Archive for McLaren Vale


Posted in Info on Wine, Tasting Notes, Uncategorized, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by ballymote

This past weekend was our 2nd Annual Avalon Winter Weekend. Nine of us gathered at my brother’s beach house for 48 hours of good food, good wines and great conversation. The participants are the women that my wife has known since her high school days and their husbands. If nine people sounds like it doesn’t divide quite right into an equal number of husbands give yourself bonus points for being a math whiz. One of the women, Kathie M. is not burdened with a member of the brighter sex . The coupled group in  attendance for the decadent weekend included, Gerry and JoAnn B, John and Caryl G. John and Cathy B. and my wife, Kathy and I.

I began with a wine from France and slowly made my way through Napa and Sonoma in California, New Zealand, Spain, Australia and almost the Niagara Peninsula in Canada (a dessert wine that ended up coming back home with me). Instead of notes on each of the wines I will, in the interest of brevity, simply mention a few that stood out for me on their own and as accompaniment to the two BYOB meals we enjoyed on successive nights.

Most of the guests had already arrived when I pulled up to the Avalon house. They were well into the wine and quickly poured me a glass of 2007 Domaine de Soleiades, Vacqueyras. This is a nice, inexpensive Cote du Rhone wine that has a wonderful nose and a pleasant texture that would be very food-friendly. It is an 89-90 point wine.

 There was just time enough to sample Kathie M’s 2006 Annabella Cabernet. It was far from my favorite wine of the week but it was certainly drinkable.I’d give this a respectable 87 points. Just to show you how taste buds differ. Here are two different notes on this same wine.

 Perfect California Cabernet

By Umansky11382490, October 28, 2008
A great midpriced California Cabernet that is both complex and smooth. Loved it!

And on the other hand…

Absolutely Terrible

By bloom2022, March 29, 2008
Extremely vegetal and pretty acidic. So bad not even the new oak can cover it up. Really awful stuff. If you oaked the water from the flower-vase, this is what it would taste like.

 At dinner we went with a line-up of wines that included the 2006 Tudor, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. This was a very nice Pinot that went well with my chicken entrée. I’d give it 91 points. We also had the very drinkable 2004 Whitehall Lane Napa Cabernet. The one thing I have found with Whitehall Lane cabs from any vintage is that they are dependable. They may not be the absolute best but for the price they always deliver true cab flavors and in some years prove themselves to be excellent wines. This one deserved a 91. My personal contribution was the 2004 Elderton, “Ashmeade Single Vineyard “ Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa, Australia. Quite honestly, I didn’t realize this was $65.00 cab as I chose it from a table of wines when my brother offered me to “go pick what you want” over the Christmas holidays. I don’t often think of Australia when I think of cabernet so I was, as were others, pleasantly surprised. This one hit all the right notes from a powerful bouquet of ripe dark fruits to a smooth and lingering finish. I’d have to give it a solid 93. Also present at the Friday evening dinner was a 2004 Capafons – Osso, Sirsell, Priorat a blend of Garnache, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Carinane from Spain. It was deserving of more attention and although I know I tried it I can not accurately reflect on it’s drinkability. Later that evening, as the cigar smokers bundled themselves against the bitter cold and ocean winds to smoke their cigars on the back deck, a 2006 Hesketh, McLaren Vale, “The Usual Suspects”, Shiraz was popped. This was a typical fruit-driven Aussie shiraz and I mean that in a good way as McLaren vale is a shiraz region that we have come to depend on for yummy flavors. It’s a wine you could proudly serve to Kaiser Soze!! Score this one 91 points. I don’t smoke cigars and it was way too cold to join them so I relaxed and read some before bed.

We went to the Avalon Liquor Store on Saturday while the women enjoyed a movie in Wildwood. Gerry B. bought a couple of bottles of Napa cab and we had a nice lunch at Harbor’s Bizarre (don’t ask me why, but I LOVE that name) in Stone Harbor.

At dinner on Saturday evening we had some really nice wines.  John G brought a 2006 Wither Hills, Pinot Noir from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. I enjoyed this with my chicken entree and feel it’s worth a solid 90 points. . Gerry B. had a 2004 Atlas Peak, Howell Mountain Cabernet which we had enjoyed at a previous BYOB dinner during the summer. I know Gerry will score this higher but I’d say it checks in at a 91. Another wine that I seem to enjoy more than some others and that is not immune from being maligned (unfairly, I would say) is the 2003 Chateau St. Jean, “Cinq Cepages” which is one of the few wines that seems to be dropping in price every year since claiming the Wine of the Year Award by Wine Spectator Magazine back around the turn of the century. I’m gonna give this a solid 93. We also sipped a wine we all like the 2005 Thumbprint Cellars “Climax” from Sonoma County. The description of this meritage wine on the back label borders on pornographic! I’d have to say 92 for this “Climax”.

There were other wines present that never got opened. Hey, we only had about 38 hours! We did our best. Actually, there were a few sipping wines floating around that I neglected to note. I think one was a Hogue Cabernet. At any rate, it was a lot of fun to enjoy so many wines in the company of good friends. We are all looking forward to a continued downward spiral in the South Jersey real estate market which might make a Third Annual Avalon Winter Weekend a possibility next year!


Posted in Favorite Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by ballymote

There is a hierarchy within the world of wine geeks. I’m afraid I am not in the upper echelon of wine geeks. There are probably a few reasons for that but the primary one might be that my budget does not enable me to drink the high end wines very often and precludes me from drinking the highest of the high at any time. At least, so far. One never knows when a wine miracle might take place.

If I were a member in good standing of the highest echelon of wine geeks my favorite wine might be one of the true classics like Chateau Petrus, Screaming Eagle, or a Domaine Romanee Conti. Unfortunately, none of those grape spectaculars has ever met my palate. I have had the opportunity to taste a couple of the first growth from Bordeaux at a wine tasting but they didn’t impress me all that much.

The wine that did make me go “wow”, and it has done so on more than one ocassion was the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz from McLaren Vale in Australia.IMG_2436









This beauty from the land of Oz has it all; a nose of incredible scent that simply intoxicates the senses. There is a bouquet of rose petals, soft cherries, ripe raspberries, chocolate and even cotton candy. The first sip brings a powerful taste of an array of red and black fruits mingled with that same cotton candy with a touch of licorice all balanced perfectly with tannins that are soft and warm. The finish continues for a full 60 seconds and you just know you are experiencing near perfection in a wine.

The 2002 Shirvington was equally enjoyable and was rated 99 points by Robert Parker. I believe the 2001 garnered 98 points. Both of these superb wines were crafted by the outstanding Aussie winemaker, Sparky Marquis. He no longer makes Shirvington as he was replaced by Kim Johnston in 2004. The current Shirvingtons are still excellent but none have achieved the greatness of the 01 and 02’s. Sparky Marquis and his wife Sarah are now owners and winemakers for a brand called Mollydooker and I will write at length on those excellent products in a future post. There are still a few of the 2001 and 2002 Shirvington’s available online at prices starting around $125.00. If you can afford them and want to experience a truly great wine then I would suggest you grab one or more before they are extinct.