2005 Block 50 Shiraz

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Cumulus Wines

What They Said:

Per Wine Warehouse’s Wine Blog “2005 was an ideal growing season for the Block 50 Shiraz as it was characterized by low crops in a warm, dry year. The fruit for this wine was sourced from two prime blocks, one with limestone soil and the other an elevated section with stony, red soil. The grape crop was kept low at around 2.5 tons per acre, which tends to intensify the grape’s flavor. Harvest was in the middle of March. At that time, the grapes showed ample acidity and balance, capturing plum like flavors and avoiding any overripe characteristics. This Shiraz macerated on its skins for 5 -10 days to gently extract fine grape tannins. A small portion was taken off skins and transferred to American oak barrels for 12 months for maturation.

The Block 50 Shiraz displays aromas of attractive dark berry fruit with a hint of white pepper. On the palate one can find deep and rich plum and blueberry characters that combine to exhibit a rich and vibrant fruit core with a solid vanilla compote component at the finish.”

What I Think:

Obviously we all know TJ’s delivers tremendous value but I continue to be amazed whenever I see the details. Per the post above this wine is suppose to retail at $14 and at warehouse pricing you get it for $9. TJ’s $6… Interestingly I have heard much about Stelvin’s (also mentioned above) as a seal enclosure but never knew it was just a plain old screw top. That reminded me of the great debate in the wind field regarding corks and screw tops. A conversation for another day…

When searching for this one I used the tools mentioned in my Wine Search Engine post. Google was the clear winner here tracking down the above, the rest really had nothing to offer. Great find as when I was doing the research for the Chasing Clouds I had considerable difficulty. The winery website mentions neither this Block 50 label or the Chasing Clouds. Nor does the post referred to above. That leads me to believe that perhaps these vineyards are too young to make the wines described on the winery website in mass. Perhaps these are dumped but not relabeled to another winery… Now onto the wine…

To make it quick the Chasing Clouds was better at half the cost. This had much more acid on the forefront of that palate. This overshadowed the fruit that tried to make its way through and resulted in something that almost ended up tasting carbonated. Perhaps I’ll like that sparkling shiraz I have waiting in the rack but for now I’ll stick to the Chasing Clouds…

2006 Milton Park Thorn Clarke Shiraz

Price: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Kysela Pere Et Fils

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines According to Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar: “Ruby-red. Jammy blackberry and mulberry on the nose; reminds me of a zinfandel. Fresh, juicy dark berry flavors display a nice combination of poise and sweetness, with mocha and candied licorice notes adding complexity. Soft, silky and sweet on the concentrated, persistent finish. There are no apparent tannins to get in the way of the vibrant fruit. This is one serious bargain.” (Jul/Aug 07) 89pts

The Wine Advocate Wine Advocate # 173 Oct 2007 Jay Miller 89 Drink – $8-$12 (12) “The 2006 Shiraz contains 6% Nebbiolo. Crimson-colored, it has an attractive nose of spice box, blueberry, and blackberry. Medium-bodied, it has more than ample ripe fruit, good depth, and solid length. It is a Best Buy in savory Shiraz. The Milton Park label is produced by Thorn-Clarke. The wines have been Best Buys year after year and the current releases continue the pattern.”

What I Think:

I’ve long heard good things about Thorne Clark’s offerings, at this price I was more than willing to give it a try…Good decision! Very fresh with bursts of light, ripe fruit on the palate over a nice mulled spice background. I liked this one enough to get a case for office Xmas gifts. Now I just have to get myself some more!

Rating: Buy It

2004 Chasing Clouds Central Ranges Shiraz

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Cumulus Wines

What They Said:

Per corkd.com we get a variety of insight from others like me. Here is the best of the bunch “Some jammy plum in the nose w/ light tannin & blackberry. The taste is light in body but juicy, with some tannin but some sweetness as well. Only a hint of the typical Shiraz pepper.”

What I Think:

As for the research this one seems to come from Cumulus Wines though they don’t acknowledge it there. Given that this is a newer winery perhaps these are the planting they don’t consider up to snuff at this time. If that were the case I would expect them to relabel the wine but perhaps not. I have reason to believe they are behind the “Block 50” offerings we have been seeing at TJ’s as well.

Now to the main event, a bit of barnyard and earthiness in the nose with dark fruits and chocolate lingering within. Interesting but not the most pleasant. On the palate this holds itself together quite well for the $3 investment. This is not a typical Shiraz as the white pepper I expect is absent as is the richness of the fruit. That said while the wine is light the finish lasts longer than one would expect at this price range. A bit thin perhaps to those on the pickier side but at this price point this is the best bang for the buck. If Aussie isn’t your thing drop the extra dollar for this 2006 Abrazo Del Toro Carinena Tinto, otherwise don’t hesitate to put a bottle in the cart.

Rating: 12th Bottle

2003 Rosemount Shiraz Hill of Gold

Price: $9.02 @ BevMo imported by PWG Vinters USA (retails at $17.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per the winery “To the eye, vibrant crimson with ruby hues. To the nose, aromas of liquorice, thyme and herbs lead to a sweet lift of vanilla oak, mocha and plums. On the palate, mocha and plum aromas follow from the nose onto an inky palate redolent of spicy fruit and pepper. A fresh, vibrant and youthful wine with well integrated tannins and an elegant finish.”

What I Think:

This one was nicer than I remembered from my last go round. Perhaps my inclination that it needed a bit more time to settle down was proving correct. This bottle showed mint & licorice on the nose. The palate showed some chocolate flavoring though the finish was fast and tannic. All in all seemed a bit light for a Shiraz, in my opinion you are better off trying something else. I would look for this Yalumba “Y” Series as a potential alternative.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Razors Edge Shiraz McLaren Vale

Price: $7.99 @ The Wine Club imported by Joshua Tree Imports

What They Said:

Per The Wine Club “This has an impressive McLaren Vale appellation and the quality of fruit shows it as well. This bottling goes to show you how competitive things have gotten and how much really good juice is out there ”” a great thing for the punter. The nose is lifted and pretty complex considering its price, with notes of black plums, blackberries, spice, licorice, loam and dusty chocolate. The palate is fuller bodied, supple textured, with good fruit purity offering juicy, spiced, dark fruit flavors backed with ripe, almost powdery tannins and a tinge of chocolate richness on the finish. Upfront and forward this still has the structure for short term aging, but at this price and flavor profile, who would want to wait? This has value written all over it!

The Wine Spectator Bright and appealing for its clarity of plum and blackberry flavors, persisting on the finish against firm tannins. Best after 2007. 15,000 cases imported. Score: 87. —Harvey Steiman, December 15, 2005.

The Wine Advocate This dark ruby/purple-colored, compact, straightforward, simple 2004 Shiraz exhibits sweet blackberry fruit, medium body, and a pleasant finish. Drink it over the next 2-3 years. Score: 86. —Robert Parker, October 2005.”

What I Think:

Hmm, must have been impressive marketing around this one at The Wine Club. I was surprised to see the scores above based on my short term memory. Perhaps it is a by product of them having the best of the best available from Australia. Of course for that you have to open your wallet a lot further than this. Thinking back to my all time favorite Aussie wine for $8 bucks on once bought a case of the d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red from Cost Plus. Interestingly the two I have posted here are also blends, the Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Red and the Oxford Landing GSM. But I digress…

Back to the matter at hand, the notes on this offering are sparse but fair to say the product wasn’t compelling me to pick the pen up. All in all what I tend to refer to as a ho-hum effort. It was nice to have a glass of wine this evening, but beyond that not much compelling about the experience. From the notes we got a bit of barnyard on the nose. On the palate the wine had fruit as expected but was also hot and likely high on the alcohol side (forgot to check) which lead to more tannins on the finish than I care for. Not a bad wine, just not a compelling one. At this price point I’m buying some of the wines mentioned above.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Grant Burge Barossa Vines Shiraz

Price: $7.52 @ BevMo imported by Wilson Daniels (retails at $14.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per Wine Spectator “Ripe in flavor, but not too hearty, achieving a nice balance of focused plum and berry fruit against fine tannins and not too much alcohol. Drink now through 2009. 7,500 cases imported.” – Harvey Steiman, May 01, 2006 (87 point, $14)

What I Think:

This is one of my last bottles from the 5c sale at BevMo. I had the other bottle quite some time ago and have viewed this one with some trepidation ever since. I think I referred to the first bottle as ho-hum.

With pizza on the menu Shiraz wouldn’t be my choice but my wife was picking the wine tonight, in hindsight the pairing wasn’t an issue. On the nose there were plumy aromas with a dollop of mint. The palate was full of fruit before the mint kicked in and led to a tannic finish. The wine did turn a bit green in the mid-palate which was somewhat unpleasant. This was better then remembered but at the end of the day it didn’t cause you to raise an eyebrow so I am afraid the ho-hum label remains. Get it if you think you have an inclination for liking this, whatever your reason. Otherwise pass and give something else a try.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz Viognier

Price: $13.99 @ BevMo imported by Negociants Napa

What They Said:

Per the winery “Good Spring rains were followed by the usual dry Summer, but an unexpectedly cool January was perfect for the vines to ripen and maintain healthy canopies. This cool period led to the grapes in most regions maintaining excellent natural acid levels and very deep rich colours. A long, cool Autumn also meant that each parcel of fruit would be harvested at its optimum flavour development. February and March were quite dry and balmy with cool nights and warm days, ideal conditions for the development of both Shiraz and Viognier flavours.

Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier 2004 showcases the distinct varietal characters of these two grape varieties, co-fermented to capture their synergy.

This wine is medium to deep crimson purple in colour with a very attractive nose showing warmer aromatics of heady ripe berry fruits. The Viognier lends fragrant notes of apricot blossom and musk. The palate is very approachable, with ripe raspberry and ju-jube-like flavours, quite plush and smooth finishing with a long velvety texture.”

What I Think:

We had this one in Australia and found it to be quite a good wine. I think this price seems a bit high as I remembered paying 10ASD or about $8 there. Just checked and the 2005 (the vintage we had down under) appears to be available pretty widely for $10. By the way, all the Australian wineries seem to have these cool tasting notes don’t they! For almost all the Aussie wines I get the have nice downloadable pdfs with the wine information.

We tried to pair this one with pasta and it just couldn’t handle the acidity. Perhaps this was common knowledge but I thought all big wines could stand up to just about anything. Now I know they need to be big on tannins, not big on fruit! So I gave it a pass for that error on my part. The next night we tried with chicken fajitas and again had the same result here. So what did we learn? The important lesson here is that Shiraz should not be on the table unless you see a cut of meat. Since that wasn’t to be on the menu this week I tried some on it’s own to much better results. This wine looks super dark in the glass and shows all dark fruit on the nose, much as I tried to find any hint of the Viognier it subtleness was too much for me to identify. In the mouth it has a rich, supple feel that led to some dark forward fruit. In the mid-palate I was surprised that I could actually sense the ju-jube flavors mentioned in the wineries notes. The finish is where I seemed to notice the blend the most as it was much smoother than I would have anticipated. All in all this turned out to be a moderate effort. It certainly didn’t match the nostalgia that I had hoped to reclaim and the 2004 won’t find its way to my house again. On the other hand I do anticipate with a bottle of the 2005 ($9.99 at BevMo) meeting a steak on my table sometime soon as we will once again try to relive the memories from our long lost vacation.

Rating: Pricey

2005 Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Red Padthaway (Cab/Shiraz/Merlot)

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by The Grateful Palate

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “91 points Robert Parker: “There are 70,000 cases of the 2005 Red, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot from young vines. However, this is no wimpy wine at 15% alcohol. An unbelievable value, it boasts a dense ruby/purple color as well as an uplifted, projected nose of sweet red and black fruits, earth, and spice box. Supple-textured with a voluptuous mouthfeel and unbelievable richness, this wine clearly over-delivers. Enjoy it over the next 2-3 years.” (10/06)

K&L’s notes – Another amazing Aussie red value for less than $10. As good as the 2004 is, I think the 2005 is even better! (Jim Chanteloup, K&L Aussie buyer)”

What I Think:

This one I had read about in a few different venues over the last few months. Given that I was actually surprised it was still available when I went to track it down. This wine is a blend, not unlike one I tried a while back from Penfold’s (the Koonunga Hill, it was a disaster), of 53% Shiraz, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon & 12% Merlot. Balancing my spotty history with blends versus the accolades I twisted the bottle open. Wow, very strong odors of plums and mint on the nose, real hot must be loaded with alcohol. It seemed dark and brooding. In the mouth, the texture could be characterized as supple and perhaps a bit inky. The intense lighter fruit flavors (plums, cherries) were so strong they make you think it is all dark fruit. At least, I always equated intense with dark so I found this a difficult hurdle to clear. This wine still has a “hotness” running through it in the mouth that seems like a combination of spices, wood and alcohol. This is certainly a lot of wine for the money. Each sip seems to be a slightly different representation of the contents. Can you appreciate a wine for its uniqueness? If so this is the bottle for you. Really everyone should try this wine. You may not like it but you can surely appreciate it and someone out there will certainly love it. Besides how often do you get a chance to try something Parker gives 91 points for $9?

Rating: Buy It

2003 Rosemount Shiraz Hill of Gold

Price: $9.02 @ BevMo imported by PWG Vinters USA (retails at $17.99 a bottle)

What They Said:

Per the winery “To the eye, vibrant crimson with ruby hues. To the nose, aromas of liquorice, thyme and herbs lead to a sweet lift of vanilla oak, mocha and plums. On the palate, mocha and plum aromas follow from the nose onto an inky palate redolent of spicy fruit and pepper. A fresh, vibrant and youthful wine with well integrated tannins and an elegant finish.”

What I Think:

This wine didn’t start well, very closed on the nose. Where’s the fruit? Perhaps herbs as mentioned above but I’m not finding the “sweet lift”. On the tongue…again nothing compelling, does it need more time. Must I lay this one down for a while? All I am getting is sour, tart fruit that I would call cherry with loads of white pepper to finish. After a night on the counter the fruit started to come forward but quickly becomes tart in the mouth. I am thinking about making it a rule to open all wines a minimum of an hour before drinking. I had this with pasta, they recommended otherwise. Still another bottle of this as it was from the 5c sale. Next time I will try to stick to where it is “ideally suited”. Til then drink this wine carefully.

Rating: Skip It

2003 Lindemans Reserve South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon

Price:$7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by PWG Vinters USA

What They Said:

Per Wine Spectator ”Supple and inviting for its pleasant core of currant and spice flavors, with a wee touch of earth and cedar on the finish. Drink now through 2010. 25,000 cases made.” – Harvey Steiman, October 02, 2006 (85 points, $10)

What I Think:

Continuing my efforts to get through all of the Australian wines I found this Lindeman’s in my cart. Not sure what my expectations were. I though I saw Padthaway on this bottle, but alas when I got it home it was just labelled South Australian.As the Penfolds and Rosemount had found their way to the house it seemed it was only fair to complete the trifecta. We drank this wine over three nights. Initially I noticed some blackberry with mint lingering in the background. I could also tell they went a bit heavy on the oak. There wasn’t much depth, balance or roundness on day 1 but it did start to show some characteristics on day 3. Still not a stellar effort and there are some other Cabs at TJ’s that I would rather bring home but if you enjoy Aussie cabs give it a go.

Rating: Skip It