Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Wine Tasting Down Under - Part 3

Wine Tasting Down Under -Part 3
Australia...Adelaide and the Quest Begins By Mark Gapinski

Wine Guy Mark Gapinski and his family traveled to New Zealand and Australia this past summer and wrote about the experience for the newsletter..... read Mark's profile here:
Mark Gapinski

Our family vacation this summer took us to Australia and New Zealand. In Parts 1 and 2, I related our food and wine experiences in New Zealand’s Otago Valley. I was certain I could capture our experiences in Adelaide and the Barossa in one final part. Ever verbose and with abundant content, however, I’ll need two additional parts. In this, now part 3 of 4 parts, I’ll describe our experiences from our visit to Adelaide and our journey to the Barossa Valley.

After a week or so on the beaches of tropical North Queensland we rejoined winter/early spring with a flight to Adelaide in South Australia. We toured the city for a couple days enjoying its wonderful architecture. Adelaide features an interesting mix of well-preserved Victorian buildings and stunning new construction. 

 

The University of Adelaide’s National Wine Center is located here, housed in a building shaped like a giant barrel. The Center conducts a scholarly investigation of grape growing and winemaking practices, but most importantly, it features a tasting room offering 50 or so Australian wines including premium bottles. The wines are stored under nitrogen in a series of vending machines. When you enter, you’re given a card to record your purchases. You simply swipe the card, select your pour size, place your glass under the spout and out comes your wine of choice. When you’re finished, your purchases are totaled up for payment. Pretty slick! Our favorite wine here was delicious; the 2016 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay from the Margaret River region in Western Australia. The Center is definitely worth a visit! South Australia produces two iconic wines that in many ways define Australian Shiraz, Penfolds Grange and Henschke Cellars Hill of Grace. Both are in very high demand by collectors and restaurants pushing prices to spectacular levels. Being so close to the epicenter of Australian Shiraz, I set out to track these wines down and perhaps get a taste.

Adelaide is home to the Penfolds winery and seemed a perfect place to begin my quest. Penfolds commenced operations in Adelaide in 1844 and remains one of the world’s few major wineries in the middle of a large city. In advance, I arranged an Ultimate Penfolds Experience Tour on their website. While a little pricey, it was well worth it. The 150+ year old cellars were amazing. Oddly sized bottles, such as the flagon (2 Imperial pints or a little over 1 liter), predate Australia’s adoption of the metric system in the early 1970s. I was fascinated by a massive display featuring a bottle of every vintage of Grange dating to the early 1950s. When it came time for tasting, our group was presented a selection of six premium wines in a private tasting room. We began with two vintages of the Reserve Bin A Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills area, a 2014 and a 2007. Both were absolute knockouts. Fruit for Reserve Bin A is handpicked. Immediately after pressing, the juice goes into small French oak barrels where fermentation occurs naturally. The wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation and is allowed to age on the lees before racking. The 2017 showed considerable citrus elements but had the round, viscous mouth feel of a lees-aged, barrel fermented Chardonnay. Oaky butteriness was well -balanced with bright fruit flavor. The 2007 was deeper in color with rounder, brown butter flavors and a wonderful almond paste flavor.

Next, several other prodigious wines were poured including a 2014 St. Henri Shiraz and a 2015 RWT Shiraz. Naturally, the 2011 Grange was the final wine poured. Grange is a blend of Shiraz fruit from many areas that are vinified separately and then blended to create the Grange style. This approach produces a wine with layers and layers of fruit flavor that persist a good two to three minutes after tasting. Blackberry and blueberry notes of great intensity were followed up with savory notes. Even for the young wine, the tannins were smooth and elegant. Tasting this tour de force wine meant my quest was now half fulfilled! The next day we drove an easy 45-minute journey up the A20 to the Barossa Valley. We based ourselves at

The Louise, a beautiful wine country inn, in Marananga. The Louise is a Relais and Château property with an exceptional level of service. The Mediterranean-style architecture creates a very private feel for each suite.

The heated bathroom floors and fireplace served us well on very cool evenings and early mornings of August.  The restaurant at The Louise is Appellation with a Best of Award of Esxcellence from Wine Spectator. We enjoyed a tasting menu with paired wines one evening.  My wife actively avoids both gluten and dairy. Many times restaurants accommodate her by simply eliminating the offending ingredient, often with no replacement. No so at Appellation. With advance notice, they had actually created new courses that met her needs and matched the wines beautifully. As I’m prone to do, I chatted up the somm during the dinner. This led to a few “off menu” tastings that made the dinner even more special. If you’re visiting the Barossa Valley, The Louise is definitely worth strong consideration.

We enjoyed three days of wine tasting in the Barossa Valley. In part four of this series, I’ll describe our experience and introduce you to Godzilla.

Part I, Part II, Part IV