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Clare Valley (Nov. 22)
Another hour's drive north from Barossa brings us to the pretty Clare Valley, northernmost of the Adelaide wine regions, a cool, dry section that, I'm told, marks the end of agriculture in the region; just beyond its bordering hills lies Australia's Outback.

Jim Barry Jim Barry
Jim Barry is another winery perhaps best known outside Australia for a relative few of its wines, most notably the sought-after "The Armagh" Shiraz. Wine maker Derek Quinton admitted us to the winery's pleasantly cluttered laboratory for a tasting that quickly revealed how much more Jim Barry produces than that.

Jim Barry 1999 Watervale Florita Vineyard Clare Valley Riesling - mango and pine, aromatic and ripe.

Jim Barry 2000 Watervale Florita Vineyard Clare Valley Riesling - fresh, crisp lime on the nose and palate. Clean and steely. $13

Jim Barry 1998 Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Opaque. Spice and cherries, a whiff of mint. Full and ripe, fruit acid and tannins.

Jim Barry 1999 Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Tank sample, to be bottled in two weeks) - peppery cassis, open and appealing. Deep, ripe fruit, balanced and appealing.

Jim Barry 1997 McCrae Wood Clare Valley Shiraz - Very dark purple. Remarkable big aroma, spicy and perfumed, smoke and grilled meat; more Rhone-like than many Oz Shirazes. Similar on the palate, large but refined.

Jim Barry 1998 McCrae Wood Clare Valley Shiraz - dark garnet. Plums, mint and light gamey notes.

Jim Barry 1999 McCrae Wood Clare Valley Shiraz (Tank sample) - Inky purple, peppery and ripe; plummy fruit and notes of spearmint.

Jim Barry 1998 The Armagh - Inky blackish-purple. Ripe black fruit laced up with leather and anise and a whiff of tarragon. Mouth-filling, layered, flavors follow the nose - that oxymoronic thing, a refined blockbuster.

Jim Barry 1999 The Armagh (Tank sample) - Inky, black. Deep, brooding, closed but still impressive, a subtle and complex mix of ripe fruit, pepper, leather and spicy perfume.

Leasingham
Producers of one of the few Australian Rieslings that make it to the U.S. in quantity, Leasingham offers a broad range of Clare Valley wines, and winery representative Kerry Thompson offered us tastes of just about all of them. The winery's tasting room is rather commercial but attractive; my only complaint about it is that, like a number of other Australian "cellar doors," it is designed with a "pub-like" atmosphere that features cozy, dim surroundings so dark that it's hard to make out the color of the wines or one's tasting notes.

Leasingham 2000 Bin 7 Clare Valley Riesling - Crisp apple, lime and a hint of green pepper. Fresh and appealing. $11.58

Leasingham 1998 Bin 23 Clare Valley Semillon - pears and apples, full white fruit and snappy acidity. $11.50

Leasingham 1998 Bin 37 Clare Valley Chardonnay - Candy apple and butterscotch. Ripe tropical fruit flavors, soft but dry and firmly structured. $11.50

Leasingham 1998 Bin 56 Clare Valley Cabernet Malbec - Dark garnet. Blackcurrant and spice, a hint of leather. $18.?0

Leasingham 1997 Bin 61 Clare Valley Shiraz - Dark garnet. Plummy fruit, restrained pepper. Bright tart-cherry fruit, snappy and appealing. $18.70

Leasingham 1997 Classic Clare Shiraz - Very dark purple. Very attractive cherries and spice, full, ripe and structured. $39.90

Leasingham 1997 Classic Clare Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark garnet. Open aromas, dusty cassis and spicy oak. Deep fruit and saddle leather, structured and ripe. $39.90

Leasingham 1994 Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz - Plummy and ripe, frothy and slightly sweet. Bubbles carry surprisingly complex Shiraz fruit. $39.90

After a quick lunch at a pub in the Clare Valley village of Auburn, we returned to Adelaide, stopping at Primo and Barossa Valley Estate which were reported under Adelaide Plains.

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I accept no free samples from wineries or distributors, purchasing all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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