repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

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repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby rumpole » Tue Apr 04, 2006 2:09 pm

Wife & I will be traveling in Australia for the first time at the end of July & August. Although this is not a wine tasting trip/tour, we will find ourselves with a few days to explore the Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley, and later, the Yarra Valley. While Shiraz is not at the top of my favorites, I do enjoy a well made balanced fruit forward (but not jammy) Shiraz. I know little of Austrilan wines/wineries. I understand that even though we will be travelling in "winter", that most wineries will be open for tasting.

Those with experiences, please give me some suggested wineries/wines to vist/try. Thanks.
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Aussie wine forum

Postby WWLL » Thu Apr 06, 2006 1:17 am

I suggest you post this query at the Aussie wine forum

http://forum.auswine.com.au/viewforum.php?f=1

You have to register but it is free.

When I went in 2001 I got terrific tips and a tasting organized by someone on that forum. I bought and drank a 1964 Grange.
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Travel to Oz

Postby MikeH » Sat Apr 15, 2006 1:04 pm

The wife and I will be travelling down under in June.

WWLL, thanks for the directions.

Rumpole, will post our findings when we return.

Generally, our trip is not a wine tour either. Our daughter is attending Univ. of Melbourne this semester so we are going to visit Oz and NZ. She (a non-wineaux until she discovered wine in Oz is cheaper than beer!) did make a small tour. Hopped on a bus in Melbourne one Saturday morning which took them to the Yarra Valley. She indicated they toured Yearing Station, Domaine Chandon, St. Huebert's, and Rochford. (Given her youth and relative newbie-ness, any of those could be inaccurate.) Returned to Melbourne that evening.
Cheers!
Mike
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby Jenise » Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:30 pm

Rumpole,

I've been in those areas and can offer you this based on my understanding of your palate:

1) You're going to prefer the wines of the cooler Yarra Valley to Barossa and Clare, and you're going to like the higher elevation Clare better than Barossa. Both are beautiful and worth visiting, though. I only spent one day in each and didn't visit lots of places, but based on the ones I did go to I would recommend, or not, the following.

In Barossa, recommended: Rockford. Well made wines with good structure. Neat winery and setting. Not recommended: Veritas--they served oxidized wines and when I complained, they told me they couldn't open new bottles until the next day. Fie on them. Charles Melton--heavily oaked style, though their rose is wonderful. Maybe: Peter Lehmann, a big corporate winery but they don't make bad wine. Maybe: Grant Burge, didn't love them or hate them, but I thought the top wines were overpriced. Can't remember others, though surely I went to more.

In Clare Valley, recommended: Pike's, Reilly's, Tim Adams, Jim Barry, pay real attention to the rieslings, and pick out a lot of the little places amid the kookaburras sitting in the old gum trees. Spectacularly beautiful driving.

For wine tasting, I liked the Bendigo area you go through driving from Melbourne to the Barossa. If you plan to go through that area, don't miss the opportunity to try wines from Balgownie, Jasper Hill, Passing Cloud and Water Wheel. There are many others, those are just the first that come to mind.

Buy a Halliday guide the day you land--it will help you immensely in choosing where to stop.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby rumpole » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:30 pm

Thanks Jenise. I have Halladay's 2006 on order from Amazon.com and I look forward to MikeH's report!
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby Jenise » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:48 pm

Halliday gets a lot of flack from Australians, so don't be surprised if you hear tsk-tsks. But I found him very reliable and could interpolate into his descriptions whether or not X would be a good stop. I went over with a list of Must Try wines, of course, but I was more interested in discovering the unexported unknowns than trying in situ the wines I was already familiar with. He was also helpful when staring at wine lists. :) Oh, and speaking of that, another piece of good news: Aussies frequently order wine with lunch. Unlike American restaurants these days, you'll see bottles on nearly every table. Very refreshing, at least when driving isn't a concern.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby MikeH » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:51 am

Just returned from a trip to NZ and Oz. Part of our pre-arranged schedule was a guided tour of some wineries in Yarra Valley. The wine tour operator was Epicurean Tours. Our driver was very knowledgeable about the history of the valley, wines, and food. Best of all, we were the only folks in a 15 passenger van! Probably the benefit of doing this on a weekday.

Driving east from Melbourne about an hour brings you to the Yarra Valley. The valley is very pretty when viewed from the top of the bordering hills. First stop was, amazingly, Yarra Valley Dairy. Turns out that a lot of the smaller wine producers in the valley sell their product through the dairy. We were treated to not only wines but a wonderful selection of cheeses, mostly made right at the dairy, and informative presentation from Stephen, the resident wine seller. Tasty wines, notably marsanne and pinot noir. The dairy also has a small bakery operation and folks come in for coffee, etc.

Next stop was Yering Station. Much larger operation. Wines were very tasty and the cellar door included a nice food shop.

Next we headed to Domaine Chandon. Took a 20 minute tour of the facility which included discussion of the methode champenoise. Chandon makes sparkling wine here under the Chandon name along with still wine under the Green Point label. While we were walking through the facility, our tour driver made arrangements for lunch. Superb food and a great view of the valley from our table.

Our final stop for the day was Coldstream Hills. This is a medium size winery that is now part of the Foster's beverage empire. Their Pinot Noirs were very good.

I should point out that one of the predominant wines in the valley is not the typical Aussie shiraz but rather pinot noir. From what I can tell, most of the wine areas of Oz can get pretty hot on a summer's day. But Yarra Valley has a significant temperature drop overnight which apparently helps the pinot grape. We were offered and tasted far, far more pinot noir than shiraz.

All in all, a very enjoyable day. I would highly recommend Epicurean Tours if the foregoing sounds appealing. Other tours are available; our daughter had done one on a much larger vehicle. But she did not get to the dairy and that was a high point of the tour. I'd also note that I am not sure I could find Yarra Valley if I were driving myself....we made a lot of turns to get there. This was unlike our time in Queenstown, NZ. There, we rented a car and drove to the Central Otago area. But that required not much more than getting to the main road in Queenstown and heading east for 60 km.
Cheers!
Mike
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby Ian Sutton » Wed Jul 05, 2006 1:26 pm

Indeed Halliday gets some flak, including from me (mainly because he's trimmed back his tasting notes amongst other things). However... as a resource for touring wine regions, the book you've got on order is the best one to have, as it has addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, plus whether the cellar door is open (if so when); open by appointment or not open. The breadth of this info makes it a bargain. Out of preference I now find Jeremy Oliver more informative and his habit of re-reviewing wines (and publishing revised drinking windows/ratings) , often years after release, is IMO a very good practice. However for a winery tour, Hallidays Wine Companion is indeed the book to get.

Hope you all have good trips and good cellar door experiences (the best are indeed memorable)

regards

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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby rumpole » Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:07 am

Thanks for all recent comments. Still waiting for Halliday's book from Amazon. Will have to buy in OZ if doesn't come soon as we leave late July. Our travels will probably mean we will have a full day in Barrosa and a full day in McLaren Vale. May get to some other wineries on way towards Melbourne from Adelaide. May not get the time to visit Yarra Valley. Tasting some Pirramimma & Langmeil to get "conditioned". I will report on wineries visited.
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby John S » Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:59 am

Rumpole, this is a re-post from an OZ trip I took in 2005. It might be useful to you. I agree with Jenise, the Halliday book will be really useful to you in terms of noting cellar door hours, overall quality of wineries, etc.

"I had a great time in Oz, of course. I spent 3 weeks there, spending a lot of time visiting wine regions, mainly in South Australia, but a bit in Victoria too. Over 100 wineries were visited from seven regions. Whew - it's a dirty job, and not only TORB should get to do it!!

I've been to Oz ever since 1985, and of course there have been lots of changes. The thing that struck me the most was the growth in the quality of food on offer. In 1985, meat pies and fish & chips were the culinary highlight, and ethnic food didn't exist, with the exception of chinese takeaway. Their meat pies and fish & chips still rock, but I ate very well while I was there, even in the wine regions.

Of course, there has been an explosion of wineries too. But even better is the noticeable and welcome appearance of a wine culture. This is something that Canada (or even the U.S.) hasn't accomplished yet. References to wine was common in the media, and it just seemed that wine had secured a new place in the country's heart (in the cities, that is). They are justifiably proud of their wines.

Just to show you I'm not a complete wine dork, I did manage to spend a few days on Kangaroo Island (not as exciting as I'd hoped) and the Flinders Range in the SA outback. The latter was wonderful.

Of course, the wine regions were also normally very beautiful places too. The Clare Valley is tops in my book, with the Mornington area and McLaren Vale also being rather nice. The weather was amazing the whole trip, with a real warm, dry Fall season throughout. Most wineries were still picking, but at a very unhurried pace. It was a great time to visit. Most said the late Fall weather made it a potentially great vintage. The summer was fairly cool.

OK, I'd better stop babbling and get on with it, otherwise it will be 20 pages long. Sorry in advance for the spelling errors!

First up was two days in McLaren Vale. I'd been there once before, but have to say it really impressed me a lot more on this trip. Shiraz was king here, of course. The cabernets are OK, but just don't have enough varietal characteristics for my palate. Of the about 20 wineries visited, Coriole, D'Arenberg, and Wirra Wirra stand out for the high quality of a large range of wines. Coriole's Lloyd Reserve Shiraz 2002 was a standout of this visit and of the whole trip. The Wirra Wirra 2002 trio of Grenache, Shiraz and RSW Shiraz were all great. BTW, all these wineries opened up every bottle they had, including the premium wines. This was the norm in Oz, and I really appreciated the opportunity to try these wines. Good on 'em!!! Kay Brothers is my kind of cellar door - rustic, laid back with an owner/winemaker pouring, but unfortunately they were out of both the Hillside and Block 6. But their Tawny and Muscat almost made up for it! The 2000 Balmoral (Rosemount) was also a standout. New finds were Hugh Hamilton, Richard Hamilton (their Centurion Shiraz 2001 was a seamless, earthy, outstanding wine), and especially Kangarilla Road. They seem to fly under the radar in Oz, but Parker (quite rightly) raves about them. Their range of wines were uniformly excellent, and their prices were even better! Their 2003 shiraz (all of $19) was one of the top shiraz I tasted in the region, and I took a BYO bottle of that to an amazing restaurant in Willunga. "Russell's Pizza" is only open 1 day a week (Friday), and they make from scratch some of the best pizza I've ever tasted. The veltvety smooth shiraz went down a treat with the killer pizza.

BTW, another 'good on ya' to Oz for having BYOs!!!!! God, I wish we could do it here...

Coonawarra was next. For me, this is the pinnacle of Oz cabernet. although I hasten to add that we don't get many WA cabernets here yet. Sixteen wineries visited here, with Punters Corner being the best all round for me. They seem to be getting better and better. Don't pass up their 2001 or 2002 cab if you see it. The Majella range was also excellent, with the 2001 'The Malleea' a standout. More than a few wineries (e.g. Bowen Estate) has too much of a green note to their cabs that was offputting to me. The find of this trip was a small winery called Ladbroke Grove. Again, a uniformly outstanding range of wines, with their flagship 2001 'Killian Vineyard' cab a real gem. I brought one of these home. This was the one region where good food was hard to find.

The lovely Clare Valley was next. Overshadowed by its near neighbour the Barossa, this region deserves a visit. About 17 wineries were visited. We stayed in a winery-based cabin for two nights; a beautiful setting, with the Kookaburras serenading us at sundown each night. And the Sevenhill Hotel just down the road had excellent food and a great wine selection. Pricing was suberb: $1 above winery prices, with an additional $7 added on if you wanted it for BYO that night. The [Annie's Lane] 2000 Copper Trail SGM was excellent, and the 2001 Copper Trail Shiraz was even better. The Jeanneret cellar door was wonderful, and so were their wines: the whole range was great, and this place was a real find. Mount Horrick's range was excellent too. Our hosts managed to get us into Kilikanoon, and their range was great. They also got us into O'Leary Walker, and their wines were great too: their 'Claire' Shiraz 2002 was a highlight of the Clare, and indeed of the whole trip ($90). A great QPR winery was Sevenhill Cellars: great shiraz, cab and blend at great prices. The Leasingham Classic Clare range was excellent, and I brought a bottle of their Sparkling Shiraz 1995 back. Their 2002 Bin 61 Shiraz was a great QPR wine, one we get here that I'd recommend. We drank a LOT of Clare reisling; my partner and I really developed a love of this extremely austere, dry, citrus fruit style. It needs 2-3 years to soften up a bit, though.

Barossa was next. Lots of good wineries amond the 27 or so we visited. Lots more recognizable names here: I enjoyed Turkey Flat, Charles Melton, Grant Burge, Glaetzer, Elderton, Kaesler, Langmeil (very friendly cellar door), Veritas, Torbreck and Two Hands. Once again, Penfolds and Seppelt cellar doors suck. Penfolds in particular is rather galling: they only serve up to the Bin 389 level (the only wine I'd buy from the 2002 vintage, BTW). At least Seppelt offered a taste of their 'Grand' level fortifieds for a fee. Speaking of fees, they are almost non-existent in SA. Two Hands ($5) and Torbreck (both $5) wre the only two in the Barossa, and they may be the thin end of the wedge. I don't begrudge a tasting fee, but I do fear the Napafication of wine cellars. I refuse to visit Napa now, as cellar door visits have merely become a revenue generator for many wineries. I know it's a difficult issue, with lots of pros and cons on both sides, but I sure hope the Barossa doesn't become another Napa. You certainly can't complain about a tasting fee of $5 at Torbreck, where they opened up EVERY wine, including The Runrig (now $225). Top wines include the Torbrck 2002 Runrig, 2003 Descendant and 2003 Struie; the Veritas 2003 'Pressings'; Two Hands Samantha's Garden 2003; Langmeil's Freedom Shiraz 1999 (the 2003 Valley Floor is a great QPR wine); Kaesler 2003 Old Vines Shiraz; Orlando St Hugo 2001 Cabernet; Grant Burge Meshash 2000; Burge Family Dracott Shiraz and Olive Hill GSM 2003; and Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz 2001. I drank two bottles of the latter wine while I was in the Valley (BYO again), and brought one home - an excellent shiraz!!!; brought a St Hugo cabernet back too (but it's Coonawarra fruit). Find of the visit was Leibich wines; I'd never heard of them, but they had a rustic, old fashioned cellar door, and their wines were all made in a take no prisoners kind of style; good prices too. They even had a drinkable Merlot!! Food highlights here were Vintner's Inn (it was fun seeing Peter Lehmann there!) and 1918: Barr Vinum was full/closed, unfortunately. Don't miss visiting the Kaiser Stuhl Conservation Park after visiting cellar doors here: there are great walks there through lovely forests, with lots of friendly 'roos to see up close and personal.

OK, this is way too long already, I'll condense the remainder (famous last words). I finally got to visit Rutherglen. I had to do it as a day trip from Melbourne - this shows great dedication people, as it's almost a 4 hour drive each way!!! I visited the 6 classic houses: All Saints, Buller, Campbells, Chambers, Morris and Stanton and Killeen. I was very lucky, as 4 wineries had at least one 'Rare' level wine open for tasting. Again, a hearty 'good on ya' to these wineries for pouring their liquid gold. Chambers was my first and favorite visit. A friendly and generous host, and an amazing range of wines- about 30 in total. I didn't taste them all, and I didn't love all I tasted, but they can make some great non-fortified wines too! Their rare Muscat was an A+ wine: multiple wows here! Just an incredible depth and cacaphony of flavours. The All Saints Classic Muscat was great too, as was the Buller Rare Tokay and Muscat, the Stanton and Killeen Rare Muscat and the Campbells Classic Tokay and Muscat. Oh, on the way there, I stopped off at two Goulburn valley wineries: Tahbilk and Mitchelton. The latter was nice, but visiting Tahbilk is a real experience. Living history, really. Frankly, their reds aren't really my style, though I've never waiting long enough to really try one at peak (the 1840 Shiraz -yes, that's when the vines were planted is incredibly backward). But, oh, their aged Marsanne!!! This and the aged Hunter Valley Semillons are wines only made in Oz. I bought a 1997 at the winery (for all of $20!!!) that at was joy to drink - one of the top wines of the trip. Wish I could have brought a case or two home...

I'd never visited the Mornington Pennninsula either, and that was interesting. The top chardonnays there are amazing. My visit to Main Ridge Estate was one of my favorities of the whole trip: a tiny (8 acre) property, the incredibly passionate and committed owner/winemaker greeting you and answering all your questions, getting a personal tour, and tasting wines that almost made me fall off my chair. His chardonnay is mindblowing. All the good Mornington chards have this amazing nutty characteristic, reminiscent of a Meursault, and they have the power of a grand cru. His Pinots were the best I've tasted in Oz too (although an Ashton Hills was close). Frankly, Oz and Pinot don't really mix all that well, but the Mornington is one of the best sites for it. I brought a bottle of their chardonnay ($47) home. Why don't we hear more about this winery?!?! Stonier was another great lineup and visit here, as was Eldridge Estate.

Lastly, 7 wineries in the Yarra Valley were visited. Probably the most 'commercial' wine region, as it's the weekend playground of Melbournites. Nothing too exciting here, although some nice chardonnays are being made, and an occasional nice shiraz. Coldstream Hills manages to make nice, ripe reds here somehow".
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby Ian Sutton » Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:58 pm

Also check out Ric Einstein (aka TORB) for his tour diaries, which could prove useful. His site is http://www.torbwine.com
regards
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Re: repost from Netscape forum - Australia Trip suggestions

Postby rumpole » Wed Aug 23, 2006 7:58 pm

Back from Australia trip and wine tasting :D (new airline restrictions put a crimp in bringing much home :x ). Will post greater detail at a later time when time allows. Highlights were Rockford Sparkling Black Shiraz, the McLearn Vale wineries, and lunch and wines (Pinot Noir, Shiraz) at Paringa Estate winery on the Mornington Peninsula. Thanks to all who had assisted.
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