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A Day in Adelaide
© Sue Courtney
9 June 2002

You go on a wine tour. You get a 'free day'. So what do I want to do - more wine touring that's what.

It was early March and we were in Adelaide - in the heart of Australian wine country. Adelaide's a city just like any other city - right. And there was a going to be a free morning to 'do the shops' the day on the last day of our trip. Besides I visited Adelaide at least five times before. So it was Adelaide Hills - here we come.

The rental car arrived at the hotel 20 minutes late. This was valuable tasting time wasted. But the time was made up when I found that the freeway, heading east out of the city, was showing off the engineering feat that had rid the route of the several kilometres of winding road.

First stop was Petaluma, right on the dot of opening time, 10am. There was plenty of parking at the historic Bridgewater Mill tasting facility and we got to taste wine in the tasting room. Last time I had been here there was a wedding, so the wine tasters were relegated to the basement.

An enthusiastic Hugh Burton, who has worked at Petaluma on Weekends for the last two years while he undertakes a wine marketing degree midweek, welcomed us.

I was keen to taste the Petaluma Riesling as one of my all time favourite Aussie rieslings is the Petaluma 1990.

The Petaluma Riesling 2001 will be another classic I think, already showing good weight and texture. 30 percent of the Petaluma Riesling was closed with screwcaps this year.

The Bridgewater Mill Sauvignon Blanc 2001 also has a portion closed with screwcaps. This is a good sauvignon blanc with excellent varietal characters - due to the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills, I guess,

Next up was the Petaluma Chardonnay 1999. This has a great nose and very good palate structure with citrus and fig. This is a chardonnay that is drinking quite beautifully now but of course will age in the best possible way. Perhaps it was because a couple of us were taking notes and we were all spitting that Hugh decided to offer us some 'special wines'. "We had a bunch of writers through yesterday", he said. "So we've got some other wines open. Would you like to try them?"

Would we what! We didn't need much convincing.

Out came the Petaluma Chardonnay 1996. This was toast and butter and quite developed, though very nice.

Then followed the Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir 2000 full of citrus and brambly berries - lovely bright flavours with a sweaty leather earthy character and smoky cherries on the finish.

The Share Farmers 99 is a blend of some proportions of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. This was a gorgeous compote of berry fruit and spice, really well integrated with lovely soft tannins.

And to finish off was a Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1999, a big, huge, classical Coonawarra style red with big velvety tannins, lovely cassis and plum and well integrated oak.

A great visit and a thoroughly recommended stop. Petaluma at Bridgewater Mill is open daily from 10am to 5pm. They do not charge for tastings. "The public wouldn't allow us", said Hugh.

Back in the car, onto the freeway again to exit at Hahndorf for a stroll around the shops and then morning tea (or was that lunch) with the unique Aussie-German sausage.

Shaw and Smith
We were going to visit one of the Hahndorf-based cellar doors, then I saw the sign 'Shaw Smith open today'. That wasn't in our book!

We followed the signs, which navigated us through the backs roads to Balhannah, where in Jones Road was the stunning Shaw and Smith winery, a new complex open to the public for the first time today.

What a visual delight. The winery and facilities were nestled amongst the vines overlooking a pond with a toi-toi patch with its white fronds waving in the distance. We parked the cark and walked up the pebbled path, thinking we were heading to a vineyard cafe but although the tables and chairs give that impression, this is the most trendsetting winetasting facility in the whole of South Australia.

Tasting at Shaw and Smith Start the way you mean to carry on. There are no free wine tastings here. A flight of four Shaw and Smith labelled wines costs $8. A flight of three 'Incognito' wines, the second label of the company, cost $6. Buts that not all. Tasting sheets, an information booklet and a plate of cheese and bread accompanied each flight. And the spittoons took pride of place in the centre of the table.

We are given the choice of tables and choose to sit inside. The olive and green colouring splendidly offsets the unique prints on the wall. And it was service with a smile.

Incognito Eden Valley Riesling 2001 $18
Lovely beautiful lime and apple flavours. Very dry steely style with talc characters rife at this stage. Excellent balance. Honey will emerge with time.

Incognito Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2001 $18
Peaches on nose. Fresh sherbet, peach and melon with mellow oak lingering.

Incognito Adelaide Hills Merlot 2001 $18
Lovely aromas with savoury notes over plum. Licorice, sweet leather, lifted bright wine with spice lingering.

Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2001 $20
Very soft in palate. Juicy fruit, lemon, melon and a hint of tropical with a touch of apple on the finish. Not herbaceous as we know it. Touch of zing on finish.

Shaw and Smith Unoaked Chardonnay 2001 $20
First bottle corked - a fancy place like this should check their wines! Second bottle. Fresh melon and tropical fruits with a lively lift and a ripe fruit finish.

Shaw and Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay 2000 $32
Lovely barrique work in this melon rich wine that has a real power surge on the finish. Lovely!

Shaw and Smith Merlot 1999 $32
Plummy nose, minty and lifted with a lovely berry fruit spectrum. Very smooth with velvety tannins and hints of licorice on lingering finish.

(It's so much easier to take notes when you're sitting down and relaxed).

Full marks to the Shaw and Smith team. Michel Hill-Smith started the Universal Wine Bar in Adelaide. That was ahead of its time. This wine tasting facility will be another success that cellar doors all over the country will try to emulate, I'm sure.

Ashton Hills
The 'tin shed' at Ashton Hills From the latest in architecture and tasting facilities we found our way to the tin shed tasting room in the middle of the 3.5 hectare Ashton Hills vineyard. Last time I had been here, I got totally lost. I had driven past the shed , following a rough road for a few hundred metres more, past a few houses, before ending on the main road again. This time there could be no mistake. The road had been blocked. Obviously I wasn't the only one who had made this mistake in the past.

The legendary Stephen George was behind the counter, serving his wines. He informed us he had the coldest vineyard in the area, and his harvest did not usually commence until April. The 2002 harvest was not going to be good for him. A late Spring frost had devastated the pinot noir.

There were a lot of wines to get through, though we didn't know it yet.

The Ashton Hills Riesling 2001 is a lovely intense riesling with good lime, stone fruit richness and emerging honeysuckle. Excellent wine in fact. Dry too.

The Galah Wines Riesling 1997 comes from Watervale and it was nice to be able to taste and buy a riesling with some age. This has a toasty nose, a developed palate and good sweet fruit on the finish.

The Ashton Hills Chard 99 from a very cold year, showed peppery musk and spice on a creamy, cheesy full-bodied texture.

The Galah 'Three Sheds White' is an experimental wine made from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir. Kind of interesting and to me a bit semillon-like, with oak, buttery, melon jam and apricot. The riesling component had botrytis.

Fifteen clones of pinot noir are grown on the property and two wines are made. The Ashton Hills Piccadilly Pinot Noir 2000 is made from younger, high yielding vines. The is pale in colour and a nice savoury wine with a touch of earthiness, strawberry and cherry with fruit sweetness and spice.

The Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2000 is an excellent wine with chocolate complexity, lovely cherry profiles, earth, spice, touch of citrus, juicy yet elegant, long and savoury, good acidity, good complexity, lovely sweet fruit tannins and great length. A glorious wine in fact.

The Ashton Hills 'Obliqua' Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cabernet Franc has good structure with juicy berry and mulberry fruit, a velvety texture and a long juicy smoky finish.

The Burra Burra Lone Star Shiraz 1998, from the Burra Burra area north of the Barossa is spicy and menthol with a white pepper spectrum. Although dry, it's quite juicy with a creamy finish. To me an atypical South Australian Shiraz.

We reluctantly left this fascinating place, armed with bottles of Riesling and Pinot Noir to nurse back to New Zealand.

Chain of Ponds
We navigated out way north to the Chain of Ponds about 20 kilometres away. Although they still had their restaurant 'open' sign out, we had arrived too late for lunch.

There was only one person manning the cellar door, and taking restaurant payments as sated customers left to go on their merry way. He looked like he was run off his feet. Still he poured us every wine in the place that he had open. And some of the names were pretty interesting.

The Chain of Ponds Adelaide Hills Black Thursday Sauvignon Blanc 2001 from Adelaide Hills fruit was varietally good with a very dry finish.

The COP Adelaide Hills Purple Patch Riesling 2001 was a dry apply style. I didn't really care for the COP Adelaide Hills Corkscrew Road Chardonnay 2000, which was a leesy, fat barrel fermented style, though I liked the broad flavours in the oaked COP Square Cut Semillon 2001.

There was a range of wines called 'Novello' of an 'Italian style'. Best of these was the Novello Nero Barbera Grenache 2001 - a well coloured, full-bodied wine with spice, cherries, tobacco and pepper on the finish. This was an unoaked wine and at $12.50 probably would have wide appeal.

To the Chain of Ponds reds, we started with the COP Adelaide Hills Salem Selection Pinot Noir 1999. This was a warm velvety pinot with nutty aromas and lingering cherry flavours. The COP Adelaide Hills Jupiter's Blood Sangiovese 2000 has a minty nose, dried roses, herbs and cherries, then lifted fruit and a touch of leather. The COP McLaren Vale Grave's Gate Shiraz was spice and menthol, a big sweet, ripe fruited wine. The COP Adelaide Hills Amadeus Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 had a smoky cassis nose and a lifted cabernet flavour. This was a rich wine with big creamy tannins and a pleasing texture.

The COP Adelaide Hills Ledge Shiraz 1998 was not open for tasting.

To finish the day there were some wines from Kangaroo Island. Unfortunately the Kangaroo Island 'The Barque Mars' Shiraz 1999 was off. The chap behind the counter was too busy to want to know about opening a second bottle.

However the Kangaroo Island Florance Cabernets 1999, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, was one of the finds of the day. It seemed a really juicy wine with cassis, berries, mulberries, leather, plum and mint. I bought a bottle for $25.

All good days must come to and end. We headed back to the city and dropped off our passengers, who were going to the footy that night. We headed out to the coast to the Grange for coffee and a walk along the pier.

Just another way to spend a free day in Adelaide.

© Sue Courtney. June 2002

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