2008 Chook Shed Shiraz

2008 Chook Shed ShirazPrice: $7.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Aussie Wine Direct

What They Said:

Per The Province “On the other end of the red wine spectrum -both in geography and style -this new bottle from Down Under plays rock ‘n’roll on the tastebuds. Chook Shed is unapologetically 100 per cent Barossa Valley Shiraz, ripe and opulent with plum, blackberries and cracked pepper. Completely approachable in a generous fruit-forward style, it will play well to a crowd. Better get the barbecue ready, this Shiraz is ready to take on all grilled fare.”

What I Think:

Dark purple in color this one has red fruit, vanilla notes and barrel spices on the nose. Great, inky smooth mouthfeel on entry this one starts nicely balanced. The acidity here is firm,on the cusp of being overbearing but the fruit holds it off to deliver a nice warm, tangy, tannic finish. While not a standout this wine is well made and I’m tempted to grab another bottle. That said I might rather just roll the dice on something else instead. If you are a Shiraz fan definitely give it a try and let me know what you think!

Rating: Pricey

2008 d’Arenberg Hermit Crab

2008 d'Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier-MarsannePrice: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Old Bridge Cellars

What They Said:

Per wine.com “Expressive aromatics of lime and lemon with peaches, pears and apricot stone jumping out of the glass and spicy, floral notes in the background. Great balance on the palate, the luscious stone fruit and ginger spices harmonized by savory nuty characters from the Marsanne. Wonderful combination of freshness, complexity and balance between fruit flavour, acid and alcohol.”

What I Think:

I am a long time fan of d’Arnberg; in fact the Stump Jump Red was my first case purchase at Cost Plus World Market ages ago. Having long wanted to try this one a recent episode of wine library tv brought it top of mind and I grabbed a bottle on my recent visit to K&L Wines. Not familiar with Marsanne I learned that it hails from France and is widely planted in the Hermitage AOC. In fact, the Hermit Crab naming of this wine is an ode to these historical ties. Appellation America had a humorous write-up where I learned that Marsanne is most commonly blended and married with Roussanne. From that article this combination with Viognier is described as one of the “few incidents of infidelity forgiven.” One thing Marsanne does share with Viognier is that both are blended in small percentages into red wines. The Marsanne can serve as up to 15% of red blends of the Hermitage and the Viognier with Shiraz in Australia. Now let’s get to the wine…

d'Arenberg Hermit Crab Vintage Ratings

This one is a blend of 72% Viognier and 28% Marsanne and comes with a long record of accolades. As you can see from the graphic this one consistently rates in the 90′s which is remarkable given the price point. With a grilled shrimp salad on the table we poured the wine in the glass. The nose is a load of fruits and minerals with floral notes interweaved. On the palate it starts with citrus, lemon and lime, before turning to peach and fading to a stony finish. This wine is certainly well made and the acid is very well balanced but to me it seems that one component hasn’t integrated and is disrupting the “flow” of this wine towards the end of the mid-palate. You would think I could identify it but honestly I can’t. I’m thinking it is an oily/kerosene/petroleum like component. Other thoughts were the amount of oak used or a bitter, nut flavor. As I mentioned on twitter; I am surprisingly not a fan. Perhaps it’s Marsanne, I intend to seek out a varietal offering to get some more experience here and see if that might be the issue. The nutty qualities leave me wondering if this could have used some more time in the bottle, could this one improve over the years? Don’t let me opinion sway you here, if you intended to try this I urge you to do so. Then let me know what you think… If you have trouble tracking this one down it is available on wine.com.

Rating: Pricey

2005 Kono Baru Shiraz

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Don Sebastiani & Sons

What They Said:

Per the winery “This exceptional Shiraz from down under expresses the deep concentration typical of the famous Barossa Valley. The color is inky purple with intense blue fruit such as wild huckleberry and ripe crushed blueberry. The palate has a supple entry while the silky texture is backed by big grape tannins wrapped around boysenberry extract and finishing with a touch of brown sugar and vanillin.

This wine is an exceptional sipper. The generous profile will stand up to braised beef shortribs on a port wine sauce with a parsnip puree or complimentary to grilled wild Salmon fillets, served with heirloom tomato salsa over a bed of arugula.

Most of Australia’s wine is produced in the south-eastern region of the country, an area which, like California, boasts considerable geographic and climatic diversity. Flavors born in the high altitude vineyards of the Adelaide hills, the cool coastal climate of Tasmania, and the deep granitic soils of the Strathbogie Ranges contribute to the distinct characters that gives these wines an international appeal.”

What I Think:

As mentioned when I tried their Riesling some time back these wines were made for blogging. That one wasn’t a hit but the easy to find tasting notes and podcasts have kept these wines top of mind for me. Kudos to Sebastiani & Son’s and the Three Loose Screws label for helping out those of us that are publicizing their products.

Now on to the main event, like the Riesling, this wine was quaffable but seemingly made for the masses as there was little memorable about it. As mentioned via twitter here and here, this wine is marginal stoking thoughts of melted cherry cough drops. That was my initial thought which slowly unwound itself to being medicinal then to herbal and then to the green peppers. I got the tannins but missed the fruit described above. I prefer the Cartwheel so if you have had neither grab that one. If you weren’t happy with the Cartwheel at $4 give this one a try. Maybe it will work for you.

Rating: Skip It

2005 Yalumba “Y” Series Shiraz Viognier

Price: $8.99 @ Cost Plus imported by Negociants Napa

What They Said:

Per the winery “This wine is deep purple red in colour with the nose showing initial aromas of violets and sweet berry fruits, messed with the subtle fragrance of apricot and musk. The palate is stylish and approachable, showing sweet berry mid palate fruits with a soft even texture and fine tannin finish.”

What I Think:

I know I promised to get to this one soon after drinking the ’04 but alas, eleven months later I am finally delivering. Back then freshly returned from my vacation in Australia I was somewhat let down on the price ($14) and the bottle itself. On a positive note I did learn some lessons on pairing Shiraz with that bottling that are detailed in the previous post.

Given I’ve had the ’04 and I have notes this offers an interesting opportunity to look at a vertical. The winemaker is the same and I have the statistics on hand. Before looking I would expect this version to be much more acidic. And survey says…

2004 2005
Alc/Vol 14% 13.5%
Total Acid 6.2g/L 6.5g/L
pH 3.57 3.48

Not sure if the difference in Total Acid is significant or not. Also not sure how the Total Acid relates to pH which from my pre-med days I recall as a measure of acid as well. Time for some additional research so stay tuned! Anyhow, happily with the ’05, which is the vintage I was drinking when I was down under, the world has righted itself. At $9 this wine has a lot to offer!

Following my pairing rule we pulled the cork on this one with Filet on the table. This bottle is 94% Shiraz/6% Viognier. In the glass it looks light, ruby but almost effervescent. On the nose you get some floral aromas, from the Viognier which I had a hard time identifying in the ’04 bottling. A bit of dark fruit on the palate before the Viognier takes over leading to a bit of a racy finish with just a hint of sourness. All in all very enjoyable. With the ’06 out I’ll look to continue this experiment. I’ll have to find it…92% Shiraz/8% Viognier. Hopefully it will take me less than 11 months!

Rating: Buy It

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

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 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