Tag Archives: australia

2009 Macquariedale Hunter Valley Late Picked Semillon

The black pirate

The final wine and black pirate at our Michigan vs. Mosel Riesling Tasting came from Australia, and was brought by a friend who had just arrived from Australia. She knows Nina’s and my love for wine, and she pretty much nailed it earlier this year when she brought this wine for us…

It was only after the tasting that I dove a bit further into the winery. On its website, the owners state that Ross and Derice McDonald started planting some vines in 1993 as an escape out of Sydney’s corporate world…interesting. In 1998 they went in all the way by moving to their Hunter River property from Sydney. They now own 15 hectares of vineyards and claim to make biodynamic/organic wines. I know organic wine making is quite the rage for a lot of consumers these days. I am fine with drinking organic wines, but it would never be my main criterion in buying a wine. A wine has to taste good first and foremost. If that can be combined with less intrusive methods of growing, that is fine with me. What I do not like is that equation of organic = good. To their credit, Mcquariedale does not seem to push that point too hard.

They grow shiraz (it is an Australian winery after all!), cab sav, merlot, semillon, chardonnay and verdelho grapes.

The wine description on their homepage reads as follows: “Our late picked Semillon is produced in a light style with hints of citrus peel and marmalade on the palate.  The semillon grapes are left to ripen on the vine and then fermented briefly to retain all the natural acidity and sweetness.  The wine will age gracefully and deepen in colour and flavour with extended cellaring.”

Here are my tasting notes. The wine poured in a deep orange color, and was highly viscose, as was to be expected by a fortified dessert wine. The nose had prominent pumpkin and clove aromas, then dried apricots and overripe cantaloupe. On the palate, the first and slightly overwhelming note was honey. As the earlier detected pumpkin and clove came in, so did some hints of sweet potato. I hardly noticed any acidity at all. The finish had an interesting touch with slight salty notes in the end.

I have to say, this wine did not grow on me. It was just too sweet without redeeming acidity. The pumpkin and cloves aroma did not help, because I am not fond of pumpkin pie at all (hey, I am not American, I do not have to like pumpkin pie!). I think the craftsmanship is there, and I bet there are many that like this type of dessert wine, some of the vin santo I tried in Italy was of similar style. I am just spoiled by my riesling BA, TBA and ice wines…

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Michigan vs. Mosel Riesling Tasting with friends

The Michigan vs. Mosel tasting line up

Last Friday (a week ago, I know…) we had our first just-tasting with friends at our place. I have written about my thoughts on doing tastings with friends here. The idea for this tasting was born a while back. Me being the Mosel riesling snob that I am, I have only made small progress into the Michigan riesling scene. Some of them I liked or was intrigued by (see for example here or here or here), some of them, well…Now, two friends of ours got married recently and they decided to spend their honeymoon in and around Traverse City, Michigan’s riesling mecca. While we were talking about that trip, we decided to do a comparison tasting. They had brought some stuff back, and we had some Mosel rieslings to share. We also invited another riesling nut to the tasting, who falls in love with virtually every riesling we serve her, which makes me feel good. And another friend, who was crashing with us, participated as well. To lessen the suspense: We had a blast. We had so much fun, and the comparison went quite well. If we had done that tasting blind, I don’t know whether I would have been able to pick which ones are from there.

Some cork art. It does not get much fancier…

Here is our line up:

1) 2010 Chateau Grand Traverse Riesling Dry (Michigan)

2) 2011 Brys Estate Dry Riesling (Michigan)

3) 2009 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Spätlese halbtrocken (semi-sweet) (Mosel)

4) 2006 St. Julian Riesling (Michigan)

5) 2011 Left Foot Charley Missing Spire Riesling (Michigan)

6) 2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett (Mosel)

7) 2009 Hohe Domkirche Trier Scharzhofberger Spätlese (Saar)

8) 2009 Macquariedale Hunter Valley Late Picked Semillon (Australia)

In blind tastings, it is fun to throw a wine in that not necessarily fits the restrictions on the wines that you imposed prior to tasting. It is something outside the box, to throw you off, and to make the blind tasting even more fun. We usually referred to these as black pirates. The black pirate in this tasting was the Australian dessert wine, which was brought by the friend crashing with us.

But to my thoughts on the wines:

The Michigan line

First up, the 2010 Chateau Grand Traverse Riesling Dry. I do like their semisweet standard wine and their Late Harvest Riesling, so I was excited about trying the dry. Upon opening and pouring, a dark yellow wine showed itself which was bit confusing. Did not expect that from a young dry wine. The nose showed ripe fruit, but not much of it. On the palate, the first noticeable taste was bitterness. There was some slight peach, but hardly discernible. The wine felt quite alcoholic (which was confirmed when we checked the label: 12.5% ABV). The short finish was topped by a burnt taste. In short, it was quite the disappointment. I could never have guessed this was a riesling if tasted blindly, and it seemed way past its prime already.

(Addendum: I received word from the winery in the comments section that the discoloration in the 2010 CGT Riesling Dry indicates that the wine was actually flawed, either by a bad cork or bad storage…I guess I could have guessed that given that I got all the clues: wrong color, bitter notes and burnt taste; I just did not make the connection when tasting.)

Next in line, the 2011 Brys Estate Dry Riesling. The color was lighter straw, with a nose of ripe fruit, peaches and sugar, slightly confusing in a dry wine. The texture was lovely, it gave you a silky mouthful of wine. It had a nice amount of acidity, and first fruit notes I discovered were grapes, yellow apples, pineapple and then citrus. While holding on to my glass and continuing to try, I thought I discerned some vegetable notes in the beginning (maybe squash, maybe zucchini). The wine had a nicely long finish. The 11% ABV were hardly noticeable. In short: This was delicious. It was fresh, and reminded me of German rieslings, albeit not a German dry riesling, it would have been an off-dry in Germany. Very nice wine!!

Up next, the 2009 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Spätlese halbtrocken (semi-sweet). A tad higher in alcohol content than the Brys wine at 11.5% ABV, I was curious how these two would match up. The color was a light yellow with a nose of sweetness and yellow fruit, with ripe aromas. On the palate, the wine had a quite condensed feel to it. It tasted very ripe, older than a 2009 should taste. It had some apricots and vegetal notes, but I could not get over the fact that it might have been flawed. I did not detect a cork flaw, and if so, it was mild. But the wine tasted off. So I really do not feel like I can rate it.

The Mosel line

The next wine was the 2006 St. Julian Riesling. Our friend had been excited when she found the single bottle of this wine in a wine shop and bought it for us to try. She has been fond of older rieslings, and so we wanted to experience this together. Open opening the screw cap and pouring the wine, we saw a lighter, saturated yellow in our glasses. The nose was …mmmmh…. interesting? To me, it smelled of band aids. Others said glue. It also smelled quite musty. It was very unappealing. On the palate, that continued. The wine was clearly way past its prime, probably had been stored in horrible conditions…this one had been dead for a while.

St Julian 2006 – Stay away!

It was on the 2011 Left Foot Charley Missing Spire Riesling to redeem Michigan. And boy, it did!! Of very light and almost water color, it had a beautiful, beautiful nose of grapes and green grass. The taste was floral and herbal (I also wrote down perfumy, but I know that these descriptions do not really help…), with a wonderful creaminess to it. There were some hints of bitterness towards the end. The finish was rather short, though. I found this wine wonderfully refreshing. Its 43 grams of residual sugar and 9% ABV made it a great sipping wine. In its beauty, it did remind me of Prälat wines, but I might have gotten carried away, especially after the two disappointments we tried before. Nina disagreed with me on that assessment, and I suppose she is right.

By that time, we had brought out the cheeses, and that definitely enhanced the tasting as well. Nothing like sweeter rieslings and cheese…

Up next was the 2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett. At 8% ABV it had the typical alcohol content of a sweeter Mosel riesling, and I remembered it fondly from our tasting at the winery in June. The color was light straw and the nose had honey and a rather distinct grape note, very fresh. My tasting notes focused on my emotional response rather than the tastes. They read: “refreshing, sweet, honey, warm, nice acidity, deep, not very long, great with cheese”. I admit it, I had already had my fair share of wine, and my tasting capabilities went downhill. The wine just made me smile. It was just so pleasant.

This was followed by my highlight, the 2009 Hohe Domkirche Scharzhofberger Spätlese. You can find the review here (I needed more space for that).

We finished off with the 2009 Macquariedale Hunter Valley Late Picked Semillon from Australia, which is described here.

The black pirate

Like I said, it was a great experience. My cousin asked me who won. I really don’t feel like I can declare a winner here. The Brys and the Left Foot Charley were both pretty awesome wines, and so were the Erbes Kabinett and the Scharzhofberger. I think the biggest surprise for me was the quality of the Brys and the Left Foot Charley. They definitely convinced me that there is great riesling in Michigan and I am determined more than ever to go and find them.

Has anyone tried these wines or others from those wineries? Please share!!

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2011 Taylors Gewürztraminer

Refreshing Australian in our back yard

One of the great things about having people stay with us is that they bring wine…so did a prospective Australian at my wife’s graduate program when she was staying with us in March to check out UMich.

She brought us this Australian Gewürztraminer. Alsace (a French region in the east bordering Southern Germany) is famous for its incredible gewürztraminer, and Germany produces a decent amount. I am quite fond of this varietal. It always has an incredible nose to it, its name literally translates to “spice traminer” or “perfume traminer”. There is always so much going on in your nostrils with these wines. They are naturally high in sugar and that can be their problem when they get too sweet. I have had quite a number of gewürztraminers, but most of them ended up too sweet in my glass.

This one, by Taylors wineries, a big producer from Clare Valley in South Australia, was her choice. I think she mentioned that she liked the umlaut in the label and that it was a German sounding grape. Quite thoughtful! The wine is from Taylor’s mid-tier level of wines called Taylors Estate and seems to retail for about AUS$ 19. I could not find retailers in the US.

The wine in the glass was a very light green and yellow. In the nose, the most prominent smell was that of vineyard peaches. There were distince floral notes, too. To me, it smelled like an Alpine valley in the summer. It was really nice and clean.

The first tastes that I got were citrussy. It was wonderfully dry and pleasantly refreshing (it’s very humid today, so any refreshment was very welcome!!). Nina remarked on litchi flavors, which the bottle also claimed on its back. I am not sure I tasted those. The finish was a bit short, but hey, that made me get a refill quickly. The winery’s tasting note is available here.

I liked this wine. It was just the right thing for a summer afternoon. I told our friend she can come back.

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