Simple pallets, Seriously

February, March 2008 Archive

5th February 2008
Chinese New Year is just round the corner! Only one more sleep till reunion dinner. I'll be headed up to Adelaide this year, but unfortunately I won't be extending this trip to head into the Barossa - that will have to wait till end-March at the height of vintage. I've got my dinner wines lined up already, we'll just have to see whether the Hilton corkage charges are worth paying. Has everyone bought their new clothes and bed linens yet? The weather in Melbourne has been rather balmy of late. Still, it's cooler and wetter than summers of recent memory. So, it's still the season for whites, and featured at Prince Wine Store this past weekend were the 2006 Max Ferdinand Richter Riesling. And speaking of whites, here's an article from today's Epicure section of The Age focussed on Albarino, and of course when I hear Albarino, I immediately refer to Damien Tscharke's Girl Talk, a brilliant white by any standard.

Richter Wehlener-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2006, Mosel
Clear with yellow tinge. Light nose of sweet fruit. Sweet on the palate, but simple fruit sugars, one-dimensional. Nice finish though. 88-89/100.

Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2006, Mosel
Sparkling with hint of pale, straw yellow. Subtle nose of necterine and blackcurrants. Rich tropical fruit flavours, primarily pineapple and some canned peach syrup, but this doesn't explode in your mouth, it's kept well in-check. Low acidity. Good persistent finish. 91-92/100.

Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Auslese 2006, Mosel
Light nose with sweet flowing spice. But this simple drink lacks character. Good finish though. 90/100.

Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Auslese cask 83 2006, Mosel
Pale golden yellow. Uplifting nose of flowery, sweet stone fruit and tangerine. Clean flavours, woody mellow, almost papaya-ish. Not overtly sweet. Finish is a little lacking though. 90-100.

23rd February 2008: Scheduled breaks in schedule
The weather has been rather strange around Melbourne, but I think it's still summer despite 20 degree days. I've been quite busy at proper work hence the absence of regular updates in between. I'll be putting together the Feb newsletter in the next few days. That will cover the Chinese New Year dinner with the 97 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage and the Sine Qua Non Whisperin' E. I've also managed some Rieslings during the 2 weeks of warmer city sun, and I'll just quickly say that I'm still not all too convinced by Australia Rieslings. Sure, the price tag is much more affordable than the German imports, but quality-wise I feel that there's much more to gain from the deeper Germans. However, aussie R's are a sure knock for casual food pairings. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival kick started yesterday and will go on till early March, lots of restaurant deals and drink events to be enjoyed. Certainly a good excuse to get out on the weekends; but with 3 weeks to go before my candidature runs out, I doubt I'll be doing too much of that this year. Hopefully something will come up late-March that will give me the opportunity to head into the Barossa to do some wine making.

Poonawatta Estate 'The Eden' Eden Valley Riesling 2006, SA
$22, #2623/3900. Cropped at under 3 tonne/acre, 12.0%alc, pale golden yellow colour with clean, crisp aromas of white peach, flint stone and a hint of kerosene. Lime flavours and sweet stone fruit are firmly held together with a decent acidity, but maybe just a touch too primary and sweet. 88-89/100.

O'Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2007, SA
$19 From 45-year old vines, this exudes a canola gold colour with lean notes of butter sautéed lemon slices. Astute tight structure with flavours of lime and lemon, this one is suited for Asian cuisine. Drink over 3 years. 88/100.

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Riesling 2007, SA
$12 Fresh straw-golden yellow, fruity aromas of lime and unripe, white stone fruit. A light weight, good clean fruity flavours with a firm finish. Nice with an ice-cold prawn salad with basil leaves. Drink over next 3 years. 88/100.

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2007, SA
$19 Pale sunflower gold colour. Notes of cold rock and sweet orange blossom.  Straight forward, fruit-centric wine with flavours of guava and strong slate minerals. Palate is tight, but maybe acidity a touch too high? Drink over the next 5 years. 89/100.

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Reserve 2007, Mbrgh NZ
$33, Clean, light golden colour. Vibrant notes of gooseberry, passionfruit and hint of blackcurrants. Rich sweet fruity flavours and ends with a good lingering feel. Good with seared salmon and grilled scallops with a side of sweet pea, yellow capsicum and baby carrot salad tossed in a generous portion of olive oil. This isn't a wine to knock your socks off, but the depth in flavours that you are getting for this price, absolutely worth it! I've bought a case of this already. 93/100.

27th February 2008: Midday auction
I had just received this package in the post today, but in the absence of a decent drop over lunch, the $5 corkage was too cheap to pass up on. I have several bottles of Noon Reserves in my fridge and haven't found the right time to bust out any. But I had purchased the 2005 Reserve Cabernet at a really good price, so decided to have this with my meal of clam spagettinni.

Noon Winery Reserve Cabernet 2005, McLaren Vale
Grapes sourced from Langhorne Creek, this is a 17% blockbuster that comes as an explosion of pure fruity flavours which entice you to go back to the bottle again and again.  Deep, brooding inky purple colour with a fantastic nose of black fleshy plum, granite, liquorice and blackcurrant liquor.  Seamlessly rich with amazing purity of fruit framed on a backbone of firm tannins. This will no doubt keep for 15+ years, but why wait till then when it can be enjoyed now? 97/100.

1st March 2008: Brunier Bros, South Rhone
We start off a month with a new line-up of decent French wines but in the same old drawn and weary breath that I've been carrying in recent weeks. I've acquired more St Clair Wairau Reserve 2007 Sauv Blancs and a couple of Noon reserves lately and am almost at maximal capacity with the storage space in the fridge. The new Epsilon and Schwarz Wine Co. releases are out already, and you'd do well to pick some of those up.

The following are from the portfolio of the Brunier brothers, fifth generation winemakers located in Chateauneuf du Pape, Southern Rhone. Their most well known offering is Vieux Telegraphe, but the acquisition of La Roquette (CdP) and Les Palliers (Gigondas) over the past two decades have boosted their profile and showcase their skill at producing quality wine depicting a variety of winemaking approaches and styles, especially the Roquette wines which pleasantly surprised me with their depth of flavours.

Vignobles Brunier Le Pigoulet vin de pays Vaucluse 2005, Chateauneuf du Pape
Something you'd expect to see as the cafe house red, this medium bodied wine has a nice ruby colour that is probably slightly over-priced for the Aus market at $24-28. Drink in the next year. 85/100.

Domaine les Pallieres 2005, Gigondas
This 68 acre vineyard is a joint venture with american importer Kermit Lynch, cropped at 25hl/hectare and aged in one- and two-year old foudres. Dark ruby purple colour, this has a heady nose of cherry, crushed rock, spice box and young blossoms. This medium-full bodied wine is something different for me and an interesting comparison to typical CdP style. It's still abit dishevelled right now, slightly disjointed but I think the it will come together nicely in about 2-3 years. RP suggests that it will drink well over the next 20 years. 91/100.

Domaine la Roquette Chateauneuf du Pape 2005, Chateauneuf du Pape
This has come out quite nicely in the expected style of the 2005 CdP vintage, more fruit forward and not hiding anything. This has a dark ruby/purple colour, the nose is distinctly grenache with aromas of raspberries, liquorice, hint of black pepper and Provencal herbs. The tannins are still very much present on the palate, but not overly offensive. This comes from the use of 30% stems, so you get the tannic elements which impart some elegance to the feel of this drink. I think this will settle down over the next year and will drink well over the next decade. 92-93/100.

Vignobles Brunier Telegramme Chateuneuf du Pape 2005, Chateauneuf du Pape
This was rather disappointing knowing that it comes from the line of Vieux Telegraph. It felt backward, withdrawn and hiding behind a pillar of cold stone. There's notes of savoury raspberry and rustic Provencal spice and is overall, a decent drink. Wouldn't bother filling previous cellar space with this one. 89/100.

Vignobles Brunier Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape 2005, Chateauneuf de Pape
Aha! this is much better than the Telegramme. a nice dense purple with reddish tinge, lovely nose of black fruit, raspberry, kirsch and pepper. Full bodied, concentrated and pure fruit flavours with a long satisfying finish. But it's not quite ready yet, I think it will be receptive in about 4-6 years and will keep for 10+ years. 93/100.

5th March 2008: Domaine L'Oratoire St. Martin, South Rhone
Situated in the Cairanne region is Domaine L'Oratoire St Martin est. 1692 which has been kept pumping by the last ten generations till the present brother pairing of Frederic and François Alary who took over in 1984. The vineyards occupy 25ha on the slopes of St Martin with 5ha of old vine grenache and mourvedre. The main part of the domain is situated to the north-east of Cairanne, 200m from the hills of Rasteau in a zone commonly called 'la Montague' in the Les Douyes et Saint Martin district.

The white grape varieties and syrah are grown in the Douyes quarter which faces east north-east. The coolness and the colder clay soils allow the grapes to develop with more finesse and elegance.
The St Martin district faces south south-east and is planted with grenache and mourvedre. These later ripening varieties benefit from the exposure to the sun by maturing with aromatic richness. Haut Coustias comes under this district.

Five labels are produced, a white blend and four reds.
Cairanne Blanc Haut Coustias is a blend of Marsanne 50%, Rousanne 40% and Viognier 10% from 45 year-old vines which spend 10months in barrel with stirring on lees.
Cotes du Rhone Rouge is a blend of 30 year-old Grenache 80% and Syrah 20% cropped at 45hL/ha. These are hand harvested, destemmed, fermented in vats for 8 days followed by 6 months of maturation in closed vats.

Domaine L'Oratoire St Martin Carianne Rouge Haut Coustias 2005, Carianne
$47-55. A blend of Mourvedre 60%,  Grenache 20% and Syrah 20% from 65 year-old vines croped at 30hL/ha. Hand-picked, destemmed and fermented with pigeage for 18 days before a further 24 months maturation in Burgundy barrels. Dark red with crushed blackberry and Provencal herbs on the nose. This full-bodied wine is rice in flavour, spicey, peppery and packs some punch. The tannins are still front and present but should clear in 5 years. 91-92/100.

Domaine L'Oratoire St Martin Carianne Rouge Reserve des Seiguers 2006, Carianne
$36-43. A blend of Grenache 60%, Mourvedre 30% and Syrah 10% from 50 year-old vines cropped at 38hL/ha. Hand-harvested, destemmed and 12 days fermentation with pigeage followed by 9months in vats. Dark red/purple colour. Subdued nose of red berries and currants, leather and a hint of tobacco. Full-bodied and good tasting, rich pure red fruits, spicey, ripe tannins. The finish is satisfying. 91/100.

Domaine L'Oratoire St Martin Carianne Rouge Cuvee Prestige 2006, Carianne
$45-53. The oldest vines are used for the Cuvee Prestige, 100 year-old vines cropped at only 18hL/ha are used for this Grenache 60% Mourvedre 40% blend. Hand harvested, destemmed and fermented with pigeage for 15 days before 12 months maturation in vats. Dark red/purple, very aromatic, black currants, truffle and musk before the flavours of spice, white pepper and liquorice fill your mouth in a very satisfying way. Fine, fine finish. Still young and fresh, needs to sit for another 3-4 years to balance out. 93/100.

8th March 2008: Wine by far
A quick note about the new 2006 releases by By Farr, the Bannockburn/Geelong winery. According the to report by Gary, the 2006 vintage was warm with below average rainfall and harvest was about 1.7tons/acre (28hL/ha). "... good replication of site and soil conditions, great finesse and strength of flavour with complexity" Well, here are my notes..

By Farr Chardonnay 2006, Geelong, VIC
$55-65. Lightish yellow, soft mineral nose, damp stone and slight primary fruit in the nose. Taste is simple, not creamy. Good acidity and overall a weak drink for me. 87-88/100.

By Farr Pinot Noir 2006, Geelong, VIC
$57-68. Rich full nose but lacks the honest earthiness that I'd expect from pinots, especially given that this is coming from a 'cooler climate'. Simple fruit flavours with light fine tannins with a decent finish that leaves one expecting more for this price. Not my style of pinot. 87-88/100.

By Farr Sangreal 2006, Geelong, VIC
$59-70. Subdued nose of red berry bouquet. Rich dark red colour, very fruity, but again, this isn't what pinot should be about. Too primary and simple for my liking. Better off buying a couple of entry level burgs. 88-89/100.

By Farr Shiraz 2006, Geelong, VIC
$55-65. This has got 3% of viognier in it. Certainly a cool climate shiraz. Bland flavours mingled with savoury and earthy oakiness and tannins which when settled, probably still won't reveal too much else about this wine. 88-89/100.

9th March 2008: Not too fine-dining
Since I last dined at Libertine late 2007, I have heard mixed reviews about the standard of the cooking. Ill-prepared meats to the fantastic whole suckling pig. I had the opportunity to return for lunch twice in the past two weeks as part of the 'Express' lunch deal of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival where $30 gets you two courses and a glass of wine or for $6 more you can do the full three courses.
On my first visit, I had a Cured ocean trout with sauce gribiche which wasn't too bad although I felt the sauce was rather rich for an entree and was prepared lacking refinement. For my main, the rare
Entrecôte Bordelaise with pommes frites came out a good 40 minutes after our entrees had been cleared and on the cooked side of medium. With dessert cancelled due to time commitments, the person who took the bill received a quip that we should have informed the staff that we had to finish by a certain time.
One week later, I was back for the Pâté de campagne served with cornichons & brioche which had been prepared in a coarse manner. The liver pieces were just chunky cubes and the flavours overpowered by the stronger flavour of bacon running around the serve. I ordered the Entrecôte again, 'rare' and it turned out slightly better this time in the 40 minutes it took for the mains to arrive at our table again, although another table order for a medium Entrecôte turned out even more uncooked than mine. I decided not to order dessert which was probably the wise choice as the Lemon savarin & orange curd looked average at best and the Fromage de Meaux with muscatels was disproportionately weighted towards more bread than cheese.
I can't recommend this place for lunch based on the lack of good service, decent serving time and the quality of the food and cooking which has taken a surprising turn for the worse. Perhaps a plus point is that lunchtime is BYO every lunchtime with the a la carte menu. Having won one hat and best short wine list in the Good Food Guide for 2007, I'm not sure it warrants either at present. In need of a severe upgrade at all fronts.

Terra Felix Marsanne/Roussane 2006, Central Victoria
A simple drink that offers a full nose and decent level of fruit, but doesn't stand out in any aspect. 86/100.
Terra Felix Shiraz/Viognier 2006, Central Victoria
A bland concoction of red fruit flavours that lets down the anticipation from an otherwise decent nose. 86/100.

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