It's harvest time in the Victoria wine growing region. Although winemakers are hard at work bringing in 2011 vintage grapes, many of them took time out of their day to bring wines to Brown Brothers winery for an afternoon of wine tasting. Did I say wine tasting? I meant rapid-fire one wine a minute lighting round tasting. With limited time, what took place was something more along the lines of speed dating than enjoying wine.
Over the course of two hours, I tasted about 30 still wines and 7 stickies. Victoria is a vast wine growing region with some of Australia's historic wineries. One of my personal longtime favorite wineries is Tahbilk, famous for having the world's largest Marsanne vineyard. Some of the sub regions of Victoria are Yarra Valley, Rutherglen, Heathcote, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and King Valley. Brown Brothers, located in King Valley is one of Australia's First Family's of Wine with roots tracing back to the 1800's. Located about 3 hours northeast of Melbourne, King Valley is a surprisingly diverse growing area with flat lands and high elevations. It's predominantly a cool climate with above average rainfall with a wide ranch of soils, including alluvial parent soil, some balsalt as well as shallow sandstone.
The wines poured at Brown Brothers were impressive in both the varied selection of grape varietals, but also the quality of wine. We started with Prosecco's, graduated to whites, moved on the reds and then finished with the VGS (Very Good Shit) stickies aka fortified wines. Here's a smattering of wines tasted:
PROSECCO (new website for King Valley Prosecco Road):
Booyah! Right out of the gate we're off on the right foot. Brown Brothers Prosecco NV is grown at a higher elevation of 500 meters above sea level which is approximately 16 inches. No wait, I didn't carry the '1' when converting from the metric system. The grapes were grown at 1640 ft. above sea level, and you know what I love about that? Acidity. Cold climate plus high elevation equals the kind of bubbles I like. Crisp, clean, green apple and pear with some elegant Easter flower notes.
Dalz Otto Pucino Prosecco NV - Pale, Pale almost water color. Asian pear, white flowers, Charmat stye. Light, delicate, green apple. Dalz Otto family came from Italy...brought their wines with 'em
Ciccone Estate Prosecco NV - Tangerine peel, white flowers, medium acid, crisp, clean, fuji apple. Elevation 420 meters. Food: fruit fondue
Sam Miranda 2010 Prosecco - Dry, pear, mineral, Med acid, drier style, lower sugar. Single vineyard. Sam Miranda was a cool dude. Really liked him. Food pairing: gnocchi, blue vein cheese, poached prawns
Sam Miranda 2010 Arneis - Pale straw color. Pear, yellow flowers, almonds, sherbet, great summer drink welcome at any table. Medium acid. Longer finish/Phenolic. Food pairing: Prawn Pizza.
Brown Brothers 2010 Vermentino - Here's a cool thing this winery does that no other winery in the world does (that I know of): They have a building called the Kindergarten winery. This is a full sized facility larger than many wineries that's dedicated solely to experimentation. Winemakers come from around the world to fill test tanks with experimental lots, fermentation techniques or new grape varieties. The BB Vermentino became a product in the lineup after first being a test batch in the Kindergarten winery. Pretty cool.
Feathertop 2010 Vermentino - Green apple, natural acid, longer ferment. Comes from the same vineyard as the Brown Brothers Vermentino with a touch of their own fruit. Asian Pear, lemon peel. Longer, pleasant finish. Food: Salmon Carpaccio
Pizzini 2010 Verduzzo - Tannic white, Red golden delicous apple, medium minus acid, lees stirring in barrel for added richness, slight vanilla, baked pears, thick skin grape... Have to hand pick ‘cause you’ll lose too much juice and the wine will easily become too tannic.
*Fighting Gully Road 2009 Aquila - Wine was inspired by personal favorite, Mas de Dumas Gassac from Landguedoc. Blend of Chard, Viognier & Petit Manseng. Straw color, no oak. Flint, wet rock, Full mouthfeel of fun. Medium acid. Tropical fruits, Lychee. This is the kind of wine you bring out for your wine geek friends. One of my favorites of the day. In speed dating terms, I'd take this one out on the town.
All Saints Estate 2009 Marsanne - golden colored. medium-minus acid. Cuttings from Tahbilk. Underrated, red golden delicious apple, honeysuckle. Food: seafood, but not too fatty. Shrimp Scampi
Sorrenberg SauvBlanc/Semillon 2010 - Organic and orgasmic. When I worked at St. Supéry winery in Napa, we had a wine called Virtu. This very much reminded me of Virtu. The aromatics of the Sauvignon Blanc combined with the fattier mouth feel of the Semillon are a ying and a yang to each other.
Savaterre Chardonnay 2008 - When you read the notes, "Golden, Green apple, pear, flinty wet rock, malo, french oak, spice box, medium acid" it doesn't do it justice. This wine was really pleasant and elegant. Malo and oak were there, but refined.
Giaconda Chardonnay 2008 - Golden, no green hue, Mersault-esque, flinty wet rock, green apple, matchstick, supple and round with medium acid. Lots of finesse and X-factor. A bit on the pricy side at $120 considering the Savaterre is grown across the street with similar presence at $60.
La Zona 2010 Tempranillo - Nice Tempranillo not overly oaked, very easy to drink. Well done for $22. Not over the top, has finesse. The lower amount of oak made this a "drink now" wine. You could taste the grape expressing its dark cherry and plum notes.
*Fighting Gully Road 2006 Tempranillo - dark brick color, bigger, cedar, tobacco, dried red cherry. Right in the pocket at 14%, could go another 15 yrs. More Spanish in style. Considering the La Zona is a "drink now" wine with less oak, this one is a contrast...more of a "need to age" version of Tempranillo. The bigger style with more oak did it justice because the age mellowed it out into a stunner. Both Fighting Gully wines are on my short list.
Brown Brothers Montepulciano Heathcote 2009 - Brand new release made only from 7 year old vines. Beautiful expression of the grape—this baby is going to age beautifully. Older oak barriques used in production. This wine showed so much complexity and X-Factor at such a young age, but it's going to be drop dead gorgeous in a few years. Lay it down, which is where my mind would be in speed dating if this was sitting across the table from me.
Brown Brothers Tempranillo/Graciano 2009 - Another stunner with very little age on it. Dark violet color, red raspberry, stewed plum, cherry filling from pie. A little on the sweeter side, which would be perfect with my Flank Steak w/ Chimchurri recipe.
*Stanton & Kileen The Prince 2008 Reserva Rutherglen - 12.8% ALC very much along the lines of Crasto Douro Red from Portugal, probably because it has some of the same grapes. Savory earthy characters, Dark, raspberry color, love this one! Simon Killeen 7th generation winemaker wanting to introduce different varietals into the family business. One of my faves from the speed dating round.
The Sixties Block 2009 Campbells - Tempranillo, Graciano, Carignan, - orange peel, cinammon, red dried cherry, sweeter, earthy, raspberry. Really intriguing blend of grapes...so distinct in its make up and character. Food Pairing: Orange Beef Chinese Food, Venison Carpaccio
Savaterre 2008 Pinot Noir - Light brick, nice elegant, raspberry, faint orange peel. Light and pleasant, silky smooth like a baby's butt. Winemaker was a real character and says he's the laziest winemaker. He just gets out of the way of the fruit during harvest.
*Castagna 2008 Genesis Syrah - After blowing through all these wines, it wasn't until the last still wine that I found the girl I wanted to take home to Momma. The Castagna Syrah is my wine of the tasting for many reasons. We're in Australia, and they're calling this 'Syrah'. Cofermented with 2% Viognier, this gem has Cote Rotie written all over it. Beautiful "shit my pants" good, spice box, chocolate covered raspberry goodness. Some wines are like a wool sweater on your tongue, this one is like cashmere. Goes beyond just being a glass of wine and becomes an experience.
Overall, the quality level of the wines were superb. More than that, there's rich history here with family traditions and people who are dedicated to making world class wine. Australia has heard us loud and clear, and the wines are responding. Lower alcohol, more finesse and sophisticated labels are all things we don't associate with Aussie wines in the U.S.
I really would have liked to have spent more time with each person to get to know them a little better. It wasn't really fair to just blow through the way we did. But hopefully we'll all see each other again, or at least online. Stay tuned for the next post where I compare tasting through stickies to Bruce Lee's Game of Death..