.. During a recent trip to Australia I had a chance to visit one of the most iconic vineyards in the world. Hill of Grace Vineyard produces legendary Shiraz from 140-year old vines. The curators of the vineyard are Steve and Prue Henschke. I call them 'curators' because when you step in the vineyard, you feel like you're stepping into a museum, including the part where you have to step on sponges full of anti-Phylloxera agent at the entrance. It was a highlight for me because after we shot this video, the sun went down and I saw the Southern Cross for the first time. Not a bad place to see it :)
Steve and Prue are two of the world's foremost experts in each of their respective fields, and they just happened to be married to each other. The Henschke-owned land surrounding the Hill of Grace Vineyard is where Prue's true talent can be realized. She's planted entire forests and maintained complete ecosystems in an effort to give Hill of Grace the ideal conditions to grow world class grapes. If you ever get a chance to see all the plant life Prue has planted over the years, you'll see how dedicated she is to viticulture on their entire property.
And then there's Steve Henschke, who carries the weight of five generations of wine making at Henschke. His family has farmed the land, and produced wines since the mid 1800's. Steve is the current head of winemaking, and steward of the Henschke standard of quality. Steve and Prue have two children who are studying abroad in Germany and New York, but will eventually get involved with the family business. Although they make an iconic wine, they are two of the must hospitable and friendly people you could ever hope to meet. They were very generous with their time (and wine).
WINES TASTED IN THIS EPISODE
1997 Julius Riesling - Didn't see this one coming! I thought I'd show up and taste some Hill of Grace and be impressed. When they busted out the Julius Riesling, it was like being in the boxing ring with a boxer who throws a punch you don't expect. This one blew me away, in part because I'm a slut for good Riesling, but also because the age gave the Julius that exotic petrol, flint, steel character you find in upper echelon German Rieslings. I haven't found those notes in many Australian Rieslings.....none, in fact.
Julius could be the winery's flagship wine if it weren't for Hill of Grace. Absolutely drop dead gorgeous on the nose full of all things naughty: Kerosene, matchstick, golden delicious apple, dried apricot and orange peel unfold in the glass. The mouthfeel was rich and showed exceptional typicity, however, the one thing I was craving was more acidity. It didn't quite have it, but that's unfair because similar Rieslings come from Germany, which is much colder. I found the wine to represent what Riesling should be at the place where it was grown. That's what I'm talkin' about!
1986 Hill of Grace Shiraz - This was the main event. Prue was thinking this bottle had a little variation and wasn't showing its full beauty. I had no problem choking it down, however. What can you say about Hill of Grace? It's almost unfair to try to describe a wine that comes from 140-year old vines, grown by a world-class viticulturist and made by a world-class winemaker. It was elegant, youthful, balanced and showing off a cashmere-sweater silkiness. This is an OMIGOD! wine that you open for people you actually like.
More of a European style than what you'd expect from Australia. Floral notes of red raspberry, cedar and an element I can only describe as the smell you smell when you walk into a shoemaker's shop. Lots of old beat-up leather. In the mouth it doesn't make you think of Aussie Shiraz, maybe more like a Rhone style Syrah. Tantalize your taste buds with lush brooding red raspberry, blueberries, faint tar, spice box and vanilla. This is the kind of wine you let unfold over your palate and just go with it. So beautiful, so pure and made with a sense of history of place. Most likely peaked already so if you got 'em, drink 'em (and invite me and my somm buddies over) :). Cheers!
. . Pairing Local is all about finding localized wine+food pairings. I love seeing how chefs marry local ingredients with local wines or beers. Mother nature creates natural pairings for us in each region where wine is grown by providing foods that naturally match the style of wines. German wines happen to go with German food. If you're in Vancouver, Canada where dungeness crab is plentiful, it just happens to go with Sauvignon Blanc from the Okanagan Valley. Argentina has some of the best beef in the world, and just happens to grow great Malbec.
In this episode I had a chance to visit d'Arenberg winery in McLaren Vale, Australia where Chef Peter Reschke (co-head chef with Nigel Rich) sourced local lamb and paired it with Grenache. When you think about McLaren Vale you might think Shiraz, but I really fell in love with the Grenache. Some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world can be found in Australia about two hours north in a little region called the Barossa. Grenache doesn't get much love as a grape, but when you get a good one, it can provide exceptional range in food pairings.
Mother nature blessed these guys with the gift of great lamb, as well as great old vine Grenache. Lamb can be prepared in a way that makes it both savory, yet delicate. Over the years I've really come to appreciate good quality lamb if it's raised right and comes from the right region. Chef Peter Reschke created three lamb dishes specifically to bring out the delicate, yet powerful notes of old vine Grenache and used herbs from their own herb garden at the winery.
WINE TASTED IN THIS EPISODE:
d'Arenberg is a well known Aussie winery in the states for wines like The Hermit Crab, Dead Arm and The Stump Jump. One wine you might not know or appreciate is the 2007 Custodian Grenache which is foot trodden and aged on lees to keep the flavor fresh and bright.
Distinct black cherries, stewed plums, dark red fruits and raspberries (almost blackberries) complimented by tobacco, earth and spice box surround the fine grained tannins. In other words, it was rich and robust without being hot or overpowering, yet smooth as a baby's butt. The reason it works is this Grenache has medium weight, yet great depth and complexity. If Grenache was a musician, it would be in a cool ass jazz trio with Syrah and Mourvedre. The three of them are hip and stylish on their own, but when they come together, they create magic.
Lamb can be a wonderful protein if seasoned correctly. Mutton might not be the way to go, but the three ways chef Peter Reschke prepared lamb not only showed off what this region has to offer, but how versatile lamb can be.
Matching wine with food means combining elements with similar levels of intensity. All three lamb creations, along with the wine had similar weight or intensity of flavor. Add in the complimentary dark fruit with key seasonings and you have another great localized pairing. For about $20 you can't go wrong. I'd highly recommend picking up a bottle. Thank you to the chefs at D'arrys Verandah.
During a recent visit to the Yarra Valley, I had a chance to sit down with one of the most iconic people in the global wine industry. James Halliday AM is a living legend, famous wine writer, winery founder and recent recipient of Australia's highest honor. Mr. Halliday and I had the chance to discuss new media and how it fits into our world of wine. .
As one of the founders of Brokenwood in the Lower Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, and thereafter founder of Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, James is an unmatched authority on every aspect of the wine industry, from the planting and pruning of vines through to the creation and marketing of the finished product. His winemaking has led him to sojourns in Bordeaux and Burgundy, and he is constantly in demand as a wine judge in Australia and overseas.
James has contributed to more than 56 books on wine since he began writing in 1979. His books have been translated into Japanese, French, German, Danish and Icelandic, and have been published in the UK, the US and Australia. He is also the author of James Halliday's Wine Atlas of Australia and The Australian Wine Encyclopedia.
to be continued in part 2...
Australia is home to the oldest Shiraz (and Syrah), Grenache and Cabernet vines in the world. Luckily, for the Aussies, phylloxera never made its way to their wine regions. Because of that, Australia now has some of the longest surviving vines in the world. Other countries like France and Argentina have long histories with wine, but the annoying pest known as Phylloxera decimated vineyards in the 1800's.
In 1838, German settlers arrived in Australia and began planting vineyards in the Barossa Valley. A man by the name of Christian Auricht and his family escaped religious persecution in Germany, and fled to the place where Langmeil winery now stands. Langmeil Winery is home to Freedom Vineyard, documented as the oldest Shiraz/Syrah vineyard. They also transplanted another block of 100+ year old vines known as Orphan Block. The beauty of old vines is they often produce exceptional wine grapes that result in higher quality wine. The root system has been able to dive down deep into the soil and water tables, providing complexity in the grapes. Some wineries even "root prune" or cut the roots at the surface in order to get the deeper roots to provide more of the rich nutrients up to the grapes.
Wine tasted from Freedom Vineyard: The 2008 Langmeil Freedom 1843 Shiraz is surprisingly affordable at $100 considering the pedigree of the vineyard. Power and finesse are on display in a silky smooth cashmere ride in a glass. Deep garnet in a color with purple hues, this isn't a wine you drink, it's a wine you experience. Swirl it around and lose yourself in the color. The intoxicating aromas of deep red raspberry and stewed plums combined with a little vanilla and baking spices are like walking into the kitchen while grandma is baking pie. You can't wait to taste it, and when it's gone you shed a little tear.
Langmeil Winery in Barossa Valley has the oldest Shiraz (and Syrah) vines in the world. Their Freedom vineyard is documented as such. But Langmeil has another vineyard called Orphan Bank consisting of 100 year-old vines they transplanted from another location. The cost associated with transplanting vines is steep, but the reward is something that can't be quantified. All the hard work to sacrifice these living legends is akin to preserving a historic building. Vines of this age are hard to come by, and produce pristine fruit in which to make stellar wine from. Here's how it happened:
Australian Shiraz went through a wild ride a few years ago thanks in part to colorful labels and inexpensive, fruit forward jammy wines. In recent years Spain, Chile and Argentina have been capturing the attention of wine drinkers in the U.S. using a similar approach—affordable wines that are ready to drink now. It seems Australian wines have been left behind.
Australia is not a one trick pony, however. Sure, Shiraz drove exports to the U.S. for years but Australia has so much more to offer, and it's still affordable. Take this Shiraz from Tahbilk for example. Located in Nagambie deep in the heart of Victoria, Tahbilk is known for making lean European style reds and claims to have the largest Marsanne planting in the world. In 2010, Tahbilk celebrated 150 years of wine making.
For about $15-20 you can get a bottle of Tahbilk Shiraz, but what you'd really be getting is something that resembles a "baby Grange" kind of wine. Baby Grange is the name often given to Penfold's Bin 389 in part because some of the same barrels are used on legendary Grange and Bin 389. Penfold's Grange is one of the most iconic wines of Australia resembling more of a First Growth than a standard Shiraz. What makes Grange so good is the style in which it's made. It actually needs time to come together, but when it does you get many of the leather shoe notes found in Bordeaux rather than Shiraz.
The 1998 Tahbilk Shiraz was showing off some old leather shoe and cedar notes without being "hot" or too jammy. Tahbilk makes a decidedly more European style of wine that's not what Australian Shiraz is known for. With 12 years of age, this baby is right in its drinking window, and it's got a few years of life ahead.