." Black earthy purple colour. Nose is a bit inhibited now yet still exudes notes of violets, black plum and beef stock. Velvety palate of black plum and black olives are in brilliant balance with the fine tannins. To be enjoyed in 3-4 years. 93-94/100.


Clancy Fuller is a joint operation between the Clancy and Fuller families. After deciding to hold back some fruit which they had been providing Rockford, the 1998 vintage was produced with the help of Robert O'Callaghan and Chris Ringland (after all, if you're going to start out, might as well go with the aid of the big-wigs). The vineyards were established by two pioneering families - the Nitschkes at Jacob's Creek and the Hueppauffs at Bethany - who had arrived from Silesia (now Poland) in the 1840s. The 120 year old Fuller vineyard alongside Bethany Creek sits on deep alluvial soil and is dry grown so the deep rooted vines produce concentrated Shiraz with a distinctive Barossa chocolatey nose. This is a nice contrast to the red schist soil that the Clancy vineyard rests upon adjacent to Jacob's Creek. Grenache and Shiraz fruit from here offer a distinctively perfumed, elegant profile. I think it's brilliant that these different parcels of land are brought together and manage to show off the individuality of the lands they originated from.

William and Peter Fuller

Clancy Fuller Two Little Dickie Birds Rose 2006: Two Little Dickie Birds Sitting on a Wall, One named Peter, The other named Paul, Fly away Peter, Fly away Paul, Come Back Peter, Come Back Paul. Makes perfect sense doesn't it? A 50-50 blend of Grenache and Mataro from the Clancy vineyard. Made in the style of the Rhone roses, so whole bunch presses and minimal skin contact. Colour is pale salmon pink, light fruity nose of unripe white peach. Light sweetness, good well balanced flavours and acidity. Only $15 or $120/case, this is perfect for a warm summer's day. 89-90/100.
Clancy Fuller Two Little Dickie Birds Rose 2007: Barely bottled for a week for this tasting event. Similar colour to the 2006, but what a world of difference on the nose! Beautiful sweet fruity flavours of mallee honey and fresh apple. Great finish, just perfect. 93-95/100. Also $15,$120/case, I'd strongly advice anyone to buy cases of this for the upcoming summer!
Clancy Fuller 'The Scribblers' Grenache Shiraz 2002
: $15/$120 case. 60% grenache and 40$ shiraz, both from the Clancy vineyards at Jacob's Creek. Matured in seasoned French oak hogsheads for 18 months, sits in bottle for further 18 months before release. A nice, dark red colour. Floral notes from the grenache are a great compliment to the bolder shiraz. Flavours of red fruit and savoury plum, good structure and tannins. Good aftertaste. 91-92/100.

Clancy Fuller 'Silesian' Shiraz 2002: $25, $180/case. Named as a tribute to the Silesian settlers who planted the original vines in the 1840s. Mainly a shiraz, just a touch of cab. The shiraz is 60% Clancy, 40% Fuller. 14% cabernet from Krondorf. Matured in new French oak for 18 months and sits in bottle before release. A good dark colour, great structure with flavours of black cherry and plum. Good finish. 92/100.
Clancy Fuller 'Silesian' Shiraz 2006: This is a 100% shiraz for the 2006, with the cabernet fruit sold to Rockford. Good fruit flavours but still a bit too young to be approached now. Loads of gripping tannins. 92-93/100.
Clancy Fuller 'Three Hogsheads' Shiraz 2002: $35, $180/ 6 bottle case. Depending on vintage, three hogsheads (roughly 1.5 tonnes of fruit) are put aside from the 120yo vines of the Fuller vineyard at Bethany. Total production is about 120 dozen. Matured in new French oak barrels (barriques if yields are even less than usual). This is not a big typical shiraz. It's elegant but complex. Loads of flavours just inundate your senses. There is light blackberry, dark cherry, hint of dark chocolate, touch of fresh minty eucalypt even. Smooth drink with a very satisfying aftertaste. This is one for the cellar 12-15 years. 95/100.

Hobbs is run by Greg Hobbs, producing top quality old vine shiraz and limited beautiful limited production sweet wines. Before this day, I had only two impressions of Hobbs wines. 1) expensive shiraz and 2) the 2007 grenache press was out-of-this-world fantastically sweet. Tasting through his range will be a lesson for anyone in different wine making styles, contrasting old and younger vines, and the beauty of sweet dessert wines.

Greg Hobbs decanting the Gregor

Hobbs Shiraz Viognier 2005: $110, ~130 doz produced. 4% viognier co-fermented, aged for 24 months in new French oak. Dark red in colour, a great nose of warm red berries, spice, touch of pepper. Great fruit is kept within the drink, Viognier also adds the element of subtle exoticness. Great aftertaste. Double-decant suggested if drinking within the next 5 years. Put this aside and drink in 10 years. 94-95/100.

Hobbs Shiraz 2005: $130, ~200 doz made. Fruit from 100yo vines, aged for 27 months in new French oak hogsheads. Subtle brooding nose of spice and dark fruit. Great intense flavours of black fruit. Chewy oaky tannins. Allow 5 years of ageing before opening. 94-96/100.

Hobbs 'Gregor' Shiraz 2005: $130, ~230 doz made. Made in the Amarone style, grapes from 20yo vines are dry racked to intensify the flavours before pressing. Juice is then aged for 24 months in new French oak. Fantastic black red colour, great nose of purple flowers, swirl of ripe black berries, white summer flowers. Great balanced flavours with the tannin level reflecting its youth. This will be so good in years. 96-97/100.

The line of Hobbs dessert wines offer semillon, viognier and white frontignac treated similarly. Fruit is cane cut, allowed to dry on the vine for about 2 weeks, then racked for further drying. This is very different from the fortifieds and the botrytis-affected wines. Note: there was no 2006 release of the Grenache.

Hobbs White Frontignac 2006: $39, 90 doz. Pale gold colour, rich intense aromas of honeyed apple. Flavours of dried apricot, apple and pear. Finish is light and pleasing. 92/100.

Hobbs Semillon 2006: $39, 240 doz. Pale gold in colour. Wow! This is richer than the fronti. Aromas of ripe stone fruit with wafts of passionfruit. Loads of sweet jammy flavours, coupled with a long aftertaste that lingers, yet it's not flat, finishes clean and fresh. 94/100.

Hobbs Viognier 2006: $39, 170 doz. Pale gold in colour. Rich intense flavours of honeysuckle and ripe peach! Wow.. this is great stuff. The flavours on the palate, the linger aftertaste and the clean finish. Fantastic! I'd load up on this one. 95-96/100.

A sweet smile paired perfectly with the beautiful sweets

Gill Radford serving fantastic riesling

Radford Dale is a newcomer to the Artisans group, with property in the Eden Valley and run by Gill and Ben Radford. Already receiving rave reviews having been given 5 stars and listed as one of the top ten newest wineries by James Halliday in his 2007 wine companion, as well as praises from Max Allen and Huon Hooke. Their primary focus is Eden Riesling, but also offer a shiraz and there are plans for expanding into the grenache, as well as experimenting with different wine making styles.

Radford Dale Eden Valley Riesling 2005: $18-22. Clear and peary pink colour, great nose of white stone fruit and flowers.White peach flavours. Crisp, fresh and a dry, mineraly aftertaste.91-92/100.

Radford Dale Eden Valley Riesling 2006: More yellowish in colour than the 2005. Richer and a more intense aromatic profile too. Flavours of pear and stone fruit. Finishing with crisp minerality. 92-94/100.

Radford Dale Shiraz 2005: $33-35. Nice deep colour. Nose of mulberry, white acacia flower. Complex flavours mingling with loads of primary plum flavours. Intense and dense. For this price, excellent value for money! 97/100.

It's no secret that I love Jason Schwarz's stuff (refer to notes from previous Barossa tastings). The Schwarz Wine Co. Nitschke Block Shiraz and Thiele Rd Grenache are undeniably honest, straight shooting products of great wine making, not to mention very well-priced. On this day, the 2005s were out, plus the bonus of trying the 2006 barrel samples. There was also the 2006 Dust Kicker, a new blend of GSM + cab sauv.

Schwarz Wine Co Thiele Rd Grenache 2005: $26. Hand-picked old vines, 50% destemmed before press. Extended maceration of 8-12 days and 20 months maturation in old French oak. Dark ruby colour. Fresh nose of India summer white flowers, brooding and sullen spices. Great level of intense fruitiness of plum, with ripe tannins and soft acidity. 92-93/100.
Schwarz Wine Co Thiele Rd Grenache 2006: Deeper undertones on the nose with no let up. Intense flavours! 93-94/100.

Schwarz Wine Co Nitschke Block Shiraz 2005: $32. Handpicked from ~40yo dry-grown vines. Extended maceration and 20 years in seasoned French oak. Dark red, purplish colour. Great nose of brandied plum, cherry and touch of dark chocolate. Great flavour profile of plum and dark berries with ripe supple tannins. 92-94/100.
Schwarz Wine Co Nitschke Block Shiraz 2006
: Incredible nose of raspberry, white chocolate and hint of tobacco. Young tannins present but blend very well with the great plum flavours lingering on towards the finish. 93-94/100.

Schwarz Wine Co Dust Kicker 2006: The new blend, 300-500 dozen produced. Consists of stuff I tried earlier this year, Schilling Rd Cab Sauv blended into Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz. Floral nose, fantastically multilayered. Rich vibrant flavours of red fruit and berries. Very well-balanced. Est retail < $25. 94-95/100.

Jason poignantly poised to pour some Schwarz Wine Co.

Peter Schell (left) with the Spinifex range

I've had quite a bit of Peter Schell's Spinifex stuff, but for some reason I've never quite gotten round to writing up proper notes. Maybe that's because whenever I pour out a Spinifex wine, all I want is to be left in piece, quit thinking and just enjoy the bottle. An open Spinifex bottle never lasts long in my presence. BTW, there will be a 30 case release of the 2006 Mataro.

Spinifex Papillon 2006: A blend of 46% grenache, 28% cinsault, 26% carignan. Great fleshy, lifted nose of raspberry, plum and cherry with perfumed spice undertones. Medium-bodied with plum and dark cherry flavours, a hint of spice and good aftertaste. Drink over 3-4 years. 92/100.
Spinifex Esprit 2005
: Full throttle version of the Papillon. Blend of five - 40% grenache, 34% shiraz, 12% cinsault, 8% mataro and 6% carignan, matured for 22 months in French oak. Nice shiny dark red. The aroma profile on this is fantastic, rich in plum, cherry, touch of summer leaf. Flavours of spiced plum stew mingled with fine tannins. Approachable now, but I think optimal drinking in 5-7 years. 92+/100.
Spinifex Shiraz Viognier 2005
: 95% Eden Valley shiraz with 5% viognier. Nice dark red colour. Intense, carpeted perfume of dark berry aromas. Full-bodied, flowing with silky, subtle tannins that hide behind the bold forward flavours of black currant, plum and some smokiness. This will go 8 - 10 years. 94-95/100.
Spinifex Indigene 2005: 55% Mataro with 45% shiraz. Excellent blend showcasing the savouriness of mataro with the strength of shiraz. Deep dark colour. Needs time in the cellar, still coming together. Great aromas of black cherry, plums, sweet spice and white flower. Full-bodied, flavours of black plum and bitter dark chocolate. The finish is backed with prominent tannins which should level out over 5-6 years, this looks to go beyond 10. 94-95/100.

Dan and Nicole Standish

I first met Dan at Cloudwine in Melbourne after protracted attempts to meet him in the Barossa (he did fix me up with Jaysen instead). Then, he was flogging off the nice range of Massena, but it was good to be finally able to check out his own label after making a relatively large purchase, which goes against my usual principles of not buy something I've never tasted before. The 2003 Shiraz and 2004 Relic have received glowing accolades, none higher than from RP who scored them almost perfect. Dan has had his teeth at Turkey Flat and Torbreck where he met his beautiful wife, Nicole. I think just talking to him prior to tasting his wines will impart some expectation that his wines will have their unique characters and charisma.

Standish Shiraz 2003: $95. 96 year old vines cropped at 0.5 ton/acre in a mixture of destemmed and whole bunch, matured for 32 months in old French oak. A soft, elegant nose, complex mixture of blueberry, cassis, white flower and graphite. An intense flavour profile, rich and pure, smooth with no heavy notes (14.5%alc) and a fantastic aftertaste that goes for more than a minute. I finished my scribble notes with 'Great!! Smile'. It's drinkable now, but I think this deserves 2-3 more years to settle further and allow all its components to fully amalgamate, after which 10-15 years, not a problem. 97-98/100.

Standish 'Relic' Shiraz/Viognier 2004: $95. Fruit for offering are from 97 year old vines, also cropped at 0.5ton/acre and matured for 20 months in old French oak. Co-fermented, 3% viognier. This black purple drink leaks sexiness and drips exotic intensity. Ripe and intense nose of hot summer white/purple flowers and dark/black fruit. Full-bodied, so balanced on the palate, an amazing finish. Again, my scribbles ended with 'So good'. 99-100/100.

Tesuner Wines produces Rhone-esque styled wines with an emphasis on Grenache, but with a couple of pretty stellar shirazes thrown in too. You can help but appreciate the affordability of their wines too. I had previously tried getting in contact with Kym Teusner during my Easter visit but to no avail. I didn't get a chance to speak to him at this event, but instead struck up conversation with Michael Page who is the viticulturalist.

Teusner Salsa Rose 2007: $18. A blend of grenache, mataro and shiraz planted specifically to create this rose. Wild fermented in old hogsheads. Great intense aromatic and flavour profile with loads of good fruit. 89-90/100.
Teusner Joshua GMS 2006
: $21. An unwooded blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mataro and 10% Shiraz. Great colour and nose, aromas of black and red fruit with a touch of pepper and spice. Medium-bodied tasty drink with frank fruity flavours. Drink over next 3-4 years. 91-93/100.
Teusner Avatar GSM 2005: $26. A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Shiraz and 10% Mataro matured in old French and American oak for 16 months. Deep serious nose of dirty spice and earthy, organic plum and berries. Medium to full-bodied, fleshy fruit profile in balance with the soft tannins. If you had this right after the Joshua without knowing the Joshua was unoaked, you would have thought this was simply stacked with tannins. An interesting comparison to have both side-by-side. Drink over 5 years. 91-92/100.
Teusner The Riebke Ebenezer Road Shiraz 2006: $19. Fruit off 10 year old vines from the Ebenezer sub-region of the Barossa was aged for 12 months in old French and American hogsheads (shaved and unshaven). Dark in colour, rich mixture of ripe plum fruit, spice and chocolate. Rich palate, very much fruit driven. Easy drink with a great finish and well worth the price! Should drink well over the next 10 years. 92-93/100.
Teusner Albert Shiraz 2005: $45. Fruit from 45 - 90 year old vines from two separate vineyards in Ebenezer and Moppa were matured over 24 months in 30% new French oak to give a deep dark coloured wine with a subdued nose of black fruit and cassis. Elegant smooth drink, medium to full-bodied, well-rounded in the mouth with flavours of plum and blackberries. Good balanced finish. Give 2-3 years for it to settle down further, then take your time over the following 10 years. 91-92/100.
Teusner Grenache 2005: Only 1 barrel of this was made with fruit from the Moppa region, yielding 125 magnums available only through mailorder at $147 per. Lovely nose of beef stock lifted by floral notes. Great flavour with a soft finish. 91-92/100.

Nathan Norman with our designated
driver for the day Darren

I must admit my limited experience with Tin Shed stuff prior to this event was solely restricted to noticing the label on the third shelf in a wine store. On this occasion, I met winemaker Nathan Norman. Very nice honest guy. Tin Shed is owned by Peter and Anne Clarke, with Peter also involved in the winemaking process in-between being head chef and part-owner of Vinters Bar & Grill.

Tin Shed Wild Bunch Riesling 2007: $18. Fruit taken from Eden Valley and Springton, Angaston. Very light aged lemon rind colour. Very, very floral + fruity notes. Good flavours of lime with added minerality ending on a clean, fresh finish. 90-91/100.
Tin Shed All Day Rose 2006
: $16. My notes are a mess on this entry. Blend of Mataro, Sangiovese?, Cabernet Sauvignon and shiraz. Picked at 14Be, extended days on skins. Dark rose petal colour, sweet and simple drink to have over a salad dish with some smoked chicken fillet or creamy white sauce and crotons. Good finish. 90-91/100.
Tin Shed MSG Three Vines 2004
: $25. A blend of 40% old vine Mourvedre, 40% Shiraz and 30% Grenache which is aged in 300-liter hogshead. A French-styled red with a ruby/purple colour along with a big nose of purple flower, blueberry, raspberry fresh mushrooms. Rich, concentrated flavours which don't tip the scale the wrong way. Should drink well for 3-4 years. 92/100.
Tin Shed Melting Pot Shiraz 2005
: $18. Eden Valley. Aromas of cassis, liquorice and a dash of freshly ground black peppercorns. Medium to full-bodied, great flavours backed by fresh tannins. 91-92/100.
Tin Shed Single Wire Shiraz 2003
: $45. Eden Valley. this young wine exudes a more intense profile than the Melting Pot with a dark dense coloured body with great full-bodied plum flavours and a finish lasting more than 30seconds. Should drink well for 10years. 92-93/100.

I've covered Torzi Matthews wines previously, and this was my second time meeting up with Domenic. His Schist Rock label has sold very well and it excellent value for money. The Frost Dodger Riesling and Shiraz were open to tasting on the day, but I only had the Shiraz. One should take note of his three olive oils available, especially the Una which is made from wild 100 year old olive trees.

Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Riesling 2007: $18. DNT.

Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2005: $30. Bottled 6 weeks ago. Great nose of white acacia, summer flower. 30% new French oak. Very well-balanced, a touch of savouriness at the end of great plum flavours. 93+/100.

Domenic Torzi

This is my site where I show off that I do in the scant abundance of spare time that I have back in my apartment. The views expressed on this page are exclusively my own, unless otherwise stated. An offence caused is regretted, and will be retracted if, after discussion, is deemed reasonable. If you want to pass any snide comments or insults, bring it on!