Category Archives: Australia

Street Cred 2013 Shiraz

McLauren Vale, South Australia; 14.0% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 Feb

img_0060This wine was one whose label seemed a bit odd, but it was from a good area, so I thought it might be a good wine in hiding.  I did decide that’s the case, although not on the first night.

The wine seemed promising, with ripe dark fruit, rather dry, but with a good bit of acid that I hoped would resolve as more fruit came out.  However, even over about 2.5 hours, it never really did.  The fruit, of blackberry / plum / blueberry, never really filled out and balanced the acid of boysenberry / plum, although the wine did soften a little and add possible complexities of light prune and mint.  I suspect this wine is still a bit young.

The next day, the saved single-glass, screw-cap bottle was much better, still needing a bit of air for the fruit to become accessible and, to my surprise, elegant, with the complexities of mint and earthy prune more definite.  This wine should probably be given another year or two of age, but is pretty good for the price.  I got another bottle that I’m plotting to blend with the Pioneer Red.  🙂


Kest 2011 Reserve “4 Cepages'”

Barossa, Australia
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 July

KestReserve_2011I thought this wine, a Bordeaux-style blend from a good wine region of Australia, looked very interesting.  I decanted this wine off a small amount of sediment.  I drank the dregs to get an idea of what the wine would be like, and it seemed highly promising: a huge nose and flavor of eucalpytus / menthol and dark purple plum.  Unfortunately, and to my surprise, the rest of the wine did not deliver.

I thought it needed 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter to fully air.  The nose was still as strongly dominated by eucalyptus, with the fruit in the background.  On the palate, the wine is quite light-bodied for these varietals, tasting of said plum, dark cherry, maybe cranberry, and mildly spiced earth / eucalyptus wood.  The weakness of the fruit and a slight balsamic vinegar character to the acid makes me think this wine is past its prime, and I’m not sure how strong that prime was.  Robert Parker’s vintage ratings chart (linked to near the bottom of the links on the right side of the page) lists 2011 as a particularly bad year in Barossa (79 / 100).

The saved single-glass, screwcap bottle was, to my surprise, not awful.  It still needed some air to show the same nice eucalyptus wood aromatics, with the fruit a definite second.  On the palate, the tasty wood and acid were indeed the main things; the fruit showed nice Bordeaux-blend flavors (red and purplish cherry, red currant), but was really quite weak.  I had expected to go Thumbs Down on this, but the second day performance raises it to Drinkable, even if I’m still not that enthusiastic about it.

Gotham 2010 Shiraz “Langhorne Creek”

Regional Vineyard Series from Wineinc Pty Ltd, Adelaide, Australia; 14.2% ABV
imported by Gotham Wines, Sonoma, CA
$6 at the Oakland, CA, store on 8 March.  Very little there.

gotham_2010_shirazI seemed to recall seeing Gotham wines praised here (apparently the praise was so-so), so I picked this up when I ran into it.  It’s indeed pretty good, but I don’t think I’d get more.

The wine opens with tight dark purple / black fruit and sharp grapeskin acid.  I thought it was okay after about 90 minutes in a decanter, but needed two hours to really soften up.  Then it shows nice flavors of darker purple plum, dark earth, boysenberry, with still some bitterness of fruit skin, although with a supple, rich texture.  To my taste, the acid and bitterness made it go much better with food, when it was pretty tasty.  I’m happy with the wine, but not particularly excited about it.

The saved single-glass screwcap bottle, what I tasted of it, was redder and smoother, overall more pleasant.  My guess is that it would have aired to be darker like the first half but, after that, my wife drank up the rest of it.  🙂

McPherson 2012 “Basilisk” Shiraz – Mourvedre

Victoria, Australia
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on about 12 Feb

McPherson_2012_BasiliskThis is a wine that had long intrigued me, especially after its praise from Weinish, Seedboy, and BdB.  However, I didn’t like my bottle very much.

The first ¾ of the bottle aired pretty well to show nice boysenberry / black raspberry fruit, with nicely floral notes of red roses / violets.  However, I found it always out of balance, with the acid too strong for the fruit.

The saved single-glass, screwcap bottle did show nicely darker and riper fruit, but was drowned out by unpleasant bitterness, so I didn’t really like either the first or second days that much.  Was my bottle just off?

Cat Amongst the Pigeons 2009 Shiraz

Barossa Valley, South Australia; 14.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 14 Dec

CATP_2009_ShirazThis wine somehow seemed promising, and indeed, it’s delicious.  It’s pretty good from first pour, but smooths out a bit after about half an hour in a decanter.  The wine shows ripe fruit of dark purple cherry and plum, black earth / pepper, a little tar, and red cherry, with plenty of balancing acid of cherry and plum.  My only caveat about it is that the wine is quite dry and the acid is a little stronger than most North or South American reds, so it didn’t seem go as well with foods that are a little sweet, and might unpleasantly surprise some folks.  After 2:15 or so of air, the wine develops a little earthy aged complexity.  I think it’s very good for the price.

A couple other things:  First, bin5 reviewed the CATP 2009 “Fat Cat” (a Cabernet – Shiraz blend) here.  Second, there’s also a CATP 2010 Barossa Valley Cabernet around for the same price.  If anyone tastes it, please add your thoughts on it here, as I probably won’t get to it.

Nugan Estate 2007 Shiraz “McLaren Parish Vineyard”

McLaren Vale, South Australia, 14.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 9 Nov

NuganEstate_2007_ParishVnydShirazThis older Shiraz, from a good area, looked quite promising.  It took me a week to get to it, but it is indeed very good.

It was pretty tasty right away, but for me, it definitely rewarded giving it about 90 minutes of air in a decanter, when some roughness smoothed out and more complexity emerged.  Then, it showed richer, dark fruit of purple plum and black raspberry, with black pepper and slightly pruney aged complexity.  The ripeness is well balanced with acid of these fruits.

The saved single-glass, screwcap bottle shows more tasty earthy and tarry / herbal complexity, but is also is a little less smooth and rich.  I think I preferred it the first night, but both are good, and overall definitely Thumbs Up!

(The label is white and looks yellowish tan only because of the poor light under which I took the photo.)

Rowland’s Brook Shiraz/Cabernet South Eastern Australia 2014 $3.99

Produced & Bottled by Wine Tiger 97
ABV 13.5%
Purchased: Corvallis OR GO 4-16-2015

IMG_144156% Shiraz, 44% Cabernet. Couldn’t find anything online about this wine’s origin other than it is imported by TWE Imports, Napa, CA. However, for $3.99 I thought it was worth sampling.

Color: Dark Burgundy
Fragrance: Black currant, spices. Very fruity and slightly exotic (likely due to the spices).
Body: medium…as would be expected in a blend between a Cabernet and a Shiraz.
Taste: Very fruity/jammy (and I’m one that doesn’t mind a bit of jam). So right up front, if you don’t like jammy wines, this isn’t for you. Black currant is at the fore, with a bit of cocoa & plum supporting it…balanced by baking spices (not pepper…it’s much more of a dessert type of spice combo). Moderately high alcohol heat for 13.5% IMO.  Not sweet but as I mentioned before, very fruit forward.

We liked it. It’s not an elite wine, but I could easily see it balancing summer BBQ’s. The Shiraz lightens the weight enough to make it a moderate evening BBQ red. For $3.99 (SRV is $10) it’s a decent buy. Not outstanding but I’d buy it again for an “every-day” style wine.

5 G.O. Wines and a Taste Test Evening

We had a wine tasting evening with friends the other night. First time we’ve done G.O. wines in a while. I thought I’d post the general tasting notes, rather than write 5 separate reviews. I’m consolidating everyone’s thoughts into one review.

The five wines we tested:


  • Heliotrope Pinot Noir 2010 CA Heliotrope Winery, Napa $5.99 2-20-2015

Vinted & Bottled by Heliotrop Winery, Napa (Bronco wine)
13.5% ABV
Purchased: Corvallis OR GO

Color – pale, red-purple
Fragrance – (yeasty smell upon first opening that dissipated) light floral, sour rhubarb, raspberry, cherry
Taste – light body, fruit forward (very straight-forward, non-dimensional), cherry cough syrup, strawberry, hint of spice, chemical, medicinal
General opinion – (Wong gives this a 90 point score. Not one of us would have believed that.) Too fruity. Thumbs down-drinkable.

  • Cantavida Pinot Noir 2013 Leyda Valley $4.99

Produced by A.F. Arco Iris S.A. Requinua, Chile (AW Direct)
13.0% ABV
Purchased: Albany, OR GO

Color – Bright Red
Fragrance – “awful stewed fruit”, prunes, pepper, smoke
Taste – mineral, astringent, pepper, salmon berry, “tastes oxidized”
General opinion – drinkable, “better than the last one, barely”, “not a fan”

  • Kalbarri South Eastern Australia Shiraz 2013 $4.99 2-26-2015
12.9% ABV
Purchased: Lebanon OR GO

Color – Burgundy
Fragrance – grass, spice, cherry
Taste – “extremely unusual”, black pepper, plum, blackberries, “like watermelon or cherry Jolly Rancher Candy”, black olives, “grassy aftertaste”
General opinion – Thumbs down (unanimous)

  • James Bryant Hill Central Coast Merlot 2012 $5.99 2-26-2015

James Bryant Hill
13.5% ABV
Purchased: Lebanon OR GO

Color – dark burgundy
Fragrance – “I have a hard time finding any distinguishable fragrance in this one”, meat, “rotisserie chicken”, “not a fan”
Taste – silky, glycerin-like, plum, black pepper, spicy heat, “reminds me of a WA Merlot”
General opinion – “the heavy glycerin aftertaste gets to me”, drinkable, 1 person gave it a thumbs up

  • Alfredo Roca Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 $4.99 2-26-2015
13.9% ABV
Purchased: Lebanon OR GO

Color – dark plum, can’t see through it
Fragrance – fruit, earth, licorice, plum, green pepper
Taste – plum, green pepper, tobacco, “tastes dry”, “reminds me of Malbec”
General opinion – drinkable+

Dr. Angove 2012 Red

50% Shiraz, 30% Grenache, 20% Petit Verdot; 14.5% ABV; screw cap
South Australia
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store

IMG_1385[1]I bought this wine on the strength of the Angove 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, its recent vintage, and the interesting blend.  It strikes me as pretty typically Australian and a tasty, easy-pairing wine for the money.

I opened this at lunch to go with pizza, immediately pouring out half of it in a 375ml bottle and stoppering it with very little air.  I thought it needed about an hour in the glass to soften and even out a bit.  Then, it showed ripe fruit of red / purple / black cherries, red / purple plum, and boysenberry, balanced by zingy acid, some bitterness of plum skin, and supporting wood.

At dinner, we drank the other half.  It still needed an hour of air, but was ultimately more smooth and sweet than at lunch.

2012 Havoc & Mayhem Wreak Havoc McLaren Vale Grenache, Australia $6.99

Silverdale, WA    14.8% alc.    (Purchased on 12/17/14)

IMG_1931Color & Clarity: Brilliant pale ruby with a pinkish rim (more Pinot-like than Grenache)

Aromas: Smoke, green olive and raspberry (the raspberry should be more pronounced, in my opinion)

Flavors: “Sweet” fruit and oak with more raspberry (see comment above about raspberry…ditto); earth and white pepper too

Texture: Medium tannins and a bit of heat from the slightly elevated alcohol

Finish: Medium length finish with more heat and very slight bitterness.

Note: Had to use a serrated knife to cut around the Stelvin closure (screwtop) in order to open this bottle.  I really dislike that!  These proprietary names on Australian wines kill me.  This wine does not “wreak havoc”!

Afterthought: This Grenache is much, much better with food…even the Chinese sausage fried rice that I had it with (perhaps the salt in the soy sauce contributed, as salt will soften the tannins and often bring out the fruit in any red wine).  I could actually taste the raspberry flavors with the food.