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.

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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